This year’s annual survey of online gamers, as conducted by research firm the NPD Group, highlights some very interesting shifts in overall online gamer behavior. Recently acquired Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online had overtaken long seated Guild Wars in the third place spot. As expected, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft took the number one position, with Jagex’s RuneScape holding down second.
This past January, the NPD Group surveyed 19,000 online gamers and found that around 30 percent are regular WoW players, thus crowning the title king of online games (again). Around 10 percent of those surveyed indicated that they’re regular RuneScape players. According to Massively, both of these titles have held the top slots in this annual survey for quite some time now, with Guild Wars usually nabbing the number 3 spot.
Guild Wars’ percentage played has not changed this year (7 percent), and one would expect the results to remain the same. However, there’s been another player introduced to this highly competitive swimming pool, and it looks like this one’s a shark. Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited has obviously struck a chord with online gamers, as the title’s popularity has doubled over the past year, enough so that it’s officially overtaken NCsoft’s Guild Wars. Even though DDO’s percentage was not given, it must be above 7 percent, but less than 10 percent, so for arguments’ sake, let’s say 8.5 percent.
If this isn’t the turn around/comeback/holy smokes story of the year, than I’m not quite sure what is. If you’ll remember, Dungeons and Dragons, while moderately popular, was at the phase in a product’s lifecycle where it either a) receives a major renovation, in one form or another, and is quasi-re-released, or…b) the title quietly subsides into the darkness where video games go to sleep. In DDO’s case, for many months it was looking like the later. Until … one (probably more, but let’s heighten the drama), brave individual at Turbine had the idea of converting the game to a free-to-play, and monetizing it through in-game sales, as well as offering a subscription plan to those that are interested (a hybrid, if you will).
Fast forward a few months, and it looks like the decision to take DOO to the free-to-play model has/is paying off handsomely. Not only has Turbine been acquired by Warner Bros., but they’ve now got a bona-fide hit on their hands, and on that was slated for the dustbin at that. The NPD report backs this supposition, as their data indicates that subscriptions are starting to lose their attractiveness to online gamers, down from 130 percent in 2009 to now a paltry 18 percent.