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.
Appreciate your feedback on the article!
I am so glad to have discovered your company!
There is a real lack IMO of meaningful analytics and metrics on the industry, so I’m looking forward to future reports by your organization.
I know that your company makes money off your reports, but I encourage you to continue to publish some reports for free – it’s such a powerful means of building your brand in this day of social media.
Rarely anything, if ever. Part of that’s due to my mediocre job situation, but I’m also never in a “rush” to get through stuff. I’ve spent $5 on TF2 and $20 on GW2 gems. Have never paid for any of the other games on that top 10 list (except PS2, sort of).
Also, I very rarely feel like I “need” to play a certain game. In this day and age, if a game pisses me off enough, for one reason or another, I can find a hundred more. (To wit, I’ve barely played World of Tanks since getting my T6 tank. The grind — and my lack of skill :P — kills me.) That’s one of the main reasons why F2P is so popular these days, because we have so many options. I don’t say subs aren’t viable in the long term because I demand everything be free, but the market dictates that if you have 10 “free” options for every one that costs money, the “free” ones are going to get the business. Only ones with a very strong brand (WoW, Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls) or an innovative plan (WildStar, EVE) have any chance of staying viable, and even they might be iffy.
FWIW, I’ve rarely received “freebies,” especially since F2P became dominant. I’ve received box copies of several games and sometimes a few months’ subs; Turbine gave me a lifetime sub to LOTRO before it went F2P (I’d already bought the box and subbed for about a year), but the only F2P game I can think of that “gave” me any currency was SOE throwing about 4000 SC my way once, and I’ve still only used about half of that in PS2. So I tend to play the same as anyone else, and still hardly ever see a need to spend. I’ll grind it out or move on.
One question: Could you “break out” how you spend your $30/month in WoT? Would be interested to see what you consider worthwhile to spend your money on.
That’s my problem right there.
It’s “well I could farm x hours to afford this piece of gear, or run dungeons y times, or heck I could just plop down a few dollars and buy it now”.
I’m really an endgame kind of guy – I want to see how a class/build performs with real gear, which means I need to have the real gear to get a real feel. Granted, some things scale and you can project what they’ll be like at endgame. But other things simply don’t work without the right gear, e.g. Excala’s aka DaPhoenix’s Tanky DPS Elementalist spec.
You hit the nail on the head. The market has shifted so dramatically.
7 years ago, most players I talked to knew what WoW was, but most had not played let alone heard of LOTRO, EVE, etc. For a significant portion of the gaming community, back then WoW = MMO and MMO = WoW.
Now it’s a totally different market. There are lots of options, with more being developed.
If you ever feel like giving it another shot, let me know. I have a couple T6 tanks in my garage and would be happy to platoon with you.
You might have crappy T6 tanks, or maybe you haven’t unlocked the top gun on your T6.
Yep, I’ve become increasingly selective.
It used to be Premium sub, but I have been playing without it for the past 2 months, because I had 11MM credits. Although I am now down to around 2MM credits and can’t afford a new tank in tiers 8-10.
I spend gold on the following:
– buying 100% trained crews
– retraining crews for a different tank
– reskilling crews on an existing tank
– selectively converting tank-specific XP to Free XP, so that I can hurdle over some of the grind for other tanks. I also don’t grind tiers 1-4 as I don’t feel like swimming in the kiddie pool. Tiers 5+ are what appeal to me from a mechanics perspective
On my main WoT account, I recently bought a tier 8 premium tank, which equals $50 USD. I’m not sure it was worth the money.
— I’m really an endgame kind of guy – I want to see how a class/build performs with real gear, which means I need to have the real gear to get a real feel. Granted, some things scale and you can project what they’ll be like at endgame. But other things simply don’t work without the right gear, e.g. Excala’s aka DaPhoenix’s Tanky DPS Elementalist spec.
I get that for games that are different at endgame, like raiding MMOs. But it seems a little odd to me that that would be the approach to a game like WoT. A Tier 1 battle is essentially the same as a Tier X battle, with the same objectives, just with bigger vehicles. I’d be *less* inclined to spend in a game like that to advance more quickly.
— If you ever feel like giving it another shot, let me know. I have a couple T6 tanks in my garage and would be happy to platoon with you.
— You might have crappy T6 tanks, or maybe you haven’t unlocked the top gun on your T6.
Well, my overall win% is something like 44%. Not horrific, but meh. I actually watched one of your videos on targeting weak spots but had a tad more difficulty putting it into practice. I seem to recall I got something for my T6 — maybe the gun — and then saw how long it would take me to get my T7 and just kinda fizzled out. But yeah, wouldn’t mind jumping back in, what nights are you generally available?
— – buying 100% trained crews
– retraining crews for a different tank
– reskilling crews on an existing tank
Does that (effectively) constitute a form of P2W, too? The most I’ve gotten a crew trained up to is something in the 70s.
