An Analysis of MMOG Subscription Growth

Here's a graph which I found extremely interesting. A person has been researching the growth of MMOGs subscriptions of many titles released since 1997, the results of which are displayed in a nice graph...


Obviously it shows that it takes YEARS for a MMOG to even reach some sort of peak, and what is pretty alarming is that you can see a lot of the relatively new ones (under 2 years old) are already on the downward spiral.

It looks like Final Fantasy XI is doing extremely well - their numbers are way off the chart (I'd hate to see the numbers that Lineage is getting). It's a shame about Eve Online - I thought more people would be more in the Elite style space combat/trading kind of genre. The game does look extremely nice too.

Anyway, it's pretty interesting, and you can [url=""]read up on the analysis here[/url].

MoonUnit's picture

that pretty interesting. theres a few online titles which are basicly "grab proven formulae + online" which i never thought would do so well, even so "the sims onine" is a game that i thought would have skyrocketed (i mean its like the most sucessful PC game ever, i think a lot of people had that expectation) but its down the bottom of the graph aswell.

redwyre's picture

ha! I was looking at the exact same graph last week when someone asked me for some MMOG stats. I would be very interested to see beta signups as well...

Also... when do they cut the plug? PlanetSide seems to have <10000 subscribers and decreasing...

Blitz's picture

Erm, on that graph planetside looks around about 60,000. You're not getting it confused with the realm online line are you? :P Those line graphs are a confusing mess!
I'm particularly amazed at the success of FFXI considering that (correct me if i'm wrong) it's a console game (?) Goes to show that MMOG's are viable on the consoles.
Also interesting is that almost all the games on that chart, except FFXI and ragnarok online seem to be losing subscribers or plateuing in the last 6 months or so of the graph, perhaps some other big game (dunno what) was released than that everybody moved over too :P (slightly interesting is that FFXI and ragnarok both seem to be games aimed at more at the asian market...?).

unknownuser1's picture

You are half wrong Blitz. FFXI is both PS2 and PC. It was Square's attempt to make a MMORPG reach out to as many people as pos.

When FFXI starts to get the same amount of users and surpase Ultima, the Ultima numbers seem to drop. I would like to know if this is due to Ultima subscribers going over to FFXI.

It doesn't suprise me that a lot aren't doing too well. THere are a lot there, and they are all competing in an area that is really difficult to do well in. Plus. How many of them are really that different to the others?

Maitrek's picture

That graph is linear, so either FFXI is causing alot of people to subscribe to multiple MMOGs (unlikely given how many hours these addicts spend on a game) or alternatively, it's exploring/exploiting a slightly different demographic (draw your own conclusions).

Daemin's picture

The decreases of the past few months as shown on teh graph could be for two reasons that I could think of, either people are getting tired of those games and abandoning them, figuring that they might have a life outside of the game, or that there is so much choice now that communities of gamers can't decide which game to play. Thus only the newest ones are gaining members.

Of course we much remember that World of Warcraft is still due out, and I know many of my friends are eagerly anticipating it, so that could be people saving up money for WoW? Still, I guess we'll have to wait, or let some company to do some expensive market research.

Jacana's picture

I would say that FFXI is targeting a very different market to most of the MMOG's on that list.

Last time I read about subscribers to MMOG's Lineage had the biggest account sales of any MMOG with well over 1 million accounts. As I understood most of the asian market (and cross-over market MMOG's) had quite a high subscriber rate compared to the western market MMOG's. Of note would be Lineage, Lineage 2, FFXI, and City of Heroes.

palantir's picture

It?s interesting to see the strong and steady growth of EQ. I wonder when both WoW and EQ2 are out, will they be the main 2 left standing? I know quite a few people hanging for those 2 ? the big guns of the MMOG games, and if there is only a finite market, maybe these 2 games will end up holding most of the community.

Given the success of EverQuest, EQ2 will surely be hugely popular.

Personally I?m hanging out for GuildWars ? a MMOG that lets you have a life!

