Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Virtual communities and IP


The Beeb runs a story on a new report by research consultants Screen Digest on the Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOG) market. The big headline in the report is that the MMOG market has now passed the $1 billion USD revenue mark from subscriptions worldwide. While big revenue is to be expected from the North American and Asian markets, I was surprised to learn that the European subscription revenue goes up to $299 million USD (€224 million EUR, or $309 million Panamanian Balboas).

I was also surprised by the top five earners list. While World of Warcraft still sits at the top ($471 million USD), its next competitor was a little Java-based game called Runescape. The top five list is:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. RuneScape
  3. Final Fantasy Online
  4. Everquest
  5. City of Heroes/Villains
While the growing revenue figures are interesting, the relevance to technology law is hidden within the report. One would expect that in the new market, product tie-ins between gaming and other established media should be doing well. Licensing intellectual property from movies, comics and books should amount for a considerable chunk of this vibrant market. However, the surprising aspect of the report is that cross-over IP licensed content is proving to be unpopular, and gamers choose worlds without any interaction with pre-existing property. World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Everquest and RuneScape far outsell licensed games such as Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online (and if the reviews are anything to go by, the same will happen with LOTR Online). In fact, revenues for licensed games is only 4%, while specially designed content amounts for 96% of the market.

This is quite an interesting phenomenon. Gamers seem to prefer virtual worlds that are well designed and offer variability and game-play, instead of wanting to play licensed content. There may be a lesson to be learned here, but my caffeine-stripped mind cannot make it out this early.

1 comment:

Greg said...

I've talked with some people about this, and my sense is that 1) the multiplayer context is disruptive toward standard narrative arcs and 2) those funding licensed product have a tendency to focus on something analogous to "opening weekend" sales, which is entirely the wrong way to approach a market that depends on subscriptions and live teams.

Some posts that are more or less on point:

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2003/12/mona_lisa_mmorp.html
http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/12/license_to_pret.html
http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/06/everyone_wants_.html