Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Our game sucks!

Syp isn't happy about Bioware claiming that the subscription business model caused people to leave SWTOR. He says: "Of course, I don’t have access to any of BioWare’s feedback or research, but this seems to be an awfully convenient statement to be flinging about. Convenient in that it places the blame for subscriber loss on the business model and not the product or ongoing service." Funnily I didn't read Bioware's statements like that. I mean, what did Syp expect? Bioware saying "Our game sucks!"?

To me, saying "our game cannot hold subscribers" is a rather frank admission of defeat. It is equivalent to saying that the game on offer just isn't worth $15 a month to most people. And as long as there are games out there that *can* run on a subscription model, you are basically saying that your game isn't quite as good as this competition. Not just "our game isn't quite as good as World of Warcraft", but also "our game isn't even as good as Rift or EVE".

A decline in player numbers alone is not sufficient reason for a game to go Free2Play. As long as a subscription model is likely to bring in more money for the same game as a Free2Play model, the game will stay subscription. If you think that WoW is going Free2Play anytime soon, think again. I think it would need to drop under 1 million US+European subscribers before Free2Play would be the more profitable option for Blizzard, and by the time that happens they might actually not bother any more.

But apart from possibly Titan, I don't see any game on the horizon which can be reasonably sure to be able to support a subscription business model. Maybe we will still have a few attempts that will fail, maybe we are already at the dawn of an era where companies develop their games to be Free2Play off the bat. Which probably would make sense and produce better games than something which was designed with one business model in mind and then transformed into another.

I've been peddling the idea of a MMORPG using trading cards since 2004. Not only do I think that this concept would bring some fresh wind into the staid MMORPG combat and gameplay; but today I also think that a business model based on selling boosters of cards might work better than a subscription model. Right now switching to Free2Play is an admission of defeat. Once games are designed from scratch around other business models, that perception will cede.

Bioware are right to blame business model. SWTOR should be judged on what it is, possibly the best single player mmo ever created. Of course a mmo subscription model is going to fail on that basis.
Just a shame they were supposed to make a multi-player game and spent massively on the assumptions of millions of users playing for years.
"As long as a subscription model is likely to bring in more money for the same game as a Free2Play model, the game will stay subscription."

And this is the big gamble. Will F2P bring in more revenue than the subscription would have?

If so, you better believe that Rift will follow suit in 2013. Last month they moved to 8 US servers from an original 58.
Indeed. I thought it was a reasonably candid interview considering.

Ironically, we just resubbed to SWTOR for a month, as a break from LOTRO, though we are enjoying the expansion, sometimes the rubberbanding and lag can get very annoying. Oddly enough, I can't see there new model getting much money out of me, I might pay to hide the head slot, and unlock some extra quick slots if possible, but thats probably it.

We don't do warzones, and maybe one group instance a week, but thats it. The only slight inconvenience is the not wearing purple gear.

Ironically, this will work out well for us, but not for them. Baffled that they didn't make the planets into purchasable quest packs like LOTRO, seems the ideal way to do it. Level to 20 free, then quest pack beyond, class story is always free.
Bio made a perfectly valid statement (assuming you read past the quote), not sure what your point is?
Make it free and I still won't play. When I saw the stiff animations and annoying cut scenes with dialogue, and no endgame I knew the game wasn't for me.
It's not that the game does not worth the 15 dollars/euro, but the vast majority of people will not subscribe to more than 1 game per month. So they chose where to subscribe rather than judge the game alone if it worth the money or not.

This month I am subscribed in World of Warcraft, but in June- July I was subscibed in Swtor. Even if I have the money to subscribe to more than one game a month I prefer to save them, as I will not really have the time to play them both extensively and with the money I will save I can buy other games or hardware updates...and I know lot of people that act like me.

So in my opinion the question is not if the game worth the 15 dollar month but if it is the game of the month...(new expansion, new patch, e.t.c.). Also, if I judge from the informations we have from the PTR in swtor, their f2p model is more like a advanced trial maybe, but f2p?no..
I have no desire to go back, even after F2P. It was fun, I enjoyed the ride, but to me it was a single-player game. I beat it and it's time to move on.
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SWTOR would have been a great deal for $50 as a single player KOTOR 3. But I wouldn't have paid a monthly subscription to finish a single player game...even Dragon Age: Origins or the Mass Effect series wouldn't have been worth another $15/month on top of entry price to keep playing. So the F2P model will get me back to the game to finish the campaign I started and paid $50 for a year ago.

I can't bash SWTOR as a bad MMO though if only because my wife and her guild in the game log hundreds of hours every month in it. Then again, they are RPers and I think 20% of that time is actually spent playing the game and the rest is all the RP javascript:void(0)shenanigans that they spawn on their own.
The Shandalar dream, something I cherish also.

