Thursday, January 19, 2006

WoW and the fine print

Mini-rant beginneth:
Man, oh man.

There have been just too many posts about WoW and how everyone on planet earth is happily questing away while direct-depositing their paychecks into Blizzard's coffers. In particular, I'm talking about the recent announcement about WoW's "5 Million Customers", and the more recent one about their "1 million european customers" in which they state 5.5M as the WW number.

Most of the game *ahem* "journalists" *ahem* happily leap all over this number (e.g. gamasutra), sometimes feeling necesary to pepper their article with a few laser-like insights along the lines of "Man, those d00ds are just rollin in munny!". I decided to instead skip past one of the headlines and went directly to Blizzard's own press release and read the not-so-fine print. Far from hidden, in fact just half way down the page, you find the following (emphasis added by me):

  • World of Warcraft's Customer Definition: World of Warcraft customers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee OR purchased a prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, AS WELL AS THOSE who have purchased the installation box bundled with one free month access. Internet Game Room players that have accessed the game over the last seven days are also counted as customers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired pre-paid cards. Customers in licensees' territories are defined along the same rules.
By Blizzard's own definition, there's at least a 2:1 overlap. The vast majority of subscribers also purchased the retail box, so that's a 2:1 count. There has to be some number of players without credit cards who are playing via pre-paid cards, say in once-a-quarter increments, so they drag the ratio up a bit.

Those that purchased (or were given as a Xmas gift, etc) the retail box, but then never subscribed after the first month or did for a while and then let their subcription lapse, well, they are also included, even though they may not be a current subscriber. That drags the ratio up a bit.

As a very rough estimate, I'd guess the number of subcribers is closer to 2.5M, not 5.5M. That's still *incredibly* successful, and very cool for PC gaming. I'm not trying to poo-poo Blizzard here. Wow is a wonderful game (or so I hear. Can't say I've ever played :-)

I'm trying to make a couple points here. The first is that Blizzard does not have 5.5M subscibers. Blizzard's own PR says that, at least it does if you read it, which leads me to my next point:

Game journalism really has hit a low when press releases are not only regurgitated, and not only go unquestioned, they AREN'T EVEN READ THROUGH!!!! Tabarnaque, c'est mal commode!

That's it. I've worked it out of my system. We now return you to regularly scheduled programming :-)

2 comments:

simonc said...

Ahem. I guess we should probably state it every time, but we've specifically mentioned this fine print on Gamasutra in the previous two WoW subscription number posts:

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=7563

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=7126

"Finally, a footnote to Blizzard's new provides interesting information on how its 4.5 million customers are defined, since Asian MMO game use differs significantly to North American players. The company explains: "World of Warcraft customers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or purchased a prepaid card to play [the game], as well as those who have purchased the installation box bundled with one free month access. Internet Game Room players having accessed the game over the last seven days are also counted as customers.""

Actually, I'm gonna edit the post and add that to the latest. So there :)

kim said...

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the edit, and sorry to single out Gamasutra. You certainly were not the only site to cite the press release without the qualifier. I should have cited other examples.

Still, I do think it's worth noting it every time, and also being careful not to substitute terms like 'users' for the term 'customer' that Blizzard uses.