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  1. #1
    Titan PizzaSHARK's Avatar
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    MMOs: Is it time for the subscription-based model to go away?

    A recent Reddit thread was talking about the future of MMOs, and this is something I feel is central to the future of the genre. Right now, it seems like MMOs are primarily divided into two camps: subscription-based ("pay to play") and free-to-play ("pay to win"). Neither system is really ideal.

    Subscription-based models ensure a steady flow of revenue for the developer and are thus very developer-friendly, but also require the player to pay the same fee each and every month, regardless of how much fun they're having, or how much they play, making it a fairly consumer-unfriendly model. Generally speaking, these games are primarily focused on PvE/raiding, and the turnaround time for each major content push seems to be around 90-120 days, with the "standard" fee usually being $15 a month. The major downside of this business model is that, even if you only play a couple hours a week, you're still paying the same amount of money as someone that plays 40 or more hours a week. And as a result of these differences between players, the developer often feels the need to put a lot of grinds into the content to try and ensure players continue paying that fee for all three to four months between each major content push: these games often see a surge of fees when new content patches are released, with fees often ebbing between surges.

    Free to play models are generally pretty consumer-friendly, since you can technically play the game completely for free (which also makes them somewhat risky for the developer, especially since the developer has to provide bandwidth and storage for all of their players), but these games often feature excessive grinding or outright "give me money to get a huge advantage over other players" mechanics featured around their cash currency and microtransactions. Depending on the developer, these games may also be focused on PvE/raiding, or they may not have an "endgame" at all, especially if they're shovelware. The danger of this business model is alienating players who don't wish to pay for everything; if someone spends 40 hours grinding for a piece of equipment that someone could spend 3 hours getting by buying some of the components (or XP/token boosters) from the cash shop, you run the risk of completely alienating those players. And, true, those players aren't giving you as much money as the 3 hour players are, but you're still losing a potential source of revenue - just because a player doesn't want to spend $10 to get an item faster doesn't mean they'd be uninterested in buying cosmetic items or other things of that nature.



    So where can the industry go? Some companies, like Guild Wars 2's ArenaNet, have sort of split the difference; GW2 has an upfront box cost (usually $50, but it will frequently go on sale for $30 or less), but once that's paid, it's completely free to play, and there's a relative lack of grinding throughout. ArenaNet also has a cash shop and cash currency where you can buy a wide variety of boosters, cosmetic items, and things like additional inventory, bank, or character slots. And it seems to be working quite well for them.

    And while I really like that business model, it's hardly the only one possible.

    Why not make subscription models broken up into segments? $5 for open world, $5 for access to ranked PvP, $5 for access to raiding content? I'd be glad to pay $5 a month for just the open world/questing content in WoW or FF14, and if I decided I had a desire to raid or do some PvP... well, I can easily add that my subscription!

    Or why not do something akin to the old Guild Wars model, where there's no subscription fee, and you instead release small expansions pretty regularly, at reasonable prices? Imagine if WoW had no subscription fee, but instead you had to pay a one-time $20 fee if you wanted to access that new patch's raid content, the new PvP season, new quests and zones, and things like that?
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  2. #2
    Bloodsail Admiral ACES's Avatar
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    I think the subscription model has its place in the MMO genre, specifically with large, high quality MMOs like WoW. There are so many people willing to pay that it just makes sense. Other smaller MMOs should probably opt for the microtransaction option because it has the potential to draw in a larger audience. It's just my opinion, but I feel that using the free-to-play method cheapens the game and turns me off to wanting to play it.

  3. #3
    Bloodsail Admiral Helden's Avatar
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    Just throwing this out there, Pay2Win and Free2Play are not the same thing. The sooner people learn the difference, the sooner F2P will take off even better than it already has.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Helden View Post
    Just throwing this out there, Pay2Win and Free2Play are not the same thing. The sooner people learn the difference, the sooner F2P will take off even better than it already has.
    Not that different in my opinion. Each player plays a game for certain reasons; reasons that are unique to him/her. If there is a way to advance/progress in an area of the game that he/she is interested by paying real money instead of playing, even more if there is no way to play your way through, then it is pay-to-win essentially.

    So merely a companion pet, one that can't even fight in pet battles, can be a product of pay-to-win if there is no way to "earn" it in-game by playing.

    Pay-to-win is not exclusive to gear progress. And that is something that hardcore players (people like most posters here for example who actively pursue to sign-up for and participate in online conversations about the game, when the vast majority of players don't even know sites like MMO-Champion exist, much less even visit them) seem unable to understand: any in-game progress that can be bought for real money is pay-to-win; even more so if there is no way to get said progress by playing.

