HUGE NEWS!

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As mentioned, here are all of the wonderfully leaked goodies (ie, the "motherload" I mentioned). Most of this is related to this year's BlizzCon and I'm sure the (wrong) heads are probably going to roll after releasing this information. =]

Keep in mind, that I'm still not done yet.. this is just the tip of the iceberg. I've saved the best for last and I'm typing as quickly as I can.

- So just to recap, I've already covered the D3 release, the (insightful) financials and subscriber figures with a quick analysis.

- DIABLO 3: The "planned" beta release date will be announced at BlizzCon 2011. The D3 beta will actually be taking place this year, but it's in such a stable state, and no problems are expected, that they expect to have it out before Christmas 2011. Sorry for the duplication, I know I already talked about this and the backup 2nd quarter date.

- DIABLO 3: There's going to be a Diablo 3 press conference before the beta begins, so sometime around August. Below are big D3 details of what will either be announced at BlizzCon or during the press conference.

- DIABLO 3: There's going to be a level cap of 60 (future expansion packs will expand the level cap by 10, it's all just like WoW), they're already planning ahead for the next exp. pack and they have in fact cut out zones, art, and skills/abilities out of the main game to be saved up for later.

- DIABLO 3: It's going to require a persistent internet connection through Battle.net. Disappointing, but I'm not surprised.

- DIABLO 3: The big shocker: Blizzard will be allowing players to buy/sell items, players and gold using an in-game system and real world currency! Seriously, I can't make this shit up. Diablo 3 will be using Blizzard's first gold selling service which they've already been building into Battle.net / Blizzard store code. They're working on a new money meter and "banking system" into Battle.net accounts, so it will probably be a storage system like PayPal for real currency that can be used to purchase games and virtual stuff. This is all being used in future games too, and possible older ones. Players will be encouraged to "stay at home, play games, make money". Because of this, they're implementing a no mods/addon policy in D3 as mentioned earlier so that this system can't be exploited (e.g. Auctioneer).

- TITAN: Just wanted to throw this little piece in here because it's related to this new gold selling system. When you see the pictures in the next post, you'll know what I mean. There will be a lot of buying and selling of virtual and real world items in Titan (tied into heavy social interaction) and this new D3 development indicates that Blizzard wants their customers getting used to this new and controversial approach. I don't want to spoil anything else.. you'll see it soon enough. =]

- WOW FIRELANDS: (Note: This is still being updated). The Firelands content patch should be available in the next couple months. A friend of mine is digging through the details right now, but I'll update this section later today. It's a little low priority as you can imagine, but he did say something about a fire-based cat form for Druids and a flaming (Blizzard Store collectible) mount. =]

- WOW EXP PACK: (Another work in progress) A little more details below, but my sources tell me that the next expansion pack will focus on the Island of Pandaria. This is no April Fool's joke, and yes, they're running out of ideas. You can already guess what race will be playable, and there's going to be a new overpowered healing class. I'm still waiting for more details from my sources and I should have some confirmation soon, but they've never steered me wrong before.

- BLIZZCON 2011: They have much more excitement planned for 2011 and there's going to be a TRIFECTA of announcements. First, there's going to be details, a trailer video (and playable demos) of their next SC2 expansion pack (HOTS). Second, they will be announcing their next WoW Expansion Pack (the Pandarens) and there's a video demonstration with details planned (I'm trying to get more details). It sounds like their final expansion pack will be announced at BlizzCon 2013.. Third and finally, there will be the surprise announcement of the "imminent" D3 release. (They're making it the THIRD announcement on purpose.) =]

- TITAN CONT'D: There's not going to be a Titan announcement at BlizzCon 2011. It still needs a lot of work and they're not planning on revealing any details about it just yet. I suppose they could always whip something up to show off, but it can still undergo a lot of changes between now and 2014.

Phew.. deep breaths, deep breaths..

