NCsoft reports Q4 2015 sales surge for Guild Wars 2, bump for WildStar

NCsoft’s fourth quarter 2015 financial report is in. The Korean gaming giant reports that its quarter-over-quarter sales, operating profit, and net income are all up, 21%, 48%, and 38%, respectively. Year-over-year, however, the quarterly numbers aren’t so rosy. Sales were up just 1% YOY, while operating profit fell 14% and net income fell 32%.

NCsoft says that its QOQ sales and profits were up thanks to “balanced growth from all major IPs” and that “operating marging reached 32% driven by an increase in high-marging overseas royalty revenue.” Guild Wars 2 in particular “surged” upward in the fourth quarter thanks to Heart of Thorns; NCsoft says GW2 “solidified its position as a main revenue driver by adding on expansion pack sales to stable in-game item sales.” Even WildStar saw quite bit of a bump in the quarter, though it’s down significantly YOY. The Lineage and Blade & Soul franchises are also credited as hitting full-year sales records (and the quarter closed long before B&S’ launch here, which is going rather well already).

by IP

For 2015 on the whole, the company maintained flat sales growth “equal to [its] historic peak of 2014,” with drops for operating profit and net income compared to 2014’s numbers.

Source: NCsoft. With thanks to greaterdivinity!
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181 comments
Cambruin
Cambruin

I don't get it. This game offered what people wanted. They did not want generic tab-target no-skil hotbar-mashing. They wanted the return of classic WoW-style progression. They wanted big-ass raids. And now they're like 'oh, but they implemented it all wrong'. Did those people actually think twice before formulating their wishes? Did they forget the whole Onyxia-attunement grind? The horror that setting up raid teams for 40-man raids was?


People just don't know what they're asking for anymore. We've turned into a bunch of teens thinking only in terms of black and white, begging for specifics, but completely oblivious to everything required to get to said specific. The genre hasn't dumbed down, we have and the devs simply picked up on it.

DarkWombat
DarkWombat

@Cambruin Carbine overestimated the number of people who wanted that. Don't speak for all of us. Many of us stopped playing Wildstaer for different reasons.

MelboYouraunchgoob
MelboYouraunchgoob

@Cambruin I completely agree. Everyone is an expert, yet they sit and play games other people make.  So how much do they really know!?  They just expect all their wants to be fullfilled and bitch at EVERYTHING!

tominva2012
tominva2012

I wonder what proportion of that "HoT/4th quarter surge" were players who enjoyed the GW2 base game and, on that basis, purchased HoT, only to be deeply disappointed by HoT. I know I was. In other words, I contributed to the surge but wish I could get my money back... 

I had leveled about 8 to 10 characters through the base game (and had great fun doing so), but for various reasons I really dislike HoT and have yet to get any characters through it. I certainly will not be purchasing any further GW2 expansions if they continue to be like HoT.

SallyBowls1
SallyBowls1

Mea Culpa for my comments below.  I see it accelerating when I used the word "misleading." Bree defended herself.


Everything she wrote in the article was 100% accurate. Emotionally, I understand and agree with why she would not agree with that being criticised.


The problem was I did - and still do - think I was technically correct. Unlike Bree, I did not have publishing deadlines and found NCSoft's statements on HoT as well as the analysts forecasts; they paint a somewhat different picture GW2.  Misleading is too emotionally charged, but I think it is quite defensible to say that additional information exists outside those slides that informs our understanding of HoT performance.


P.S. Trivia: Bree mentioned that she disliked writing these earnings articles.  Turns out this is now "bot-able".  For about 18 months, AP has been generating millions of articles, including all their earnings reports, via automated software - no journalists or humans are involved.

DJjazzy
DJjazzy

3/4 of these posts are SMM and responding to him...who would have guessed in a thread of GW2 and related news...

Madda
Madda

Lineage is still really popular for some reason.


Required WildStar comment: It's about time Carbine got out of its nosedive, but given the studio's health and ex employee words against it, let's see if it can stay that way.

