Home > MMO Games > Global costs for MMOGs

Global costs for MMOGs

August 10, 2007

Many times when discussing how successful different MMOGs are, different measures of number of players comes up (active accounts, created accounts, subscribers, concurrent players etc), depending on what info the companies provide, business model etc. In this argument it is included that for example in Asia, “everyone” plays the games in PC game rooms/internet cafes.
When games that are successful in multiple regions, it is often said that it costs much less in Asia and in particular China, so that cannot be considered valid measurement – World of Warcraft being a prime example here.

There is seldom any facts presented when such arguments arise, so I decided to do at least a brief check on some numbers here. I checked some numbers reported ny NCSoft, which can easily be found on their website under the Investor Relations section. Using just some numbers from one company is far from any proper study, but at least it is a starting point. NCSoft has a presence in a number of regions and applies a couple of different business models, which makes it an interesting choice. The fact that it is easy to obtain the info does help also…

First, PC game rooms versus home PCs: In Korea, people can both have personal accounts or play from the PC cafes. In the latest quarterly earnings report it seems that approximately 75-80% of the sales for Lineage and Lineage 2 in Korea comes from personal accounts, PC cafes are just 20-25% of the sales. That does not mean that 75% of the actual players have personal accounts – the PC cafes have discounted rates, at least if they have a number of computers or sell a reasonable amount of time usage. But apprently not “everyone” are playing at the PC cafes and most of NCSofts money is coming from those personal accounts.

Looking at what those with personal accounts pay, a monthly fee with unlimited time amounts to 27000 won, which is about $30. So Koreans pay about twice as much as their fellow players in US and Europe if they pay a monthly subscription. They can also choose to pay by the hour, which at best to about $20 for 30 hours. So if a player plays less than 10-12 hours per week, the hourly fee is better, otherwise the monthly fee is the better option.

Looking at some of the other Asian countries, the monthly fee in Japan is near $25 per month for Lineage 2. If you play less than 75 hours per month, an hourly rate may be more beneficial. Taiwan has a monthly fee of around $15 and China’s monthly fee is close to 7-8 dollars. The hourly rates are comparatively low though, and the threshold compared to a monthly fee is at 120 hours per month. So the really dedicated/addicted players might benefit from the monthly fee there, most others probably pay by the hour.

Looking at average disposable income between the countries, the relative cost for Asian players goes up, at least in comparision with the US (look at World Salaries site for some numbers). Playing online games in Asia is in this comparision a more expensive form of entertainment than in the Western world, at least in this limited example.

And looking at absolute players/subscriber numbers for a region like Asia can be deceptive in trying to estimate actual amount of money involved – the price level is not as homogenuos as in the Western regions. Which is not at all surprising, given different levels of industrialization and development.

Given the relatively low monthly rates in the West, paying by the hour may not be an option that will be available anytime soon. But how would the market look like if the monthly fees were changed to a level similar to those in the Asian countries? And would hourly rates be an option people would go for to a higher extent then? And would the play time patterns change?

Categories: MMO Games
  1. August 17, 2007 at 18:33

    I think as the MMO market gets more diverse and the number of quality titles increases it will become nearly impossible to increase the monthly price as gamers will want to subscribe to multiple games at a time.

    Plus given how the costs of running a MMO are fairly flat after the initial investment there’s not much reason too, especially if you’re facing a lot of competition.

    US MMO companies need to embrace and continue on the path of alternative payments with varying monthly plans, hourly, and micro-transactions. I’d still be hesitant about hourly, as the US market has consistantly shown its dislike of that method since the Compuserve/AOL and long distance calling plan days.

    If done right they should be able to satisfy their customers needing an alternative to the $15/mo fee, while also increasing revenue with some plans that allow customers to spend more than the standard monthly rate for additional benefits.

    Play time patterns are also unlikely to change regardless of subscription fees given our MMO designs with grind, grind, grind.. and most gamers desire to race to the max level.

  2. sente
    August 19, 2007 at 19:19

    With the increasing amount of MMOGs, as well as other online gaming options, it will certainly become more difficult to raise the subscription price for a single MMOG.

    I do think other payment models, as well as other subscription models, will start to appear. Package deals like SOE’s Station Access might be more common – although it would not necessarily be an all-you-can-eat deal, but perhaps pick any 3 games for X/month, any 5 for Y/month etc.
    And accounts might also be adjusted to not only be for 1 person, but also for example family accounts.

  1. January 3, 2008 at 04:36
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