Koster’s final post-mortem: Did Star Wars Galaxies fail?

    
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SWG

Raph Koster has wrapped up his Star Wars Galaxies retrospective with a blog post that asks whether or not the sci-fi MMORPG failed.

It’s a loaded question, naturally, and from a player perspective it depends upon whether you’re in the all-lightsabers-all-the-time camp or whether you enjoyed the fact that SWG simulated many different aspects of a galaxy far, far away.

In terms of performance, Koster debunks a lot myths about the “failure” of the game in terms of player numbers and financials. The title picked up “more new users a day than all other SOE games combined, even after the Combat Upgrade,” he notes. “The game wasn’t doing as badly as people seem to think. It didn’t fail in the market. It did just fine, even by the standards pre-WoW,” Koster explains. “But there were huge expectations that we didn’t push against, it launched with serious problems, and the team wasn’t really equipped to fix them. This resulted in a series of errors that damaged the game’s ongoing viability, which resulted in more hurried changes.”

He also relays an interesting anecdote concerning both SWG and EverQuest, the latter of which lacked vendors which caused many of its players to purchase second accounts that served as merchant bots. EQ’s sub numbers were therefore inflated to the point that when SOE finally added vendors, a mass cancellation resulted. “I did the math, and comparing unique actual people, SWG may well have had about as many players as EQ did,” Koster writes. There’s a lot more to his final SWG post, but you’ll have to hit up his blog to read the whole thing.

[Source: Koster’s blog]
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raphkoster
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raphkoster

flatline4400 raphkoster I *had* access to those databases. :)
Basically, in SWG the incidence of multiple account holders was a lot lower. Likely simply because the game hadn’t been around that long at the time, but also possibly because players could change their character a lot more dramatically? Who knows.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

flatline4400 raphkoster I am way late replying to this (was on the road and didn’t see it). Hopefully you see this reply.

“So, basically, no, the average number of accounts per human player in EQ
was not 2.5.  In my informal sample of about 100 accounts that exist in
my Big Book of EQ Account Info (not including all the screenshots of
stuff I still have from my years as a guide then senior guide), there
were about 3 people that maintained more than one account.”
I do know how EQ worked. :)

We actually ran a survey on the *entire EQ playerbase* via a login survey, and got the 2.5 figure, plus it was validated by the (very noisy) data on credit cards. And yes, it was accounts, not characters. The commonest reason why they piled up was actually players exiting the game but the guild hung on to the account because it had stuff or abilities they needed. The account then became basically guild property, typically held by the guild leader.

So with all due respect to the anecdotal data… you’re wrong. Remember that distribution was VERY uneven; think a power law distribution of accounts. Yes, the median (e.g., player in the middle) had 1. Heck, the mode (most common) was probably 1 also. But a sharp power law distribution creates a large gap between the median and the mean. And the mean was 2.5 — an average of 2.5 per player. Same math that gets you the anervage user paying 5 cents in a mobile game even though 99% of people never pay at all.

writelikeaman
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writelikeaman

Why are people arguing with the man with actual metrics?

carsont
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carsont

SallyBowls1 DoctorOverlord Dystopiq Like WildStar?

flatline4400
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flatline4400

raphkoster And, because editing timed out (wanted to save that WALL OF TEXT lol…)
Maybe I’m still missing the point.  Are you instead saying that, example, 1,500 people owned 150,000 accounts, or some other bizarro distribution that would perhaps make the two games equal in terms of actual hume players?  Even that strains the bounds of credulity… but barring access to ip and credit card databases, we’ll probably never know.

flatline4400
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flatline4400

raphkoster I just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing, since as you obviously know, SWG started out pretty restrictive, with it’s one character per galaxy per account.  So let me try to describe how EQ worked in specifics, in case we’re cross-talking.

EQ was never like that.  We had 8 characters per server per account.  And this is my point – there was and is no need for anyone to have a dedicated mule *account*.  You just used one or two character slots on that server, and made them your mules.  I was a raider, officer and then co-leader of an uberguild alliance on our server, and even we didnt have any “mule accounts.”  We had mule characters, sure, but they were just part of our pre-existing accounts.  There was no need for a dedicated mule account… you just loaded up a mule character with bags for the bank and inventory and you were done.

The same goes for the bazbots…  unless you were a die hard market player, there was no need for having a full, paid-for, subscription account to operate a trader when you werent playing.  You just logged off your main, logged on your trader, typed /trad and then /afk’d.
So, basically, no, the average number of accounts per human player in EQ was not 2.5.  In my informal sample of about 100 accounts that exist in my Big Book of EQ Account Info (not including all the screenshots of stuff I still have from my years as a guide then senior guide), there were about 3 people that maintained more than one account.  And *these were the hardcore players*.  Your casual EQ player NEVER paid for more than one account, and they would never have needed to, and this “Players therefore ran second accounts as bots in order to have vendors” simply isnt accurate.

Now that mass cancellation event you refer to, I have no idea, I can imagine something like that happening during a crackdown on plat sellers, or, more likely, when the plat sellers simply got out of EQ completely and moved on to WoW and the other new games of that generation.
https://web.archive.org/web/20090315070817/http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart1.html
https://web.archive.org/web/20090316042659/http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart2.html
There’s a pretty sharp dropoff at one point for EQ, but also for other games which… as you know… coincides with the release and rise of WoW.

“comparing unique actual people, SWG may well have had about as any players as EQ did” – You are relying on your “average” figure of 2.5 to make that claim.  Again, that may be true about *characters*, but it most certainly is not true for accounts.  If SWG maxxed out at 350k, and EQ at 500k, you’d still need to have each and every EQ subscriber paying for 1.4 accounts to equalize those numbers, or approx 1 out of every 2 people in EQ paying for 2 subscriptions.  This simply was not reflected in reality.  Of the hundreds if not thousands of people I met in EQ over the years and years, only a handful operated more than one.  (One guy actually operated 5, and he was such an outlier he was quite famous for it.)

Anyways, hope that clears up why I’m confused about your statements, and thanks for the discussion.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

I think you’re misunderstanding what I was trying to say.
1) average number of accounts per player was around 2.5.
2) There was a change that resulted is a mass cancellation event that was unusual. NOT that the base fell in half! Losing 24,000 would have been way beyond hugely unusual.
3) the average doesn’t represent the distribution at all. As I said, mule accounts accounted for way more. In fact, what the stats showed was that 10% of the accounts were in the hands of around 1% of the actual people. To use your figure, that would mean that 4800 people held 48,000 accounts between them. Lop off the top 15,000 account holders, say, and you might well wipe out 1/4 of the entire user base.
Something very like that is what WoW engaged in as a conscious strategy. They targeted guild leaders (who were typically who held guild accounts) to bring over…

dorn2
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dorn2

I have huge respect for Raph as a dev.  UO and SWG really enshrined a lot of what I love in MMO’s.  I hate the WoW model and what it’s done to the industry.

That said it’s clear he still doesn’t get it.  SWG failed for two big reasons.

1.  His design ignored what Star Wars meant to people far too much.
2.  Making money is not the same thing as success.  If you find a pile of gold and you sell it for twenty bucks you failed.  Even after the disastrous launch the devs didn’t make a real effort to push the game in the correct direction.

blackcatcrosses
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blackcatcrosses

Kageokami, oTQ Nice to see someone who is aware of the difference between a MUD and a MOO.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

BKone Skyewauker Damonvile syberghost Koster is pretty clear in his posts that SWG wasn’t nearly as much impacted by WoW as SOE’s other games, simply because SWG was so dramatically unlike WoW.