I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think D&D Online is an under-appreciated game. It’s also true, though, that DDO’s mode of play isn’t all that well-suited to the traditional subscription model, and that $15 a month was an anchor around the game’s neck. Now that the fancy and free iteration of DDO is live, the question is: how much will it help the game? And by “help the game,” I of course mean helping increase the number of people playing – a total that’s always been lackluster at best.
Obviously it’s too early to say, although if things work out well I’m sure we’ll see some deserved chest-thumping out of Turbine. I am seeing quite a few flash ads for DDO right now, so Turbine is spending at least a little bit of that mountain of money on promoting the game, which has to help.
However, I can also look at Xfire numbers, which should imply something (figuring out what being the tricky part, of course.) And the implication right now is very, very positive. As of today, DDO is #28 in Xfire’s rankings. That’s well above Warhammer Online and Age of Conan – and people are logging almost twice as many hours in DDO as they are in WAR. You can read that as really bad news for WAR if you like, but I’d prefer to see it as good news for DDO.
Of course, the game’s free, so logged hours don’t translate directly into dollars, and it’s really early in DDO’s new life to say what the lasting impact will be – and it’d certainly be unreasonable to expect that the game’s numbers will stay anywhere near where they are now. At least at the moment, however, things are looking up – very up – for D&D Online.