Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
 
How much does playing a MMORPG cost?

Playing a typical monthly-subscription MMORPG costs around $200 per year, including the cost of the game and expansions. If you played World of Warcraft for 5 years, you probably paid pretty much exactly $1,000 to Blizzard. But that is the easiest case of cost calculation, and it only represents the direct costs. Saying how much a Free2Play game costs is much more difficult, because the cost is variable, depending of what exactly you want to get out of the game. The more you pay, the more you get, obviously, although that still astonishes or even outrages some of the more naive players. And more and more games come out as Free2Play, or switch from monthly subscription to Free2Play, like Everquest 2 this week. Different Free2Play games have different payment options and plans, and figuring out how much you'll end up paying is about as impossible as figuring out your mobile phone payment plan. With iron discipline you can play for absolutely free, but if you don't watch yourself you might easily spend more for a "free" game than for a subscription game.

And then there are the indirect costs. How much did you pay over the last 5 years for computers and your internet connection? Probably more than the $1,000 I mentioned for 5 years of playing WoW. In most places the internet connection alone already costs more than the $15 per month of a monthly subscription MMORPG. But then of course playing a MMORPG is probably not the only thing you need your computer and internet connection for, and your monthly payment for the internet might be a "triple play" plan including telephone and digital TV. MMORPGs also usually don't require a lot of data transfer, so you don't really need high-speed internet to play a MMORPG, it only comes in handy on patch day. So many people chose not to count the cost of their computer and internet connection as "MMORPG cost".

That can change if a new game *requires* you to buy a new computer. The announced system requirements for Final Fantasy XIV for example are definitively on the high side, requiring at least an i7 CPU, 4 GB of memory (which, if completely true would mean you can't run FFXIV on a 32-bit operating system, because you need a 64-bit operating system to access more than 3 GB of memory), and a GeForce 460 GTX or better. The new computer I bought a year-and-a-half ago barely fulfils these requirements, so it'll probably require the next computer I'll probably buy next year before I can play FFXIV in high resolution.

I have to question the wisdom of Square Enix on this. Most MMORPG players don't mind paying those $200 per year for a good game, but might balk at spending an additional $1,000+ for a computer to run it, or at least several hundred dollars for upgrading their existing one. So not only will the overall price tag prevent some potential customers from actually buying the game, even worse, customer who *do* buy the game give most of their money to the computer shop and hardware companies, and not to the game developer.

In summary, how much playing a MMORPG costs is similar to the question of how much a car costs, in that there isn't really one true answer. You can pay between nothing at all (if you consider your computer and internet being "free") to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if you attribute all the indirect costs to the game. The good news is that if you take the average cost of $200 per year, and the average amount people play of around 1,000 hours per year, the cost per hour of entertainment is pretty low.
Comments:
"With iron discipline you can play for absolutely free, but if you don't watch yourself you might easily spend more for a "free" game than for a subscription game."

I've played a lot of F2P MMOs now, have had a lot of fun and have yet to pay a single cent. It does depend a lot on how you play MMOs to begin with. If you're one of the vast mass of players who aren't that competetive, don't have high aspirations and don't take have any personal prestige tied up in their online achievements, then F2P really can be 100% free.

That said, as the market matures I can see myself paying some money to cash shops. I am enjoying DDO and I will probably buy some of the dungeons that don't come automatically with the free version. That, though, is indistinguishable form buying "Adventure Packs" in EQ2 as far as I can see.

As for the FFXIV system requirements, I can neither confirm nor deny any personal experience, but I will say I am not worried at all about my very modest rig being up to the job.
 
Blizzard always allows people to play their games on ancient PCs. Heck, I can even play Starcraft 2 which was released yesterday on my 6 year old PC, a P4 3Ghz/Ati Radeon 9800/1 gb memory. And I think Blizzards games look great, art design > amount of polygons any day.

I did find that I paid a lot less for games when I was only playing WoW. €15 a month? These days I spend about €40 a month on single player games. Quite a bit more expensive.
 
Eh Tobold, those system requirements are the recommended system requirements, not the minimum system requirements.

