Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
 
How to choose a MMORPG this year

Playing a MMORPG can take up a significant chunk of your time, and it is hard to play more than one of them intensively at the same time. In the case of subscription games you also might not want to be subscribed to several of them at the same time due to financial reasons. That often makes the choice of a MMORPG non-trivial, and somewhat more akin to a lifestyle choice than to just choosing a game. At least that is how some people feel about it. And like with any lifestyle choice, people tend to come up with reasons why theirs is the best choice, and how other choices are simply "wrong". That starts out as a justification to themselves, and in some cases ends up with bad cases of fanboi-ism, attacking others for having chosen differently.

Now 2014 has three major contenders for the triple-A MMORPG crown of the year: The Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, and the WoW expansion Warlords of Draenor. How to choose? One option obviously is not making a choice at all, but rather playing a tourist: Play TESO a month or two from its release in April, switch to Wildstar in June, and end the year playing Warlords of Draenor when it comes out in "Fall 2014", "on or before December 20th". But maybe you don't want to play MMORPGs all year, or you would rather stick to one game longer.

Now while I have made a choice for myself, I am in no way a fanboi. In fact I would say that the three games have more similarities than differences. While the fans certainly will argue while this or that feature or detail makes their game far superior to the other choices, I think that if you regard the games with a bit less passion, you will find that they aren't all that different: They are all three quest-driven "themepark" MMORPGs, and they all are rather expensive with a box cost plus $15 monthly subscription cost. They all will offer features like housing, PvP, a solo PvE leveling game, and a collaborative PvE end game.

One factor in deciding for many people will be the novelty factor: TESO and Wildstar are new games, which can make them either more attractive or less attractive for some people than an expansion to a game that is going to celebrate it's 10th anniversary this year. Another factor is graphics style, and beauty is in they eye of the beholder there. But clearly Wildstar and WoW can be grouped together here in the colorful category, while The Elder Scrolls Online has a less colorful, but closer to photo-realistic look. Or you could choose a game based on what your friends play. In the end there are many possible criteria for choosing a game, sometimes down to minor details like only one of those games offering a particular race which just happens to be a big favorite with the person choosing.

Personally, apart from the "what my friends play" and preferred graphics style criteria, my biggest consideration was combat. Let's face it, most players spend a large majority of their time in these games in combat, or moving from one combat to the next. If you dislike the combat of a MMORPG, you won't stay long, which is for example what happened to me with LotRO, where all my love for the setting and my life-time subscription couldn't overcome my dislike for the combat system. Now overall I would say I prefer less twitchy combat, which would point towards World of Warcraft. But having already killed thousands and thousands of monsters in WoW, I grew somewhat bored of WoW combat. The Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar both have faster combat system, where you need to "aim" to some degree to hit somebody, instead of just target-locking on him. But to me (and other people) the TESO combat system felt somewhat "floaty", with not sufficient feedback on whether you were actually hitting your target and how hard. I much preferred combat in Wildstar, where both your and your enemies' attack zones are clearly painted on the ground, combat feels very immediate, and you get good feedback.

While I consider the feel of combat an important criterion of choice, it is obviously a problematic one if we consider the box purchase plus subscription pricing model. I had to get into the betas to find out which game I liked more. While that wasn't terribly hard, it is only an option during a limited window of time before release. Only World of Warcraft offers a free trial in which you could see for yourself whether you like the combat of the game or not. After release for the other two games it would cost you $60 just to find out whether you like combat and other features of the game which aren't obvious in screenshots and descriptions.

While they do tend towards a more passionate, less impartial view of games, I'd like to link to No Prisoners, No Mercy here, who write about an article in Forbes arguing that The Elder Scrolls Online should either have a box price or a subscription, but not both. What worked for World of Warcraft in 2004 will not obviously work as well for the new MMORPGs of 2014. Times have changed. People today complain loudly about an iOS/Android game costing $15, or a Free2Play game which expects you to pay $15 once to unlock something. So a $60 game with a $15 monthly subscription looks out of sync with the time and the spending habits of today.

That brings us to a last method of choosing a 2014 MMORPG: Don't play any of them in 2014. There is a significant probability that all three of these games, and yes, that includes World of Warcraft, will move away from the subscription pricing model in the years to come. I really wouldn't be surprised if by 2016 all three of them would be Free2Play. Which as we all know isn't really "free", but would at least allow you to play the game first and then decide whether you like it.

In the end you need to decide what exactly is important to you in a MMORPG, and make the choice based on your own criteria. I would say that all three games have their strong points and their weaknesses. They might well receive similar review scores. So in the end it might be helpful to keep in mind that you are really just choosing a game, and not a lifestyle. Respect those who made a different choice!

