Yesterday SuperData Research posted the monthly ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) for 10 major MMO free-to-play (F2P) titles.
It’s a fascinating article. What jumps out to me is that the ARPU’s are significantly less than a monthly subscription of $15 – the closest was World of Tanks (WoT) at 30% of that amount.
My guildee Sujitsu tweeted a hilarious set of conclusions based on the above table:
As CrossleyColor tweeted, Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is technically not a pure F2P game, given that it’s buy-to-play (B2P). The $3.88 figure for GW2 is probably based on post-purchase spending, because the $60 purchase price would jack up the monthly ARPU.
One of the big questions raised in the article is whether it’s best to go for quantity of players versus ARPU. Of course, in an ideal situation, the answer is both. To date, World of Warcraft (WoW) is really the only title that has had both a high active player base (7+ MM) and high ARPU ($100+ annually). Although I believe that the WoW phenomenon is not reproducible for a new MMO, by Blizzard or anyone else, as the market has evolved and shifted dramatically over the past decade.
League of Legends (LoL) has been enormously successful at scaling its player base, so even though Riot Games is #10 in the list, they’re generating significant revenue and the industry consensus is that they are killing it in terms of profitable growth. It is interesting that the $1.32 in monthly revenue per active player must be sufficient to more than cover all the costs of doing business: game development, marketing, production environment hosting and bandwidth, etc. As TriumphSP tweeted, this article didn’t provide those costs.
GW2 is in the top 3, and I credit ArenaNet for devising a monetization scheme that does not punish players who opt not to pay, after the initial purchase price. Both paying and non-paying customers have a positive experience in GW2.
I’m not at all surprised to see WoT top the list – Wargaming has done a very savvy job of designing game mechanics that incent players to fork over real money:
- Easing the grind for new tanks
- Developing crews that are highly skilled
- Acquiring a monthly subscription for 50% higher income and experience
- Sadly, being able to pay for bullets that are superior at armor-piercing, and while these can be paid for with in-game credits, the extent to which you can accumulate in-game credits tends to be correlated with how much real money you spend
Any F2P developer designing their monetization schemes should take a long look at what Wargaming has done, because many of the above concepts could be modified and applied to non-shooter games.
The WoT community often strongly defends WoT as a high skill-cap game – which I agree with – and that it is not Pay-to-Win (P2W), but the reality is paying real money does provide advantage relative to non-paying players.
I will confess that I’m what the gaming and casino industries classify as a “whale” – I’m in the low single-digit percentage of customers who accounts for 90+% of the revenue. I’ve been averaging over $30 per month playing WoT. As a full-time working stiff, spending the money is worth it to me to ease the grind. After the initial purchase $60 purchase price for GW2, I averaged over $10 per month, mostly to buy gems to sell for in-game currency to pay for gear-related improvements.
How much do you spent on a monthly basis on your F2P MMOs?
EDIT (2014/04/12): fixed mistakes, per Brian Green’s comment.