[MUD-Dev] Evolutionary Design

Jessica Mulligan jessica at mm3d.com
Tue Jun 18 07:02:49 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


At 12:54 AM 6/18/2002 -0700, Jeff Cole wrote:

> I very dubiously consider Jessica's assertion (see: most recent
> BTH http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html) that games are not
> cannibalizing each other, yet.  While perhaps semantically true,
> it is not substantively true-- the statement implies growth that
> simply isn't there.

Jeff,

Actually, it is both substantively and semantically true, with the
addition of one word: We aren't cannabalizing *active* users.  What
I'm seeing, anecdotally, is that former players who have previously
abandoned other games and the industry for months or years are
trying, and sometimes sticking with, newly-released games.  I once
sat down and worked the numbers, and estimated that somewhere north
of 1.3 million subscribers have tried and abandoned for-pay
persistent worlds since 1996.  What I couldn't estimate with any
reasonable accuracy was the number of duplicates, i.e. how many
times the same person had tried abandoned various games.
Considering the overall subscriber numbers lately, there may be some
new growth in there, too.

The anecdotes come from people at Sony Online and Microsoft/Turbine,
and my own direct experience with Ultima Online.  Upon the launch of
a new game, we tend to see little or no dip in subscriber counts,
and generally no long-term dip (i.e. lower subscriber base for three
months or more).  For example, when EQ launched, UO saw a small dip
in subscribers, which recovered within a couple months.  In fact,
during that year (March 1999 to March 2000), while EQ was headed for
a then-record breaking 250,000-275,000 subscribers, UO's substantial
subscriber base increased 50%, as well.  Some of those were
returning players, but some were also new growth.

I'm hearing much the same stories from publishers concerning Dark
Age of Camelot; dips in other games on the launch, but no
substantive, long-term loss of subscribers.  With over 200,000
subscribers, I seriously doubt they all came from the ranks of the
'abandoned.'  For me, they key is: How many former players of these
games, who have abandoned current selections while waiting for
'their' game, did Mythic pick up and how many DAoC players are new
growth?  And how many new subscribers will TSO and Star Wars (and
Shadowbane, AC2, et al) bring in, and how many might they pull from
the existing base?

Once again, the industry seems to be at a major 'growth' crossroad.
Of course, it has been that way nearly every year since I started in
1986, :D.

-Jessica


President, The Themis Group
www.themis-group.com
Author, Biting the Hand , www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html
Co-author, Developing Online Games: An Insider's Guide (Prentice Hall, Fall 
2002)

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