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## How Much Money Do Free-To-Play MMOs Make?157

simoniker writes "Over at Gamasutra, a new feature article discusses how much money free-to-play MMO games make, with specific real-world stats from game developers willing to discuss how they make money with microtransaction-based PC games. In particular, Puzzle Pirates co-creator Daniel James reveals that 'the average revenue per user (ARPU) is between one and two dollars a month, but only about 10% of his player base has ever paid him anything. As a result, he says, approximately 5,000 gamers are generating the \$230,000 in revenue he sees each month.' It's obviously quite a different model from the regular \$15/month for World Of Warcraft, but it evidently works for some companies."
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## How Much Money Do Free-To-Play MMOs Make?

• #### Re:bad math (Score:3, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:32PM (#28272537)
Maybe it's because the \$1-\$2 range is across ALL users, not just those that pay. Of ALL the users, only about 5000 pay anything, and what they pay is about \$230,000. The only thing "bad math" about it is that the 5000 users probably represent slightly less than 5% of the userbase, not the 10% he mentioned. But that's hardly a big enough deal to get worked up over. Perhaps you just misread the summary and instead of re-reading it, posted about how bad the math was.
• #### Re:5,000 equal \$230,000 a month (Score:4, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:32PM (#28272545)

Wow, when did \$46 become a micro payment?

From when you RTFA:

Three Rings' MMO Puzzle Pirates takes in approximately \$50 each month from each paying user (ARPPU) for a total of \$230,000 a month, all resulting from microtransactions.

• #### Re:bad math (Score:5, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:34PM (#28272577)

if the average user gives an average of 1-2 dollars per month, how can 5000 users generate 230,000 dollars?

I believe that the average per user is \$1-2 per month.

However, the average per paying user was something along the lines of \$50. So the math would go something like:

(\$50/paying user)(5000 users) = \$250,000

or

(\$1.50/user)(160,000 users) = \$240,000

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:5, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:40PM (#28272643)
Puzzle Pirates is written in cross platform Java. Works on every major OS.
• #### Wait What? How Bad is My Math... (Score:4, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:41PM (#28272657) Homepage Journal

"(ARPU) is between one and two dollars a month, but only about 10% of his player base has ever paid him anything. As a result, he says, approximately 5,000 gamers are generating the \$230,000 in revenue"

So 10% of the player base is paying him and that player base equals 5,000 people. So there are 50,000 people a month playing - nice.

But wait a sec...ARPU is only \$2 on the top end and 5,000 people pay this, so that's \$10,000 a month - where is the other \$220,000 coming from!!!!! Even if all 50k people were spending \$2 a month that's be \$100k - Where did I miss something?

OH I GET IT NOW - From the actual article....
"Indeed, James reveals that Three Rings' MMO Puzzle Pirates takes in approximately \$50 each month from each paying user (ARPPU) for a total of \$230,000 a month, all resulting from microtransactions."

This is different than what the blurb mentioned - I guess it did get me to read, but only this time - you're tactics won't always work on me!

• #### Re:Wait What? How Bad is My Math... (Score:5, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:49PM (#28272735)

And if I add apples and oranges, I can eliminate the national debt as long as I remember to divide by zero!

10% of the player base is paying him

No, 10% of the player base has ever paid him. Some other % (presumably smaller) is the 5000 players paying monthly.

ARPU is only \$2 on the top end and 5,000 people pay this, so that's \$10,000 a month

No, the average is over all of the players, so thats (total players)*\$2 a month.

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:5, Informative)

<`ross' `at' `quirkz.com'> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:51PM (#28272753) Homepage
Some of us are browser based. I play www.KingdomofLoathing.com all the time, and it's platform independent. I also run my own game at www.Twilightheroes.com.

With just under 30k accounts, maybe 2,000 of them active in a given month, I'm not really quite "massive" yet but my own experience is that I pull in on average less than \$0.50 per account per month, with some fair bit of fluctuation. I'd be jumping for joy at an average of \$2/player.
• #### Does Guild Wars count as free-to-play? (Score:3, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:25PM (#28273569)

Guild Wars is pay to purchase, but from then on it's free to play. Its graphics are astounding (better than WoW IMO - much less cartoony) and it supports huge numbers of players. It's got a huge amount of content - after 2 years of solid playing there's still lots that I haven't done yet.

I've got 3 accounts (mine, brother, mule - used to be 4, but I gave one to my nephew). The interesting thing with GW is that there is no significant advantage to buying additional stuff beyond the 3 campaigns (each standalone) and one expansion (which can be used with any of the campaigns). There are lots of things you can buy (extra character slots, extra account-wide storage, skill unlock packs, etc) but nothing that gives a significant advantage in the game - e.g. everything in the skill unlock packs can be unlocked by playing the PvE game, or doing well in PvP and using the points you get to unlock things.