It's not over yet though! Even though this information sounds completely unbelievable and that official documentation was pretty undeniable, I'm positive that many of our more special visitors here will claim that everything is made up. In fact, I'm expecting a TON of skepticism.. that is until these official announcements are made. =]

(For those who haven't been drinking the blue kool-aid, it's going to feel great to be completely vindicated.)

I still have a lot more to write about which I'll do over the next couple days.. I have a LOT to say about that new gold selling system. I'm also expecting a lot of heavy traffic and questions, and I really don't know what's going to happen after revealing all of this information.

Alrighty.. onto the final reveal!

Subscriptions In Trouble!

Posted by Daeity On

As you can tell by the those subscription and financials, things have been looking very bad over the past several months. Not only do these officially confirm the accuracy of previous estimates, but also the manipulation involved in the Subscriber™ definition. =]

As explained many times in the past, there's a significant difference between subscriptions and Blizzard Subscriptions™. Investors and the public get to see their public financials, but it's not like they're legally required to reveal actual subscriber numbers (or names) to anyone. They use a special definition for public announcements, but that's about it - and that number can be manipulated in any which way they want. I also have an interesting news reveal shortly where the Blizzard marketing team will soon be able to manipulate this number even further to their advantage. =]

Based on the subscription numbers, you can see that they've lost a little over 10% of their subscribers and they still haven't been able to fix their attrition issues while churn is in some serious trouble (i.e. the rate of losing players has been higher than gaining players for almost a year now.)

In regards to the sudden drop in players (and associated revenue), I'm not sure how they can keep this information hidden any longer. I don't know how they can continue justifying their public financials considering the massive losses in micro-transactions and pet/store sales. Even with such a sudden drop (ie, 700-800k Subscriptions™), I don't think an official or documented announcement will ever be made. The Q1 (Jan/Feb/Mar) 2011 financials call is coming up in a couple months and I'm really looking forwards to it, especially after the massive release of all of this information. =]

You should see some interesting and more desperate actions soon in order to increase their revenue. One of them is new pet/store sales, but I'll be putting that up in another post right after this one before my 2 major updates.

One of their acts of desperation, which I think I've talked about in the past, is turning World of Warcraft into a F2P system like what everyone else is doing. That's right! Blizzard is planning changing their treasured game into a F2P structure.. well, sort of. Basically, the free 14-day trial period is being changed to unlimited play up to level 20. The announcement is planned "at the end of Q2 2011", so you should hear about it very soon.

This information was actually pretty easy to find, a ton of employees knew about it already so I didn't have to go through my usual channels. I don't know any more details over than the F2P modification, however, because they need to keep gold farmers and spammers on a leash, I'm sure you'll see a lot of restrictions in place similar to the trial method. For example, chat, AH restrictions, and probably a limit on gold and/or a bank limit so that they can't be used as mules. I'm also not surprised by the timing of the announcement either, it's right at the cusp of a new quarter in which they want to drive their revenue and artificially increase subscription numbers. =]

You see, this new approach reeks of both desperation and brilliance. Subscription attrition has reached a terrible state, and they're going to continue plummeting for years to come. However, because of this new method and the influx of "free players", it will artificially increase their Subscription™ count astronomically. Will they be changing their special Subscriber™ definition, or will it remain the same? If you ever see a "12 million" or "13 million subscriber" announcement in the future, just remember that 3-4 million of those "subs" might be in fact F2P players. =] And those numbers don't even come close to real players as you're well aware..

From what I can tell, this is just the first step in a new long-term plan and they have a lot of other stuff scheduled for the future (e.g. lowering the cost of WoW, reduced expansion pack price points, and eventual subscription fees). I didn't like the "Cataclysm experiment", but I do like this experiment.. I'm surprised they didn't do it sooner.

Okay, now that I'm past all of the boring stuff, it's time to move onto the more important and mind-blowing updates! Should be up momentarily so please hold tight.. I'm sifting through a ton of information and emails here and trying to sort things out to find the important bits.

Year of the Banhammer?

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An observant reader noticed the well-timed delivery of my recent World of Warcraft "Cheaters Survey" here. =]

The thing is, Blizzard is very predictable in regards to their ban waves.

