World of Warcraft > Guild Wars

sorry for the lull over the weekend. (a friend of mine pointed it out… heh.) i try not to work on the weekends, so, unless something crazy happens, weekends around here are pretty dull.

that being said, i did lay down some law over the whole ‘blizzard vs.’ thing on integrating with xbox live.

and i suppose exo is talking about me when he says ‘so where are all the trolls now that were bashing ncsoft for saying the same damn thing?’ (p.s. hiro, you had to know i’d show up with a topic like this!) as soon as i saw the headline, i was sure someone would mention it.

well. here’s why ncsoft (arenanet, really) are tards and the folks at blizzard are not: their reasons for not integrating with live are comletely different.

on treating their customers different:
where jeff strain was complaining about microsoft getting in between them and their customers, he’s talking about you and i like we are ‘property’ belonging to ncsoft.

paul sams said no such thing. he is more concerned about his customers experience. he doesn’t want to comprimise the well-oiled machine that is wow. he understands that you can’t have a game without players. he understands that there are many other activities vying for our entertainment dollars. he understands that you take care of your players and they stay. *cough* star wars galaxies *cough*

ncsoft? ‘who cares about a quality game, our customers are ours! we own j00!’

on future games:
jeff strain is discussing business models. intimating that no arenanet game would ever come to xbox live until microsoft changed their business model. blizzard, however, just isn’t interested in porting and existing, very refined pc experience to a console. he specifically is talking about wow, not future games.

in fact, when he says “we may be looking at something along those lines in the future” that tells me… i dunno… that THEY ARE LOOKING AT FUTURE MMO GAMES FOR XBOX LIVE. and doing so without whining about xbox live’s business model. *cough* jeff *cough*

on business models:
paul, didn’t mention it, but i think that fact alone is very important to note: he didn’t say that xbox live’s business model was wrong for them.

xbox live is set up to facilitate episodic content rather than 3rd party subscription based content models. YET, HE STILL DIDN’T MENTION HOW THE MODEL FOR LIVE WAS ‘BAD’ FOR THEM.

jeff strain, however, who has an episodic content model — which, directly mirrors xbox live’s — said live was incongruent with their needs.

does anyone actually wonder why blizzard is kicking the crap out of guild wars, despite still charging for a monthly subscription fee?

i don’t.

ncsoft needs to look out for their customers first. paul sams just publicly PWNED jeff strain from a public relations standpoint — illustrating exactly why blizzard makes great games and has a huge fanbase and why arenanet does not.

which, of course, led to the inevitable comeback “nuh-uh! they are saying the same thing! one guy is just more eloquent!”

they are not even remotely saying the same thing. here. i’ll distill down for you exactly what the two different interviews are saying:

ncsoft: we won’t put ANY GAME on xbox live until they change their business model because our customers are OURS and we have episodic content.

blizzard: we won’t port an EXISTING GAME to xbox live because it might break it and our customers wouldn’t have a good time, however, we are looking at future mmo games on xbox live.

ncsoft sux0rs because:
1) they don’t know most customers follow the game, not the publisher or developer. most customers don’t even know who developed their favorite game much less some random game they play. the ones who do? they follow the developer, not the publisher: take two or rockstar? microsoft or bungie? activision or id? ea or will wright (i’d say maxis, but in this instance will’s name carries more weight than just about any other development house, much less any other singly named developer)?

2) they think xbox live != episodic content.

3) they think microsoft will change the business model of xbox live. if ea rolled over, yeah, i’m pretty sure microsoft could care less about ‘the mighty’ guild wars developer.

blizzard r0x0rs because:
1) blizzard realizes that bringing the console gamers into the mmo fold will do nothing but tighten their grip on leadership.

2) blizzard knows they have ‘blizzard fans’ so they don’t want to comprimise that. they aren’t worried at all that these ‘blizzard fans’ will turn into ‘microsoft fans’ just because of live. people appreciate content, not the delivery mechanism. developers who don’t see that are stupid. (that, or they don’t have a brand worth talking about. even then, they should be excited to ride on top of the xbox live branding.) it’d be like joystiq fearing an server host change would get between them and their readers. talk about completely stupid. joystiq readers will visit joystiq even if they swap isps.

blizzard fans will play blizzard games regardless of the ‘pipe.’

3) blizzard all but confirmed they are making an mmo for xbox live without any ‘complaints’ about the xbox live BUSINESS MODEL.

and, i also had to deal with justifying why i think guild wars is hemorrhaging money where wow is raking it in — despite guild wars having ‘1 million subscribers.’

