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Five Most Popular Game Communities
Rummaging through a sea of titles, we've come up with a selection of what we think are five most prominent online (and offline) communities based around popular games. Mind you, for some communities, it's not that easy to find out the exact number of gamers that are currently playing the game. However, certain facts like sales figures, the number of subscribers and so on, are quite enough to indicate the popularity of the game community in question. What's more, we've refrained from actually ranking our choices. So, the idea wasn't to decide which of the communities is best or most popular out of the five we selected, but rather to give you an overall idea about which games players tend to spend their time with the most, nowadays.
Also, we'd like to thank publications like NPD, Steam, Bungie.net, Google Trends and Nielsen Media Research for providing the essential data for this article.
The original Counter-Strike still remains number one and it stands as the highest ranking title, according to the official Steam web site, that is. Last we checked, the CS community had just over 174,665 active servers, with approximately 276,552 gamers playing online at the time we did our research (so just over 2 players per server, eh? - Ed). If the statistics on Steam are to be believed, this should translate into roughly 9.423 billion (yes, that's the correct amount) minutes of play time per month. These numbers are more or less the same when you check the statistics daily. The fact that these daily figures haven't changed for several years is indicative of how much gamers still prefer a standard CS match over playing any other multiplayer shooter. When you look at other popular classic shooters such as Quake 3, Call of Duty or Halo, it's hard to estimate if these communities will ever manage to achieve the status of Counter-Strike. The simple fact is: numbers never lie.
Originally developed as a game mod for Half-Life, Counter-Strike rocketed to fame and eventually more games sprung up like, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Counter-Strike: Source, etc. The CS community expands as time goes by, with an ever-increasing amount of mods, weapons and other content. However, even CS has its downsides and was criticized on a number of occasions. As of March 2007, Valve decided to implement advertisements via Steam in official maps and in the game's GUI overhead. Countless fans and customers were, understandably, aggravated with these ads, expressing their thoughts on the matter through Valve's official forums. Players started complaining that, having incorporated in-game ads, the company violated original terms of service and that the ads distract from the game.
Okay, in case you didn't know, we're talking about a Java-based MMORPG, developed and maintained by Jagex. The game currently encompasses over 9 million active free accounts and more than 1 million paid member accounts. Now, within the hardcore gaming community, World of Warcraft is pretty much the top dog. However, with a little help from Google Trends, we've discovered that the search volume for RuneScape exceeded both World of Warcraft and the once phenomenally popular EverQuest. At present, more than 5 million unique players are accessing their RuneScape accounts to play the game at least once per month. From what we could gather, RuneScape's content is really easy to access, plus it can run in a common web browser without burdening your rig. So, why is the game so damn popular? Well, mainly because of its simplicity and intuitiveness. Players can easily create and customize their avatars and complete a huge amount of quests. In addition, the game features a non-linear path and players fight other players as well as against random monsters. The game's community is thriving as players interact via trading, chatting or co-op mini-games. Certain studies have shown that playing RuneScape, in particular, benefits players in some way. BBC reported a while back that achieving specific goals in RuneScape is a challenge and can teach teenagers vital skills as they enter the labor market (hey, it's never too late to start, should you wish to hone your business skills).
Recent research indicated that 13.1% of all PC gamers have played Runescape at some point throughout June 2007, with the average RuneScape player spending 673 minutes per week within the game. After this RuneScape became the 5th most played PC game just behind Blizzard's World of Warcraft and games like Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 and, of course, The Sims.
World of Warcraft
Indisputably, Blizzard Entertainment has set a very important precedent with World of Warcraft. As of January 2007, World of Warcraft surpassed 8 million subscribers and come July 2007 the game hit 9 million subscribers worldwide, with the latest expansion pack, The Burning Crusade, still awaiting launch in China and with the new add-on Wrath of the Lich King on the way. About two months ago it was confirmed that PC gamers played World of Warcraft more than four times as much as any other PC game. If that's not sufficient evidence, you should also know that certain WoW-based web sites are amongst the highest ranking online publications on the Web. For instance, the WoW oriented web site, WoWHead, has recently been sold for over $1 million and ranks high up on Alexa. However, when it comes to Blizzard's games it's not just about Warcraft. The company proudly declared Battle.net as one of the largest online gaming networks with "millions of active users," which, reportedly, outpaces even Xbox Live. It was recorded that by September 2004, Blizzard active user count was up to nearly 12 million, all of which spent more than 2.1 million hours online each day. At the time, the network had 200,000 concurrent users.
Naturally, like all popular games, even World of Warcraft had to be the victim of finger-pointing at some point. To this day, WoW remains the most frequent topic to trigger stories of game addiction. In summer 2006, for instance, two parents from Korea were accused for neglecting their child because of their excessive WoW playing. They faced criminal charges after their baby daughter died when they left her alone to play WoW in a local LAN shop. (Ultimately, it's better for people like that not to procreate. Did I sound like a Nazi just now? - Ed) That same summer, according to observations of one Dr. Orzack, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, up to 40% of WoW players are addicted. Mind you, this idea is not based on any actual evidence or player survey - in the end, it was just regarded as an opinion, based upon Orzack's experience and observation of the problem.
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