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MMORPG Services Will Need More Gamers

Massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) publishers may have to start giving away playing time to attract more players into online role-playing worlds, according to the latest market study by Parks Associates.

This consumer study of 2,000+ U.S. Internet gamers found only power gamers are interested in subscribing to an MMORPG service, whereas social, dormant, and leisure gamers all show significant interest in a free-to-play, micro-transaction based model. The MMORPG market will be difficult to enter with a subscription model at this stage.

"World of Warcraft, with over 10 million players, exceeded expectations for subscription based MMORPGs, but it's unlikely any other publishers will achieve the same in the near term using a subscription model," said Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, Director, Broadband and Gaming, Parks Associates.

Fourteen percent of gamers not currently playing MMORPGs would be interested in playing if they could play for free. Only 2 percent of gamers from the same group were interested in adopting an MMORPG with the traditional subscription based model.

The good news for MMORPG companies is they can recoup their investment over time through micro-transactions, where game publishers and operators make money through sales of in-game items.

The barriers to entry, in terms of time and money, are simply too high for many potential customers, according to Cai. "Free-to-play models offer flexibility, and players can choose how much they want to invest based on interest level and play patterns. Micro-transaction models have the best potential to grow the U.S. MMORPG audience."

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