Comments:
Don't forget Final Fantasy 14 : A Realm Reborn. It is actually a pretty good game and sits nicely in between the cartoon-y look of WoW and WildStar and the photo realistic look of Elder Scrolls Online.


 
I'd guess that you won't have to wait until anything like 2015 to try ESO or WildStar before you buy. They'll both have some form of time-limited free trial long before that.

Anyway, I still haven't gotten around to either Age of Conan (of which I actually own a boxed copy, still unopened) or SW:ToR, to name but two major Western AAA MMOs, so there's no rush to get to those of this year's releases that don't particularly appeal.

Lot more MMOs out there than any of us will ever have time to play.


 
Don't forget Final Fantasy 14 : A Realm Reborn

I said THIS YEAR. FFXIV is a 2013 relaunch of a 2010 game, so it doesn't qualify. You can of course happily play older MMORPG all the way back to Ultima Online and Everquest, but that wasn't really the subject of my post.
 
I'd guess that you won't have to wait until anything like 2015 to try ESO or WildStar before you buy. They'll both have some form of time-limited free trial long before that.

The plan with Wildstar is still to have an open beta around a month before release.
 
The F2P idea is exactly the reason why I started with SWTOR this month.
So far I am enjoying it. And if it takes a bit longer, i will certainly make my payment to become preferred F2P customer with more right.
F2P also has the big advantage that I do not have to pay for a whole month, which does not make any sense when I hardly make more than 4hours/week.

 
A more promiscuous 2014 would be

Now: EQL with a side of SWTOR/Rift

April: TESO

June: Wildstar and at least check out SWTOR housing in their mini expansion

Sept(ish): WoD

Dec: SWTOR expansion

The optimistic might have a AA or EQN beta scheduled for the end of the year.

I.e. Instead of the attitude of five years ago where mine is the One True MMO and the rest are heretics to be scourged, one can look on them as episodic TV shows. In particular, one could feel TESO is the weakest of the 2014 choices and still feel like it is a reasonable choice for April and May. (Not for me, unlearning mouse movement does not seem worth the effort.)
 
Re combat: I see it a bit differently than you. Partly I have decided that combat while important is not in the top three reasons why I like a MMO - crafting, economy and exploration are all more important and gearing (stats not looks) is about the same. YMMV

I am used to WoW tab-targeting genre . I need to glance at the screen to make sure I am not standing in stuff but most of my attention is on button bars (DPS) and addons(healing) managing cooldowns, procs and healing recipients health.

All that being said, there are two amazing animations in SWTOR:

Death From Above where the bounty hunter rises up and AOEs with much blasting.

Dirty Kick - the recipient doubles over but the testicle crunch sound effect is what sells it.


 
As I have argued before, I think the issue with WoW turning Free2Play is one of scale. When a game turns Free2Play, their revenue per player drops substantially, but they hope to make up the difference by adding 3-5 times as many players.

This is a perfectly reasonable prospect for a lot of games. Particularly games that launched well but have since fallen off, and now already have plenty of excess server capacity sitting around unused.

But this does not (yet) apply to WoW. Are there 30-50 million potential WoW players waiting in the wings? I honestly don't know, but I have my doubts, and I'm sure more than a few executives at Blizzard do as well. Their server infrastructure certainly isn't prepared for it, especially given the large and unpredictable range.

Keep in mind, WoW already HAS a cash shop. The decision to go Free2Play would not add new revenue types, but would lose that guaranteed $15 a month. It would mean hoping to make up that revenue with sheer volume.

I think WoW going Free2Play will only happen when a return to 15 million players under the Free2Play business model becomes attractive. We are slowly heading there, but not in the next few years.
 
The more MMORPGs there are out there that do not have a subscription, the harder it becomes to sustain that model. People will compare the games of 2014 with previous games which are either box-sale only or Free2Play, like Guild Wars 2 or Star Wars: The Old Republic, and find that the new games are NOT $15 a month better than the free ones.

At some point that market pressure will even reach World of Warcraft. It is very hard to compete against "free".
 
There's also Titan to consider.

A F2P Wow would probably suck all the oxygen out of the environment for Titan, which had better be just amazeballs in the first place. If it's remotely World of Starcraft and WOW is out there being free, it's game over.

 
I think I'll be trying out TESO as a regular game rather than as just beta testing once a month. Wildstar doesn't appeal to me in the least. Every video and screen shot I've seen of it looks garish and ugly too me.
 
"It is very hard to compete against "free"."

