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.