Such a free-to-play with "boosters" business model would have to avoid many traps like these just to name a few:

1) Magic the Gathering very expensive booster prices which had an awful money/value ratio.

2) The GW2 Blacklion Chest debacle for the Halloween event with very low drop rates when spending real money.

3) Pay to win PvP. The stigma would just kill the game.

4) Nerfs. When you have "deck" or "build" that you gathered by paying money or spending game currency, you don't the game to evolve by hitting you with a massive nerf which makes your deck useless thus forcing you to start over. The expansions must make you spend money to expand your build not nullify it.

5) Needs a robust model like World of Tanks, where the time vs. money ratio to progress (gather cards/powers) makes it interesting for both type of players: the ones spending little or no money, and the disposable income for convenience of levelling speed types.

Being involved in making such a game would be a dream come true.

Btw Tobold, ever tried to set-up a Shandalar rpg pen and pencil type game? Sort of like a D&D game, but where combat is resolved with MTG games (a bit like Puzzle Quest) but with cards. Players find treasure (new cards) and level up (PCs have stats like: starting or max hand size, Life, etc.). Cards have to be printed from images found on the web.

What has always stopped me was the amount of preparation needed as a DM. Building decks for monsters and NPCs (very fun to build thematic decks, but take allot of time) and preparing the cards for these (layout, printing, cutting, sleeving, etc.).

Shandalar was a GREAT Magic exploration/adventure game (even if the AI was lacking), never equaled.

Try any of the games made by Gree for ios mobile devices. Modern War is quite along play, whilst Monster Quest is shorter and more card like.
I guess I don't see "Right now switching to Free2Play is an admission of defeat."

If you were to create a new game today, it would almost certainly be F2P/B1/cash shop not sub model. So how is converting your game to what was not but is now the new MMO funding paradigm an "admission of defeat"

If Magic the Gathering did an MMO style game, I would certainly give that a whirl. I'm afraid that the fact that bad luck would doom you a fair number of times would piss a lot of people off.

Hagu, they tried the sub model, they failed to achieve their goals.

It's an admission of defeat. Doesn't mean it's a bad game or anything, but they failed to make the sub model viable.

"Been there, done it" is how I feel about MtG. At some point, playing Type II gets boring because every new expansion your old cards (which you paid hard for via RNG or bought from vendors) are nerfed or became "banned". Yes, a solution is type I or one of the types inbetween I and II but it isn't ideal. Besides, most players play type II, and in the type I world you play against people who have cards worth thousands of EUR. The whole game is made to make previous cards irrelevant. No thanks.

You could say WoW is the same, but at some point in WoW I get bored with content. While I would get bored in MtG w/o new content, I don't want all my hard-earned (and real-value) cards to be completely irrelevant. In WoW, it was and is only my time I invested; in MtG it was real money and time.

SWTOR, I am curious how it'd have gone if it was B2P like Guild Wars 2: you buy it, and then you can play it for free forever. Expansion packs (DLCs) would cost additional money. Everyone wins. No boring grinds and daily quests. But even then, the GW2 grouping system, the questing system, achievement/progress system would be superior. Graphics-wise I don't see how MoP and SWTOR are differing in quality. Still, because there are 8 stories and 4 classes it'd mean a lot of content in SWTOR.
Enh. Misleading analogy is misleading. Syp is just flat-out wrong.

SWTOR isn't a bad game. In fact, it's a good game. It's still 'better' than EVE, still more popular than EVE. Just what they're charging for it doesn't make back what they hoped to make on it, whereas EVE does.

Success does not equal better.
McDonalds is more successful than In & Out Burger, but I doubt anyone who's tried both would say McDonalds is better.
Misleading analogy is misleading.

That very much applies to the McDonalds analogy. Out Burger is MORE successful than McDonalds. They succeed in charging you more money for an equal weight of meat. WoW is more successful than SWTOR not because more people play it, but because more people are willing to pay $15 for an equal month of access.
Ahh, that's even worse actually.

Out Burger is more successful than McDonalds because they charge more for the same quantity of product? You're looking at profit per product (burger/subscriber)?
By that logic, FFXIV is more successful than WoW because they get more money per subscriber with their higher-priced subscription for equal bandwidth and arguably less content - not to mention lower overheads and so forth.

I don't think anyone's in a hurry to call FFXIV a bigger success than WoW now.
(Edit/Update: Actually isn't true anymore. FFXIV dropped their price a while ago. So, let's edit to instead say that FFXIV was more successful in the months after launch than WoW currently was.)
ANYWAY, arguing the logic doesn't change the fact that it's the wrong metric for success anyway. I might make a dollar more profit per glass of lemonade from my lemonade stand than Kirks might make in profit per glass from their bottles of lemonade sold in bulk at Woolworths, but I am by no means more successful than them.

