NCsoft’s Q4 2010 results are out and the result isn’t great for City of Heroes / Villains.
As I discussed a few days ago, CoH/V saw a big Q3 2010 release with Going Rogue, its second paid box expansion (City of Villains being the first, back in 2005). GoRo saw a large jump in revenue for that quarter, most likely from returning players rather than completely new ones, plus purchases by existing players. There was apparently some dev commentary that 75% of CoH/V active accounts had access to GoRo (sorry – can’t find a link) so it seemed to pass the initial “success” test.
Been There, Done That
Critical to the rebuilding of CoH/V’s player base was GoRo attracting and holding players. Q4 2010 figures show this hasn’t happened – earnings for this quarter were 3 239 million Won (about US$2.8m), which is the lowest quarterly revenue yet recorded for CoH/V. GoRo briefly generated a spike in player attention, but it didn’t hold them past the single quarter. This probably isn’t surprising, given that GoRo was a short trip through level 1 to 20 in a new world before it was back to older, existing content. The dedicated fan base stuck through, but a strong number of those coming back to look at CoH/V bought GoRo and didn’t subscribe any further.
There’s a slim chance that the free month that came with GoRo ate into CoH/V’s earnings, but it would be more likely to see that impact in the month after GoRo launched (September, which is in Q3) than two or more months later. Plus if there were hordes of new / returning players, the impact of the free month should have been reduced by the additional sub fees, so Q4 results would have been stronger than “CoH/V’s lowest quarterly revenue figure yet recorded”.
This result sees CoH/V earn a total of 15 787 million Won for 2010 (roughly US$13.6 million) against a budgeted target of 19 000 million Won (very, very roughly US$16.6 million). That’s a significant shortfall.
So, How Many Active Players?
If we take the rough-and-flawed method of dividing that revenue in US$ by $45 (i.e. 3 x $15 for the quarter) we end up with 62 814 active accounts. However, that result isn’t correct, as many long-term players play on discounted package rates, plus revenue would have come in from sources such as Booster Packs and lingering GoRo sales. As such, an upwards revision of this figure (by roughly 10% – 15%, based on the previous relationship between CoH/V active sub numbers and revenue) sees CoH/V with an active player base in the high 60k to low 70k range.
Given that some of Paragon Studio’s recent feature announcements are, well, odd – 48 player raids? Really? – it seems that the devs are throwing stuff and seeing what sticks. But that’s what is left. GoRo was the big punt on bringing players back to CoH/V and fend off the competition but it certainly appears to have fuzzled in that role, so it’s time to look at some long(er) shots.
So it’s into wacky time for CoH/V with potentially tighter budgets. CoH/V 2 (or Paragon Studios’ next title) also can’t come soon enough.
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Remember that COH is going into it’s 7th year, with competition from DC ( a stronger license) and Champions ( now free to play ), obstacles they didn’t have for the first 6 years.
Most of the COH playerbase I’ve talked with (I’m one of them) take breaks from COH to sample the competition, and then return to COH. In the past 7 years, I’ve played almost a dozen MMOs, but COH is the only one I keep coming back to.
I agree that CoH/V has a proportion of players who drop it but come back, but over time this repeat player base drops off as well. Paragon / NCsoft would be looking for continual subs, and the revenue figures paint a picture that a declining number of players are signing up / coming back.
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