Relmstein thinks that Warhammer Online will have two million subscribers by the end of 2008. That’s an extremely bold prediction, and while I hope it happens, and I think WAR will do very well, I will be surprised if it does that well.
But it’s a false barometer for MMO success; just as Age of Conan’s apparent 50% retention rate is a lousy measure of failure. The bottom line is ongoing subscriptions, not box sales, and the fact of the matter is that if even 25% of AoC’s box sales turn into subs for the long haiul, the game will be a success, albeit a modest one, assuming that my guess of how much capital was spent to develop it is anywhere near correct.
The same applies to Warhammer – it will not be a bust if it doesn’t get at least a million ongoing subscriptions; 500K would make it the second biggest western MMO after WoW, and a huge hit by any measure. I think the game has the potential to beat that by a good margin, depending on how launch and post-launch go. But a million subs is a Very Big Deal – only Guild Wars can boast that in the face of WoW, and a Guild Wars account means a lot less than it does for an MMO that changes a monthly fee.
So here’s my prediction; call it halfhearted if you want. If WAR lanches without major problems (very probable) and does post-launch improvement well, preferably showing that they are going to add free content to the game at a steady rate in addition to doing paid expansions, and adds at least moves in the direction of getting some of the recently cut content back in, then yes, I think a million or so subs by year’s end is acheivable. Mythic is going to have to work harder than that to get to two million.
Then again, I’m just a guy talking out of his ass. If Blizzard sees 2 million WAR subscriptions by year’s end, maybe they are in a state of panic.