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Role Playing (Games)

The MMO Numbers Game 44

Terra Nova has an interesting discussion going, talking about what really matters when we talk about a virtual world's population. Total registered accounts? Accounts logged in since last month? Concurrent users? Interesting stuff. From the article: "In a similar vein we discussed Second Life's 100K+ members, a figure which I and others have questioned here on TN. Cory Ondrejka said that SL's 'concurrency numbers are rapidly approaching 4500, about 17,000 residents were in SL in the last 24 hours, and 50,000 in the last 30 days... If you go back even 90 days you get about 90% of the accounts having logged in.'"
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The MMO Numbers Game

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  • by Chaffar ( 670874 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @05:37AM (#14444336)
    Betsy said, "I think registered number of users does measure at least casual interest, while concurrent users measures ongoing/active interest.

    Well it's true but let's not forget that a lot of people are COERCED into registering for something when they actually want something else. This IMHO makes the whole "registered users" idea completely useless UNLESS the registration serves only one purpose, which is to play the mentionned MMO.

    To download this free 600MB movie of Jenna J. please register for free HERE [nytimes.com]!

  • Pfff, 4500 concurrent users? Thats nothing

    Eve online recently broke 22000 users on the same unsharded server!

    • EVE is a great game, although lately they've been having trouble keeping up with the quickly growing population and the really busy systems lag a bit during peak hours when there are over 20K people on the same server. The good news is it's not that bad of a problem most of the time and if you die due to lag, the GMs will generally reimburse you in game. It is difficult to compare this to a game like Guild Wars where your group is alone during gameplay with the exception of PvP. This also differs greatly
    • And back when they broke 20,000 on at once, they had 85,000 current paid subscriptions and another 15,000 currently active trial accounts (trials last 2 weeks). These are rather more solid than when a site claims to have a certain number of "registered users" who could have registered anytime. Heck, I registered on Anarchy Online once for the free year thing, and didn't finish character creation :).

      Of course, there are a lot of games with more total paid users. But for measuring how much a player will inter
    • Of course, there's only one server anyway.
  • Subscription (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:07AM (#14444426) Homepage
    Since most subscriptions are on a monthly basis, I'd say only the number of accounts that have logged in within the last 30 days "quantifies" an MMO's popularity. Afterall, these are the people willing to pay for it.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:22AM (#14444464) Journal
    Is that current MMORPG games split their userbase. The more complex the game becomes, think Star Wars Galaxies, the more room their is for extremely specialised characters the more chance you have that your on the wrong server.

    You could easily find yourselve on a server with no Image Designers for instance. It always seem that the most imaginative players who organized all the fun things were on servers that I was not on.

    The reason for splitting the userbase over different servers is off course obvious if you ever played SWG, everyone centered on one city and that meant that the central hub could become unplayable.

    Of course SWG was never supposed to have a hub, just that some bad design decissions and an unwillingness to update the game meant that coronet became the unofficial hub. Now that the NGE has happened coronet is in fact pretty much deserted. What I am complaining about them not updating and then I complain about the update? Well all I would have wanted is for them to make sharnaffs hit with disease to reflect them being overhunted. Disease was bitch and critters that had it were extremely unpopular to hunt. It could have helped spread people out across the universe. Simply make any overhunted critter go diseased and voila, the end of everyone hunting the same. NGE cured that but in the same way decapitation will cure a headache.

    Anyway back to the problem of splitting the userbase up among servers. It means you could easily find yourselve on server with a total population of perhaps 10.000. Substract the people who already given up or for whom the character is an alt while they are playing most of the time on another server and you soon realize that the real population on a server is at best a few thousand.

    Guild Wars does something similar and like WoW splits the users among continents but does allow you to vist an international hub where everyone from all the continents can meet (usually a pretty empty place). WoW of course does not allow european users to play with american users. Neither does it give european customers a free trial but europeans are used to being screwed.

    But the small populations are not just a distortion, they make the games far more vulnerable when a group decides to leave. It can easily mean that a small guild leaving suddenly pulls the rug out under the player run economy. On the SWG I played there was one crafter player who made good stuff for an good price. She (not sure if she was a real female but I always judge people by their avatar unless their behaviour is a complete mismatch) was also easy to sell to offering an okay price with no hassle and not always demanding you rattle of every stat.

    For many of us she was the supplier of food buffs and later also armour. Then she left and I was for the first time forced to start looking for my essential supplies. God what a mess that was. Still is.

    Same with other proffesions, we had 1 image designer. If he was on holiday or something that service was removed.

    If SWG had been one big universe with the game enforcing users to spread out across the planets I think it would have been a far greater success. To many new players on free trials choose the recommended least loaded server and found themselves in ghost towns.

