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"Free players a negative"? Let's talk bandwidth! (Math inside)

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > General Discussion
"Free players a negative"? Let's talk bandwidth! (Math inside)

Guancyto's Avatar


Guancyto
11.18.2012 , 07:49 PM | #1
There are a lot of emotions being thrown around about the free players, it seems like. Words like "freeloader" and even "socialist." One of the more common ideas thrown about is that a free player is a negative on SWToR.

So I set out to gather some data, because numbers beat feelings every time. Setting aside intangibles, free players do cost Bioware money. But how much? Well, turns out it's not a lot. And by not a lot, I mean you can maintain hundreds for a month for the price of a hamburger.

The cost of having a free player running around on SWToR is the cost of the bandwidth he's using - the amount of data transferred to keep his machine and the server updated on what the other is doing (or data transferred downloading the client/patches). He doesn't get customer service (subs only) and development work happens with or without him, and new stuff is largely paid content anyway. Downloading a bandwidth meter(1), I closed all other applications on my PC that might consume bandwidth and went to go play, measuring the various domains in SWToR and measuring just how much bandwidth I was using. What I found:

-Idling on the fleet was actually the most intensive activity I measured, which had an average of 8 kilobytes per second of combined download/upload traffic.
-Questing in populated areas (in this case the Black Hole) was the second-most intensive activity, at an average of 5 kilobytes per second of combined download/upload traffic. Questing is important because it's the most strongly encouraged activity for a free player, and the majority of the game.
-Flashpoints were actually very light on bandwidth usage, at an average of 3 kilobytes per second combined download/upload traffic.
-Questing in unpopulated areas and space missions both also had around 3kb/s; this is not surprising, the least bandwidth is used while soloing or in small groups. The less players/actions you have to update, the less bandwidth gets used.
-Loading into new areas was no more intensive, probably because it's all on your hard drive.
-I have not yet tried to measure Warzones. I kind of like winning and the meter won't minimize. ^^; I feel fairly confident assuming it will be the most bandwidth-intensive activity, so I'll come back with more data later.

(On an unrelated note, I found out that the bandwidth used in SWToR is low enough that if you were able to download the patches before the next patch hit, you could play it on dial-up.)

But this is just traffic. How much does this cost Bioware? I don't actually know how much their bandwidth costs, so I'll use something that's 99% likely to be more expensive: the "any old person could get this price" option. No bulk discounts at all. I chose a Virtual Private Network server(2) because in a VPN, you are also renting the server used. They therefore include the costs of server maintenence in your fee (with a markup, of course), so we're accounting for server costs in our napkin math. They cost 3.99 euros per month ($5.08) for a combined 1 terabyte upload/download, which equals 0.398736937 megabytes per second, or 408.3 kilobytes per second.

The majority activity is questing. I'll use the questing in populated areas average for our numbers here, since presumably places where you'll find one free player you'll find a lot of them. At 5kb/s, this means that $5 per month will get you 81 F2P players who play 24 hours per day. Assume that they instead play 8 hours a day, and that $5 gets you 243 really dedicated free players for a month.

So let's get some metrics, specifically leveling to 50 as a free player. Consulting a thread which lists play time (3). We get some people with 13, some with 6, someone claiming 3 who is probably lying. Let's highball our estimate a bit and say it takes 10 days /played or 240 hours to hit level 50. This comes to 4320000 kilobytes of data, which looks like a lot but it comes out to 4.32 gigabytes of bandwidth used. Applying arithmetic at a cost of $5.08/terabyte, it costs Bioware 2.14 cents to see a free player level to 50.

Downloading the game client is approximately 27 gigabytes of data(4), which costs Bioware 13.39 cents under this model which is again, almost certainly more expensive than what they actually use.

Combining the two and applying some more math, it costs Bioware 15.53 cents in bandwidth for a free player to download the game and level to 50. Okay, so what does this mean? It means that if fifteen free players download the game and play to the level cap, and one of them buys a single operations pass, Bioware has made money.

tldr: bandwidth is not expensive, Bioware needs a hilariously small conversion ratio on free players to make money on them.

