Friday, September 09, 2005

Conqueror in a War of Virtual Worlds

Since November, World of Warcraft has signed up more than four million subscribers worldwide, making for an annual revenue stream of more than $700 million. About a million of those subscribers are in the United States (with more than half a million copies sold this year) and another 1.5 million are in China, where the game was introduced just three months ago. By contrast, EverQuest II now has between 450,000 and 500,000 subscribers worldwide, with about 80 percent in the United States.

World of Warcraft has taken off in many countries because Blizzard has made a game that is easy for casual players to understand and feel successful in, while including enough depth to engross serious gamers, who may play a game like World of Warcraft for 30 hours a week or more.
In college twice I remember thinking if only they could put a graphical user interface on it this is going to be big. The first was with the internet, and when Netscape came out with the browser you knew it was going to change the world. The second was with the Multi-User Dungeon or MUD. The addictiveness of those games was beyond drugs. But, the UI was so bad only hard core geeks could get into it.

Just like it took a while for Google to come on the scene and do things slightly different that led to much better results and a way to display ads in a way people actually liked, so to has it taken a while for someone to create a virtual world that is just slightly different but causes it to be vastly superior to everything else.

$700 million is a big number. The Lord of the rings movies each made about $300 mil, so this is like 2 of those a year. Yet another sign that the video game industry is the motion picture industry of the new millennium.

The thing I missed is that I had expected this to be advertising driven. I expected ads to be placed all over the virtual world. Instead people have no problem plopping down $15 a month to pay. It is as if everyone is willing to pay for HBO in order to watch TV. Or if Yahoo charged $5 a month for email service instead of doing it for free. Interesting how some times people are willing to pay for subscriptions and other times they aren't. But maybe we are just in the early innings of this and the advertising is still to come.

The other interesting thing is that this article seems to imply they have 1.5 million Chinese paying $15 a month to play. That is amazing. And if true is the answer to how you get Chinese to pay for software: turn it into a service with a monthly subscription.

Via New York Times

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