Winrate is irrelevant when you are using less than 100% crews. So I wouldn’t worry about the 44%, same with hitting weakpoints with a bad gunner.
Honestly crew training feels more like a pay wall than a game mechanic at this stage in the game. For an experienced player with a premium account, it would take about 100 games to get a 100% crew and 200 games to reach the crew’s first perk. Keep that in mind when you consider your crews.
In practice the game is very much pay to win. What keeps WoT from falling into the P2W deathspiral are the game mechanic equalizers. Armor, penetration, camouflage and critical damage mechanics. Even with gold ammo, there are some absolutes where money can’t buy a win. Great players get rewarded for greater performance, but even terrible players get to have their hero moments as well. And those moments keep players playing, which is at the core of WoT’s success.
I think if you pay the 20k credits for 75% training crew members, it would take 100 games to get to 100% training even Premium. It’s been a while since I leveled a 75% trained crew up to 100%, so I’m not sure.
I would agree that it takes a lot of games to get to the first 100% skill after though. It took me ~170 battles with a 100% trained Commander to get the first skill to 100% (Sixth Sense), and that was with 90 battles in a Premium tank.
At the end of the day, no amount of real money spending will make a player Unicum (2350+ WN8), or even Great (1900+ WN8), unless they are consistently making good real-time decisions and handling their tank and aiming well.
Vehicles get much more refined in their roles and capabilities as you progress through the tiers. Tier 1 vehicles all tend to perform crappily at everything :)
I think the game doesn’t really start to take off until Tier 6 in terms of rich complexity.
My play times vary, but generally evenings PST. My IGN is Taugrim. Let me know what yours is and I’ll keep an eye out for you.
If you finish researching all the modules in your T6 tank and get it to Elite status, just play and enjoy it.
There are plenty of people who primarily play around T6 – it’s a really fun tier.
I enjoy T8-10 because you fight with and against players who tend to have deeper knowledge of the game.
Yes, it’s a way that WG gets players to spend gold.
What I recommend for non-paying players is to pay 20k credits per crew member and buy them at 75% training level.
You want to get to 100% training level, because then you get to develop crew skills. Really, the most important thing is to get your Commander to 100% training level, have him reach 100% in his first skill, then re-skill him to have Sixth Sense, which tells you when you’ve been spotted.
When you move up to the next tank, if you don’t want to keep the previous tank, you can move your crew as well, and pay 20k credits to re-train them to the new tank, and they’ll keep 90% of their training level.
Does Superdata have reliable info for these numbers? I know some of it is public data, but parts of it are not.
As for myself, I haven’t put any money into Puzzle and Dragons. In the past year, I have put maybe $20 into GW2. So that’s $1.67 per month. Total, I have put about $50 into GW2 over the 1.5 years that it’s been out. So a rough estimate of about $3 per month is spent on the game, though I do go months of time not spending any money.
I spend the money mostly on pvp finishers and costumes.I have also transferred gold into gems as well, so I’ve bought more than $50 worth of stuff on the gem store. I also have 800 gems free from achievements.
From talking to my guildmates, I’ve discovered that buying gold is extremely rare. Most spend the money on costumes, musical instruments, minis or character slots.
I’ve skimmed a couple articles on their site, the material looks solid, and I’m sure they know that their information is their brand, so if they post inaccurate information or numbers, they’d take a huge credibility hit.
Do you mind my asking the age range of your guildmates? I’m wondering how this skews demographically, or by type of preferred gameplay, or something else.
An Gen X’r like me with disposable income probably spends significantly more than a Millenial. Maybe.
According to a poll on our website, the guild hovers mostly between ages 25-35. We do have some ‘whales’ who have spent hundreds on the game. I believe the black lion ticket weapons are the major expenditure for them. The infinite gathering tools are another big money spender item.
Mostly adults then.
For the cosmetic skins?
I did spend in-game currency to pay for the Vigil Rifle and Hammer skins.
Just a note, you seem to be looking at that table as revenue per user per year, but the article text states that’s revenue per month. So, the revenues are a bit higher than you might think.
As for what I buy in free-to-play games, I usually buy permanent unlocks of account-wide things. In DDO, I’ve purchased almost every quest pack (except the very newest ones), and I’ve unlocked almost every class and race choice. I very rarely buy consumables, and I don’t think I’ve bought an unlock for a single character. I generally wait for sales for most of my purchases, too; sales on points, then sales on the things I buy. I’m a careful spender.
I’ve spent an average of about $7 per month on DDO overall, but never as a subscription. I’m sure they’d like me to subscribe, too, though. :)
Thanks for the correction!
I’ve updated the article accordingly.
I can’t believe World of Tanks has a better revenue than League of Legends MOBA games are highly played in my country