2M registered players on Combat Arms US
Reported on Gamesindustry.biz , that’s 3 months after the first million registered users (and 7 months after going live). The European version, live since January, seems not doing bad either, with servers regularly full or almost .
Core, PC players-targeted genres are doing well when it comes to client-based F2P games (much better than more casual genres, increasingly impossible to do outside a browser, or those whose audience usually plays on console). A core genre with a casual enough product (in the sense of being inclusive with players of all skill levels, meaning the vast majority of (losing) players can have a good time, and requiring little coordination/planning/advanced group tactics at the first level of gameplay, and that the business model makes it enjoyable for free players to play) is a good formula. Combat Arms seems to have found a good balance there, with a simple product accessible to a large number, focused on small team close combat and with largely unintrusive micro-payments.
Suba Games also released the same day a press release boasting 25K registered players in 3 weeks for the OBT of Cross Fire, another F2P FPS. That doesn’t seem impressive , but communities take time to build so it’s a bit early to assess. Meanwhile, Soldier Front (Special Forces in Korea)on Ijji has been there a long time and has OK concurrency numbers, WarRock from K2 Network seems (at least in Europe) to be doing OK in certain countries but not exceptional, and Outspark’s Blackshot’s release seems to have been postponed for a long time.
The Western FPS market has been hard to crack for Korean F2P products (until Combat Arms). Even though games like CounterStrike 1.6, Wolfenstein : Enemy Territory and Battlefield 2 are still very much played online thanks to accessibility and critical mass inertia, the Western FPS gamers have been exposed to so many technically impressive titles that it’s hard to convince them to play the likes of Special Forces and Sudden Attack, games that look a few years old (or rather, to quit playing an old game to start a new one that looks old). Being very accessible allows to grow the audience outside of thses hard-to-get players. The simple fact of bringing in-game the persistent and social elements (stats, ranks and clans) is a very appealing proposition for building critical mass.
The F2P FPS market isn’t likely to become less competitive in 2009 – There is probably a lot of the 1 million registered players on InstantAction playing their flagship title, FallenEmpire : Legions. Battlefield Heroes and QuakeLive will be launching with very experienced teams and with a focus on accessibility, while newcomers CrimeCraft and Parabellum will offer Unreal 3-powered graphics. It wouldn’t be surprising if Valve was considering working on a F2P FPS either, since they have adopted a service approach for everything they do, but to this date are still selling products. They are working with Nexon on Counter Strike Online for the Asian market, after all, so they’re probably learning from them in that space.