Democratizing DDO - Turbine Reveals New Facts and Figures at GDC 2010 - Page 2

Posted Mon, Mar 15, 2010 by Ethec

First up, how has DDO’s hybridized model impacted overall player numbers? According to Paiz, the peak CCU (peak concurrent users, the maximum number of players online at any given time) have gone up by five times since the subscription days, monthly active players have gone up by ten times, and monthly revenues have risen by five times.

The hybridized model may signal a shift among player demographics as well. The under-25 crowd playing DDO increased from 15% of the playerbase to 25%, and those aged 35 or less now make up 57% of the playerbase, up from 50% in the subscription-only days.

DDO Store Top Sellers (through Feb. 2010)

(For item descriptions, click here.)
By Units Sold
By Revenue
1. Siberys Spirit Cake 1. 32 Point Build Characters
2. Major Experience Elixir 2. Major Experience Elixir
3. Moderate Heal Potion x50 3. +2 Tome of Supreme Ability
4. Copper Sigil of Leveling 4. Siberys Spirit Cake
5. Medium Jewel of Fortune x5 5. Favored Soul Class
6. Best SP Potion x10 6. Drow Race
7. Greater Siberys Spirit Cake 7. Character Slot
8. Greater Experience Elixir 8. +1 Tome of Supreme Ability
9. Bell of Opening 9. Monk Class
10. +1 Full Plate 10. Veteran Status Characters

Playing habits are also very different for the free-to-play and subscription player communities. Under the subscription-only model, 45% of the playerbase logged in for 20+ hours each week. That went down to 43% among subscription players after Turbine implemented the hybrid model last October, but only about 35% of subscription-free gamers top the 20-hour mark. That subscription gamers in the DDO community spend more time in-game than free-to-player gamers makes sense, since subscription gamers have more motivation to log in rather than pay for a subscription service they’re not using.

Digging into the sales numbers, Paiz reported that DDO has a cart-to-checkout rate of 70%. Paiz attributed this outstanding number to Playspan’s and Turbine’s seamless integration of an in-game DDO store, as well as the better buying decisions occasioned by Turbine’s reluctance to show items not useful or irrelevant to the player’s character.

Combining the subscription and microtransaction models, which as Paiz noted was originally thought to be an ill-considered move among some of Turbine’s Asian free-to-play counterparts, actually resulted in some surprising combined sales. Under the new model, a significant portion of subscription gamers actually engage in microtransaction purchases as well, pushing their lifetime expected revenue over 175% of the subscription-only baseline. (Exact numbers weren’t revealed, but Paiz did say that current subscriber counts are double what they were under the old model). Those who only engage in microtransaction purchases (and do not take advantage of the subscription offer) came in at about 70% of subscriber-only revenues.

Putting it all together, while DDO’s average proceeds per user (revenues / peak concurrent users) dropped slightly from $75 -$100 per user (under the subscription-only model) to $65 - $90 per user (under its hybrid model, using early data), this slight decrease is more than offset by the dramatic influx of new paying players. According to Paiz, DDO now has three times more active customers and subscribers than under the old subscription only system, making the hybrid move a rollicking success for Turbine as well as players who have undoubtedly benefitted from a more vibrant online community.

Turbine continues to fine tune DDO’s hybrid model, however. Continuously reevaluating how much of the game should be free; the most drastic of Turbine’s recent changes was the elimination of the leveling sigils – i.e. game elements which forced players to pay a small price to continue leveling every four levels. Paiz noted that it is far better to have too many “toll gates” at launch than not enough, since the removal of such requirements will make players much happier than adding them in later.

Such seemingly common sense efforts have helped Turbine make a hybrid microtransaction / subscription game that both old and new members of the game community seem to believe in. And if PowerPoints don’t lie, players are affirming Turbine’s changes with their pocketbooks. It’s an exciting thing to see happen in a game many thought was in its death throes this time last year.

Although DDO’s hub-and-instance format lends itself perfectly to a microtransaction basis, the numbers show that this is a model worth considering for other developers of maturing MMO titles as well. Our thanks to Turbine and Fernando Paiz for a very compelling peak behind the curtain at GDC 2010.

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