    Personally I prefer the subscription model of World of WarCraft. Note: "prefer," not "like." I think that it ensures a minimum of quality from the developer, and in case of less popular games ensures the developer's stability.

    Sadly Blizzard's model, overall model, is unfair towards the player, downright scamming if compared to other games, not just mmorpgs. The biggest offenders are the various paid services: there is no justification for charging such amounts for character services; even more so considering the game's profitability. Just as a sign of an acknowledgement towards the players, a "thank you" to the people that made this game such a commercial success, they could charge just enough to cover their costs of such services, and even include some free-of-charge iterations. But 25 euros for a realm transfer?! That is just ridiculous.

    And for the subscription model itself: it is quite unfair towards players as well, due to the fact that the clock keeps ticking whether you play or not. Having an element that can track your playtime and charge accordingly would be nice. For example, if playing something like 5 hours in a day would be classified as a day spent, but playing just 2 would be classified as just these 2 hours, to be added to a sum of similarly small amounts of time, counting away towards your 1 month of subscription.

    However, in World of WarCraft's case, these measures are just not necessary right now. Activision-Blizzard are still making money by the bucketload from the game. Far more than they would if they switched to another model by their estimations. And as long as there is more profit this way I don't expect things to change for then. For new or smaller developers though, anything goes, similarly: if they are making more money, it's better that way.
    Last edited by Drithien; 2013-12-25 at 01:34 PM.

  5. #5
    I am Murloc! Rorcanna's Avatar
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    I sure hope not. I'm very pleased to pay a sub fee for the game I play, I much prefer it to the option which I've seen in for example GW2.

    I do however wish they'd reconsider taking such horrible fees for the character services. They are expensive, even I see that, when we're also paying the sub fee AND there's a store. They could easily cut the character service costs in half, and make some sort of packages for different scenarios. If someone with 10 toons feels the need to move server/convert to the other faction, the cost would land at way too much and they are more likely to stop playing once the frustration grows big enough.
    Last edited by Rorcanna; 2013-12-25 at 01:39 PM.

  6. #6
    All models will be in the market forever, no model is going away. We will see F2P, B2P and Subscription based games for a long time.

  7. #7
    I'm not sure why you want it to go away. Did it kidnap your children? Perhaps, tyrannized some nation?

    $15 dollars monthly is not a lot for many people. As long as there is a game they like, they'll have no trouble paying that amount. All those injustices you pointed out (2 hours a week vs 40) are laughable because it's $15, not $50. I'm not a rich or even a well-off person by any means, but I've maintained an account myself through months of not playing, just in case I ever felt like playing.

    When (if ever) there really won't be any place for this model, it'll go away by itself. I doubt it will, because there's nothing wrong with it.

    P.S. I would definitely want to agree with Rorcanna about the paid services, though. I won't just yet, because there might be something I'm not aware of.
    Last edited by Creotor; 2013-12-25 at 02:00 PM.

  8. #8
    Titan PizzaSHARK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helden View Post
    Just throwing this out there, Pay2Win and Free2Play are not the same thing. The sooner people learn the difference, the sooner F2P will take off even better than it already has.
    Generally speaking, F2P games are based around extremely tedious grinding, with the solution buying boosters or outright items from the cash shop. I have yet to encounter any F2P MMO that isn't like that.
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  9. #9
    It all boils down to what is offered for your money. When paying a subscription people want content new content every now and then so that they want to pay the subscription to keep playing. WoW does a good job with it and other MMOs like Rift did too but in case of Rift there wasn't that many changes to keep people interested and they had to change their model.

    F2P is fine as long as you get enough content for free and get additional content for a reasonable price. Neverwinter is a good example for a F2P game because there's a lot you can do without paying a dime and feeling like you're missing something. Sure their shop is P2W to an extent but the base experience you get from the game is good enough that it takes a long time until you really feel the need to invest some money in the game.

    Personally I think that B2P like Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World are what the new model will be. You pay once and can play the content you payed for. Add a shop for some cosmetics (aka DLC in other games) and sell content patches as expansions. More or less what Call of Duty, Battlefield 4 and other games are doing just with MMOs. MMOs are going more and more mainstream so they need to adapt to mainstream business models. For a subscription you need a very good game to get enough people. With F2P you need even more people and a game with a shop that enough people like to play and pay for. B2P feels more like every other game out there.

  10. #10
    It's time for the f2p model to go away, imo.
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  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by PizzaSHARK View Post
    Generally speaking, F2P games are based around extremely tedious grinding, with the solution buying boosters or outright items from the cash shop. I have yet to encounter any F2P MMO that isn't like that.
    Isn't Tera exactly not that, or am I wrong? I played that on release, and even after its F2P release and the grind doesn't seem that bad. And I don't think you can buy any real items on the AH. I would say RIFT as well, but they sell low level gear on their version of a cash shop.
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  12. #12
    It should go away asap. The MMO's today are so frickin accessible in terms of gear, difficulty and dungeons/raids that it just feels weird to have subs. If they were made once again challenging then ok, but in current situation - begone!