They've been collecting user details for months, but wait until a certain time before banning all players at once. Banning still occurs on a regular monthly basis, mind you, but those are for high visibility infractions (e.g. botting that's noticeable by other players.) They want to keep their customers as happy as possible, so exploits/bots that are more visible are dealt with more expediently.

There's a significant amount of revenue to be made from banning accounts.. for one, the players purchase WoW and the expansion packs again, and they pay for a new subscription. It also looks good on paper because it counts as 2 "active subscriptions" since the banned account was already paid until the end of the month.

Blizzard will have large ban waves when revenue is typically lower than expected. They want to make sure their quarterly returns are as high as possible (to impress their shareholders), so bans typically take place during certain quarters.

This well-timed ban wave takes place right before their first quarter ending March 31, 2011. It's also taking place right before pay day. Coincidence? I don't think so. =]

(Note: It's not a very good sign that this took place so soon after Cataclysm sales either.)

As you're aware, Activision Blizzard prepared their shareholders during their last conference with the knowledge that they shouldn't expect any major game releases this year. With that in mind, they still need to drive revenue as best they can - meaning this year, you should expect either new paid services (or existing services with a twist like special discounts) and/or new virtual pets or other items that can be purchased. We might see some new merchandising, or other cool little things to increase revenue. You can also expect increased banning and re-activation of accounts. =]

This applies to all of Blizzard's games, not just World of Warcraft.

And if that wasn't interesting enough, look what Blizzard just posted (Source):

I'll take that as a confirmation.

World of Warcraft Survey

Posted by Daeity On Monday, March 14, 2011

In my earlier post about Subscription Counts ("Revisited"), one reader had asked if I included discounts for 3 month and 6 month subscription plans. I mentioned that on average, most players pay on a month-to-month basis (and those were the figures I used). It was a good question though, and I really wanted to find out what percentage of players pay month-to-month versus other payment plans.

I also was curious if there was a link between a user's subscription plan and what the player did in-game. For example, gold farmers buy accounts on a month-to-month basis because they are banned so often. I assumed that regular players (who bot or cheat) also pay month-to-month due to fear of being banned (e.g. they plan ahead).

So, I created a survey.

Unfortunately, I had to obtain the information under false pretenses (e.g. I'm a noob, this is for a school project, etc.). I did this because I wanted to obtain as many honest results as possible and like most research studies I didn't want the subjects to know what my true motives were.

I ended up getting 1,022 unique respondents - and the number is still growing.

That number is pretty good actually, especially considering that the Daedalus Project surveyed 1,019 players for their WoW demographics study.

Anyways, here were the results:

- 89% of the users were actively playing WoW, the other 11% were no longer playing.
- 85% of the players were from US-based Realms, 14% from EU-based Realms, and the remaining were from China / Multiple Realms.
- 63% of those surveyed had 1 month plans, 15% had 3 month plans, 10% had 6 month plans, 10% used Game Cards, and the other 2% were Free (e.g. Blizzard employees / billing bugs).
- 65% of those surveyed have never cheated in WoW, but 35% HAVE cheated. This was interesting, I thought it might be 25% maximum.
- 71% have never engaged in gold selling, 29% have sold/bought gold.
- 17% have been temporarily banned for some reason. 5% have been perma-banned for some reason (you really have to do something bad to get perma-banned.) =]
- Of all those surveyed, 20% are (were) afraid of being caught, 19% are fearless, and the remaining have never cheated.
- 19% of the total users have cheated in other MMORPG's.
- 91% of the respondents have cheated in single-player games. (No surprises there. I think that most users would probably cheat in WoW though, if they were completely free from repercussions.)
- 78% have witnessed another player cheating (this would have to be pretty obvious - so speed hacking or botting most likely was witnessed.)

And here's some of the more interesting data I pulled from the survey:

Average Game Time

NA/EU users averaged 3.48 hours per day, which is 24.36 hours per week. (8.6% of the total users played less than 1 hour per day which I rounded up to 1 hour per day, and 3.1% of total users played for more than 9 hours per day which I rounded down to 9 hours per day to obtain this total estimate.)