    An MMO is hardly massive when you got a max of a few hundred people online at the same time.

    The revenue per player may be intresting for your bank, it is the number of people online with you that matters to users. WoW showed us that people who believed the market had topped out were very very wrong. Now remains to be seen wether WoW itself has topped out the market or that another MMORPG game with a different approach might rival its success or even leave it behind.

    I still think there is room for a complex deep MMORPG that SWG tried to be. It will be extremely difficult but the simple fact is that people are still hanging on to the complex MMO's even with the lure of WoW. Successfull as WoW is it is not everybody's cup of thee. To much fixatio

    • Play eve then. Everybody is in the same universe. Ironically, they also use IBM hardware. :)
    • Eve has a huge concurrent universe (usually between 15,000-20,000 users in the same universe at the same time). Second Life is the same way. That's one of the great things about them (and while I'll take either over WoW any day). And you also don't have any trouble if you want to play with a friend.


    • On the SWG I played there was one crafter player who made good stuff for an good price. She was also easy to sell to offering an okay price with no hassle and not always demanding you rattle of every stat.

      This demonstrates why a "player-run economy" is generally a bad idea (except in games that are supposed to be primarily focused on financial competition).

      You (and many other players) used that PC like a vending machine. You put in money for the daily buffs you needed to play effectively, and then left to
  • What matters is how many people you can interact with at one time. It doesn't matter if the game has 1 million players if I can't see an army of 500,000 taking on another army of 500,000 at one time. The important limit if how many I can see and interact with at once.
    • I agree, and I also add that this is why I give more value to this kind of results: http://www.ogrank.com/content/view/120/33/ [ogrank.com] than anything else. 22k player logged in, on the same server, with no istance at all, means 22k people to interact with. Even if you can't met everybody, mainly because thay maight be far away from you, you can still interact with them in the sense that you can talk to them, and so make commercial deals or anything else. In this way there is always friends and there is always enemi
      • Now if only those damn game developers would get out of the way and let us create our own plots.
        • Well, I will not reply "If you want more power look at Second Life" http://secondlife.com/ [secondlife.com], because I think that SL falls in another category of games. Actually EVE Online gives you quite a lot of power. The economy is 99% player driven, and in "non empire space", politics, resource control, land (starsystems) control is completely in the hands of the players. The other half, the "empire space", is still in a good part managed by the NPC and their policemens (The Concord)... or the Devs if you prefer, but
          • It's a bit of a sticky wicket. I don't think players realize what they are missing by not having a say in story lines. I mean how many times has that mayors daughter been kidnaped? Subjectively I suppose you think you're the only one who saves her, but that illusion breaks down when you find the walkthrough online.

            What's missing is a decent user interface for creating new plots. Something like the creature creation in Spore, where the computer does the hard part of putting it all together, and you just
        • Independent, non-commercial MUDs have had this capacity long before Everquest and its clones were created. These MUDs are generally created by players, for players, and they have the same gameplay elements as any of the corporate-created games. Try one out sometime.
  • Two models (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Somatic ( 888514 )
    I think you need to seperate subscription and non-subscription games to get a clear picture.

    For subscription games, the number of people paying for a subscription is a good number. Even if someone hasn't played in months, if they still have an active subscription, that says something. Example: I quit City of Heroes and cancelled my subscription immediately. It's not that it was a bad game, it's just that I knew that I was done with it when I stopped.

    On the other hand, when I quit Everquest, I let my acc

  • I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone that numbers are not always best. You can play the most crowded, popular MMO, but it you may find your quality of play degrading as more people arrive. It all comes down to game design and the quality of the environment you play in when determining game quality. I've had some of my best gaming fun on small MUDs with a userbase of only 200-500 or so. That's largely because the environment was well crafted, the players were of good quality, and so were the admins.
  • by Doctor Cat ( 676482 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:17AM (#14445037) Homepage
    For Furcadia, I've been trying to keep a continuously updated estimate of our total playerbase since we opened in 1996, but I've always been aware that we'll never have a totally accurate number. We can count computers connecting (not by IP address, which is often dynamic, but by keys we put in the registry on install, hardware profiles we compare to tell machines apart, etc.) but that's inaccurate because some people use multiple computers, while in other cases multiple family members or roommates log on from one computer. Characters is near useless, since we allow free alts and many people create a lot. Email addresses are worth a bit more, but have the same miscount issues that computers do. We try to use a combination of all those factors to make the best estimate we can.

