Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Hellgate London lifetime subscription
A reader pointed out to me that Hellgate London is offering a lifetime subscription, and asks whether I regret having paid for my lifetime subscription for Lord of the Rings Online. Good subject! The short answer is that I don't regret my lifetime subscription for LotRO, but would advise against paying for one for Hellgate London. The long answer is a lot more complicated, because whether a lifetime subscription is a good deal depends not only on the game, but also on your finances.
A lifetime subscription for Hellgate London costs $149.99 USD, replacing a monthly fee of $9.99 USD. You'd think that figuring the advantage out would be as easy as figuring out whether you'll be playing Hellgate for at least 15 months. But for my LotRO lifetime subscription I didn't really do that calculation. It was more a matter of buying the *option* to play whenever I want than foreseeing that I actually would play that game all of the time. I don't regret paying that lifetime subscription because it is so convenient. Convenience is a luxury, and whether you can and want afford it depends on your disposable income, not on whether it is a good deal.
I'm a nerd. My interests are video games, role-playing games, and history. At school I was good in science and math, but bad in sports. While such traits don't make you very popular at school, the real Revenge of the Nerds is that after school they have a much better earning potential. A degree in science or engineering is the closest you can get nowadays to a guarantee of employment at a good salary. People might laugh about Dilbert, but they don't realize he is collecting a six-figure salary. So while I wouldn't count myself as rich, I'm definitely comfortably well-off. Neither a $10 or $15 monthly payment, nor a $150 to $250 lifetime subscription would be something that I'd be really price sensitive to.
So why not go for that $150 Hellgate London lifetime subscription? Because I don't see the point of that one for me. In LotRO, if I wouldn't have a subscription, I couldn't play at all. In Hellgate London the subscription is optional. You can play the basic game right out of the box without paying more than the price of the box, and you can play it forever like that. The subscription gives you access to what other games add in patches and expansions: added content, new classes, guild features, player housing. But the luxury convenience I bought with my LotRO lifetime subscription is already contained in the no-subscription base model of Hellgate. A Hellgate subscription is for people who foresee to play that game a lot, thus needing the added content and features. Imagine you could have played the basic version of World of Warcraft for the price of the box, and would only need to pay a subscription if you wanted to play The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Would you have subscribed?
Don't get me wrong, I totally support this business model for Hellgate London, because finally the people who play the most also pay the most. I just don't see me among the play-a-lots of that particular game. If you draw a straight line from Auto Assault to Tabula Rasa, and then extrapolate that line, you arrive at Hellgate London: Another action-oriented online RPG which is probably immense fun to play for some time, but is unlikely to have the depth of a real persistent online world like WoW or LotRO or Everquest 2. It is very much to the credit of Flagship Studios, the developer, that they chose a business model which works well with that sort of game. A lot more people would buy Tabula Rasa if it had the same business model as Hellgate London. For me that means I won't buy Tabula Rasa at all, but I will buy Hellgate London. I'm just unlikely to subscribe to it.