Back in 2005, the Daedalus Project estimated that on average, WoW players put in 22.7 hours per week. I suspect the number has gone up though, especially with the launch of Cataclysm still being recent.

Various studies have put the average Chinese player game time at 4 hours per day (28-35 hours per week in some cases.)

What NA/EU Users Pay Per Month

Excluding players who get their subscription for free,

74% pay $15 per month
16% pay $14 per month
10% pay $13 per month

Subscription Models

69% of the players who have cheated in World of Warcraft had 1 month subscriptions.

59% of the players who have NEVER cheated in World of Warcraft also had 1 month subscriptions.

For those who were afraid of getting caught, 73% had 1 month plans, 11.5% had 3 month plans, and 7% had 6 month plans.

Very interesting.. that's what I was looking for. =]

Players Who Have Cheated

Of all the users who cheated, 32.3% were not afraid of being caught and 67.7% WERE afraid of being caught.

59% have cheated in another MMORPG, and the remaining 41% have never cheated in another MMORPG (or don't play any others).

Summary

So, these NA/EU WoW users on average play 24 hours per week (versus China's 28 per week on average.) 74% of these players are paying the $15 per month rate, and there's a higher percentage of players who cheat that end up selecting the month-to-month payment plan.

There's a ton of other stuff that I could have asked, but I was really only interested in subscription numbers and if there was a correlation with "cheating" accounts. I wanted the survey is to be as short and quick as possible too. One day though, I might make a HUGE WoW survey that's very precise (e.g. how many people stopped playing when Cataclysm came out, what kind of cheating they engage in, how often, how much gold they make from cheating, how much they sell, precise time per week, etc.) Guess we'll see..

Keep in mind that this is just a survey from active /r/wow Redditors, some questions can be open to interpretation or confusion, and there's a margin of error.. but it's all still interesting nonetheless.

RIFT Subscribers vs Real Players

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, March 2, 2011

As discussed earlier, there's a big difference between announced "Subscribers" and real players.

But what a lot of people want to know is how many real players are there playing RIFT right now?

According to Trion (Source) they had a grand total of 58 North American and 41 European servers prepared for launch.

Trion also pleasantly provides Shard Status information. It's very limited (just like Blizzard's - you don't want to reveal too much information), but it does let you know how many people are waiting in queue.

Right now, the Dayblind shard is FULL with 112 people waiting.

I counted the total number of players on Dayblind (very tedious and time consuming by the way), and it came out to around 1900 players (Defiant and Guardian combined). Let's say for argument's sake that their servers are maxed at 2,000 total players (a very reasonable estimate).

Since there are 99 total servers, that means that they can support AT MOST 198,000 real players.

Keep in mind that these are peak concurrent logins and it was the busiest period (9PM-11PM showed about the same numbers, then tapered off) for NA. Many servers are still showing Low and Medium (probably 1200-1500) populations too.

(Note: If you play RIFT, pull some numbers from other servers during peak hours and leave a comment here - e.g. total players on both sides. I suspect all of the servers have the same max. number though. Remember that these are peak concurrent logins at a certain time of day. Other players login during different schedules.)

There are also other factors at play, some players haven't started playing yet, and they might increase the player capacity on each shard at a later date.

Take this information for what you will, but I wouldn't be surprised if real players were somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 total right now (based on average player activity cycle and that over 50% of the shards were at half capacity.) If there were "1 million subscriptions" as promoted by gaming news sites, there should have been at least 600,000 simultaneous users logged in during peak hours.

Even if all of the shards were completely full, that would probably amount to 250,000 to 275,000 total players max during peak hours. That would mean less than 425,000 total players who would be logging in throughout the entire day. A far cry from the "1 million subscriptions" that gaming news sites are mistakenly reporting anyways. =]

Ignorance is Bliss

Posted by Daeity On

You gotta love some of the people from MMO-Champion.com. For the most part, it's an awesome community with great users who have a lot of questions or they're just looking for interesting news and information. But unfortunately, there are a few immature trolls and some close-minded individuals.. and it's especially unfortunate when they are moderators.

