EQ2X and the Death of Subscription Servers – The Number Story

A lot of the anti-buzz surrounding the addition of a free-to-play service for EQ2 is circulating around it meaning the death of the existing subscription servers. So I’m going to break some numbers out, and make a lot of assumptions. And I won;t consider at all the changes the shift will make to the revenue stream; that’ll be the subject of another post which I may or may not get to.

Let us assume that EQ2 has an even 100,000 active players right now. That’s not a real number – I have no idea how many active players (as distinguished from paying subscribers, since that’s irrelevant to server health as long as incoming revenue is sufficient to keep the game afloat,) EQ2 has and I’m pulling it from my ass – but it’s probably good to a first approximation, so let’s use it to make the point. In any case, if we change that number the figures will all work out the same.

So let’s consider the existing server set, at 100k split between all servers. Let us further assume that this population is stable; more specifically, that the game is losing 5% each month to attrition, and gaining 5% each month in new players. That 5% growth figure is probably too generous by half – but we’ll let it stand. And month after month, as long as the current situation holds, EQ2 has 100K active players.

Let us now speculate that EQ2X will quadruple the number of active EQ2 players over all servers. Judging by the DDO example, that’s probably a bit conservative; DDO’s Xfire numbers (indicative in a broad sense of the number of active players,) are about six to seven times what they were before that game went free-to-play.

If we assume that general attrition (people actually leaving the game,) from the existing servers stays at 5%, and that people leaving the new EQ2X servers (also leaving the game entirely) is also at 5%, we may as well assume the natural growth rate of EQ2X servers will also stay the same, at 5%.

Now we work in the ‘server death’ argument. Let’s say that on top of general attrition the standard servers bleed 3% of their population each month onto the free servers. And that new players entering the traditional servers slows to a trickle of 2%. (Remember that retail boxes will still be directing people to EQ2 Live, and for a variety of other reasons I don’t believe for a minute that a flood of paying subscribers will flock permanently over to EQ2X.)

Given this, we postulate a total EQ2X population of 300K. Let’s assume that paltry 2% of those people, enjoying the game but feeling the limitations of the EQ2X program, will migrate to EQ2 Live. After all, they’d be paying the same $15 a month as they would under EQ2X’s Gold plan and not suffer those limitations. They’d have to get a retail box as it stands today, but I’m not concerned about revenue – and if people want something, they’ll spend the $20 pittance on a retail box to get it.

So each month, here’s what we have: Traditional servers lose 8% (8,000) to general attrition and loss to EQ2X and gain 2% (2,000) in growth. That puts the new figure at 94,000. But wait. In addition, the traditional servers gain 2% of 300,000 – which is 6,000. Which puts the traditional servers back at 100,000 after all.

Yes, these numbers are both highly speculative and somewhat contrived, and lack for real data to back them up. But nothing I’ve guessed at here is particularly unbelievable, and in places I have been conservative. What I’m getting at is that a reasonable analysis of the numbers doesn’t indicate, necessarily, that the traditional servers are any more doomed than they were before the addition of a Free-to-Play option.

5 responses to “EQ2X and the Death of Subscription Servers – The Number Story

  1. Regardless of the basic numbers, I think your general premise is extremely solid. The regular servers were on a slow decline, and nothing SOE could have done under their current model would have changed that. This new addition may or may not change that, but it seems unlikely to hurt.

  2. The crucial question is where new players arriving at the current subscription servers (currently and in the post F2P future) are coming from. Off the top of my head:

    – Presumably some players arrive via referral, and we’d expect this to remain mostly constant.
    – Some are currently arriving via the free trial program, and these players will instead be sent to the F2P servers. (Net negative.)
    – Some players will move over from F2P for a variety of reasons (e.g. the gold sub does not include a whopping 15 races that are included in the sub for the traditional model, some players will want to avoid the F2P riffraff and/or the “robust” version of the cash shop). Your model holds that this number will be a net positive because it’s a slice of a proportionally larger pie.

    There is, however, a secondary issue in that players are not distributed evenly amongst servers. The flagship RP server, Antonia Bayle, and the last surviving PVP server, Nagafen, are doing fine on population right now. There are half a dozen servers that are not so fortunate. This is where the effects could become a net negative.

    A new player arriving without any sort of referral might ordinarily be expected to choose mostly randomly. A new player jumping from F2P because they’re dissatisfied with the group demographics (e.g. overpopulation of free classes, free players disinterested in grouping because they can’t equip the rewards for group content for any price) might, by contrast, be expected to do their homework and stay far away from the less populated servers. This may or may not be in the interest of the player in question (personally, I’m pretty happy with the community on my less populous server when I’m not looking for PUG’s), but it could also mean that smaller servers won’t get the chance to win new players over.

  3. The post was intended as an illustration (of the non-inevitability of server death due to the change,) rather than a prediction of what will actually happen. In particular, I suggest that the net gain on traditional servers may be a net positive, and is not necessarily clearly negative as many have thoughtlessly assumed. But as you point out, the real situation is more complicated than my simplified model.

    I agree with the supposition that that the bite will be felt most deeply on servers that are already underpopulated. – and that existing high-pop servers should remain quite safe for the foreseeable future. But a round of mergers, say, a year from now, could quite conceivably clear that issue up. The low-pop servers were likely to be merged within that time frame anyway, even without the change.

  4. They wont migrate to EQ live though. There’s currently no mechanic to transfer leveled characters to a live server, so that means they would have to level again from scratch, on severs that have very few low level people. Also, 16 bucks a month would probably be cheaper overall than buying an EQ box and Sentinel’s fate. You actually get more character and bank slots I hear than on the live servers too.

    Plus, the Extended server will have more people overall, and once you get 40 levels under your belt inertia will set in to make moving seem unattractive.

    So chances are the 4% growth wont happen.

  5. Problems.
    1. No transfer option
    2. People will spend real money on items and not want to leave them to come somewhere else

    15.00 a month either side, and the money you would spend on the retail game can buy the races.

    Couple that with the option of 200.00 a year, and 500 SC each month + never having to buy an xpac, and I don’t see any reason to ever start over on P2P server.

    So if most of the new players start on the F2P server and never leave, EQ2 live will slowly die on the vine.