Tobold's Blog
Thursday, December 13, 2012
 
The Secret World goes Buy2Play

So Funcom surprised the world by *not* going Free2Play, but rather just dropping the subscription for The Secret World. You still need to buy the game to play, the same business model as Guild Wars 2 has. There aren't many subscription games left beyond World of Warcraft and Rift; and Trion is firing employees in time for Christmas, so you need to wonder whether they are next to give up subscriptions.

I find it somewhat ironic that MMORPGs are giving up subscriptions just as single-player games are trying to introduce them. We might very well end up in a situation where we buy our MMORPGs just once, while our single-player games demand regular payments for DLC.

Comments:
What we're looking at is a convergence, I think.

Although I wonder if there's also a tragedy of the commons thing in F2P because once people are used to playing for free, it's that much harder for new games to get a foothold which might not attract the numbers that make F2P viable.

Frex I was talking to a friend who noted he's mostly been playing WoT and LoL this year and doesn't plan to go back to paid for games (I dunno if he throws some money at the cash shop from time to time).
 
How do WoW (and EvE, to a lesser extent) do it - manage to keep a faithful subscriber base?
 
Yes, I think convergence is the right thing to call this. Funcom has already produced 5 issues of new content for the Secret World (#5 launching soon), and those will now be sold for €5 going forward. This looks pretty similar to the box + DLC model used by traditional games these days.
 
I'm thinking to buy TSW now. Won't pay a subscription for most games, but I had wanted to try that one out. $30 isn't a bad price at all.
 
WoW is a success because -hate it or love it- it's ENORMOUS and very well done. Quests, achievements, classes, places to see, things to do, ... You really need to play it a lot to get bored. Also, Blizzard puts a lot of effort adding content patch after patch.

EvE is the only space-based mmo, so if you like sci-fi you have almost no choice. Plus... it's very well done too.
 
Adding to what Loque Nahak said: WoW and EVE basically are the gold standard of what people can expect for a $15/$10 subscription. Anyone releasing a somewhat similar game which is somewhat inferior in quality or quantity of content will be crushed by the comparison, and forced to abandon the subscription.

Note that by the same mechanism Guild Wars 2 is the gold standard for Buy2Play. That could end up being problematic if people perceive they get less for their money in TSW than in GW2. But of course it matters less for a one-off purchase, because the purchase is usually already done before the customer makes the comparison.
 
I wish Diablo III had a subscription-based model. Because in that case I would be sure Blizzard would put a LOT of effort to push the game beyond its limits.

Right now I feel diablo III lives in a limbo. After the initial (awesome) sales... what's the point of putting a lot of resources int a game that offers the RMAH as unique revenue? Yes, the RMAH probably offers some free cash for Blizzard... but I seriously doubt it's comparable to a fixed amount per month from every single player, like what happens in WoW.
 
EVE is subscribtion based too (every account is payed by $15/month, maybe not your own)
 
Actually TSW is going to a DLC model. If they can keep up the content, it will be a good deal. It's the perfect kind of game for that.
 
This is what I was waiting for. I loved TSW but couldn't justify a monthly cost when I'd already sunk money into a sub for Rift, so now I can play TSW to my heart's content and treat it like yet another game with a line of DLC expacs coming out. This is great because if I stay interested in it I'll buy the new content as it arrives, and when I lose interest I can bail and walk away at that time. SWTOR should look closely at what Funcom just did here.
 
There aren't many subscription games left beyond World of Warcraft and Rift; and Trion is firing employees in time for Christmas, so you need to wonder whether they are next to give up subscriptions.

So what eactly is going on here? Has the F2P model just simply spoiled players into thinking that they dont have to pay for games, or are gamers still willing to pay Subs, like Tori mentions above concerning Rift, if they like/enjoy the game enough?

It's common for devs to offer free trials where MMO's are concerned, so the argument that not being able to play a game before you commit money to it is a bit of a red herring.

I think that a growing majority of players are convinced that if you dont get in on a game at launch time, then they feel that they will be behind everyone else if they dont play right away, and I think that developers and publishers are playing on this belief/mindset and continue to develope games where the feeling of "falling behind" is actually fostered due to the games design.

I guess what I'm having trouble understanding, is where is the equalization aimed on the part of the developer, where how much a player is expected or required to pay to generate profit?
 
The subscription model is crap for consumers. Plain and simple. The only reason that some are still standing strong against the tide of F2P (or B2P like GW2) is because they have already established a loyal fanbase.

Would be interesting to see how many new players WoW still gets given all the choices there. They probably have the numbers to keep going as they are for another 5-10 years if they are lucky.

Then again, is the official UO still subscription based? That's still going last time I looked. :P
 
TSW never justified a sub because it only technically meets the requirements of a MMO. Solo instanced missions, instanced zones, instanced dungeons, instanced pvp, no world persistence - and with sales and pop the fraction of a FPS? There are better co-op / multipler pvp games out there. DayZ felt more like a true MMO (in the sense of WoW, EVE) to me than games like SWTOR or TSW.
 
Is there really much of a difference between years ago buying a game, and all the new versions that came along every year (Quake, Doom, Bards Tale, UT, Ultima, FF, etc) and buying DLC now?

You pay cash to get new content - DLC just changes the delivery model.
 
An MMO with a subscription just means the design process started before 2010.

JS, I think it is the choices not the model that makes the fairness. I.e., you can have good and bad subscription and good and bad F2P or B1.

If you play WoW or EVE 60 hours a week and pay the same as someone who plays 4, it may seem fair to you. And some of the Zygna F2P stories sure don't seem like great deals for consumers.

Every company says they are against p2W and most players accept leveling/inventory boosts in the cash shop. But at some point, 200%? 400% 800%?, the cash items become less optional. It's not the model but the implementation is my claim.

