Several sources that I read told me today that, during the Activision Blizzard Fourth Quarter Calendar 2009 Results Conference Call (whew!), Mike Morhaime (president of Blizzard) said the following about World of Warcraft:
“Our research shows that trial players who play World Of Warcraft past level 10 are much more likely to stick with the game for a long time. Currently, only about 30% of our trial players make it past this threshold.”
Morhaime went on to talk about how they intend to use the upcoming Cataclysm expansion to improve this number, but at the moment I am more interested in the number itself. Most of the comments I’ve seen today focus on how terrible it is: OMG, 70% of trial players quit before level 10! That’s … that’s … awful! WoW is dying! Blizzard, do something!
Except it’s not terrible. It’s amazing. A five year old game, content that for the most part hasn’t been touched at all in five years, and three out of ten free trial players are putting in the 4+ hours of gameplay to get to level 10? (Remember, a new player will take longer to level than an experienced WoW-hand.) And for many players, that four hours is going to be more than one play session, which means that they have to remember to come back. Amazing.
Do you know what kind of numbers other MMOs have? Here’s a hint: For most games with downloadable trials, less than 30% make it to level 2 — let alone log in a second time. Seriously. Even new AAA boxed games that have no trial mode — which means that you’ve already paid $50 just to play — often fail to keep 30% of their players for 4 or more hours.
I know that if you haven’t seen the numbers yourself, you won’t believe me. But it’s true. Either Blizzard’s newbie game is miraculous or the people joining have other strong incentives to stick around (like friends in the game or the game’s reputation).
This is the first AAA MMO that has avoided dramatic player drop-off for so long. Normally when drop-off happens, all sorts of gameplay flaws are exposed. Eric and I have had the same discussion about World of Warcraft in various forms over the past couple of years. It goes like this:
Me: Game system X in WoW works really well.
Eric: It only works because they have an infinite newbie hose. Once the hose breaks, it will all fall apart.
But it looks like WoW’s newbie hose really is infinite. I shake my head in awe.