Percentage of revenue as profit is meaningless compared to total profit overall. Out burger might have a higher percentage of profit in their revenue, but McDonalds' total profit utterly eclipses theirs. THAT'S success.
Cam, Tobold,

Sorry to crash your fun party, but wasn't Cam talking about quality; not success (at first at least, then I think it got all "success-ified")?

And do we really want to beat the old quality horse again?
What I am saying is that you can't compare popularity of two items with different prices. SWTOR will be "more popular", that is have more players as a Free2Play game than as a subscription game. That doesn't make the game any better. It is simply that more people are willing to play a free game than are willing to pay $15 per month for.

And the success lies in SUSTAINING a customer base at a high price level. FFXIV is *NOT* a success, because they couldn't sustain their price level. World of Warcraft is a success because they are able to keep millions of people paying $15 every month.

Money doesn't lie. If somebody is willing to spend more money for a product it is because that product is better, has more "utility" for him. Economics 101. Maximum profit = maximum quality.
Right. So. The horse.

Just so that we are clear: I understand that you think McDonald's is more successful than In & Out Burger.

Do you also think that McDonald's burgers are better than In & Out Burger burgers (disclosure: I have never been to an I&O establishment)?
Right. So. The horse.

Just so that we are clear: I understand that you think McDonald's is more successful than In & Out Burger.

Do you also think that McDonald's burgers are better than In & Out Burger burgers (disclosure: I have never been to an I&O establishment)?
I think you're all still stuck on a very misleading analogy. The success of McDonalds has very little to do with the quality of their burgers, and a lot more with convenience and price. The reason why the analogy is so wrong is that there aren't such big differences in convenience and price between two subscription-based MMORPGs than there are between two restaurant chains.

It is not significantly harder to download and install for example Rift, nor is the price significantly different, than it is to play World of Warcraft. Thus with those factors out of the way, you need to come up with some really weird logic to claim that Rift is a better game than WoW, and the millions of people playing WoW are just plain wrong.

Of course once you get into big differences, the comparison is off. You can't compare the number of free Farmville players to the number of players of a subscription MMORPG, as both convenience and price are significantly different.

I read your blog for few years and just now, when you mentioned F2P card based MMO, it occurred to me to recommend to you title I spent countless hours playing : Battleforge by EA. Try it out, if you already did, could you share your opinion on it, if it is not too much to ask?

Keep on blogging and

I did play Battleforge, and I liked the concept of it. Unfortunately I absolutely suck at real-time strategy games, and much prefer turn-based games. So I didn't play Battleforge very long.
WoW is not objectively a better game than, say, Rift (though SWTOR is debatable). WoW is comfort food for MMO players, and it's also got the lead advantage.

I don't eat at McDonald's over In & Out Burger despite my preference for the latter because McDonald's is better; as you say its a matter of convenience (it's a block away from my job, while I need to find another city to go to In & Out Burger).

Conversely, I have multiple long time friends who continue to play WoW even when I talk to them about how great Rift is, because they are already so invested in it; social circles, guilds, time and money sunk into it; they aren't looking for a fresh experience or even just a different experience; they want familiarity. And that's why WoW succeeds and everyone else flounders in its wake to varying degrees.

I wasn't trying to be obtuse. I just wanted you to be clear.

For the record (if that's at all needed), I think WoW is out and away the best game out there, for a significant majority of its subscribers. Not unlike EVE, for those who play that game.

Put otherwise, I subscribe to the idea that consumers are smart. Saying otherwise would reflect poorly on myself, I think.
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Bioware is being obtuse if that is what they truly think. Its clear anecdotally why everyone, including me, left. They did a rather poor job of thinking through day-to-day gameplay and there was a tremendous disparity between what you did pre-50 and what you did post-50.

The lack of a real working LFG for the first few months decimated the game. Standing around for hours in fleet spamming for groups sucked and I got sick of it. Ultimately it drove me away from the game. What kept me away for a long time was that they still never addressed it. And when they finally did I had a horrible experience with the LFG system they did introduce. Believe it was same server only? In any event I spent a couple hours in LFG when I decided to give SWTOR another chance and never was able to get into a group. And that was enough for me.

I didn't pay $15/month to be so limited that I couldn't actually access the content.

Also the other really big issue with me was the lack of dual spec. Bioware forcing me to play other characters to access gameplay of my class is not good design and did nothing but tick me off.

It's an admission of defeat because they tried P2P, and decided F2P would be more profitable. If they had retained subs they wouldn't be doing this.

FF14 never had a monthly fee until this year. After the game launched they immediately retracted the monthly fee before the first billing cycle.
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