I try and ignore pronouncements about Registered Users as much as possible. They have a similar problem to SecondLife's "residents" in that they are correlative to just about nothing. So I wasn't that impressed when Nexon announced 3 million registered users for MapleStory since its US re-launch (FYI - that compares to 4.7m for SecondLife, for what that's worth).
But then burried in a BusinessWeek article this week, I found a stat that Nexon should have been screaming from the rafters:
In February, North American players spent $1.6 million on 600,000 virtual products within MapleStory.
MapleStory is the product that launched Nexon, who went on to lead the virtual goods revolution with casual massive multiplayer online games like KartRider, Audition, and BnB Crazy Arcade. That means Nexon is on-track to do at least $20m this year in virtual goods on this title for North America alone, and probably twice that if you take into account growth and seasonality. In 2005, Nexon had worldwide revenues of $230 million, 85% of it from virtual items. Combine this with some of the other recent tid-bits on the North American micro-transaction market:
- Habbo Hotel
$77m$55m in revenue for 2006, ~80% from microtransactions, and according to Sulka, whom I spoke to at GDC, about 1/3 of their traffic is from the US
- K2 Network is more buttoned up about their numbers, but they've seen enough success from their item-based revenue model that they just raised a very healthy B round
- Lastly, although I do have issues with the hype around SecondLife, they continue to do very interesting things, and they are doing at least $6m a month in revenue
Questions about its long-term inherent value aside for the moment, there seems to be little question that gaming has provided the impetus for the microtransaction holy grail that so many other .com ventures have failed at. That puts online games at a significant advantage to, say, online video in terms of revenue potential.
And one last point that comes out of this recent news on MapleStory. The "game" is now over four years old, but was just successfully re-launched in the US with MTV. This is rote for anyone who knows much about MMOs but may be surprising to folks who lump MMOs with video games. If managed properly, online worlds do not have to exhibit the live/die or hits-based cycle of video games - they are an ongoing service.