After all, moderators are the folks with higher authority (and therefore held to a higher standard) and can control all of the information on the forums.

Check out this recent discussion about WoW statistics and figures and where they discuss information from this blog.

Herecius? More like Hilarious.

I absolutely loved this part:

When Blizzard states 'we have 11.5 million active subscriptions,' they are doing so under penalty of law. The statement is made not to us, the players, but to shareholders. If they lie on such statements, it's considered a federal crime.
Oh man.. I died laughing.

There are just so many things wrong here, I don't know where to start.

For one, he's saying that whatever Blizzard says is the absolute truth. When Blizzard says 12 million active subscriber, they indeed have exactly 12 million subscribers. Not 11,999,999 subscribers and not 12,000,001 subscribers.. they have EXACTLY 12 million subscribers.. UNDER PENALTY OF LAW!

Blizzard would never lie about active subscriptions. It's a FEDERAL CRIME after all.

And yes.. as you're aware, like 50% of the blog post (that he supposedly read since it was impossible to miss) was all about Blizzard's Active Subscription definition and how Blizzard has made it clear that "Active Subscriptions" does not mean real players. And yes, Blizzard has created "special definitions" for what a Subscriber is according to Blizzard. And yes, Blizzard has special caveats in their SEC filings and their press releases. According to Hilarious, though, you have to ignore all of those special citations(6), references, and definitions.. because whatever Blizzard writes in black-and-white is, in fact, absolute truth.

They don't use approximations in their numbers either. When Activision Blizzard says "GAAP net revenues increased to $4.45 billion". That's apparently $4.45 billion EXACTLY.. under penalty of law.

When they say "Activision Blizzard was the #1 publisher in North America on the Xbox® 360, PlayStation® 3 and PC collectively for the calendar year.(4)". That means they were the #1 publisher.. whatever that means. And because they said it to their shareholders, that means it's the truth.. under penalty of law. It's not like the statement came from a different group or study or anything.. say for example "(4) According to The NPD Group".

There are no special definitions, rules, caveats, "if's", "and's" or "but's".. when Blizzard states *something*, they are doing so under penalty of law dammit!

This is a perfect example of a market research team's wet dream. Gullibility and naivety under the guise of high idealism.

He's the kind of guy who buys impulse items and always reaches for items on the right and at eye-level in retail chains.

.. the kind of guy who buys 5 copies of Batman Forever on DVD because you can save money by buying in bulk.

.. the kind of guy who buys an expensive toy because there's a giant shiny sign stating that it's been marked down by 50%.

.. the kind of guy who only buys the same brand of beer because TV told him that hundreds of attractive women will have sex with him if he does.

And while he's being manipulated by ad-targeting all day, marketing psychology (and social science and sociology and neuroscience) and other perfectly legal methods of persuasion, at least he can sleep soundly at night wrapped tightly in a self-righteous American flag with a lawbook underneath his pillow and 5 copies of Batman Forever on his bedside table.

Does he truly not know that corporate propaganda, "spin", and marketing speak are common and actually take place in the real world?
EDIT: Especially a blogger that's using extrapolated data from addons
Weird.. I never used any addons at all. I mentioned an addon, but said that the information was unreliable and it was why I never used that information in any of my calculations.

A pretty big warning sign here if you ask me. He has made it very clear that he never actually read the article, however he's making other believe that he did thoroughly read it.. very deceptive and very disappointing for someone in his position on the forums.

This also gives you a really good idea of typical fanboy mind-set in general. He thinks the blog post is trying to attack World of Warcraft or something, so he immediately goes on the defensive, skips reading the article, picks out certain keywords, and then lies to everyone on his forum.
anecdotal evidence
Anecdotal evidence like you know.. Activision Blizzard's SEC filings, Quarterly Results, Fiscal Reports, published articles and interviews with Blizzard, revenue figures, raw server data, official announcements and press releases. You know, hearsay and untrustworthy stuff like that.
and figures that are 'peak number of players' as final numbers.
Once again, pure fiction.

