Is Lord of the Rings Online a failure?

Over at Mind-Bending Puzzles, they’re concerned that the spike of players coming from the World of Warcraft have pretty much all left. Lord of the Rings Online was hailed as the PC MMO of the Year by Gamespy, and claims over four million characters and the second largest MMO in (presumably) the world since they mention “critial acclaim from around the globe”.

VOIG tells a slightly different story. They say LotRO is holding steady at about 300K subscribers, which would mean, hmm, 4 million divided by 300 thousand hmmm just over thirteen characters per active account. Talk about a bad case of alt-itis… there aren’t even thirteen character classes.

Still, that same market share data shows it somewhat ahead of runner’s up EverQuest 2 and EvE Online, though perhaps behind many free MMOs as well as the crocodile in the splash pool, World of Warcraft.

This is not a failure. EQ2 and EvE Online are widely regarded as successful entries in their genres (though why EvE is considered a niche game while EQ2 is considered one of the top active MMOs with similar subscription numbers is a mystery…), and LotRO has nothing to be ashamed of. Every new game has a subscriber spike as the curious check out the new experiences and decide what is right for them — and that spike always dwindles… well, unless your game has the word “Warcraft” in the title.

Why do people stick with a game? Or better, what makes a game fun? I think a lot of fun has to do with familiarity and community. Once you have found a place, you know the rules, you’re comfortable… it becomes very hard to move to a game where you know nothing, know nobody, and are starting over. You might try it for awhile, but the friendly beck and call of your old home always sings its siren call. It took two years before I left EQ1 for EQ2 permanently, and it was hard and I did backslide.

As LotRO and WoW both mature, I think we’ll see a steady increase in the subscription numbers of all non-WoW MMOs as subscribers finally decide to make a permanent switch.

By any measure, except perhaps from their PR department, Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online is a rousing success, and far from seeing their WoW refugees return to the mother-game, I believe they’ve settled in and become the rock and foundation of Middle Earth.

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7 thoughts on “Is Lord of the Rings Online a failure?”

  1. EQ2 no longer has 300k subscribers – there has been an influx of folks over the past 2 expansions. I would be shocked if EQ2 isn’t getting close to the 1 million mark – I would estimate around 700k.

  2. I’d love to see some hard numbers that prove that EQ2 has tripled its subscriber base, because it’s the game I play and I’d love more and more people to try it. SOE doesn’t release the subscription numbers, and the Station Pass thing muddies the waters. I don’t know how VOIG gets their numbers, but barring some announcement from SOE, those are the only numbers we have. If SOE had doubled or tripled their subscriber base recently, though, I think they would have said something about it.

  3. VOIG tells a slightly different story. They say LotRO is holding steady at about 300K subscribers, which would mean, hmm, 4 million divided by 300 thousand hmmm just over thirteen characters per active account. Talk about a bad case of alt-itis… there aren’t even thirteen character classes.

    Uhm, get a clue.

    4 million characters means characters made through the life cycle of the game. 300k subs means active subs THAT month. So 4 million characters should be divided for all current subs PLUS all canceled subs.

    The number is believable. Probably even optimistic.

    And if the 300k is true then IT IS ahead of Eve Online (around 210k now) and EQ2 (probably below 200k now).

  4. Hi Tipa

    Of course you are right Lotro has been a successful launch that seems to have settled down to a “comfortable” number of subscriber’s. I am sure that Turbine is reaping a tidy profit on the game and there is no danger of the servers being turned off any time soon. In fact the game gets better all the time with regular updates.

    As Ogrebears says WOW has clouded our judgement into thinking that any game which doesn’t hit multi-million subscriber numbers is a failure. Its not just about bragging rights either. Playing a game with fewer subscribers means that there are fewer help sites and fewer game related blogs. All in all the community feels much smaller. Many times I have searched the net for an answer to a lotro question and come up with a blank. This never ever happened while I was playing WOW. There is a big plus side however – the smaller community is definitely friendlier and more helpful than I remember from WOW. People help each other out in game and even pick up groups are not the disaster I remember from WOW.

    PS. I know I am not supposed to leave long comments without writing my own blog post but we have already cross linked so I felt an exception was allowed in this case :)

  5. I’m glad for the fans and players of LOTRO that is has been successful. I think EQ2 is a great game even though there’s something that just doesn’t work about it for me long term. I say, the more the merrier in the MMO gaming space. Successes bring more players, which opens up opportunities for more investment dollars, which can lead to more investors taking a chance on something small and new. I’m personally looking for something new and inspiring but with the polish of WOW and sophistication of EQ2. I believe we need the industry as a whole, including new games to do well, for me to see someone fund what I’d like to play. Is it Bioware? Kurt Schilling? I don’t know. I just want them all to be successful so they keep reaching.

  6. I think we know now that 38 Studios is working on a fantasy MMO, which is a gutsy move, when you consider WoW and EQ2, plus Spellborn Chronicles, Age of Conan and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning coming out next year. Of course, whatever 38 Studios is working on won’t come out next year, so maybe they’ll be able to take advantage of WoW’s ever-increasing age when they do come out in a couple of years.

    They have good people working on it, people who won’t want to make what has been made before. But, they also need to be a success. And that might force their hand on certain elements of the game, to attract that post-WoW gamer.

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