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Our niche of the universe

February 14, 2008

Following the look at the NCSoft earnings and the Tabula Rasa results, I had a look at the analyst reports from earlier in 2007.

One of the analysts had forecasted that about 560K copies would be sold of the game in 2007 (roughly 29 million US dollars in sales) and another 63 million in 2008, assuming that the sequel was launched in late 2008. Another analyst had noted that NCSoft had said that Tabula Rasa should be considered a niche game and would likely not enjoy the sam popularity as World of Warcraft.

Maybe these analysts had different expectations, but selling 560K copies in the initial months is far from a niche game to me, in particular when talking about the Western market space.
The forecasted numbers were based on a 10% penetration of the MMOG player market space, which was estimated to 3.5 million players. That sounds pretty much like the amount of people playing World of Warcraft at the time in North America and Europe.

I do not think that just because people play World of Warcraft they are suddenly MMOG players that actually would consider playing other MMOGs. World of Warcraft shows there is a potential, but if we suddendly gained millions of more players, why have not other existing games picked up a decent amount as well? How many started to play World of Warcraft despite it being a subscription-based game and would prehaps never consider another one?

Another factor included was the sales numbers for City of Heroes at launch in 2004 and the total estimated US market then and the current estimated US market and the penetration of that game in the category of “niche” games. From that point of view the numbers make sense, assuming the estimated market size is valid. Again, does World of Warcraft throw these numbers off?

Sales of the Tabula Rasa pre-order pack had been quite good though according to reports, so it is understandable though that a positive forecast was maintained.

And with some of NCSofts other games – Lineage, Lineage 2 and Guild Wars all selling in multi-millions, it makes it easy to be led to believe anything less than a million to be “niche” from their point of view.

The analyst reports indicated a sequel (expansion?) in late 2008 and also that Tabula Rasa was one of the existing IPs to be considered for a console launch in 2009. Will that still happen? Would more people play Tabula Rasa on the PS3? Perhaps more MMOGs on console will impact more what would be considered niche rather than then influence of World of Warcraft?

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