Daemin's picture

I played UO with friends years ago when it first came out, however I can say that I would rather have a job (Employers listening?) and have a real life rather than be playing one in an mmog. :-)

souri's picture

I feel sorry for WWII Online.. Poor guys! At least their subscriptions are consistant [:)] That one expansion pack did nothing to boost subscriptions! A lot of the new MMOGs have under 50,000 subscriptions, that would obviously mean under 50,000 retail copies sold. Considering that MMOGs have a much larger budget than most commercial games, selling/getting only 50,000 copies/subscriptions must be a considerable failure (I think I read somewhere that the average commerical game needs to sell at least 250,000 copies to break even). Subscriptions would be the slow way to pay off the monthly server and maintenance costs, and maybe recoup some of the development costs too. I bet they're doing it tough though.

Maitrek's picture

Hah - I gave up feeling sorry for developers, if they want to make a game that is in a flooded market and then they don't do a good enough job then they sorta get what they deserve. (of course, it's worth noting how *few* sales have to be made for a publisher to break even). A bit less publisher-induced shaft-taking would be nice tho.

Having said that, from what I've seen WWII online should be doing better than it is. It was let down by bad marketing and/or market assessment early in the project's lifecycle.

Daemin's picture

I think the stigma of having the WW2 game released with many bugs has affected its subscription rate. Although there have been many WW2 games released that have been of very good quality, such as Call of Duty, and the Medal of Honor series (well not all of them). So that might have something to do with it not doing so well?

souri's picture

Check out the new site with updated graphs of MMORPG subscriptions (includes World of Warcraft, Everquest 2 etc).

souri's picture

Yes, this is an old thread indeed [;)]. Version 20.0 of the very informative [url=""]MMOG Chart is up[/url], and all I can say is WoW... And I'm referring to World of Warcraft there. [:o]

[url=""]50.6% market share of the entire MMOG market[/url]

... and the number of active subscriptions compared to other competing titles? [url=""]Well, the graph says it all[/url]

Auran might be interested in seeing that the social MMOG genre [url=""]is at a low 2.1%[/url]. I reckon there's plenty of growth potential there, especially when the main contenders are There and Second Life, which are pretty poor titles I reckon.

palantir's picture

That?s amazing. But I?m guessing that mmorpg?s that don?t require continued subscriptions such as Guild Wars don?t make it into the graph, regardless of popularity?

LiveWire's picture

[url=""]and here is what I find stupid[/url]
92.6 of the market is made up of Fantasy RPGs! Come on people, how about a bit of creativity!

Angel's picture

It would be great if capable developers had access to the funds necessary to explore those untouched markets but unfortunately many don't. Those that do have the resources, risk an expensive gamble on something that could break them much easier than it could make them.

unknownuser2's picture

Livewire: Its so easy to sit back and point the finger at where others lack. Its infinately harder to get to a position where you can finally have a stab at trying to rectify that lack of creativity, in which case IMO you would then only to find that you first need to ensure your future so you can maintain a good number of stabs at 'creativity' which probably means churning out something of 'similar' ilk to begin with. I think Angel pretty much has hit the nail on the head with her reply, I guess im just reinforcing that fact.

Having said that though - there are 25 Odd MMOG's in development due for release before 2008 and many of those are exploring new genres, so I guess time will tell. [:D]

The only regret I have from looking at those charts is not buying Blizzard Shares before WOW was unleashed!

LiveWire's picture

hazard: oh i totaly understand, I was just having a one line bitch the number of fantasy themed MMOs. Shallow I know, but I wasn't looking to star ta serious converstation on the topic [:D]

grantregan's picture

Your comments about Eve Online are undeversed, in part because the information in the graph is so out of date - it's over 2 years old in fact. Eve Online has been a slow burner - slow to start, slow to grow but has spiked in the last 6months and continues to grow albeit from a low base. Players of Eve online tend to be loyal and CCP are very dedicated to their community.

So while the graph is interesting it says absolutely nothing about the current state of the MMOG market.