“How is this relevant to this topic? Also, your underlying message here is that Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is more successful than Guild wars because of their customer relations?”

first of all, nothing i said has anything to do with customer relations in an ‘internal department’ kind of sense. i’m talking about a company’s attitude towards their customers. their ‘customer relations’ initiatives grow out of that. your seeing the symptom, not the disease. i’m talking about the disease.

and, it is relevent because both companies expressed how they treat their customers. that’s a big difference between the two interviews — comparing the interviews is the topic at hand.

as to blizzard kicking the crap out of ncsoft, that ties directly to their business models. meaning the whole episodic content vs. subscription services fitting or not fitting within xbox live’s framework.

one would think that ncsoft would want to take advantage, in a fiercely competitive situation, of the natural episodic abilities of xbox live. they don’t see that. blizzard, however, despite having an incompatible business model (separate subscription-based model. see laughing target’s good stuff above.) is still making the move to the platform in the future.

ncsoft is not, despite having a highly compatible delivery strategy.

the takeaway? ncsoft makes poor decisions and is reflected by them doing poorly in the market. blizzard is about what the customers want and, by that, owns the market.

and, yes, guild wars is doing poorly in the market, despite having a million subscribers.

the reason? turnover rates.

yes. guild wars has 1 million subscribers. however, they aren’t even subscribers. those subscribers have all paid for the game and get to play online for free. if those customers never buy another arenanet-made product, arenanet goes under due to support, bandwidth and network server costs.

however, if those customers keep buying arenanet products, they can keep afloat.

let’s look at that.

so, assuming dollars required per year per customer (based on other successful mmo subscription rates) is about $100. technically, at $15 a month, it’s $180, but, we’re assuming jeff’s assurance of low network requirements is accurate. which, makes sense as a technical requirement (an area in which they are outstandingly talented) based on their economic model.

anyway, for each ‘subscriber’ they have, they have to sell them $100 (or about 2 full games or 4 expansions assuming normal industry pricing) worth of guild wars content every year.

what does that model forget?

1) breakneck development speed required to put out 2-4 expansions or games per year. it’s REALLY expensive to build that much content inside 12 months.

2) customer attrition. there are marketing and packaging costs for the expansions/games since they need to be justified as a new game instead of a server addon. especially since a subscriber who doesn’t buy new content is essentially a drain on their resource.

for every expansion they put out, they will lose not only the standard attrition customers (like any other mmo) but the upgrade customers — those who are happy just playing the original and don’t feel the need to pay for an upgrade. so, the hole in the bottom of their customer funnel is really, really wide.

to compensate for that, they need to attract new customers at a larger rate than any other mmo that exists. that means they need to spend more marketing dollars and other customer acquisition costs than any other mmo.

all that added up means a low-margin, high volume business. that means, for them to be considered AS (not even more, just merely ‘as’) successful as wow, THEY NEED MANY MORE SUBSCRIBERS THAN WOW HAS. for them to be ‘as’ successful as any other mmo with 1 million subscribers, they need more than 1 million subscribers.

and, what counts as a subscriber for guild wars?

not people who play the game. a ‘subscriber’ for them is basically someone who has paid for an upgrade. because, if you just ‘subscribe’ they don’t get any additional revenue from you. they need you to the buy the 2 to 4 games or expansions that they hopefully will be able to put out year in and year out.

so, when you talk about ‘subscribers’ in terms of guild wars, it’s more like ‘unit sales/2’ (assuming they can even crank out that much content in the coming years) in order to compare to other more traditional mmos.

they are just treading water in a sink hole.

just thought you guys could use a little more monday morning reading material.


11 comments so far

  1. jc on

    waaaa.. too long for me to read.. it hurts my brain just scrolling down. At least you summed it up perfectly with this title “World of Warcraft > Guild Wars”

  2. m3mnoch on


    this part’s for you, then, jc.

    ncsoft: we won’t put ANY GAME on xbox live until they change their business model because our customers are OURS and we have episodic content.

    blizzard: we won’t port an EXISTING GAME to xbox live because it might break it and our customers wouldn’t have a good time, however, we are looking at future mmo games on xbox live.


  3. Brinstar on

    People continue to completely ignore the fact that World of Warcraft and Guild Wars are two completely different styles of games, designed for people who want completely different things out of an online RPG experience. They are not competing with each other. Guild Wars isn’t even a true MMO, so why would they bother competing with World of Warcraft?