1. No it's not, I pay for most everything I consume: housing, transportation, food, etc, because the free options suck( which is why they are free). In the world of MMO's, 15$ is so cheap that I could justify spending that much just to weed out the people who would only play for free from the social environment of the game.

2. free2play isn't actually 'free', so even if 1. weren't true, your statement still doesn't apply.
 
@Hagu - SWTOR has some of the best animations/sound effects. Of particular note is the Sith Warrior's charge/leap, slam, and roar. The roar sounds like a freakin' lion or something and is amazing. Playing a Jedi Knight after a warrior is an exercise in disappointment.
 
because the free options suck

I would find it very hard to compare SWTOR and TESO side by side and come up with the conclusion that "the free option sucks".
 
"because the free options suck"

I would find it very hard to compare SWTOR and TESO side by side and come up with the conclusion that "the free option sucks"."

Holy out-of-context quote, batman! The quote you are responding to is specifically limited to housing/food/transportation, where the free options do indeed suck--if you feel otherwise and have a lot of experience with subsisting wholly on free housing and food, feel free to share. Perhaps it's different where you live than where I do. Perhaps you feel that mentioning rent was taking your original quote out of context? If that wasn't clear, let me clarify: I respond "for everything other than video games that I spend money on, competing with free is very easy, look at x/y/z", where I choose x,y, and z to be things I'm reasonably sure you spend thousands of dollars/Euros/etc every year, and where people do exist spending nothing on x/y/z but live miserable short lives as a result. Now, you say "but I was talking only about video games, not all that other stuff"; to which I reply "but video games are so cheap compared to that other stuff, that competing with free is made easy not by the low quality of the free, or fake-free, options, but by the small increment in cost between the two". This version is quite lengthy, which is why I omitted it earlier in the interests of brevity.

Let me give another example of why I think it is easy to compete with free: the immediate environs surrounding my house contain many vineyards from which wine costing hundreds of dollars/euros per bottle is made. The people buying this wine would never drink wine below a certain price level; it would damage their self-image. Offering goods for free is one business model(not a very good one); offering goods for a premium high enough to create added value in the mind of the consumer is another(a much better one). Pretending to offer goods for free, but actually charging a premium price to get the goods you thought you were getting in the first place, is yet another business model. Before my response to your statement that "it's hard to compete with 'free'" was "no, it's not, it's easy"; but I think I would like to amend that to "these business models aren't actually competing with each other, they're aimed at different markets".

Furthermore, as both you and I have already stated, neither SW:TOR nor TESO is really free. ("Free2Play. Which as we all know isn't really "free", "-Tobold Stoutfoot; in the original blogpost) If I were to compare SW:TOR at the sub price, to someone playing SW:TOR while refusing to pay any money whatsover, then I would find it very very easy indeed to say that the "Free Option" sucks; because I have actually done both, and the game they deliver to players who pay nothing definitely sucks. It's deliberately crippled annoyware which doesn't deliver any of the content that I actually enjoy. I haven't played TESO yet, because it has yet to be released(and I don't think it's fair to judge games in prerelease state versus games which have been out for years)--but that doesn't really matter, as I never made any claims that state or imply that all sub MMOs are a priori superior to any fake-free, or F2P as you like to call them, MMOS: that would be a foolish claim indeed.
 
the small increment in cost between the two

I find that a much better argument than the "the free option sucks" short form.

There is just one problem with your argument here: Let us consider the cost of a box price + subscription game to be roughly $200 per year. From your statement I can see that you consider this a "small increment". I am in the same situation where $200 per year would not be keeping me from playing a game if I wanted to. But I wouldn't generalize that assessment.

I can very well imagine people for whom $200 per year makes a difference and is not at all a "small increment". That can be related both to household income and to age: Even in a middle-class household a teenager hasn't necessarily $200 to burn.

It's deliberately crippled annoyware which doesn't deliver any of the content that I actually enjoy.

Again this is just your personal impression. In a mobile game which only has one mode of gameplay, it is rather easy to create "crippled annoyware" which forces people to pay up to be able to do anything. In a MMORPG, where there are many different modes of play, that isn't quite so obvious. For example I would consider the strength of SWTOR to be the story of the leveling game, which isn't crippled at all for free players. Most of the crippled stuff touches mostly the competitive players, while the non-competitive casual players are much less affected.
 
p.s. A clarification which involves a hypothetical exchange, written at 3 am local time, seems to have ended up being a bit of an oxymoron, but hopefully the intended message is still there. tl;dr version: competing with free is not just easy, but smart; while fortunes have been made selling cheap goods cheaply, the biggest fortunes have generally been made selling quality goods for large markups. richest men in the world, largest market capitalizations of corporations; the top spots aren't held down by those who gave their products away. I'm not just predicting a vibrant subscription market 5 years down the road, but I'm predicting that the next breakthrough in sub gaming is a company figuring out how to offer premium subscriptions for 50-100$ a month, and make that seem not just worth it, but a status symbol.