EVE does not charge for expansions, so how frequent are expansions to where that is fairer?

Most every software company pushes hard to get fixed revenue; e.g., business software sells support contracts (15%) and even sells "next year of upgrades." to help level out the revenue. The next version of the largest application revenue stream, Microsoft Office, is coming with a rental.

So companies want to show shareholders $x per month not 18x on month and 0 for the next 17. While players want people to believe their fallacious rationalizations that it was ok for them to have stolen the game. So even before the recent European ruling on being able to resell software, I think the player dishonesty is pushing companies to not have just a buy once plan. Even games like Gw2 want some cash shop revenue after the sale.

Take two scenarios: $50 game versus a $32 game with $1 monthly DLC. (you can raise the $1 by a couple of pennies if the time value of money matters) The latter is a bit harder to steal, is more likely to get people to buy because ongoing torrenting is more work, and the ongoing DLC relationship makes it easier to sell them related games/products.

tl;dr (sorry for the ramble) SWTOR was the last AAA MMO to launch with a sub and its hard to see much more than WoW & EVE remaining sub. But corporations are going to be trying any number of things to get recurring revenue from players.


 
Re theentity:

1) It is not a faithful subscriber base, it is relatively steady subscriber numbers. EVE has been out nearly a decade but I think the average for subscribers is about six months. So about once a minute someone unsubscribes from EVE. It just that on average slightly more than than subscribe so there is slight subscriber growth. A game with stable 300k subscribers could have an average sub time of 1 or 6 or 20 months. EVE's churn is a bit high for me to think "faithful" is quite correct. They do have a very devoted and passionate playerbase.

EVE & WoW are the stardards, but from different extremes. EVE does not try to appeal to the general MMO market. Like any narrowcasting ("sociopaths in space" is not completely fair but "sf space MMO" does not quite capture the HTFU culture), it can give a smaller group of players a better fit.

WoW can use its size:

network effect:
your friends are much more likely to be in (or return to) WoW. And an MMO with 10 million is more than twice as valuable as one with 5.

Economies of scale:
If WoW has 100 times the subs as SW, then a million dollar development is $0.10 per subscriber for WoW and (cba about) $10.00/sub for SW amd $3/sub for EVE. So they can afford a cafeteria: you can not do any pet battles or PvP and still get $15/mo value out of other features.
 
I wish Diablo III had a subscription-based model. Because in that case I would be sure Blizzard would put a LOT of effort to push the game beyond its limits.

There are many games with subscription fees or microtransactions which don't come anywhere near being pushed beyond their limits. In any case, they're going to release an expansion.

Is there really much of a difference between years ago buying a game, and all the new versions that came along every year (Quake, Doom, Bards Tale, UT, Ultima, FF, etc) and buying DLC now?

DLC is more congruent to map packs. Compare the technical advancements & design philosophies from from Quake -> Quake 2 -> Quake 3. Even something like Final Fantasy showed huge differences visually within the same generation, e.g. FF4 -> 5 -> 6, and 7 -> 8 -> 9. Character progression was also quite different across games.

These franchises also did not get rehashed every year.

The only game from the ones listed that I played that reminds me of DLC was the Doom series.

 
Chris said:
"I think that a growing majority of players are convinced that if you dont get in on a game at launch time, then they feel that they will be behind everyone else if they dont play right away, and I think that developers and publishers are playing on this belief/mindset and continue to develope games where the feeling of "falling behind" is actually fostered due to the games design."

Which games? Whatever some players feel, I don't think the above can be considered in any way true for the majority of major MMORPGs.

I think people like to be part of the excitement on launch day, and some may have fantasies about zooming to the front of the raiding ladder... but the latter are apt to fade when it turns out that starting raiding early is not enough.

Jostep Skyrim said:
"The subscription model is crap for consumers. Plain and simple."

As has been pointed out, for some consumers its good value compared to FtP. But for a lot of consumers, it's preferable simply because they can afford the cost without trouble and they don't like being nickel-and-dimed even if it would save them money. They can pay a six month sub if they want, and forget about it. And of course it may give rise to a preferable game ecosystem, since a sub is clearly pay-to-play, whereas FtP always seems in danger of drifting towards psy-to-win.
 
I just picked up TSW on Amazon for $14.99 and played it all weekend.
Thanks for the tip!

I tried the game during BETA but only played an hour or so.

I knew I did not want another subscription based game, so I never really gave it a fair shake.

I do not know how long it will hold my interest, but for now I am really enjoying it.

 
The problem with a sub is it isn't clear what you pay for and if you need to plan a break (as small as it may be) you are paying for nothing. The other side of the knife is that the more you play, the same you pay. This can aid in addiction as well as burnout (and NOT due to the quality of the content) and indeed works very nice with grinds and collecting.

Whereas a DLC is basically a new patch you're paying for. You'd say buy MoP, and then when patch 5.1 is released you either pay for that or you cannot log in any more. No subs. It'd work, but of course migrating to such feels very weird. It makes more sense to implement such in a new MMORPG (say, Titan).

"WoW is a success because -hate it or love it- it's ENORMOUS and very well done."

I can come up with a big list of why I find many features of GW2 better. Such list would boil down to the game being more casual-friendly due to the lack of sub and grinds. The very same is true for a FPS _even_ if it has DLCs.

If it weren't for my huge time/money/social investments in WoW I'd have quit or play it very, very casually (say pay 3 months a year for a sub; one month every new patch or something like that; this is more than enough to see the content in LFR, N, challenge modes, do a lil PvP etc) and play an other game more actively (e.g. TSW, TERA, SWTOR, GW2) but _also_ casually.
 
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