Free-to-play Maple Story ranks among top moneymaking MMO’s of 2008.

DFC Intelligence is gearing up to publish a comprehensive study of MMO worlds next month, according to GigaOm.  Wagner James Au got a special preview of the report and shares some initial estimates.

DFC’s David Cole says that the 2008 numbers are on the “very conservative” side, indicating that the 2008 numbers are still being crunched, and more exact numbers will be reflected in the February 16th reports.  “We indicate ranges because these numbers are estimates for 2008 based on where we think these products will end up,” said Cole.  And while the numbers are still being tallied, Cole estimates that the rankings should stay more or less the same, with “maybe a slot here or there” changing.

And while it shouldn’t come as a shock that the Blizzard powerhouse World of Warcraft takes the number one spot, Cole believes that if viewed from a pure profit margin, WoW wouldn’t be taking home the gold.  Asian MMO’s, which are traditionally developed at far lower budgets, have a much higher profit margin.  “Profit margin on Asian games is incredibly high,” says Cole, noting that Asian MMOs charge on or around 5-6 cents per hour with prepaid usage cards, a business model that has yet to proliferate the western gaming market.

What’s interesting to note in this projected report is the high ranking of Nexon’s free-to-play Maple Story (supported by microtransactions, prepaid cards, and international licensing), and the catalogue of Shanda’s games (Virtual item sales, prepaid cards, and freemium subscriptions).

1. World of Warcraft, launched 2004
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG; client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Monthly subscription, retails sales, prepaid cards (in Asia)
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $500 million-plus

2. Fantasy Westward Journey, launched 2004
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Prepaid cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

3. Maple Story, launched 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG for kids, client install with 2D graphics
Revenue sources: Microtransactions, prepaid cards, international licensing
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

4. Shanda (company, includes Legend of Mir and World of Legend series), launched 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5 graphics
Revenue sources: Prepaid cards, virtual item sales, freemium subscriptions
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

5. Lineage I and Lineage II , launched 1998 and 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5 graphics (Lineage) and 3D graphics (Lineage II)
Revenue sources: Subscription, prepaid cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

6. Runescape
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG for kids, web-based with 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Premium subscription, prepaid cards, real-world advertising
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

7. Club Penguin, launched 2006
Genre/Platform: Virtual world for kids, web-based 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Premium subscriptions, prepaid game cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

8. Lord of the Ring Online
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

9. Warhammer Online
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

10. Age of Conan
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

Wagner continues his conversation with Cole around the most popular, in terms of active players, MMO of 2008.  To answer this question, we’ve got to go even a bit further out on the speculation branch, but Cole points out that Fantasy Westward Journey registered 2-3 million concurrent players back in August.  And although Warcraft likes to beat it’s own drum regarding their estimated 11 million+ players, “You’re lucky to get 5-10 percent [of them] playing at the same time,” says Cole.  Minho Kim, developer of Maple Story said in December that the title has 87+ million registrations, but wouldn’t comment on how many of these registered users were/are active monthly users.  Joost van Dreunen from DFC’ estimates the number to be more in the 13 – 17.4 million regular Maple Story players, roughly 15-20 percent of Kim’s estimation.

Cole admits that this year’s list looks remarkably similar to the 2007 list with Conan and Warhammer being released in 2008.  And while only 2 of the top 10 contain some type of microtransaction support, I’d estimate that this list might look very different one year from now with a number of highly anticipated (think Free Realms and Battlefield Heroes) free-to-plays coming online in ’09.

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One Response to “Free-to-play Maple Story ranks among top moneymaking MMO’s of 2008.”

  1. itsz so damn hard to even play maple story on that dumb website

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