    Currently our max concurrent users is around 4300, and our estimate is that about 60,000 unique players log in 30 days time. So that's very much in the same ballpark as Second Life, with 4500 peak and 50,000 in the last 30 days as their estimates. I'd tend to believe those numbers. We don't have analysis on how many have been on in the last 90 days for comparison to that figure - might be worth us looking into.

    I agree with the person that commented that subscription based games & free games need to be counted differently. We've actually had nearly half a million email addresses registered and millions of characters created in the last 9 years - it's easy for people to try out a free game for 5 minutes and then never come back, something you don't see in the subscription based games.

    I also agree with the comment that having "shards" is, in many ways, not as desirable as having a single massive world the way that Second Life does (and Furcadia also). Both being user-created content worlds, I think they follow Bob Metcalf's law of networks - the "value" increases as the square of the number of nodes (or in this case, users). It is interesting too that in Korea, the subscription model has already largely given way to games that are free to play, but have optional things to pay for. Might become the dominant model in the US in a few years?

    Note to Zonk - when's there going to be a Slashdot article about Furcadia? There's been a bajillion about Second Life already. Not that they don't deserve a lot of news coverage, but I'd like to get a smidgen too someday! Furcadia's been a user created content world where people own the copyright to their own creations since 1996, it was made by 2 people on a $50,000 budget, the programmer (me) met his fiancee' in the game (she's now our producer too), our 10th anniversary is coming up, our scripting language is cool... Do I have to hire a PR guy to send out press releases? We could use a good slashdotting someday, followed by lots of people posting here why they didn't like the game. :)

    • They obviously haven't received your check for your Slashvertisement.
    • 1. Your Furry game is to much of a niche product.

          2. The Furry sub-culture turns many people off.

          3. Maybe you do need some PR people.

          4. Your website needs screenshots of the game.

          That is all.
      • Our website DOES have screenshots of the game! If you didn't spot them though, maybe we need to make them more prominent. And for the record - Furcadia is no more "made for furry fandom" than Disney's movie The Lion King, or Bugs Bunny cartoons. Things that are enjoyed by a thousands furry fans, and millions of non furry fans. Furcadia's the same way. While we have some furry fans there, and they're most welcome, the majority of our players aren't involved or interested in that. Furcadia is primarily
        • I played Furcadia for a few weeks after a few of my friends insisted I try it out. It really is quite interesting and is a very good game. I prefer action myself though, and with no combat, it wasn't as interesting to me personally. If you like beating people in PvP and big explosions, this probably isn't for you, for conversation, puzzles, and roleplaying, it's a truely great game.
        • I never would have guessed the game was made for more then just Furry Fandom, based upon everything that I saw on the homepage and the other pages I checked out.

          Furries don't make me uncomfortable. I find the whole sub-culture no less different then the hardcore Star Wars, Star Trek and other specific interest sub-cultures out there.

          But hey, if you want to paint someone with the brush of prejudice simply because they pointed out a few facts about your particular sub-culture,
          • I wasn't trying to claim you or anyone else was prejudiced, I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I was just trying to set the record straight about who our game is aimed at. Regardless of my personal hobbies and interests, my work is intended for a general audience. Though I suppose more people would realize it if we took all those talking animals out of there. :)

  • Like most statistics, the numbers can mean what you want them to.

    For a number of months (?) 2nd life was offering free lifetime memberships. Of course I signed up. It was Free (as in beer)!

    I haven't logged on for probably a year, does that mean I'm still counted as a 'subscriber'?
  • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:58AM (#14445216)
    Obviously, the number you pick depends upon what you are looking to measure. For subscription games from the company's perspective, the only number that matters is the number of paying customers. This is clearly a good measure of how well they are doing. For a non-subscription game like Second Life, they really need to look at how much the average player gives to the company per month, and how many registered players there are. So, Second Life might have 100,000 'registered' users, but if 90% of them never log in, and 97% of them have never spent a cent on the game, they will be making an average of (random number) 50 cents per registered user. Obviously, this is pittance.

    From the gamer side, the number that matters is the number of people that can be online at once, and how steady those numbers are throughout the day. A game like EVE ranks very high in this regard. They have 22,000 players at peak hours and due to their international market maintain a very high average because the game is well covered from both the US and Europe (less so from Asia though). WoW on the other hand does not score as high as it splits its mass of users up into separate shards and has separate servers from different time zones. This results in a smaller online user base per shard and sharp dips and peaks in user numbers.

    Current users online is a pretty important number IMO. The fewer shards you have, the greater ability you have to tell a divergent story line.