(1) http://www.wizard-soft.com/meter/register.htm engaged in trial mode for the purposes of logging.
(2) http://www.edis.at/en/server/kvm-vps/usa/
(3) http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?p=3382432
(4) http://www.swtor.com/info/faq/game

RycheMykola's Avatar


RycheMykola
11.18.2012 , 08:01 PM | #2
Such a long post, for metrics that are totally inaccurate.

F2P can only do 3 WZ's or FP's a week, so they are hardly a drain on resources on the fleet. Maybe for one day per week. But the added benefits for us paying customers is faster queue times. I would gladly pay an extra nickel a month in bandwidth to give me queues that are much faster.

They don't affect logins either, as a paying customer we get put ahead of them in the queue.

Downloading the software: How would you propose future customers get the software? Purchase it at a store? Will you supply the bandwidth for customers to download? Do you really think stores would even put this game on the shelf for $59.99 like it was for the basic version at launch?

Guancyto's Avatar


Guancyto
11.18.2012 , 08:03 PM | #3
You misunderstand.

I am attempting to refute the idea that free players are a big cost to Bioware.

They're cheap to maintain. Like, really cheap.

The percentage of them that need to buy stuff for Bioware to make money is hilariously low. The biggest bandwidth expense they'll incur is probably downloading the client: this would cost the bargain price of 13.39 cents per full download if I, a private citizen who will almost certainly pay many times more for bandwidth than a large corporation, hosted the client downloads myself.

RycheMykola's Avatar


RycheMykola
11.18.2012 , 08:05 PM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by Guancyto View Post
You misunderstand.

I am attempting to refute the idea that free players are a big cost to Bioware.

They're cheap to maintain. Like, really cheap.
My apologies then! Sorry!

I am all for F2P players personally. I like the population spike, stuff selling better on the GTN, seems queues for FP's and WZ's are faster.

Wish it will last, not hopeful though.

Guancyto's Avatar


Guancyto
11.18.2012 , 08:07 PM | #5
I agree! Honestly I think they're really good for the game.

That's an intangible, though, and although intangibles are super super important, this is something you can put a number on.

HisShadowX's Avatar


HisShadowX
11.18.2012 , 08:36 PM | #6
lol the 2 million casuals didn't like you people the Hardcore Minority and your play style but yet you guys infected this game had a guild summit dedicated to you all to help ruin this game.

Games that focus on you people die and go free2play

oakamp's Avatar


oakamp
11.18.2012 , 08:44 PM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by HisShadowX View Post
lol the 2 million casuals didn't like you people the Hardcore Minority and your play style but yet you guys infected this game had a guild summit dedicated to you all to help ruin this game.

Games that focus on you people die and go free2play
one thing wrong in ur post,
others r true,
1.5 million players gone.
English is not my first language, still working on it.

Guancyto's Avatar


Guancyto
11.18.2012 , 08:50 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by HisShadowX View Post
lol the 2 million casuals didn't like you people the Hardcore Minority and your play style but yet you guys infected this game had a guild summit dedicated to you all to help ruin this game.

Games that focus on you people die and go free2play
lol.

I don't consider myself hardcore (data-driven, maybe), I don't believe I was catered to, and I think the free players may well be the best thing that's happened to this game.

Did you read the bits where I calculated that a so-called "freeloader" getting a toon to 50 will cost the company a little over two cents?

'Cause yeah, that ain't expensive.

RycheMykola's Avatar


RycheMykola
11.18.2012 , 08:51 PM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by HisShadowX View Post
lol the 2 million casuals didn't like you people the Hardcore Minority and your play style but yet you guys infected this game had a guild summit dedicated to you all to help ruin this game.

Games that focus on you people die and go free2play
I really don't understand your post, I'll assume English isn't your primary language though.

This game is nowhere near 2 million subscribers..........................I'd say 500k is on the high side.

astrobearz's Avatar


astrobearz
11.18.2012 , 08:57 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by RycheMykola View Post
I really don't understand your post, I'll assume English isn't your primary language though.

This game is nowhere near 2 million subscribers..........................I'd say 500k is on the high side.
indeed

and again, i do feel like i have to stress this this part, if subs was enough to keep this game a float, why did it undergo a f2p conversion?

please answer this question, and thanks in advance