"But I wouldn't generalize that assessment...Again this is just your personal impression."

Yes, that's true; above is a response which takes the next step beyond personal impression.
 
What I'm talking about, ideally, is a model which combines the best parts of subs and F2P, really. From subs I take the principle that we're selling you levels of access, not freedom from annoyance. From 'F2P', paradoxically considering the name, we take the principle of tiering pricing to acquire the most revenue. But we're not charging the whales hundreds/thousands of dollars in irrelevant crap like gambling boxes and XP boosts to skip over the game, we're selling real ingame power and status, special classes and roles only available to those special payers. Of course, there has to be areas where the lower payers can compete without the higher payers being involved, so that they feel like they're both getting a deal and are somehow superior in skill. E.g. : Imagine WoW, where the vanilla classes are playable for 10$ a month, and then hero classes like DK, and some new ones, are playable for 100$ a month. For some content, more casual content, either can participate freely. There's some competitive content which is available to each; and then in the highest levels of end-game raiding, your raid consists of exactly 18 basic players and exactly 2 hero players. Twist: let people play for the basic fee, and if they can accumulate enough ingame currency, they can upgrade to the hero class on a monthly basis using a system like PLEX in EVE. Would this be pay2win? Yes...but it would be upfront about it, and in a way in which those playing for the cheaper price would be enabled to feel superior about it; while those playing for the higher price would have real and significant superior attributes and roles to show for it. Pay2win has a horrible reputation right now, but that's because it's been done so badly and dishonestly; not because the majority of people fundamentally believe that money shouldn't be able to buy things. This example isn't intended as a pipe dream; it's intended to show that the dichotomy between sub and F2P games which people spend so much time arguing about is a false one, which is already becoming evident due to hybrid forms which are the first step towards the model which I presented here.
 
Pay2win has a horrible reputation right now, but that's because it's been done so badly and dishonestly; not because the majority of people fundamentally believe that money shouldn't be able to buy things.

I am not convinced. From all what I have read about the "whales" of current Free2Play games, they already think about it as being a status symbol. The people who complain about Free2Play are *NOT* those who pay, but the ones that see other people paying and receiving status symbols for that payment.

Ultimately everything is Pay2Win, because in every game that isn't gambling, status is the only thing you CAN win. So buying a status symbol is Pay2Win.
 
What if you think having fun is winning?
 
Titan was restarted so it will be a long time for that. If it even happens - does ATVI see Destiny, CoD, HotS & HS as where they want to invest?
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Re Mike Andrade - but how much do you pay for on the internet versus free? Google/Bing/Yahoo, SkyDrive, Evernote, Chrome, FoxFire ... It is a real problem for not only game companies but content sites that "free" is an expectation in the digital world. In particular, there are approaching a million games and almost all are mobile with some sort of "free" model.
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Even if your "one MMO to take to a dessert isle" was WoW (WoW>SWTOR), one could decide to play SWTOR and Rift and LotRO and ... over the next year whenever they have new content, spend less and always be seeing new content while WoW is providing nothing for 12 months.
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@Samus - I think WoW will resist f2p "because you can't fundamentally change a MMO after launch" even if they would prefer to be f2p. Also note that "half" of the WoW numbers are people playing in Asian cafes with time cards, not subscribers. And WoW announced that they hit over 100 million accounts. Jeremy at Wildstar said their target is not WoW players, it is former WoW players.
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@Cam SW is great as well. I find the sound effects in SWTOR to be noticeably better.



 
I was just wondering why somebody would happily pay $200 a year for a subscription MMORPG, but be outraged if a Free2Play MMORPG needed about $200 per year to unlock the equivalent content and progression speed,
 
@Tobold: That's cool, I'm not trying to convince you as goal #1, my first goal here is making a decent prediction. That said, obviously the current whales are happy with what they're doing, or they wouldn't keep paying. The goal of this system isn't to make the people who are currently whales even whalier, it's to maximize the size of both the potential premium and basic subscriber pools. The main difficulty there is indeed exactly :"The people who complain about Free2Play are *NOT* those who pay, but the ones that see other people paying and receiving status symbols for that payment.", designing the game so that those people feel like they're being smart and thrifty for playing for cheaper, is the harder task facing game designers contemplating this type of tiering. Ideally each pool of players feels that the other pool is the one getting a worse deal. Looking at ways to accomplish this, one naturally looks at models in the real world which use a subscription tiering method. You put the necessities at the bottom, decreasing marginal utility and increasing proportion of status symbols as you go up the tiers.