That said, I do think squeenix did overreach on those system requirements. I'm just hoping that with a bit of lowered settings, FFXIV will still play well.
 
Some people also pay for guides, forums, and even one on one tutoring to help them achieve success in video games. In fact, some people make good money supplying mmorpg players with the information they desire.
 
Tobold - the page you linked indicates FFIV is a 32-bit game. Were I planning on publishing a game with a 3-5 year lifespan, I'd push the recommended requirements at the launch so that the game still looks excellent 3-5 years from now. Software always drives hardware upgrades...
 
"Software always drives hardware upgrades..."

Yes, and frankly the MMO genre has been a stale turd when it comes to pushing the limits of hardware. When Aion is considered "cutting edge" for graphics in an MMO, you know things are in bad shape. I'm tired of my MMOs looking like crap and I'm glad S-E has the courage to push the envelope a bit, rather than take the Blizzard "safe, easy, ugly" route.
 
(which, if completely true would mean you can't run FFXIV on a 32-bit operating system, because you need a 64-bit operating system to access more than 3 GB of memory)

Not true... 32bit windows will use nearly all 4gig of Ram but as much as a gig or just over will be used for PCI functions and BIOS. Watch your boot up, 4gig will be recognised, but in a running OS you will see less due to these memory priorities.

So all 4gig will be used.

Also... 64bit systems don't guarantee more than 4gig. Not all 64bit capable chipsets will recognise over 4gig.
 
I agree with what everyone's posted so far about the FFXIV system requirements -- those are recommended, not minimum.

Also, saying EQ2 is one of the games switching "from monthly subscription to Free2Play" is misleading because the game itself is doing no such thing. EQ2 is just adding servers that will have a type of "free to play" model. Not the same thing at all as switching, as DDO and LOTRO have done.
 
You don't really -have- to play an MMORPG right at release. If you don't have a good PC right now but want to play the game on high settings, wait for a while. Or even buy the game on PS3.

It doesn't really mean less money for SE considering most of us play the game for the same amount of time, meaning same amount of subscription fees regardless of when you started the game. Those who joined in first will probably get bored and quit earlier than those who join in later. Makes sense.

In fact, if SE can pump out content fast enough, those who come in later will catch up to the development later than those who joined in on day 1. It might mean even more money for the company in the long run.

And the long run is what is important in MMORPG industry, not really the initial sales.
 
Not true... 32bit windows will use nearly all 4gig of Ram but as much as a gig or just over will be used for PCI functions and BIOS. Watch your boot up, 4gig will be recognised, but in a running OS you will see less due to these memory priorities.

So all 4gig will be used.


The 4 gig limit includes all addressable system memory including video memory, Bios and any other memory on any other expansion card.

So if you have a 1gig card you'll have just under 3 gigs useable system memory when you take all the other stuff out.
 
In my case playing WoW actually saves money. I usually spend 100$ or more a month on games, but in my most active WoW months a don't buy a single other game, so it cuts my game spending down to 15$. And when I get bored of WoW and get around to buying all the games I missed they are either in different bargain series or can easily be bought used for less than half the cost. But when I finally freeze my WoW account my game spending tends to go up dramatically :) Also I usually play 30+ hours of WoW a month, while most of 15$ games don't even offer 20 hours of playtime.
 
I'm not sure what the exact minimum requirement for FFXIV, but I'd like to mention again that my 2 1/2 year old PC that is probably only about $500 worth nowadays can run FFXIV Benchmark no problem for the low setting.

So it's not as costly as one might think just to play the game. If you want everything on MAX setting, then it's just up to the player on whether they'd be willing to shell extra money to buy the best PC, or simply wait til those PCs go down in price.

For the F2P MMORPGs, I've never spent any money there at all. I'm not hardcore enough to be stupidly spending so much cash on a game that is meant to be free. I don't aim to be the #1 player in the MMORPG as I have no desire to get such "fame". Those who do are willing to pay, and I have no problem with that providing that they are able to afford it. I'm mostly annoyed by school kids who wasted their parents' money for buying items in F2P games. And I'm even more annoyed at the parents for not keeping an eye on their kids properly.
 
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