Tongle
Tongle

Woot Woot,


GW2, Hopefully that surge of money was well invested and will be reinvested into the game not not subsidizing poorer games. 

TomTurtle
TomTurtle

I'm still playing the waiting game when it comes to GW2 content. I'm keeping an eye out for whether content comes out more quickly or not since ArenaNet's intention for HoT was to lay the groundwork for the game's systems and then focus on content going forward.

Their pace with GW1 and its add-ons is one thing, but GW2 expansions are another and can't directly be compared, though I do wish it could be as quick. I hope they don't fall into a sluggish release cadence. If they did, then laying the groundwork and the huge content gap that preceded it are not good signs for the future.


As for the expansion's performance, I agree that it felt underwhelming in a number of ways including content and design and the numbers sounds like they reflect that. It's been very contentious in the community from what I noticed where a big sticking point has been the open world content. They've made mention of tweaking such content at the very least, which is probably the best we can hope for at this point. I'd love to see them not continue with such heavy timer-based events anymore in the future nor with entire zones dedicated to open group content. Sprinkle in more solo friendly mobs and events please.

JakeDunnegan
JakeDunnegan

Wildstar was a semi-interesting diversion for a few weeks, and GW2 is a pretty good game, but man,I look at that cadre of games from NCSoft, and I just think that "NCSoft must be the Korean word for GrindFest..."

srmalloy
srmalloy

@JakeDunnegan It's not just NCsoft's games; the whole Korean MMO style is inherently different from western MMOs. Because most people didn't have computers capable of running a graphics-intensive MMO, the MMO developers entered into deals with the 'bangs' (Internet cafes) to subsidize their hardware so that they would have systems capable of running their games. Because of this, Korean MMOs have grown around the play style where you get together with your friends and all go down together to the bang, and play the MMO as a group; individual advancement takes a back seat to progression as part of the group. In the US and Europe, the average MMO player goes home, fires up their computer, logs into the MMO, and either meets up with their guildmates/friends online or plays solo. As a result of this dichotomy, Korean style MMOs are almost always grindfests, with 90% of the content beyond the starting areas requiring groups to complete, and the developers make most of their money off of a microtransaction-based cash shop, while Western MMOs are more solo-based, with group content taking over only in the endgame, and used to rely more on subscriptions than a cash shop, although more and more the Western MMOs are resorting to a cash shop to monetize the F2P players for additional income.


I believe that it's this dichotomy between Korean and Western MMOs that was one of the things behind NCsoft's closure of City of Heroes; its design was inherently solo-friendly and less group-centric (as exemplified by the game's poor performance when ported to Korean and released in Korea), and would have required a major rework to have made its cash shop the kind of income source that Korean MMO developers were familiar and comfortable with -- and the redesign would likely have driven away the majority of its player base. Because CoH was not an MMO design that could be made to fit their business model, it was regarded as a 'peripheral' property, and with Paragon Studios as a whole running at a loss because of the cost of the second project they'd been directed to work on, a 'pragmatic' decision to shutter Paragon Studios and CoH fit NCsoft's business plan.

Sigbjorn
Sigbjorn

I actually really like HoT. Gliding is a fantastic mechanic. The elite specs are tons of fun. Each HoT map is well designed and has tons to do. I haven't played the raid, but I have heard it's a blast. Fractals are now much more accesible.

You will not like HoT if you:

- don't like running meta events

- don't like the mostly flat end game progression

- wanted a return to dungeons

- don't like grinding for legendary and ascended equipment

So basically, you will not like HoT if you disagree with GW2's direction since launch. I'made not sure why anyone thought HoT would mark some massive shift in direction or design philsophy.

Tongle
Tongle

@Sigbjorn I liked HoT as well. I think they did a swell job. Too me it really felt like it did its purpose....To expand the game. 

SoMuchMass
SoMuchMass

The GW2 fanbase on Massively specifically are somehow trying to spin an expansion that sold roughly 250K copies as successful when the base game sold 3+ million.  When you are dealing with fanatics like that there is no use discussing the issue, there is no winning.  Instead of somehow spinning this as "successful", try to give ANet feedback as to why this expansion was a flop and what they could do moving forward in terms of content patches.