Here's a question for you: which is more likely, in your mind, that an MMO will come out with tiered subscription pricing soon, or that something in the real world that currently uses tiered subscription pricing, like say, cable TV, will refactor their pricing model into a free2watch model where they supply some shows for free, but to watch the shows you really want to see they'll gouge you, trying to turn heavy TV Watchers into whales paying thousands of dollars per month? If you think the latter transformation is infeasible, then you're on your way to understanding the basic problem with the whale hunting model. If you think the latter transformation is more likely, then we'll have to agree to disagree, and wait to see which wins in the marketplace over time.

Also, please note that this basic idea is not mine, but came from the famous novelist Neal Stephenson, as the setting for his novel 'reamde'; my original contribution is just tweaking the idea into the form I'm predicting as most likely to hit within 5 years.

@Hagu: "but how much do you pay for on the internet versus free?" In addition to paying for internet access, I currently have subscriptions to Netflix streaming, WoW, and EVE. What do I consume for free? Google, blogs like this one, some other reference/informational sites. So, by analogy to 30 years ago, I'm paying for movies and gaming, entertainment (I don't consume any free internet gaming because most of it doesn't have that much replay value for me, though I play some for a short period of time when it comes out), and I'm using the library and phone book for free. I'm not seeing any difference between the Internet and how it would have been before the Internet here: the Internet has made searching for information much faster and broader, but it hasn't really made it more free; it was already as free as it can be. I understand that a lot of people are playing free games on their phones, but those are people who wouldn't have paid for gaming before either. serious gamers are still serious gamers, candy crush is siphoning people away from solitaire or watching TV, not from Call of Duty.
 
@Tobold: "I was just wondering why somebody would happily pay $200 a year for a subscription MMORPG, but be outraged if a Free2Play MMORPG needed about $200 per year to unlock the equivalent content and progression speed"

I thought I'd already answered that question, but specifically: People are outraged because in the first case the deal is: here, this costs 180$, divided up into monthly payments of 15$, if you decide you don't like the deal anymore you can quit at any time, forfeiting the rest of that month's payment. The deal in the second case is : Here's a game, I'm pretending it's free; but I'm going to annoy and bug you constantly to pay as much as I can get you to pay by annoying you. Most of the things you expect to exist in this genre of game won't be available to you unless you pay as much or more as you would have ended up paying under the old subscription model.

Am I outraged by the existence of such games? No, but I was indeed outraged the first time I played one, because I felt that I had been lied to. Is it possible that you are mistaking the latter type of outrage here for the first?
 
p.s.: What's the game that people most often refer to when they talk about going F2P increasing revenue? SW:TOR. What does F2P mean in the context of SW:TOR? There's a free demo version, you can still subscribe, and there's a number of cosmetic and gambling options available to subscribers(everyone, but mainly subscribers actually use those options in my experience) if they pay extra money. In my estimation, derived from looking at their figures, and from my own personal experience playing SW:TOR in a large guild and talking to many other players, about 10% or less of the revenue of SW:TOR after the conversion comes from players without a subscription, about 60% comes from sub fees, and the remaining 30-40% comes from subscribers who are paying extra to gamble and buy pretty dresses. In this case, which is trumpeted as the premier success story for F2PMMO's, Free to play translates to "We'll keep charging you a subscription, and we'll also charge you for extra cosmetic and gambling items as well, so that we can tap into the whale market, and we'll call the whole thing F2P by putting in a severely nerfed demo mode"--and with 90%+ of the revenue after the transition coming from subscribers, it's still very very much a subscriber game. (I couldn't find actual data supporting or disproving my napkin math here, I think SW:TOR is keeping that information under wraps, but that's my personal perception. I haven't seen anyone else make a different estimation, they just see that SW:TOR calls themselves F2P and stop there)

The thing is, you keep predicting WoW's eventual transition to F2P, but if you allow the above business model to call themselves F2P without objection, then there's really no reason not to call WoW F2P right now! WoW implemented an enlarged demo mode some 5 years ago, and they have a cash shop where subscribers can buy cosmetic gear. Seems close enough to me.

so, another answer to your question above as to why some gamers prefer the sub model to F2P: If F2p comes to mean "you still pay the sub fee, plus we'll increase revenue by selling gambling boxes which contain usable epic loot", why in the heck wouldn't gamers prefer the former? Gambling exploits a vulnerability in the human brain, it's not pleasant to witness. You might as well ask "What's your objection to going out to eat at a restaurant that also serves cocaine and heroin?" My objection is to the cocaine and the heroin, thank you very much.
 
