Blizzard is going with a pay once and then “survive off in game purchases” system for Diablo 3. As you already know, World of Warcraft relies on box sales, in game purchases, and a monthly subscription to earn insane amounts of money. Looking at the two business models, there doesn’t seem to be a shot in Hell for Diablo 3 to beat out World of Warcraft (sorry for the terrible pun). However, I’d like to argue that Diablo 3 is going to blow WoW out of the water in terms of revenue, given enough time and the continuing of current trends.
Estimates are out in terms of how many players will try Diablo 3, and I’m guessing that in the first year it will sell just over 3 million copies. With 3 million players on the auction house at least once a week, spending let’s say $5 per week in fees on the auction house either selling or buying items. Remember, it’s 15 cents to post an auction (minus several post free weekly options) and 65 cents per successful auction. You get the 15 cents back if your item sells, but you lose that deposit if the item fails to sell. With around $5 in transaction fees per person equals $15,000,000 per week. In comparison, WoW makes around $150,000,000 per MONTH. With Diablo making $15 million per week, that means that it will really be making $60 million per month. It appears that WoW will win in this example, except for the fact that is losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers every few months, and the latest panda expansion appears to be more of the same failed formula that Cataclysm followed.
Could Diablo 3 really make more money than WoW? Yes, but definitely not until 2-3 years after its initial release. The previous Diablo 2 still sells, a decade later, and there’s potential for this game to have more longevity due to fixes in the economy (no more duping of items hopefully!). With WoW on the decline and other MMO’s starting to build momentum (like SWTOR), it is entirely possible for Diablo 3 to rise up and pass WoW’s earnings. Only time will tell, but I can guarantee that Blizzard truly wants to build a monetary behemoth with Diablo 3′s Real Money Auction House.
Perhaps these are ideal numbers for the system Blizzard envisions, but this example definitely shows the potential Diablo 3 has to overwhelm the coffers at Blizzard. It’s a bold, powerful move for gaming in general, let alone MMO’s where the subscription model seems to be fading. Companies just aren’t creating enough games WORTH paying a monthly subscription for. Just look at Rift and the slew of MMO’s that have been forced to go Free to Play in order to survive. These Free to Play games are making money from in game transactions, just as Blizzard plans to do with Diablo 3.
As of right now, there is speculation that Blizzard’s real money auction house and its in game purchases are slowing down the South Korean game board’s decision on whether to allow the game in their country. If South Korea says no, then Blizzard is going to take a huge pay cut out of their game’s sales.
If you want, you can view what various bloggers said on this same subject at the Diablo 3 Blogging Carnival.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to share your thoughts on Blizzard’s Real Money Auction House and micro transactions!
Markco of Diablo 3 Gold Secrets