The entire article was all about establishing the most (e.g. a ceiling limit) it could ever be based on official data provided. They were never called final and total numbers, that's just silly. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I said "maximum figure". For example, "That's the absolute most it could ever be". However, that number goes down as you include game sales, paid services, pet sales, etc.
He states that the peak number of players on Chinese servers was around.. 3.2 million? That's not subscriptions, that's people playing at once, and yet, he goes on to treat that as if it accounted for every single Chinese WoW player.
I have no idea what he's trying to say here.. it sounds like he's just repeating back something obvious to create confusion and pretend that it supports his "arguments". There's a difference between "Subscriptions" and real players - some "Subscriptions" don't even have a real player playing the game (for example, active but unused game cards). The entire article is all about trying to figure out player counts which I had thought I made clear.

Anyways..

What's most disappointing about this is that Hilarious is a MMO-Champion MODERATOR with thousands of posts and comments, and yet he used the same old arguments that I've seen hundreds of times on other forums whenever anyone mentions Subscribers vs Players. There was no insight or strong arguments.. the best he had in disproving the information was that the data was from some "addon" and that all of the evidence (from Blizzard and Activision's SEC filings) was untrustworthy.

So far, I'm not impressed. It's quite obvious that he didn't read a thing (just picked out keywords), and then lied to everyone so that they wouldn't talk about it anymore ("Nothing to see here folks, move along"). Does he do this often?

It looks like he's going through the 5 stages of grief too (he's at stage 3 right now):

1. Denial: "It's a federal crime to lie! I'm more apt to believe Blizzard than a blogger who has little to no credibility."
2. Anger: "ESPECIALLY A BLOGGER THAT'S USING EXTRAPOLATED DATA FROM AN ADDON AND ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE! AND YET.."
3. Bargaining: "Well.. maybe it's not _exactly_ 12 million. And yeah.. Blizzard can make estimates... Just a sec, let me add a post and make some edits.."
4. Depression: "I feel disillusioned. I need time to think about this.. I won't be making as many posts for a few days."
5. Acceptance: "Oh my God. Truth is all about wording. I see the whole world differently now.. every business with marketing teams do this."

Other than the usual crazy fanboy comment, most MMO-Champion users found the article interesting. It's too bad their moderators can't remain impartial though, but I guess some prefer to abuse their privileges when they hear something they don't like.

Speaking of which, here's some other guy who also had a comment after not reading the post:
It would be nice to know these numbers but arbitrarily saying twenty percent of the accounts are secondary accounts as a fact is ridiculous. since there has been no studies on this and Blizzard has never given out user information. It might be close to that be we can't say its fact.
You won't find that anywhere, because I never actually wrote it.

So, I have to wonder..

Why do all fanboys say the _exact same thing_ every time?

It's like there's a disease, a cosmic joke, or some support group where all of these people (fanboys) get together and plan on what to do or say:

"Hey everybody! Let's NOT read this book, but then claim we actually read the book okay?

Then we'll tell everyone that the book was full of misinformation!

Just make stuff up, and say that the author and their sources were not credible.. even though we don't know who they are! Tee hee. Wouldn't that be hilarious??

If you want to get more people to believe you, just grab some random statements from the book and then just say you know for a fact that they're wrong. "That's not true!" works really well. "I work in this field and this is wrong!" is even better, since more people will believe you.

WHATEVER YOU DO THOUGH, DON'T PROVIDE ANY EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY! You know we can't! Tee hee!

P.S. If someone asks for evidence, just stop replying. Alternatively, you can say that there WAS a link but it's gone now or you forgot it."


* UPDATE (03/21/2011):

Herecius promised me a 800 word retort, and he was going to post it just as soon as he was done. This was 48 hours ago now, though.. but I'm still waiting for it. I mean, Herecius wouldn't LIE to me now would he?