Ask and Ye Shall Receive (the 1%)

Below is an excerpt from a  post by Carbine Studios’ Jeremy Gaffney on why the 1% is important.

Here’s some quick philosophy on the subject (still in the office at 6pm Sunday so I’ll have to be brief):

We do believe in catering to the 1% (actually a few different 1%’s). We spend more than 1% of our time on them. Why?

Well, the 1% grew over time in the MMO market. It used to be that few people were at the end game stages of the MMOs, but of course as time passes the percentage of players there grows. And some who hated PVP as noobies learned they loved it, and some who struggled in dungeons took on veteran dungeons and learned to raid, etc. So that “1%” of people who do the hard end-game content has grown a bit (it’s still not pervasive per se; and the toughest raids are still only finished by a fraction of the playerbase).

Several factors apply:

1) The 1% are pretty vocal. If they report back to the 99% that the elder game sucks, guess what? Lots of people leave – why bother levelling up if no love was put into the very top content? (Well there actually answers to that, but I’ll leave it for brevity).

2) Over time, your “1%” content becomes easier – better loot drops, people get more skilled, level caps raise. So that percentage our of time spent actually over time does get utilized well.

3) We devs often ARE the 1%. If you make a game you don’t love, it’s pretty damn hard to make it good. We want a game we want to play too. There are a disproportionate amount of hardcore raiders/PVPers in the industry (and probably also in those passionate enough to post here or on other MMO sites for that matter).

4) There’s some magic involved. Picture a game with no nigh-inaccessible content. You can go anywhere the first month, there’s nothing left unseen. From one perspective, maybe that’s great – there’s no earning your way into Counterstrike maps, and that game’s pretty damn fun. But from another…I dunno, it’s pretty tough to have a mysterious, huge-feeling world when you can trivially do it all, and even in games I don’t want to or don’t have time to raid in I’d like to know there’s more out there. That’s arguable though.

………………. (some cut out, hit link above to read the whole thing………

Anyhoo, there’s tons more on the subject, especially as we do more reveals later this year on elder games, deeper dives on features, etc. Maybe we’ll muck up some of the execution (don’t believe so at the moment, but there’s lots to do still. I don’t expect or desire any “gimmes” from the MMO communities as a whole; there’s been enough hype in recent years in the biz that the proof HAS to be in the pudding for us and future games).

But strategically we have a set of goals that we feel passionate about. Opinions welcome.

Sounds sensible right? But what if by catering to the 1%, you actually only got the 1%?

NCSoft earnings report shows a converted income from WildStar of 27M in April, May and June. Since the game launched in June you can put that down as box sales. It’s 59.99 for a Standard edition and $74.99 for deluxe, so in the interest of best guesstimates let’s draw a line in the sand of in between – $66.99 – and that gives you ~400,000 in box sales. IF CREDD income isn’t reported.

I suppose the pre-order sales slump prediction was true.

Now, 400,000 is a LOT of boxes and if anyone felt the game was growing, or even held that number of players then it would be an unarguable success! Unfortunately, by all anecdotal accounts, servers are emptying – and fast. WildStar nation is moving their guild (already) from Rowsdower to a higher pop server (and spending $1000 in the process). I mentioned how empty things were. Even Syp, who is loving the fact that challenges are easy now that his server is empty is noticing the same thing. WildStar Nation who do a weekly podcast about the game use their best guess at 30% retention. It’s all guesses and experiences at this point – but no one has said, anywhere, that the game is growing.

The pessimist in me has a couple thoughts here – one, that my swift conversion to F2P will come true (that before I even played the game). The other is that that date will be on our around (or at least announced) by November 13th. Have to keep players once WoD drops, no? The pessimist in me (its a very small part, I promise) also thinks back to when I suspected that companies STILL make more money going box plus TEMPORARY sub fee for X months before the inevitable F2P conversion – and maybe Carbine is playing that card.

The optimist in me hopes that Carbine sticks to their guns and vision, and is happy with 130,000 subs and can focus on growing the game the way they always envisioned it – and that they can cater to the core they always wanted to. I still won’t play it that way, but I respect EVE Online and I don’t play that game either.

Unfortunately respect doesn’t pay the bills and who knows what the expectation and pressures are from NCsoft to Carbine. What I know for sure is that if it indeed goes F2P and/or B2P I will go and participate in the community. I’ll even support them with payments.

Either way – change will be coming to WildStar and whether it is good or bad will depend on what actions they take (something HAS to change) and what camp you are in when it is changed.


  1. Izlain

    Basically everyone predicted that this year’s subscription based MMOs would end up converting to F2P rather quickly. I was among them. I still need to try ESO before I can comment further on it, but Wildstar didn’t click with me.

    Combine that with the fact that they catered to the hardcore raiding sect for end-game, and that alienates a large portion of the player base.

    One of two things are going to happen. 1) They go F2P and see a boost in the player base. 2) They begin the homogenization process and add end-game activities for the less hardcore, gaining enough players to sustain the subscription model.

    I’m banking on 1 before 2, though both are possible for the future of the game. Either way, I won’t be playing.

  2. Isey (Post author)

    I really want to try ESO. For free. I think that makes me part of the problem (ha?) We should start F2P pools, $5 in each, winner has to buy everyone in game currency.

    WS hits a few good marks but it yanks too much out of any sort of immersion with the commentators.. makes it close to being worth playing. I’d level up in a F2P environment for sure.

  3. Izlain

    Yeah I’m part of the problem too, because I’ve been a budget gamer for years (mostly wait for sales or F2P conversions). I’m totally ok with the F2P market as long as there aren’t pay walls on stupid things (I’m looking at you, Rift). I understand paying for expansion content, fluff, and new features (like souls). I don’t understand having to pay for bag slots or the ability to use the in-game market to sell things. Put the pay walls where it makes sense.

    1. Isey (Post author)

      The paywalls that frustrate me make me not pay. It’s simple as that.

      I have given League of Legends a lot of money – I want to reward them for good gaming, and for giving me a good experience.

      I want to play SWTOR but I can’t get certain quest rewards without being a subscriber? Sorry, not playing or paying.

      1. Izlain

        Yeah I’ve spent more on LoL than any of the free to play MMOs combined. And that looks to be the case for the foreseeable future.


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