I was indeed outraged the first time I played one, because I felt that I had been lied to.

That is probably the difference between us. I never felt "lied to". Do you know when I played my first Free2Play game? Back in the 80's! Back then they were called "Shareware", but they already had those nag screens and all. To me they always looked like a much better deal than the alternative of "pay me first, find out whether the game is any good later".
 
My objection is to the cocaine and the heroin, thank you very much.

So I assume you also object to shopping malls with their horrible "Free entry" system, which is a lie, because behind the facade there is the same cocoine and heroin of temptation of the consumer society, just trying to get you to spend all of your money.
 
I'm old enough to remember shareware, and to have bought my share of it; I don't agree that shareware is akin to modern 'free2play'. My recollection is that shareware in the 80's was much more honest about it; if it was actually a free game with a nag screen at loadup, it would say so, and politely ask for money if you enjoyed it. If it was a limited demo, it would (usually) say so, quite clearly, on the install screen. It's true, though, sometimes they would spring a surprise limit on you, which I found annoying, but that was generally just the creator neglecting to provide any written documentation at all, not him intentionally describing the game misleadingly. As I describe above, modern F2P, instead of being like 80's shareware, is more and more becoming 'sub model with a cash shop and a limited demo version'.

"So I assume you also object to shopping malls with their horrible "Free entry" system, which is a lie, because behind the facade there is the same cocoine and heroin of temptation of the consumer society, just trying to get you to spend all of your money."

What? I mean...yes, I avoid shopping malls, but no, they don't advertise using the phrase 'free entry'; at least they don't here in California. If they did, I would find that annoying, but I couldn't avoid them much more than I already do.
 
p.s. (sorry for all the p.s.'s, but there doesn't seem to be an edit function) This isn't about 'objecting' to f2p, or shopping malls, this is about objectively describing the current state of affairs, and objectively predicting what is to come. I personally 'object' to gambling, but I objectively predict more and more casinos will be built in the next 20 years near me. In the same way, I'm not predicting that F2P will die off, but I am predicting that F2P won't kill off the sub model; in the same way that casinos aren't killing off movie theaters: they're not actually in competition, and it's possible for one thing to be both.

I don't really understand the shopping mall analogy; I've had friends die or end up in prison due to cocaine and heroin use. The analogy to that in shopping would be a shopaholic who destroys their life through buying too much; my personal experience has been that anyone I know with that particular pathology is much more vulnerable to weird deals and internet sites than to malls. Do you know someone who destroyed their life via shopping at malls, specifically, or was that a reach to bring in the 'free entry' analogy, which doesn't really make sense to me because all of the other shopping options have 'free entry' as well, and none of them mention it to mislead shoppers in an analogous way to F2P games.
 
I've had friends die or end up in prison due to cocaine and heroin use.

If that is the case then how can you compare an "addictive Free2Play game" with cocaine and heroin? How many of your friends died or ended up in prison due to Free2Play games? I do object to this completely invalid comparison. An addiction to virtual items is much closer to a shopping addiction than to a REAL addiction to drugs.
 
How can I compare the two? Hopefully I can compare them intelligently, with enough finesse to realize that useful comparisons must be between things which are different, as comparing things which are exactly equal tells us nothing; but not between things which are too different, because then the applicability of the analogy drops to zero.

"I do object to this completely invalid comparison."

That's fine, you can object to whatever you want to object to. As above, comparisons operate on a graduated scale, where the more different things are, the more powerful the analogies are, but with a corresponding lack of applicability. I'll attempt to explain the reasoning behind this comparison more fully; you're free to continue to object, or not, but the truth of the comparison exists regardless of your objections or acceptance, or mine either.

Because gambling is not as powerful, though it acts on the same areas of the brain, it's more socially acceptable and therefore you're much more likely to end up sitting next to gambling machines at a restaurant (which I have done, many times), than you are to sit next to cocaine vending machine. In this case, the fact that cocaine is 'worse', in some respect, also makes it better in another respect, in that you don't have to worry before sitting down at a restaurant whether there will be said machines in your line of sight, and the accompanying changes to the clientele of said restaurant.

In the same fashion, the fact that cocaine is more addictive and more destructive than gambling boxes in the gaming format, carries the compensatory benefit that I don't have to worry about Blizzard trying to sell me a literal blizzard of white powder. That's the point I'm making by bringing up drugs, that gambling is similar, and more problematic in the F2P world, because it's not as bad as drugs, while being just 'not bad enough' to be legal enough to be a common and open issue.

"An addiction to virtual items is much closer to a shopping addiction than to a REAL addiction to drugs."

