Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios launched Neverwinter to the MMO masses way back in the summer of 2013 after switching the publisher (and owner) from Atari. The title returned gamers to the venerable campaign of the Forgotten Realms for Dungeons & Dragons. It was even accompanied by four tie-in novels from R.A. Salvatore, the man that (in)famously killed Chewbacca. The accolades came fast and furious. Player numbers rose (we think, more on that later), expansions dropped and major features, like the on-again off-again Foundry, were released. In fact, a total of five expansions were released by March 31, 2015. Five expansions in less than two years. It’s after the launch of Rise of Tiamat that rumblings began. Rumblings of a console version of Neverwinter. That came to fruition when Neverwinter crossed to Microsoft’s console at the end of March 2015. Since then there have been seven further expansions and an introduction to the PS4 community. This got us thinking “Did console success save Neverwinter?”
We had a hypothesis like any good scientist. The initial evidence pointed us in the direction of “Yes”. Cryptic Studios expanding to Xbox and PS4 was good for all parties. People talking about the game again is one thing. We wanted to see if we could find any actual evidence to support this hypothesis. You know, people playing the darn thing and the like.
Cryptic Studios has now released an impressive twelve expansions since June 20, 2013. That’s a cadence of about 2.67 expansions per year. Impressive any way you slice that. Xbox was added to the mix on March 31, 2015 followed by PS4 on July 19, 2016. Ignoring specific release dates for platforms, there have been seven expansions since a console entered the mix. That’s provides an even faster cadence of about 2.8 expansions per year. Sure, it’s faster, but it’s a bit difficult to claim that expanding to console saved the world based on a single data point.
Oddly enough, neither Cryptic Studios or Perfect World Entertainment seemed all that excited about Neverwinter’s continued growth until it hit the dedicated game device world. Poking around our own archives and those of Cryptic, we could not come up with press releases touting numbers. Not until the announcements of 12 million and 15 million players “across all platforms” dropped in late 2016 and in April 2017 respectively. Nestled in there like a good Boo is the revelation that the Xbox playerbase broke 2.1 million in under four months. This is topped by the PlayStation community jumping on the bandwagon faster, 2 million in two months. Breaking out the timelines, that’s a minimum of 4.1 million coming from console of the 12 million players across all platforms. Or more than a third.
Meanwhile, what’s been going on with the rest of the playerbase. The other eight million and change on the venerable personal computer? We don’t have solid date for new account numbers as discussed earlier, but concurrent players can offer a proxy. The tale spun by Steam Charts is not particularly bad by way of an average MMO lifecycle; those with a strong start will see a climb out of the gate then an inevitable decline over time mitigated by spikes around expansions.
Let’s recap what we have.
- Expansions have been coming at an increased rate since Neverwinter spread to consoles
- The playerbase wasn’t discussed with any regularity, if at all, until the game was introduced to consoles
- The combined console playerbase added more than 50% new accounts in two years of availability
- Concurrent usage on a major PC game network has continued to dwindle, as expected
That’s three clear points of evidence that support the hypothesis that Console Neverwinter saved PC Neverwinter. The fourth point, the 50% increase in the playerbase is actually a wash at best, or a victory for the PC game as it seemingly had more than eight million players in a shorter timeframe.
Perhaps “saved” is too declarative. Let’s settle on “expanded the lifespan of” even if it is far less sexy shall we?
Are you wondering when the various expansions and mini-modules were released for Neverwinter? We’re happy to share our information.
- Neverwinter: 6/20/2013
- Fury of the Feywild: 8/22/2013
- Shadowmantle: 12/5/2013
- Curse of Icewind Dale: 5/13/2014
- Tyranny of Dragons: 8/14/2014
- Rise of Tiamat: 11/18/2014
- Elemental Evil: 4/7/2015
- Strongholds: 8/10/2015
- Underdark: 11/17/2015
- The Maze Engine: 5/3/2016
- Storm King’s Thunder: 8/16/2016
- Sea of Moving Ice: 11/8/2016
- The Cloaked Ascendancy: 2/21/2017
- Shroud of Souls: 5/2/2017
- Tomb of Annihilation: 7/25/2017
- Swords of Chult: 10/24/2017
- Neverwinter Xbox: 3/31/2015
- Neverwinter PS4: 7/19/2016