In what is surely a coup for Sony Online’s Free Realms, the free-to-play MMO is boasting having over 20 million registered users. To say the least this milestone is a thumbs-up for them for their current run since they opened their virtual doors in the spring of 2009.
I recently wrote an editorial at SiliconANGLE covering the press release and mentioned that what we don’t have from them is any idea of what their monthly-active-users happen to be. While it’s a good healthy number, it’s not exactly the best metric to see how well a free-to-play MMO happens to be running. After all, being free, new users can sign up, play for a week, and then never come back.
This may be a wonderful milestone, but it’s still not as useful as the monthly user count. The reason is because Free Realms happens to be a free-to-play MMO, which means that users can fire-and-forget their accounts and it will build their registered user base. Subscription-based MMOs, such as World of Warcraft and RIFT both continue to charge participants whether they play the game or not (thus generating revenue even if players do not participate that month.) Free-to-play MMOs depend instead on users purchasing from their virtual item shops.
As a result, while 20 million registered users sounds extremely daunting, how many of those users are active during a month would probably be a better indicator.
This is a testament to Sony Online’s marketing power to draw 20 million users into their game. In fact, Free Realms is interesting in that it’s a cross-platform. The game is playable on PC and Mac; and, as of March 2011, the game also became accessible via the PlayStation adding yet another method for users to sign into the game and play alongside their friends. With so many avenues to reach the game, it has a very broad platform appeal.
The game gathers revenue via a microtransaction system and a premium user mechanism that provides not just items in a cash shop but members-only quests. This freemium model has worked extremely well in the past for a multitude of other free-to-play games and chances are good that it led to the snowballing of players into the game reaching their 20M number. To compare, colossally popular subscriber-only game World of Warcraft had 11.4M subscribers in June 2011 (these are actively paying customers)–and it’s been cited that 70% of all trial players give up before level 10.
Do we have any players of Free Realms in the crowd who would like to throw their 2¢ into the arena as to why they think the game has gotten this many players? Is it crowded in there?
Link, via SiliconANGLE.