Over the past 2 years we've gradually bought all the campaigns and expansions (most at sales, some full price) - all up, we've spent approx US\$500 on the 4 accounts. ArenaNet has continually added new content and updates - enough that last night I finally bought the other 2 campaigns for my mule account.

GW has been more than worth the money I've paid - and maybe some day I'll buy some more character slots, etc.

• #### Re:Wait What? How Bad is My Math... (Score:1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:33PM (#28273621)
They get US\$2 in average from total user base.
but from all users, only 5K pay anything, these are called paying users.
And from paying users, the average income = US\$50.
5K * 50 = 250K bucks
Gee... English is not my first language but I can read better than you.
• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:2, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:16PM (#28273927) Journal

Ahoy matey, Puzzle Pirates runs on Mac and Linux just fine.

In fact I'm using Linux and logged in right now. Arr!

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:3, Informative)

on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:43PM (#28274099) Homepage

You mean like Game! [wittyrpg.com]? I don't really see many Mac users, substantially more Linux users actually.

• #### Re:5,000 equal \$230,000 a month (Score:2, Informative)

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:35AM (#28275265) Journal

Maybe I read this wrong, but I could see that as being several smaller payments throughout the month, totalling up to roughly \$50 per user in a month.

So if you paid around, say, \$1.60/day you'd end up around that mark but each payment is in itself rather small.

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:51AM (#28275387) Homepage Journal

This is claimed at least once a week, but has yet to be true. Fact is, there's nothing on the market that can compete with WoW.

I fairly regularly see trolls making this statement as well, but then never offering anything more specific to back it up. Allow me to offer you a clue.

a) The levelling game is dead. D-E-A-D. Blizzard reduced the xp requirement between 20-60 by 20%. Then you've got Recruit-A-Friend, and the +10% xp heirloom bonus on top of that. They're killing the ability of new users to really acclimatise, learn the game, or experience what was genuinely good content, all for the sake of letting the established crowd race to the cap.

b) Once a person powerlevels their way to the cap in two days, they will very swiftly discover that there is less than no point to being there. Heroics? Boring. Naxx? Boring. Sarth? Boring. Ulduar might be marginally less boring, but I doubt it. WoTLK has the worst instances, as stated previously, that this game has ever seen. They are a total sleepwalk; no strategy required at all. Just get DKs and AoE lol.

c) The battlegrounds, which used to be my main reason for playing the game, are also dead. Blizzard killed twinking a couple of patches back, which caused a lot of people to leave, and the Death Knight and Paladin are also, as stated, now the only two classes in the game that are worth playing. Everything else has been nerfed into the ground.

d) Chilton had to kill world PvP too, because if that had remained viable at all, people might not have wanted to play the Arena...so now that is dead, also.

That leaves the Arena, which is literally the only thing left to do in the game at this point; and I don't know about you, but if I'm going to bother playing an FPS at all, I'm going to play a real one, not a half-assed joke.

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:2, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:01AM (#28275483)

He's likely only getting revenue from active accounts, so it's \$1k per month.

• #### DDO going Free to Play (Score:2, Informative)

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:54AM (#28276187) Homepage
this topic seems appropriate as it was just recently announced that my favorite MMO, Dungeons and Dragons Online, was moving towards a Free 2 Play Hybrid model. The way it'll work is that existing subs at the standard MMO rate of 15/month or so will be converted into VIPs who will have access to all content as well as 500 points / month. Once the game is relaunched this summer, people will be able to play entirely for free, play for free but pay to unlock certain pieces of content or customization options or pay to be a VIP and have the 500 points/month to spend on convenience and customization options. This system is a generally well planned but highly complex system aimed at providing the most options and attracting the most players in a financially responsible way. More information about the specifics of the announcement can be found at the website for the game at http://www.ddo.com/ [ddo.com]
• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:4, Informative)

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:38AM (#28276429) Journal
Proper sleep support is really important. For a while I owned a PowerBook and a ThinkPad (well, I still do, I just don't use them much now). To take my ThinkPad somewhere, I needed to shut it down, then when I got there reboot and reopen all of my applications in their last state. With the Mac, I shut the lid and opened it when I got there, with all of my applications in exactly the same state I left them. I theory I could do the same with my ThinkPad, but it only had an 80-90% chance of coming out of sleep mode correctly, and I didn't think even a 10% chance of data loss was acceptable every time I closed the lid. The battery on the PowerBook also lasted about twice as long. Guess which machine I took with me, and which I left at home...
• #### sounds about right (Score:3, Informative)

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:36AM (#28276725) Homepage Journal

Interestingly, I can confirm those percentages. I run a free online game (see footer) where you can donate, if you want to. Whenever I checked, it was around 10% (+/- 2% maybe) of the long-term player base that had donated anything, ever. "long-term" here means that I don't count the accounts that go inactive within a few weeks, those people obviously just took a look and decided the game's not for them.

