Monday, 2 May 2011

Rift v WoW: thoughts on North American subscriber numbers

People say Rift is losing players. People say WoW has 12 million players. Let's lift this rock and see what's underneath.

Rift's numbers have always been expected to do the following
- sell a lot of boxes/digital downloads at launch/pre-launch
- increase until time came for the first sub payment
- spike down as people taking a casual look decide they don't want to pay a sub
- then either hold or grow or decline depending on how well the game is doing.

So when people say Rift is losing players they're talking about the spike of people who just wanted a quick look, people who try 20 MMOs a year. This is perfectly normal - even WoW has 70% of new players leave before level 10 (and that's comparatively good).

The 4th category, how well Rift is doing if you don't count the spike is what matters. And indications are that Rift is a solid game that will grow and grow like other solid steady MMOs such as Eve and Lotro. What hurt WAR and AOC were to a large degree technical problems (like Crashes to Desktop) and these just don't plague Rift in the same way.

Regarding WoW's numbers it's made up of the following: at peak about 4.5 million in NA and Europe plus a large number from Asia where WoW is basically a f2p and counts people who play once for 2 minutes as "subscribers". EU population is roughly the same as NA. So NA population at peak was about 2.2 million. WoW is nowhere near it's peak now. It's probably under half the numbers as the shiny newness of Cataclysm has worn off and the current content is very lacklustre, recycling dungeons that many people got bored of years ago. If we guess that WoW in NA is doing about half of what it did at peak (and that's generous) it puts WoW's NA numbers at just over a million.

Rift hit a million before it even launched, mainly in NA. It grew very fast in the month, suffered the expected downspike and seems to be growing steadily. I strongly suspect Rift has more North American players than World of Warcraft, or if not, it will do soon.

Clearly it doesn't suit WoW to have people think this which is why they don't release their North American sub numbers publicly.


  1. It's really hard to say without any hard numbers from either source. Rift is at the very least doing really well. Given the number of servers and the activity on the ground in them it seems safe to conclude that the game is doing considerably better than LoTRO was by this time (which also had well populated servers, but many fewer of them).

  2. Yeah the reason I posted it was I've been reading posts on the official Rift boards along the lines of "is it worth risking spending time in a game that might be dead soon, or should I stick to the safe option with its 12 million players".

    I posted this as a reply to one of those threads.

  3. I'm still playing RIFT and sub'd even though i haven't played much in last 3 weeks or so. I'm just a bit busy playing more with EVE atm. But still interested in getting back to RIFT soon.

  4. I don't think RIFT had one million subscribers at the start.

    I also suspect WoW subscriptions have not fallen by 50%. Yet.

  5. Rift had 1 million registered accounts, not subscribers.

    "That was 1 million Trion accounts created. That number includes everyone who signed up for Alpha and Beta, wanted to post on the forums or enter contests in addition to everyone who bought the game."

    Anyone could register an account before the game went live. Considering I personally registered a few, it doesn't really mean much. They're not showing their subscriber numbers either, so there's not really a good way to tell.

    If you're interested in online population, it's actually fairly low:

    I believe their definition of medium begins at 150 or so up to 500ish players before crossing into "High." There used to be a graphical website that showed the exact numbers of players logged on throughout the day/week and it showed pretty low.

    I'm sure there's a lot of people who still play, just don't think it's something crazy like a million.


  6. I'm late, but your comment about how most of the Asian subscribers are "people who played for two minutes" is wrong. It's "People who have played in the last 30 days on a Internet Cafe account style", which is vastly different. Especially since they somehow keep ~11.5-12 million pretty steadily even with that restriction.

  7. Rift is still awesome, I just cleared Rise of the Phoenix today!! yipee