Karl_Hungus
Karl_Hungus

@SoMuchMass 

Objectively speaking, 250k copies is pretty good for an expansion in today's MMO market. That doesn't mean the expansion is any good. It just means it sold well by today's standards. And the market has dramatically changed between the base game's launch and now. Considering the downward trend in the genre, 250k units sold for an expansion is about as good as it's probably going to get for them. Of course, given the mixed reception the expansion has received, they have their work cut out for them with getting this many sales with the next expansion.

SoMuchMass
SoMuchMass

@Karl_Hungus @SoMuchMass Definitely not "pretty good" for Arenanet and NCSoft.  It could have been pretty good for other smaller companies.  Warlords of Draenor sold 3.3 million within 24 hours. 

But more importantly what is next?  What are they going to do in terms of selling content?  They have to do a whole lot of thinking about the future, because this experiment was a failure.  And they currently have no structure moving forward unlike SWTOR and ESO.  

Are they going to start selling quarterly expansions?

Karl_Hungus
Karl_Hungus

@SoMuchMass @Karl_Hungus 

I think it's pretty good given the market. WoW is the only exception and always has been. Everyone else will be lucky to even do a quarter of the sales WoW generates. I've got the same questions regarding the future of the game though because if the past couple years are any indication, their model so far hasn't been very successful. This recent surge is only a surge because sales were bottoming out.

I think if they're smart, they'll start selling DLC updates quarterly like ESO is doing, but that's assuming ANet can produce the same level of substantial content as ZOS to justify the price tag. I'm not sure that they can, given their track record, and even if they could, there's lingering issues with other aspects of their business model they'd have to address.

Equilibrium31
Equilibrium31

@SoMuchMass Honestly, people are trying hard to spin this both ways as success or failure...in truth, it's not really either.  It's not as good as many hoped, but it's also not as bad as many feared.

DPandaren
DPandaren

It's good to see Wildstar growing. Can't let those poor innocent chua's down. 

Xephyr
Xephyr

I think GW2 could have done even better if they'd priced the expansion at $40, but those numbers don't look bad.

Hope Wildstar manages!

Coldrun_MN
Coldrun_MN

Loving Wildstar so far and glad it's staying afloat!

niwaar
niwaar

@Coldrun_MN Those numbers don't tell me it will continue to stay afloat for long. If my numbers are correct, that game Grossed about  2m last quarter. I'd love to see the net numbers because I would guess if the game continues to flounder they will pull the plug sooner rather than later.

John Wise
John Wise

So, did the sort of F2P model and e sports do anything?

Xephyr
Xephyr

@John Wise Esports I have no idea, but F2P definitely did, the game had 3.5mil active players in October.

Bluetouchpaper
Bluetouchpaper

@Xephyr @John Wise I was one of those 3.5 million sadly by the time I got to level 50 most of them seemed to have left :(  


I liked the game though and if they had allowed me to move from the pvp server to a the pve one for free I would still be playing it now . 

Sylzer
Sylzer

@Bluetouchpaper @Xephyr @John Wise "I liked the game though and if they had allowed me to move from the pvp server to a the pve one for free I would still be playing it now . "

Seems like you have played diffrent game lol... Server matters only for WvW, so what is you point, i dont get it.

Kenny_
Kenny_

@Xephyr @John Wise Can you let me know where you got the 3.5 mil active players? I know they had over 3.5 mil copies sold some time ago which has obviously increased since then. In October 2015, their infographic stated 7mil accounts created, but not anything about concurrent or active players.

I may sound a bit pedantic about it but I like clarity, and I'm not just picking on GW2 either. Squareenix did it for FFXIV too with "accounts created".


In regards to if eSports had a hand in this, I think the best time to gauge this is after this quarter, keeping an eye on twitch's numbers as the next season comes into play.

