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MMO subscription dollars in decline for the first time since 2002

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With all of the free-to-play MMOs coming onto the market and the F2P conversion of formerly subscription-only titles, it should come as no surprise that the subscription model is losing its grip on the industry. Eurogamer reports that starting in 2010, the money brought in from MMO subscriptions has actually gone into decline for the first time ever since analysts began tracking it in 2002.

2010's subscription revenue added up to $1.58 billion, a respectable amount but still 5% less than 2009. 2009 saw a 10% bump in subscriptions, and 2008 witnessed 21.6% growth. Connect the dots, and subscription revenue has most likely peaked and begun a downhill slide. Analysts predict that by 2015, revenue from subs will be as low as $1.33 billion. However, with the popularity of RIFT this year and the coming storm of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the subscription model may see a resurgence.

On the flip side, microtransactions from F2P models are rising exponentially, jumping 24% from 2009 to 2010 to account for $1.13 billion. With the two models combined, the industry saw a very modest 5% increase last year in revenue.

Screen Digest analyst Piers Harding-Rolls sees the writing on the wall: "The focus of many PC game operators has clearly shifted to micro-transaction‐based models -- in part due to competition in the subscription market especially in the high‐end MMOG segment, but also because of the flexibility micro-transactions offer operators in monetising gamers."

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