Yes, I completely agree with that, but virtual items addiction and shopping addictions are both addictions to LEGAL things, and so that comparison lacks the illustrative power gained by comparing it to something which is illegal but otherwise similar, in that the way in which legal and illegal items affect our daily life is different.
 
That is exactly the point of my objection: You don't like Free2Play, and you have all the right to do so. But you invalidate your argument by making outrageous claims that Free2Play games are like heroin and cocaine. That is just sensationalist hogwash, on which no intelligent discussion can be based. What am I supposed to answer to such nonsense? Tell everybody how the subscription business model is like child pornography?
 
p.s. this two-dimensional interaction between severity and commonality is a very common one in this world. Let's look at diseases: which is worse, Ebola, or the common flu?

Ebola: Total death toll 1230, or 36 deaths per year since 1976, according to the CDC.

Flu: According the CDC, the estimated death toll to the common seasonal flu has ranged between 3000 and 49000 per year, depending on the severity of each year's pathogens.

Ebola is a much more deadly disease, so deadly that people die of it before they can travel widely and spread the epidemic throughout nations--which paradoxically has the effect that the death toll from a much more mild illness, the flu, is multiple orders of magnitude higher each year.

Simply refusing to compare Ebola and the flu, using common sense and/or mathematical techniques, because they are "so different", would not be sensible. Do I know people who have died to the common flu? Yes. Do I know anyone who's died from Ebola? No. then- "How can I compare the two?" With as much intelligence and finesse as possible, just like any other comparison.

"But you invalidate your argument by making outrageous claims that Free2Play games are like heroin and cocaine. That is just sensationalist hogwash, on which no intelligent discussion can be based."

Gambling in games is indeed like heroin and cocaine, although it's different enough that I would only make the comparison in a limited way. I would retort that isolating that comparison from the context is the 'sensationalist hogwash' here, but at that point we're already at the end of civil discourse. I'm sorry that this discussion has ended so unpleasantly, but I don't regret making the common and useful comparison between gambling and illegal drugs; I am sorry to discover that this has pushed your buttons somehow. Thanks for the discussion.


 
One last postscript: " Tell everybody how the subscription business model is like child pornography?"

Is it? If it is, then you should, if it's not, then you shouldn't. Quite simple.

Where you could have gone, instead of meaningless tangents about child porn, would be to compare subscription games to gambling, in their design and implementation, with particular attention to intended neurological effects of gameplay. At which point I would have agreed that the analogy was telling, and this would have returned the argument back to my original contention that F2P and sub games are a false dichotomy, slowly merging into each other, not competing with each other, both attempting to be as much like cocaine as possible. Another reason to compare sub and F2p games, both of them, to cocaine--players of these commonly do indeed refer to them as such, haven't you ever heard of the term EverCrack to apply to Everquest, etc? This comparison has been around for decades, between games and drugs directly; you can call it nonsense if you want, but that doesn't change the facts.
 
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/everquest-or-evercrack/ from 2002.
 
some random guy named tobold comparing drugs to virtual goods in an MMO: http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2008/03/sex-drugs-and-rmt.html
 
@Mike - for free internet, I also meant things like local newspapers, Time Magazine, Newsweek, NYT, Boston Globe, Washington post - all these (still in business) are in real trouble because people don't currently accept for paying for Internet info. I see a huge difference - The Boston Globe was worth a billion dollars not that many decades ago and sold for essentially net nothing. Same for Washington Post. I do think that technology is if not killing off movie theaters it is greatly shrinking them.

I do see a very tiered TV system where I can watch free TV (the lowest rated free TV had many more viewers than the Sopranos) over the air or on the internet. There is a government-pushed affordable tier but then once you add in ESPN, BBC, HBO, SHO, SEC, cable bills can get well above $50/month.

You can claim Candy Crush is not siphoning off customers from CoD. I claim that the MBAs in gaming and venture capital companies who look at the mobile market are increasingly and far more likely to invest in a new mobile game rather than a new CoD. (Well CoD and WoW have brands-I meant the wanna-bes) Just how many

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/02/01/1-simple-chart-that-proves-the-pc-is-dead.aspx

do the executives see before they decide they want to be in mobile not some always failing sub MMO market. And once you are mobile, you are very likely to be free-something-or-other.

---

Every subscription MMO I know of has a cash shop and a button in game to spend it on. Once the sub people internalize that the sub does not mean you get all content, not everyone is equal, and you are not spared The Button, will support wane? WoW and EVE may live out their lives with a sub and cash shop, but I think I know what is coming for TESO and Wildstar.

