A Browser-Based, Free-to-Play MMO Makes €2 Million in 4 Days From Virtual Sales AloneBy Yannick LeJacq | November 23, 2011 | News | No comments | Share
There’s been a lot of talk here lately about the economics of the video game industry. Several games have achieved astounding sales records, even as AAA developers use frustratingly stringent DRM tactics that anger many players, even if they don’t necessarily deter them. The question remains open, however, of how other forms of virtual economies are managed, and whether alternative forms of distribution and DRM are profitable. More and more companies are adopting Free-to-Play mechanics to at least some of their titles, but is it actually profitable?
Dark Orbit is a Free-to-Play, browser-based spaceship MMO, not the most profitable arm of the game industry at first glance. But the company recently told Gamesbrief that the game is expected to earn some €200 million in revenue from virtual goods in 2011, purchased by over 215 million registered users. A recent item known as the 10th drone, which was listed at €1,000, sold over 2,000 copies in just four days for some €2 million.
It’s secret, Gamesbrief say, “ is not to make about a year from each customer, but to allow many people to play for free while allowing those who love their games to spend a lot of money.”
Dark Orbit is not Bigpoint’s only game, but it is certainly one of its most popular. The space-wander, sci-fi themed MMO has 65 million registered accounts. The 10th Drone is a relatively rare item in the game–drones are used to defend the player’s spaceship, and having the 10th drone–pictured above and also known as the Zeus Drone–requires the player to have all nine previous drones as well as additional items such as blueprints to construct it in the game.
That is to say, substantial devotion to Dark Orbit is requisite for the acquisition of the 10th drone. And enough people were devoted enough to Dark Orbit to help Bigpoint reap significant profits.
Some estimate that as many as 97% of Dark Orbit’s users don’t pay anything for the game on a month-to-month basis. But for those users who enjoy the game enough to invest the time it takes the gather the experience and resources to gather the first nine drones, spending €1,000 on a tenth is a solid investment.
Free-to-Play systems clearly offer a different set of assumptions for the finances and distribution of games. Bigpoint has show that a company can rely on a core of devoted followers to support their games rather than achieving the highest sales figure possible.