  13. #13
    The Patient
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    Subscription models are fine if there aren't other random fees hiding everywhere.. like with WOW. WOW is a special case, though - Blizzard has its teeth into people's pocket books and knows it.. so they suck as much money out as they can.

    As far as the OP's comment on pay-to-win... pay to win means exactly that - paying to win at the game. If all you're paying for is cosmetic changes that do not give you an advantage in the game - it isn't pay to win. You can argue that your goal is to be the coolest looking cat in town... awesome.. cool... but that's not the point of the game.

  14. #14
    Free to play is annoying, because if you don't pay you're always missing out on relevant content. When implemented badly it's really quite horrendous, like in SW:TOR, where you had to pay for adding fucking action bars to your interface. Otherwise these games just tend to be grindy or limiting, because they're actively trying to make you cough up the $$$.

    I'd much rather pay a set amount and have ALL the features (minus some minor bonus crap like some WoW pets or mount, which bring no real functionality, just different skins). I'd also much rather have a game that's not rushed, playtested well, balanced etc. WoW, for all of its problems, is like that. Some f2p games I tried (SWOTOR, NWN, Rift)... aren't.
    Last edited by Rurts; 2013-12-25 at 02:28 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Palinn View Post
    Subscription models are fine if there aren't other random fees hiding everywhere.. like with WOW. WOW is a special case, though - Blizzard has its teeth into people's pocket books and knows it.. so they suck as much money out as they can.

    As far as the OP's comment on pay-to-win... pay to win means exactly that - paying to win at the game. If all you're paying for is cosmetic changes that do not give you an advantage in the game - it isn't pay to win. You can argue that your goal is to be the coolest looking cat in town... awesome.. cool... but that's not the point of the game.
    The question is, is character unlocks + xp boosts also p2win? It really depends on whoever is talking. Shops should be purely cosmetic, with transfer/name/race change features.

  16. #16
    Yep. I can't justify paying $15 a month for WoW. It's a 9 year old game. No, I'm not paying full price for something that freaken old. They either have to lower the price or make it free-to-play.

    With other games, like FF14, well, they game is just bad so of course people aren't going to subscribe. When they released their first "Hey this is how good we're doing!!", they said they had over a million REGISTERED users, not PAYING users.

  17. #17
    Bloodsail Admiral spaace's Avatar
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    f2p usually turns into P2W..

    if you don't like the fact that the game has a sub model, then dont play it easy.
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  18. #18
    As there currently is and has been only one really successful free to play MMO (World of Tanks), I'd say the subscription based system won't be going away from WoW anytime soon.

    If you've played World of Tanks, you know that in long run it's not really feasible to keep playing free, because the grinding jumps to korean-levels. Then again, someone who pays big money can advance very quickly and has some advantage in gameplay too.

    WoW going to microtransactions would mean gear for money, xp/vp/cp buffs for money, tons of cosmetics and toy items for money. I'd rather have a fair playing field than cough up 50€ so that I don't have to grind five times longer.
    Last edited by samthing; 2013-12-25 at 02:56 PM.

  19. #19
    Titan PizzaSHARK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samthing View Post
    As there currently is and has been only one really successful free to play MMO (World of Tanks), I'd say the subscription based system won't be going away from WoW anytime soon.

    If you've played World of Tanks, you know that in long run it's not really feasible to keep playing free, because the grinding jumps to korean-levels. Then again, someone who pays big money can advance very quickly and has some advantage in gameplay too.

    WoW going to microtransactions would mean gear for money, xp/vp/cp buffs for money, tons of cosmetics and toy items for money. I'd rather have a fair playing field than cough up 50€ so that I don't have to grind five times longer.
    WoT is exactly what I was thinking of when it comes to P2W. I suppose at the super hardcore level it exists in the sense of premium ammo (which is EXTREMELY grindy to get by "legitimate" means), but mostly I'm thinking of premium account status - as you said, past the first three or four tiers of tank, the game becomes grindy to a frankly absurd degree.

    I don't really mind the concept of buying "premium account" time, but in practice it's little different from a regular subscription.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Cailan Ebonheart View Post
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by spaace View Post
    f2p usually turns into P2W..

    if you don't like the fact that the game has a sub model, then dont play it easy.
    Mhm. Really the only way to get rid of subscription games is to just not play them and support the business models you do like.
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