(P.S. Don't tell anyone but the SWTOR model seems about the best monitization model I have seen but the internet hates on it. I am not sure Rift gives the player enough reasons to subscribe; SWTOR pushes them harder.)

 
@Hagu:
SW:TOR has a subscription and a cash shop too...I'm not sure what you're saying exactly. It sounds like we mostly agree, sub games are getting cash shops, F2P games are offering a sub option, and they're meeting in the middle. Yes/no?

"You can claim Candy Crush is not siphoning off customers from CoD. I claim that the MBAs in gaming and venture capital companies who look at the mobile market are increasingly and far more likely to invest in a new mobile game rather than a new CoD. "

The new CoD, made by the people who made CoD, is called Titanfall. It's doing amazing right now, just came out: http://www.nowgamer.com/news/2323241/xbox_one_titanfall_boosts_sales_by_96.html It's singlehandedly selling crazy numbers of xbox1's right now. I have friends who work as mobile game developers, they all tell me about how it's the new big segment, and then they go home to their expensive desktop systems and play real games, this is true of 100% of them. I'm not saying they, or you, are wrong; I'm saying the number of people who play mobile games doesn't affect me in any way whatsoever; the only thing that can affect my gaming habits is if people actually stop making these games for desktop PCs. Is that your prediction for the next few years, that in 3-4 years there won't be a single desktop MMO left? I suspect that the more niche the desktop gaming market becomes, the happier I will be--I like niche games.

"The Boston Globe was worth a billion dollars not that many decades ago and sold for essentially net nothing. Same for Washington Post. I do think that technology is if not killing off movie theaters it is greatly shrinking them."

I believe I addressed this already; newspapers are something that you can read in the library. The internet has replaced information sources. I'm young enough that this doesn't bother me, apparently--as to movie theaters, the number of movie screens within 15 minutes of my house is still going up, as it has been for the last 4 decades. Perhaps this is different where you live, I live near San Francisco. We love movies?

I want to take a second to go back to your link from fool.com. It has various graphs about 'computing devices'. These graphs are cherry picked to prove a point; if you were to include all microprocessors, in your microwave, car, xbox1, etc, the graphs would look even more dire for the computer. But wait, a desktop computer consists of a huge number of chips and cores, maybe we should count all of those? In my computers I have 24 cores of CPU, plus another ~500-700 graphical cores? Where's the graph showing all of those? And what does that graph mean? At some point, we'll all be wearing computers in our glasses, which are powerful enough to run any kind of game we want to. In that timescale, yes, the desktop computer is doomed. But what does that really mean?

Mobile games are free, because the type of game you can easily deliver on current mobile technology is suited to that price model; if one half of that equation changes, why wouldn't the other? It's not just about processing power, it's about size of screen and ability to make precise control inputs. If you imagine a world where phones are 100x as powerful, but no control input advances have been made, then you'd come home, hook up your phone to your 60 inch TV, and use a bluetooth keyboard to control your phone to play a massively detailed game over the existing wired internet. Sure, you're 'using your phone', but everything else about the experience is like the current experience, nothing of real interest has changed, and extending the current 'mobile pricing schemes' to that experience doesn't make sense.
 
Of course one can talk about games and addiction. But there is no simple black & white, either something is addictive or not, about these things. It is a large scale.

And on this scale an "addiction" to Free2Play items is very close to an addiction to shopping, or an addiction to chocolate, or an addiction to a TV series. And very, very, very far from an addiction to heroin and cocaine.

We grow up in a world where every single day somebody wants to sell us useless stuff. There are handbags that sell for over $1000. There are shopping channels on TV that only sell junk. There is advertising everywhere we look. And because of that we all grow resistant to that permanent temptation. That makes yet another temptation to spend your money on useless stuff rather harmless.

And sorry, Free2Play games are in no way more addictive than other models. How could you possibly argue that the addictiveness of SWTOR would change when its business model changes? For every hypothetical sob story you can tell me about somebody spending too much money on a Free2Play game, I can tell you a story of the unemployed guy wasting his time on a subscription game instead of searching for a job, or the student failing his exams because of a subscription game. In fact previous discussion of addiction to MMOs on this blog is pretty much exclusively about those addictive subscription MMOs.
 
1st paragraph--I agree.

2nd paragraph--This branch of the discussion is very, very, very, far removed from your Original Post; and I'm very, very, very far from being interested in continuing this particular subject.

3rd paragraph--I agree.

4th paragraph--I couldn't, wouldn't, and didn't, argue that the addictiveness of SWTOR would change when its business model changed. Yes, I agree with you, addiction in sub games functions similarly to addiction in F2P games, I already made this point a few hours ago.

So, looks like we're largely in agreement. Thanks again.
 
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