Bluetouchpaper
Bluetouchpaper

@Xephyr @Bluetouchpaper @Sylzer @John Wise I think it was him that wasn't clear in the first place given he didn't mention which game he was talking about . Wildstar had a huge influx of players around that time and I was assuming the e-sports he was referring were the battlegrounds ( which I always think of as an esport ) . 

Xephyr
Xephyr

@Bluetouchpaper @Xephyr @John Wise There are no PvP or PvE servers. 

GW2 uses megaserver technology which means everyone, no matter what server you are on will be able to play together, and will be placed on maps together. PvE is basically one giant server with multiple copies of each instance dynamically opening and closing to suit the current population.


Servers only matter for World vs World.

Line with more hugs
Line with more hugs

Probably should have launched HoT in summer. That entire year of nothing (but with growing revenue, that one's beyond me) hurt a lot. 

Now fix the PvP and get back on track with the Living Story and the Super Adventure Box.

It's in times like this that I would love some clear numbers like NCSoft reveal, instead of "perform favorably" and "remain constant" with a giant  number from seventeen different games available in two countries each. I wonder how much TESO is making with its DLC. TSW didn't do so well with it, but it was a pretty unique case.


Poor Wildstar though. I tried to like the game but... even if I did I don't think I would spend money on character bound items...


Blade&Soul will have a crazy Q1 2016. But I also expect the numbers to melt in the sun in the West. 1v1 arena PvP is not so hot around here.

devin007
devin007

Just reading some the posts and really if gw2 Hot is considered a flop than all mmos today are a flop. The genre itself is doing less than expected. Can't think of a single game posting growth in this genre unless its new fotm or already hit the bottom and bounced (FFXIV, insert fotm f2p conversions). It's just the reality of the modern mmo. People just aren't into them for the long haul anymore.

Layfon
Layfon

It wasn't a flop; but it could have been a lot better if they started working on it at least a year sooner. It felt like a rushed expansion, especially the story and non existent WvW improvements.

DPandaren
DPandaren

@devin007 HoT wasn't a flop sale wise. It was kind of a flop for players though. 

Wandris
Wandris

@devin007 HoT is a great xpac in the history of all MMO xpacs. A few people have found it lacking, especially those who focus on WvW, although many such as myself will have plenty to do between now and whenever the revamp comes out. The new WvW map looks good and a nice change of pace, but people just are not playing it much in its current state last time i checked. 


The death of the subscription has made every MMO long haul. There is no need to pick one or three different games to subscribe to for a month or two or until something shinier comes along. You can pick a dozen. You can play them for years or until they are shut down. The way I see it there has never been a better time to play MMO's. There is no reason to quit a game unless you genuinely don't like it.

Serrenity
Serrenity

@devin007 I agree, and people aren't in for the long haul anymore because of games themselves - I think the players are still relatively the same, but too many games got dollar signs for eyes and wanted all the moneyz NAO and started monetizing around getting more money now and not on the long-term growth & success of the game.  

Basically, MMOs started missing expectations when they started functioning using the US Capitalism model, which uses a scorched earth and as much money as quickly as possible methodology. 

Serrenity
Serrenity

@DPandaren @devin007 I can't speak for all players - but the change to ALL  GROUP OR GTFO type of content really turned me off to the game. 

Sazri
Sazri

@devin007 Also, let's not forget that SoMuchMass is a GW2-hating troll. Any Massively article that even mentions the game in passing, and he'll be there trying to convince everyone GW2 is awful and failing.

niwaar
niwaar

@Serrenity @devin007 This... so much this... Part of the issue I have with ALL NCSoft games since Lineage is that there is no long term there. After "growing up" with games like EQ, UO, FFXI and WoW where it always felt like was a "long term", these newer NCSoft titles have never given me something to connect to and drive me to play.  


I am STILL looking for a new game to give the next few years of my life to. Not the next few weeks or months. XIV has been the only thing that has both short term and long term goals and a character system that has kept me. But Heavensward has been an awkward mess since month #2. I wish game companies would go back to the previous era where they wanted to keep getting our money every month instead of trying to charge us 125$ to play betas and 25$ for cosmetic items on a cash shop.