DCUO: Money, Theirs and Ours

Anyone else wonder where Jens Anderson has gone? He used to be fairly high profile in promoting DC Universe Online, popping up to promote the game, but I haven’t seen any mention of him since December or so. He may just be busy, but you’d think that after working for five years on a title he’d be available for interviews instead of Chris Cao doing all the press. His twitter stream indicates he’s still actively working on DCUO, so it might just be a temporary thing.

Imagine Journalist box

The barriers to entry of being a games journalist / blogger are admittedly pretty low.

Being A Professional Blogger Means You Can Now Get Paid For Repeating A Tweet

Massively.com’s Jef Reahard recently wrote a long article about how game bloggers and games journalists are quite different things, which some people seemed to take as righteous criticism of games journalism, but I read as a “don’t expect too much from us and you won’t be disappointed” article. Given that Massively.com (and a lot of others, let’s be fair) continue to post up very slim sources of information without critical comment, the latter is probably the better approach to take.

In DCUO’s case, it was news when Sony Online Entertainment’s CEO John Smedley tweeted that DCUO was SOE’s “fastest selling game ever”. There was very little critical commentary I saw that suggested that this could arise from DCUO launching on the PC and PS3 simultaneously or from it being the first boxed title SOE has launched in years. Calling DCUO a fast selling title was a good way of promoting the title – after all a title that sells well must be good, right? SOE didn’t post any numbers for comparison, but I suspect DCUO outselling Vanguard in its launch month isn’t that big a stretch, especially as a sum total across two platforms.

It was interesting to see though that PC and PS3 sales were closely matched – 52% of DCUO versions sold were for the PS3 while 48% were for the PC. But how many boxes has DCUO shifted?

You Used To Be Cool, NPD

Given that official sources of video games sales information are thin on the ground, we’re really only left with VGChartz.com to look at DCUO’s sales. (VGChartz.com estimate sales through a number of methodologies, but aren’t true sales trackers… but I can accept the numbers as good enough to talk about. NPD is a more accurate sales tracking organisation, but no longer puts out for free.).

Three weeks after launch, DCUO has sold 262k physical PS3 boxes and 95k physical PC boxes. However, the PC figures don’t include digital distribution figures (nor do the PS3 numbers, but those probably don’t have the same impact as the PC) – if PS3 to PC sales are tracking almost 1:1 as per Smedley’s sales figures, digital distribution such as Steam has accounted for something like twice the number of PC physical boxes sold. That’s a big proportion of PC sales going online.

If you take these rough estimates, DCUO has sold around 500k copies worldwide, driven heavily by the North American market. From the overall viewpoint, that’s not bad, but still a long way from making back that US$50m development budget. DCUO appears to have outsold both City of Heroes (about 170k players in the launch month) and Champions Online (somewhere in the realms of 200k to 400k in the launch month) in terms of launch, but a key difference is that CoH probably only cost around a fifth of DCUO’s development costs and managed to have a low churn rate, while ChampO likely cost only around half of DCUO’s budget.

The other thing to consider is that since DCUO isn’t a cross platform title, the PC and PS3 versions should be considered as separate worlds in player terms, so that it isn’t one game of 500k people, but two titles of around 250k in the community. Again, it will be the longevity of DCUO’s game mechanics that will dictate its success and I’m curious to see if SOE is willing to release any subscriber data after the first few months (which they probably won’t if it is at all negative).

Back to Sub Fees

DCUO's international sub fees, converted into US$

Apologies to any country's currency I got wrong - I think the Swiss use francs, not kroner, but went with what OpenOffice told me.

I’ve previously discussed the frankly weird situation of Australians being charged an extra 30%-odd in terms of DCUO subscription – with the AU$ and US$ at near parity, Australians shouldn’t be paying around US$20 when they could be paying US$15. Since then SOE has released an international prices page that looks like a number of non-US countries are paying above the expected conversion rate.

Conversion rates were taken from XE last week.

I’m no expert here – there may be other factors at work – but it just seems odd that so many countries are a long way above what should be a straight-forward currency exchange. These costs are simply for the sub fee, which shouldn’t see too much added to it (and SOE already asterixes away applicable taxes as a separate cost). I understand that there may be some kind of conversion cost, but this is usually born by the player (on their credit card, for instance), not SOE.

If anyone out there knows why additional costs should be charged on a per country basis – why Switzerland should pay 1.5x what the US does, for instance – I’d be interested to know. Also, I think the results for UAE and Saudi Arabia probably reflect that they’d be paying in US$, but the DCUO pricing sheet wasn’t clear on that point.

Finally, to add insult to injury to Australians, SOE allows New Zealanders to pay in US$ at $14.99 a month. That’s just rubbing the salt in, Sony.

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5 thoughts on “DCUO: Money, Theirs and Ours

    • That’s why I’m pretty sure those are wrong! :-)

      I probably should have also looked at the Euro to US$, of which EU12.99 equals US$17.65 at today’s date. All-in-all, DCUO just looks expensive to sub to outside of the US and (from a brief scan) more expensive than competitor titles. Makes me wonder if some of DCUO’s sales issues in Europe are from this price difference.

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