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.