The Daily Grind: Do you care more about an MMORPG’s playerbase or revenue?


SuperData put out a couple of reports and analyses last week that suggest Fortnite is “cannibalizing” other games, specifically in terms of revenue and Twitch viewership. It’s pretty obvious from Steam tracking that some games have taken a hit in terms of active/concurrent playerbase too. After all, “where you spend your game time” is very much a zero sum proposition. If you’re playing Fortnite, you’re not in something else, and not everyone in Fortnite is playing his or her first game ever.

Obviously, as an MMO player, you probably care at least a little about both revenue and playerbase in your chosen genre, as one is dependent on the other. Even if you don’t watch streams – and a lot of MMORPG players do not – you probably care about viewership on Twitch a little bit too because if nothing else, Twitch is advertising, and MMOs without successful promotion go nowhere.

I thought it was interesting, though, that other mainstream sites were far more focused on revenue than players. This is a very corporation-first mentality, right? They want huge revenue numbers. Duh. But my brain is looking at the Steam numbers. The body count is what I worry about, not whether they made eleventy-billion or eleventy-one-billion. Low and crashing pops kill online games, and we’ve seen it snowball before – and not every game is lucky enough to have a console launch up its sleeve to save it from doom.

Do you care more about an MMORPG’s playerbase or revenue?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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I’d rather have a sub-based game with a nice population as a player base than a f2p but pay4win game with thousands of people fluctuating in and out of the game every week.
The problem with f2p is that people just behave like brats. “It’s free I don’t care if they ban me!!!11 I create a new account!!!111”
I don’t say that minors are always annoying. I used to play games with people well below the age 18 and it was fun! But often they think they can compensate ingame what they can’t in RL.
On the money side: The game should ofc be profitable so the devs can further develop the game and improve. You can promote your product through Twitch streams and other social media outlets like Twitter or Instagram.
IMO the most important thing for a dev team is to stay humble. They live and die with their community and player base. If they act as if they don’t care about people it will hit them hard and fast. Don’t try to grab all the monieZ, don’t treat your customers as walking wallets, remain true to the goals you set in the beginning.

G Thomas Trammell Jr

The problem is, no matter how crappy a game or company is, they’ll make bank. Customers used to have standards but by overcrowding the markets with crap (and crap service) they’ll make their cash and can freely ignore their fan base because there is always someone willing to pay for it.

The f2p/micro-transaction model makes more money with crap than most games make with subscriptions purely because there is always someone to play it. Who cares if they retain customers when it costs nothing for people to play but winning costs cash.

It’s the apathy of the players in that they’ll dump cash and run if it continually underperforms, but they’ll also jump into a crap game because “it’s free”.

And companies don’t even need to bother with blowback because the playerbase will be so toxic as to drive detractors away before user fatigue causes serious problems.

Companies follow the money and there are too many users coming and going to bolster the income with micro-transactions to have to care: Who cares if a f2p game sucks? It’s free! And this lowers customer expectations for subscription games because compared to the f2p games they’re better – even if they are subpar and lazy.

Company investments drop because customers are expecting less for their time/money and since stockholders and CEOs only care about profits, this is ideal: low invest, micro-transactions x vast revolving customer base = profits. This in turn spurs investors which allows the companies to continue and rewards poor product and service.

WoW at one point lost half their playerbase and added WoW tokens/micro-transactions and survived… when that was starting to dwindle they copied features others had developed to spur customers to come back long enough to boost investor interest even though they invested a fraction of the time and resources they could have.

And because other companies are more dubious, they secured a good retention.

Trion games is a prime example of profiting off subpar products and even when it’s their own devs selling ingame items people buy it up because its “free”. This puts a lot of action on their marketplace though which looks good to their investors… yet almost all their expansions/added content is just reskinned old products.

So while playerbase OUGHT TO BE their focus, they don’t need to because players don’t recognize the scam they’re funding.

Bryan Correll

I want games I play to have enough revenue to keep running and updating, but past that it’s of little interest to me. And as far as player base I’m a lot more concerned about quality (and I don’t mean skill) than I am about quantity.


Usually, having a high playerbase would mean high revenue as well, right?

I mean LoL has 80 million MAU as well as the highest revenue for PC games.


I care more about the player base. What makes a great game to me is one that is technically beautiful to see coupled with other players I enjoy being around. That gives me a full gaming experience that is dynamic and new every single time I log on.

So I’d rather have a small game that fails over a finite amount of time than a game that has longevity but brought in people that detracts from my experience.

Because if the community isn’t right, I wouldn’t be playing the game to begin with.


Well, as mentioned in the article, playerbase and revenue are not mutually exclusive. They are very much linked.

But yeah, a large but toxic playerbase while generating lots of revenue is certainly something I don’t desire.

Afterall, I’m adding money to that revenue base, but if the game isn’t fun for me, then it doesn’t matter how much the game is making.

Oleg Chebeneev

I let company care about revenue, I care about people I can play with.


I guess if I had to choose I’d say playerbase but realistically I think very little about either. I care more about whether or not the game is fun. I can’t think of any game I’ve actually enjoyed that didn’t have a decently sized population. Usually games that have tiny playerbases are also just bad games, so there’s definitely a correlation. So I worry about what’s fun and that’s it.

Kickstarter Donor

The funny thing is that DOTA / League had the same effect.

Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

I don’t think about either. But if you put a gun to my head to force me to choose, I gotta go money. If you have enough revenue coming in then the mmo can continue and advertise for more players and hire the staff need to maintain and expand the game.

The reason for being concerned about playerbase seem to be indirectly about money. Large enough playerbase means more players that could be monetized and spread word of mouth about the game. But if you have enough revenue coming in then you can survive on whatever playerbase you have and expand later on.

The point of contention is: What is “enough” revenue? There’s the rub.