    This is just catty fanboyishness at its worst. Kind of like the “Who would win in a fight, Spider-Man or Wolverine” sort of arguments that people got into when they were children.

    Grow up.

  4. Poker Player on

    Wolverine would win. Spidey is cool and super strong, but Wolverine can take the damage – and come back ready to go after a brief break. Let him break one of Spidey’s arms and Spidey is out of action for months – let alone have some adamantium claws sink in… 🙂

    I may have gotten older – the osteo-arthritis sure tells me that I have.

    But I refuse to grow up.

  5. m3mnoch on

    uh. brinstar. as much as i may agree or disagree with you on wow and guild wars being “two completely different styles of games” really doesn’t matter.

    why? because i don’t care.

    if what you really want to argue is instancing vs. persistent. here’re a couple better places for you to hang out:

    i’m talking about neither genre nor instance. i’m talking about subscription vs. episodic.

    i think you’re on the wrong page.


  6. Grindstone on

    Well I agree that Wolverine would probably win. It would be a good battle, though. Spiderman definitely fits the calibre of a worthy nemesis for Wolverine. Spiderman is a likeable character but Wolverine is a cooler character. Hmm, but spiderman is smarter, stronger and more agile. Can Wolerine cut through the webbing, though?

    Anyway, thanks jc for your comment and prompting to get m3mnoch to summarize. Long rant short, WoW and Guild Wars is a big yawn for me. So they are not bringing it to XBL, well, no sleep will be lost here. But they are considering bringing something to XBL, well, okay, just as many others are too.

  7. Isaac on

    Speculation on which character would ‘win’… lol. Classic.

  8. Voorshwa on

    Hmm, in reading the little rant from Brinstar, me thinks someone just read a title and didn’t bother to read the content. Word of advice there turbo, if you are going to rant about something at the very least make sure you are on topic.

    The problem with subscription versus episodic really boils down to content. While there is the assumption that both will continue to add more content, the episodic games are more reliant on the concept. With a subscription based game (as m3noch pointed out) you have the constant stream of revenue every month to pay for your expenses. With episodic, you have that one time in flux of cash and if your players don’t continue to buy your new episodes then you are SOL.

    The biggest issue with this is that with the number of gaming and fan sites around now, it is very easy to find out if the new content is worth a damn. If that new Guild Wars episode is trash, the world will know about is ASAP. Thus, the adoption (and in flux of more cash) will be shot to hell before the new content is even released.

    With subscription based, you are basically going to be paying for the content whether you like it or not. However, you are ok with this because you know you have that $15 or more to pay each month anyway. You can make the argument about expansions, but IMO that is a different topic.

    Now as far as the whole “XBOX is great for an episodic platform” I can’t really say. From on the outside looking in it sure looks like that is the case. However, I don’t know the inner workings of the infrastructure and how hard MS has made it to tap in. If the infrastructure is so stringent and proprietary then I can see NCSoft’s point. However, my guess is that it is pretty open and is looking for developers to take advantage.

    All in all, I think that if a company wants to take advantage, they will find a way to do so. Coming out and just ranting about how it would be bad for your company and it would alienate your customers is careless. The Blizzard rep was much more cautious and intelligent with his response. Cautious optimism for the future, while letting the masses know that their current game just wouldn’t be a good idea in the platform.

  9. FalteringGW on

    May I add that GW has PLENTY of players with 2 or even more accounts. So go do the math and don’t kid yourself: 1 million copies sold actually equates to much lesser than 1 million layer base.

    Why do people buy 2nd accounts? Because the storage space and number of character slots are just insufficient. Simple as that. I’m pretty sure that this limitation is also part of the ‘non-subscription based business stretegy’.

    Oh, and comparing GW with WoW is like comparing apples with oranges: the GW fanbois got it right. GW feels more like Diablo2 or Dungeon Siege that just happens to be multiplayer, not a true MMORPG in the EQ tradition. GW is a PVP based game – because the PVE is abysmal. Instancing is a double-edged sword – some like it, some don’t; I’m neutral. Grinding is still required to get elite skills. The storyline is bland. Even PVP is flawed with the elitist rank system.

    What GW really shines in are the graphics and the streaming technology. And snippets of brilliance in Jeremy Soule’s in-game music. That’s all.

    Guild Wars Factions may see improvements. Or not. Time will tell.

  10. guerra-phone-pic-vida on

    Wonderful pages! Keep up the grat work.



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