Xfire: Free2Play is the future, League of Legends' player base skyrockets while WoW's declines

Free-to-play is the future of the games industry, says Xfire in a recent report. The F2P titles supported by micro-transactions were once thought of as a niche market, but according to the numbers, mainstream monthly fee titles like World of Warcraft, are on the decline while free games are on the rise.

According to Xfire, World of Warcraft’s player base saw a brief increase near the end of 2010 that carried over into early 2011 following the release of the Cataclysm expansion. But Azeroth’s total population of players has been in decline since then.

Xfire, which pulls its statistics from over 19 million players using the company’s free chat and server browser client, saw 60,000 daily active unique (DAU) users in September 2009. Today, that number has been halved, with only approximately 30,000 DAU players logging into WoW each day. Compare World of Warcraft’s 14% decline in DAUs over the last three months to Riot Game’s F2P League of Legends, which saw a 70% rise during the same time with an increase of 34,000 DAU players.

“Our 19 million users have avidly played World of Warcraft for the past seven years; we knew it would eventually be overtaken but what really surprised us was the rapid ascension of League of Legends and Free2Play games in general,” said Xfire President, Mark Donovan.  “The Free2Play model is becoming much more prolific in the gaming industry, and one major trend we’re seeing is that there are a vast number of games initially developed as subscription titles that failed to gain critical mass, then re-launched with aFree2Play model with great success. Results from many Free2Play games, including GamersFirst’s All Points Bulletin: Reloaded and Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online have been extremely positive.”

How positive? According to Xfire, APB saw a 200 percent increase in players while LotRO quadrupled its active user base, tripling revenues for Turbine after switching to the F2P model. Companies like Zynga, which made its mark as the first social-gaming company to go public today, told the Securities and Exchange Commission that its army of micro-transaction friendly “ville” titles is worth $1 billion.

Above: Numbers! Xfire has them, and according to its latest report, F2P is where the industry is heading

“Free2Play games continue to gain rapid user adoption and retention, and we believe this freemium revenue model will own the lion’s share of the overall gaming market in the long run. As traditional console game sales stagnate, even incumbents like Activision and Electronic Arts are paying attention and are being pressured to develop their own Free2Play titles,” continued Donovan.

Hellgate London, Age of Conan, and City of Heroes are just a few major online MMOs flourishing with a new free-to-play model. Valve has also embraced the F2P model. Team Fortress 2 is now F2P and digital distribution service Steam now supports a collection of F2P titles with micro-transaction support. But that's all on the PC, what about consoles? In support of Donovan's forecast for the future of the industry, Microsoft is also laying the groundwork for F2P titles for the Xbox 360 console via Xbox Live, according to a recent report from Develop - and has been asking developers to discuss ideas for F2P titles that can be monetized with micro-transactions. There's also SOE's Free Realms, a F2P social MMO now available on the PS3 via PSN.

Jul 1, 2011


  • chicgods34 - July 4, 2011 3:13 a.m.

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  • burkhardt5 - July 3, 2011 2:29 p.m.

    You can now play world of warcraft for free for the first 20 levels. And I have a feeling that basic play might become F2P in the near future. But the serious players will be P2P because they use a "wow strategy guide" and want all the bells and whistles.
  • Gorlack312 - July 3, 2011 6:30 a.m.

    11.4 million people at $15+ a month means WoW won forever.
  • fulldog09 - July 3, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    This is a funny article. How does Xfire think they can even remotely get an accurate picture of player decline on WoW? Who uses Xfire in WoW anyway, ive played WoW for a while, and I know im not all knowing, but I havent heard of 1 gamer who uses Xfire chat services. Everyone uses Ventrilo and Skype. When League of Legends surpasses WoW will be the day the world ends. Also, im sure the president of Xfire is gonna say this, its almost like a last ditch effort for games that have already failed to not be quite as fail. There is a reason WoW has 19 million players since its inception.
  • nightasasin - July 2, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    These numbers don't have much meaning or much correlation to each other. The number of wow players is still higher as is their profits. If they want to argue that f2p is winning they need to show revenues and player bases. Although I do think f2p is rather good for gaming, especially since its reviving these dead games I would never have played before because of the price requirement.
  • lordlundar - July 2, 2011 7:43 p.m.