    This was shown pretty clearly in Asheron's Call. Asheron's Call was the first MMORPG to really make it a goal to tell a story. I recall early on years back when during one month's events players were tasked with retrieving a certain item in a PvP area. On all the shard's but one, the players quickly retrieved the item clearing the way for the next month's events. On one shard though, a group of players defended the area and prevented fellow players from retrieving that item. In effect, they created a divergent story. On all the other shard's the story moved forward according to the developer's plans. On one server though, the story diverged in a different direction. So what happened? Exactly what you would expect to happen. Not wanting to maintain multiple different stories at the same time, the development team congratulated the players who had defended the item, but told them that they lost anyways. The story moved forward the same on all servers.

    A single server offers a greater deal of freedom in terms of shaping the story. The developers are not bound to keep dozens of different copies of the same story. Nor do they have to worry about divergent stories. I think that this contributes strongly to how WoW has been extremely ineffective at creating a dynamic world changing stories for its players. World changing events are extremely hard to deal with when you have multiple servers.

    The downside to a single server game is that it places a MUCH greater stress on expansion, especially if the game does well. In the case of WoW, it means that they would have had to of built their world with at least half of a million players in mind, and then rapidly expand it as their player numbers grew. Further, they would not have been able to expand contact only upwards. They would need to expand not only high end content to deal with the ever increasing number of players achieving higher levels, but also expand lower end content to deal with over crowding as the number of n00bs continues to expand. Dealing with such expansion pressures would require either a complete rethinking in MMORPG design such that a greater emphasis is put on world expansion and design, or innovative new strategies in game play design. EVE for example opted for innovative gameplay. EVE is very sparse in traditional content and instead opts for a sandbox approach where players generate much of the content.

    Personally, I want to see MMORPG shoot for single shards. The technical and content challenges that this will create will drive innovative MMORPG design.
  • Interest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @10:00AM (#14445226) Homepage Journal
    Betsy said, "I think registered number of users does measure at least casual interest, while concurrent users measures ongoing/active interest.

    That's a pretty good reply, provided they clean the userbase occasionally.

    I run my own online game. It's not as big as any mentioned in the article, but the numbers mean something to me:

    • About 13,000 people have registered during its 5 year life. That's the number of people interested enough to take a peek (the game's free, so there's no reason not to register if you care at all).
    • Currently about 1500 players are registered. However, that includes people who took a look yesterday and will never come back.
    • About 1100 players logged in during the past 3 days. That's what I consider my "active player base". While it includes people who took a look yesterday (etc), it also includes active players who're away for a few days and will log in again tomorrow. I guess it about averages out.

    It would probably be very interesting to run more statistics, but I don't. I can generate a bit of data from what I have, for example I can say that about 6000 accounts or almost half of them were made in 2005, so the game is getting much more publicity than before.

    The point I'm trying to make is: Numbers mean nothing. You have to look behind them and find what they mean. I could say I have 13000 registered users (actually I don't, because I clean out inactive accounts) or I could say I have 1500 active players. It depends on whether I want to appear big or have a more honest number. I could also say I have 950 active players (the number logged in yesterday) if I wanted to appear smaller.

    (*) Note: "Concurrent users" doesn't have a meaning for my game because it's a web-based game, not a MMORPG and you don't interact real-time anyways. That's another point: In some MMORPGs, you don't have to be online to be able to be interacted with. Your shop in Second Life or some other games may still be open, you can travel or go about automated tasks in other games. It all depends on what the game is.
  • I think this has to be linked. http://mmogchart.com/ [mmogchart.com] A study on the MMOG subscription numbers declared by the publishers.
  • It is hard to guage the real interest based on "subscribed players" for those games that have no monthly fee.

    I have Guild Wars. I haven't played it in months. I can log in whenever I want, though. I am sure I am counted as an active user.

    To me, a casual gamer isn't someone that logs in to that game once a month. They log into it at least once a week, and probably 2-3 times a week. Hard core gamers are the ones in it every available waking hour they can.

    The Second Life numbers are a joke, because there
  • You have to put the numbers in context A game can have a fairly large number of active users, however the game can still feel like a deserted wasteland uo, wow were great games, in my opinion, because at least one of the cities was usually populated by a lot of players and also because travelling was short eq2, swg are the opposite, travel is difficult, and boring as hell, and most zones are undifferentiated and have 4 or 5 people in them
  • Perhaps, some rolling stat of population density would be more appropriate? Maybe a max / average / min per space-that-one-can-"travel" in one hour. That would give you an idea if you are overrun with others in a hunting area (bad) or overrun with others in the city (good). The rest of the numbers in the OP are more important to the lifespan of the game (e.g. Asheron's Call 2) or the company's viability. Ther the basic user we sometimes want interactions (to buy and sell) and sometimes want low to know inte

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