And Another Thing: MMO Subscription Numbers

MMO Subscription Numbers

‘And Another Thing’ is a regular column where one of the Oceanic Gamer team get an issue off their chest. If you’ve got a pet peeve or controversial issue you’d like to write about, drop us a line. This week’s column sees us welcome Darren Taylor to the fold – great to have you on board Darren!

There is a lot of talk these days that MMO success is a result of how many people are subscribing. World of Warcraft appears to be once again over 10 million subscribers whereas other MMOs are lucky to break several hundred thousand. Trion Worlds (the makers of Rift) has stated with its relatively small number of subscribers, that it is highly profitable and was awarded extra funding to further develop the game and expand into other countries.

To be honest, I am really not concerned with subscription numbers when playing as long as there is a healthy chat, people running around and it’s relatively easy to get a group for a dungeon or quest.  In fact I find Rift one of the easiest games to get a group in, even compared to the behemoth World of Warcraft.

Rift and The Secret World have done some great work to get its players to feel that their servers are thriving with life. Rift recently cut out the limitations of factions, enabling players from both factions to be in the same guild, group for the same instances, in effect doubling the population. Cross-server chat and grouping also increases the pool of people available. The Secret World has done something similar with its dimensions, enabling players to communicate, group and quest with anyone on any other of its servers, hence its much-advertised single server technology.

In both games, the world is very alive and no matter what time zone you play, you can always find people to group with. You don’t often see people complaining about populations, as they never seem to have a lack of players willing to do something in the game.

Star Wars; The Old Republic, with its huge following at launch did one thing very wrong with its perception of population. I bet you all know and remember the instance player numbers at the top of your screen everywhere you go. I tend to call it the “worry meter” and unfortunately it proved to be just that. How often did you see people complain that there were only 50 people in fleet on their server? I am willing to bet that if that player number wasn’t there would have been less complaints and less concern. It seems they may have corrected that a little with group finder, cross server and also their take on mega servers, although I am not sure how the Aussie servers are doing as of late.

I think that all MMOs will embrace the one server mentality in one way or other and players will always have someone to group and play with even if there are only a few hundred people online at a given time.  From a player point of view, we should no longer base the success on the game based on investor calls or released figures but how each game uses their ability to bring their players together. I am happy playing games that have a reported smaller number of subscribers compared to some, as long as I can enjoy everything the game has to offer.

Do you agree?



  1. I agree :p From a gamer’s perspective EVE was some of the most fun I had in an mmo and it was one of the highlights of doing single server right, with there always being interactions even though the peak players is about 60k online.

    I’m glad to see single servers so your actions affect the whole game.

  2. Completely, it looks like Elder Scrolls Online is going to be going that route. I can’t wait to roll a Nord Barbarian and a Dark Elf Assassin.

  3. Fair enough!

    From a user’s perspective, it’s important how many players are online you can group up with. It doesn’t matter then if they are from the same server, faction, or what-not. But still, from a business perspective, the number of subscribers IS important since that’s the way the company gets paid (developing and maintaining an MMO is very expensive). So I am more worried that Rift one day will get cancelled with their few 100k subscribers – something that Blizzard does not have to worry about in the near future.