    Meh, I see a lot of percentages but no real numbers. And it looks like they're only going by their own numbers as it is So it's deceptive at best. After all, is it because people are leaving WoW as they claim, or are WoW players just dropping XFire? Way too ambiguous information there to buy into their doom and gloom
  • Paynekiller87 - July 2, 2011 7:21 p.m.

    @Manguy17 You can't compare your example to a legitimate F2P game that uses micro-transactions as you shouldn't be playing WoW on a private server anyway because it breaks Blizzard's Ts&Cs and can get your account banned, therefore, your argument is invalid.
  • Whit - July 2, 2011 5:32 p.m.

    My biggest gripe with F2P--way, way too many kiddies. I don't spend my lunch hour socializing with kids, I don't seek out groups of children to romp around the park with in afternoons, and I sure don't want to play computer games with a bunch of kiddies. P2P presents a certain barrier to entry that helps to skew the gamer population of the game toward a more mature segment. Now maybe if the F2P publishers figured out a way to partition off the game so I don't have to play with a bunch of 8 to 14yro kids I'd have a little more interest.
  • mentalityljs - July 2, 2011 4:49 p.m.

    Honestly, I hope Xfire flourishes and F2P becomes the new standard for online gaming. I never have and never will pay to play online; it's consumer rape. Steam is a prime example that should be followed. I refuse to be nickled and dimed to death by multi-million dollar corporations just because they claim to provide services that are worth a hell of a lot less than what they're selling them for. Paying for a System/Rig, Game, AND internet, and I STILL have to pay to play this shit online? Fuuuuuck youuuuuuuu!!!
  • AlphaAGENT144 - July 2, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    i can wholeheartedly agree that F2P games are definitely growing, but will not dwarf P2P or Purchasable Full Games anytime soon, especially if Activision keeps Sharting CoD out every year
  • infernox - July 2, 2011 9:22 a.m.

    not many people use xfire to my knowledge, so its not totally true. might mean that the wow people just stopped using xfire. i used to use it aswell but not anymore. has some cool features though, like video recording and live broadcasting.
  • Phoenix4 - July 2, 2011 8:46 a.m.

    They used the old logo of League of Legends :/ And trust me , Lol's community is gonna sky-rocket to another galaxy then they are gonna fix their servers buy splitting the platforms , then everyone will be able to log in and not leave this game
  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 2, 2011 4:13 a.m.

    I have a problem with the fact that the top two MMOs in the world right now have acronyms that spell WoW and LoL.
  • TriforcePlayer - July 2, 2011 3:47 a.m.

    Hopefully DCUO folds
  • TheRandomFool - July 2, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    What's that "Clash of Fates" thing under the LoL logo? Never seen it before. I can attest, F2P stuff is undoubtedly gaining speed - they can't really hurt each other, so they can't really be competed against by anything else.
  • Duffman - July 2, 2011 2:49 a.m.

    Not sure how accurate X-fire is, so I'm going to be taking these numbers with a rather large rock of salt. Not to say that I don't doubt that these games are doing better (hell, I joined in on TF2 since it went F2P) but I find it hard to believe that LoL is trouncing WoW. Also, thank you for the heads up on todays Tdar Mr. Nagata. Was getting worried. :)
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - July 2, 2011 2:22 a.m.

    Yeah, because XFire is the go-to source for statistics...oh wait. Besides, how long has WoW been around compared to LoL? Seems a bit of a poor comparison.
  • Manguy17 - July 2, 2011 2:18 a.m.

    This makes sense, I play on a free private server for wow where you can "make donations" for points which award points, which are redeemed for loot. so its similar to a f2p game. that said i dont know how popular the donation system is and its not optimised for a f2p game, the only content you can get from donation points is all endgame, wheras I assume other game have content throughout the game that is purchaseable, and also that some stuff can only be bought. which leads onto the fact that unless you love pvp or just enjoy doing raids there is no point in buying the best gear in wow because thats typically the aim of playing in the first place.
  • Embolado - July 2, 2011 2:14 a.m.

    Come on Tyler you know all us hardcore raiders use Ventrilo

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