At the same time, those people who do give anything are often very generous. Again, confirmation there.

Does this work as a business model? Not for me (too few players) but then again I've never tried to make a living off what I consider a hobby. Very nice to know, however, that it can work. The problem is, of course, long-term viability. If your income depends crucially on a fairly small number of customers, you're always at risk of them moving elsewhere. Online gamers have a bit of a herd mentality, they often take their friends with them when they move somewhere else.

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:37AM (#28277075) Homepage

Wow. This pile of sour grapes gets modded informative?

>>Fact is, there's nothing on the market that can compete with WoW.

>I fairly regularly see trolls making this statement as well, but then never offering anything more specific to back it up.

You mean, other than the tens of millions of World of Warcraft customers. Because it would be a shame if, while proclaiming yet another time that WoW is dying (Netcraft apparently confirms), you would miss the blatantly obvious fact that WoW continues to thrive in terms of both profits and player mindshare.

>a) The levelling game is dead. D-E-A-D. Blizzard reduced the xp requirement between 20-60 by 20%. Then you've got Recruit-A-Friend, and the +10% xp heirloom bonus on top of that. They're killing the ability of new users to really acclimatise, learn the game, or experience what was genuinely good content, all for the sake of letting the established crowd race to the cap.

Wha...? You want the leveling to be slower? What the fuck are you thinking? Do you honestly believe grinding out quests solo as a lowbie in any way relates to becoming a successful PvE raider or PvPer? The storylines are generally good, but staying in lowbie zones for extended periods for the content ought to be a player choice, not a shackle to make new players pay their dues.

>b) Once a person powerlevels their way to the cap in two days, they will very swiftly discover that there is less than no point to being there. Heroics? Boring. Naxx? Boring. Sarth? Boring. Ulduar might be marginally less boring, but I doubt it. WoTLK has the worst instances, as stated previously, that this game has ever seen. They are a total sleepwalk; no strategy required at all. Just get DKs and AoE lol.

Heh. Two days from 1 to 80? Maybe if you give your password^W^W^W buy a Chinese powerleveling service who will grind 5 mans for you nonstop for 48 hours. I'm sorry the PvE content bores you so; the sheer number of random people who are still failing heroics, much less the raid content tells me that it isn't boring for a large number of players. Blizzard has stratified the instances more, not made everything universally easier.

The instances that rate as easy are easier - you can throw a PuG together and faceroll those regardless of who you play with - but that started in BC, too. M-T/SP/Ramps/BF regular or heroic were noob heaven. In other words, Blizzard wanted introductory content that even the least skilled players (read: extreme casuals) can enjoy. The harder instances have actually become harder than in BC. Even in 5-mans, it is extremely difficult to put together a successful PuG for heroic Oculus or HoS without screening extensively for gear/guilds/achievements, and the chances are that without long-term PvE connections or a successful guild to rely on, it won't get done. Factor in hard mode achievements and rewards (starting with Glory of the Hero and going all the way into hard mode Ulduar 25) and the other end of the PvE difficulty spectrum reaches as high as it's ever been in WoW, from AQ40 to Sunwell. The difference is that Blizzard has made all of this optional, instead of a required part of raid progression. And that's got the panties of some elitists in a bind, because it just isn't fair that you no longer have to be an obsessive-compulsive social malcontent working with 39 or 24 others just like you to get to the "end".

Want proof? How many people on your server are walking around with the Twilight Vanquisher title? Or the Immortal title? Probably about the same number of players who were kitted out in Tier 3 or Sunwell gear - hell, they probably are the same hardcore PvE players in many cases.

It's true that DKs have a shallower learning curve than a lot of other classes. But while it's easier to faceroll a DK to a decent level of performance as a DPS or tank, it seems to be just as hard to excel in it as any other class, judging from the low signal:nois

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:3, Informative)

on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:28AM (#28278001)

I use a thinkpad t61 for work, and used a t43 before that, and I have never, ever, ever had any problems with the suspend/resume functions with closing/opening the laptop lid. And I virtually ONLY use suspend/resume because otherwise I have to sit through the ridiculously long log-in script.

I'd say I've reasonably done this at least twice over the last four years, or about 2,500 times, without ever (remembering) any problem like you discuss.

• #### Re:Dear free MMO companies (Score:3, Informative)

<`ross' `at' `quirkz.com'> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:44AM (#28280429) Homepage
Yes, that's fifty cents per active account. People who don't log in or play generally don't donate.

Server costs are about half of my income for two dedicated servers (one file server, one database server). Doesn't leave a lot of profit (especially if I want to do any advertising or hire out any services), so at this point it's still more of a minimum-wage hobby. On the other hand, that beats the hell out of hobbies that *cost* money and it's still fantastically fun, educational, and rewarding.

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