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Oct 22, 2003



I'd love to see numbers for Toontown, which I think is close to if not over the 10k number. Recently I rough-counted 6,000 people logged in (on a Saturday).

Toontown is heavily hamstrung in the social sphere, as they don't allow players to type text, but instead have a list of phrases to choose from. (There is a way to type text messages to special friends, but you have to have a real-world connection first to enable it.)


What time on a Saturday? It's hard to say, since Toontown skews so young, but a peak at 6K would imply a subscriber base around 20-25K.



Any way I could convince you to put this data on a log scale? I'd love to see more of the action towards the bottom right corner.


The source site, linked right before the graphic, has the spreadsheet Bruce keeps the data in available for download.



I'd love to see a curve showing overall subscription totals, too. If someone can crack the spreadsheet and do some adding, please post.


Also, note that Motor City Online is the only game to have died. In an industry where 95 percent of new titles fail (according to Greg Costikyan), the survival rate is astounding.


This is an interesting complement of the discussion on MUD-DEV: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2003Q4/msg00121.php

As noted, the chances of building a successful MMORPG using angel venture capital is *much* better than for other sorts of games *and* other sorts of online ventures.


MCO was a bit of a special case, from what I understand. They had to liscense the car models from the manufacturers, and those deals probably had minimums that made it impossible to run the game at a profit with a low population.

That does raise questions about liscenses for these games.



Survival Rates of MMO Games

- not to take us too far off topic here, but the apparent “high survival rates” of MMO games doesn’t equate to it being a particularly popular genre or even a very fit species. Rather I’d suggest that it’s a combination of high barriers to entry, small number of entrants, and steady-state perseverance (keep lowering your costs until they match your revenues – e.g. TSO scale back), that allows the market leaders AND market laggards to largely survive.

The conversation of "what is a healthy MMO" is obviously a very interesting topic. Is it just a growing population size or is it an evolving nature of community, content and play?


The revenue stream changes everything. Given enough time, and barring exceptional circumstances (like liscensees with guaranteed minimums) any game can earn out. Anarchy Online is widely considered a failure, but it is almost certainly in the black by now. And that's the *downside*, when you screw up by the numbers.

Also, most MMO's fail well before launch, the mortality occurs out of sight. There's nearly 200 MMO's in development right now, how many could you name? When I joined Mythic, there were well over 100, how many of those have you heard of?



Yeah, survival does not mean ex ante profitability. Crack open your Econ 101 texts and you'll find a section on variable and fixed costs. If an operation can earn revenues that cover its variable costs, it stays open. This is true even if it is operating at an overall net loss, i.e., when fixed costs are so large that revenue - variable cost - fixed cost < 0. With MMOGs, fixed costs (development) are huge but variable costs (day to day operations) are apparently low enough to be less than day to day revenues.


Dave> "MCO was a bit of a special case, from what I understand. They had to liscense the car models from the manufacturers, and those deals probably had minimums that made it impossible to run the game at a profit with a low population."

They also had some pretty serious infrastructure issues. Rumor had it that they rebooted many of their servers every night.



As someone who owns the cannonical "it just won't die!" game, Meridian 59, I feel compelled to contribute.

These games have amazing staying power. As Dr. Bartle pointed out in his recent book, the question isn't why M59 lasted 5 years, but why it *only* lasted 5 years under 3DO's treatment. People know the world well, and are familiar wtih it. Even if it changes, it's still "home" to the players, and they always come back.

I think it also has to deal with the barriers to entry. The most difficult part of writing is often staring at the blank page, wanting the words to come. I think the hardest part of doing an online world is staring at nothingness and wanting the world to spring forth from the void. Having something, anything, to reference helps move that process along.

You can also maintain these games for very little money. Meridian 59 would only need about 100 players to continue running, assuming that we paid no employees. Of course, then the world would stagnate as far as primary content creation goes. Is the PvP system enough to keep a minimum number of people interested? Good question....

A bit of input from my point of view,

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