Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
What do you think of hybrid business models?

Carbine announced that they are "rethinking" the business model of Wildstar. Most people interpret that as switching to some sort of Free2Play model. Theoretically a MMORPG could switch to a "buy-once-play-forever" business model like Guild Wars 2; but such a "conversion" basically would just mean dropping the monthly fee. That would sure be popular, but it is hard to imagine that the added income from people who only waited for the subscription to disappear before buying the game would make up for the loss of revenue. So some sort of Free2Play is more likely.

Now several games which have made such a switch went for a hybrid model: The game goes free, but free players suffer from certain restrictions, for example on inventory space or number of characters. There is still an optional subscription, and if you buy that, the restrictions don't apply to you. Such a subscription might also include a certain amount of a special currency usable to buy items in the real money item shop.

I was wondering what people are thinking about this hybrid model. Is it the best of two worlds, giving the players who prefer a subscription game all the options of a subscription model, while giving the players who prefer Free2Play all the options of a Free2Play model? Or is it a bad compromise that makes nobody really happy?

SWTOR model which you clearly refer to is good enough for the free player because the best content of SWTOR (class stories) are available for free, and some F2P restrictions are easily removed with non-premium currency.

F2P restrictions also "protect" casual free players from meaningless raiding and warzone grinds.
Hybrid is good as long as you are not forced to pay to actually keep playing as much as you want. Energy bars for example are annoying as hell.

Let me play when and how I want. Limit my power, my gold income, whatever. But don't "stop" me.
I quite like the model in Twinoid's Mush, where if you pay at least once you get a useful permanent bonus.
I like the SWTOR model and SWTOR; same for LotRO. it's unclear how much liking the games informs my feelings toward the business model. I like Rift but IMO their method might be too generous for the players.


IMO, this and virtually all AAA MMOs should be f2p.

An interesting question is:

did Carbine expect they almost certainly going to go f2p and somewhat cynically wanted the extra $60 box and months of sub before the conversion


did they believe their hardcore! focus was going to be successful?

I hope it was the former but think it may have been the latter.
Although I didn't play it very long I think the price structure of Dungeons & Dragons Online is OK.

You can choose to pay a monthly subscription for VIP status that gives you access to all current and new content.

Or you can purchase new content in chuncks as big as you want. There are often new dungeons and raids. Once you buy a raid you can play it forever.

On top of that an item shop (you get some free currency every month with your subscription or once with every purchase purchase).
I'll be honest. I continue to play WoW because there are so many other people to play with. If my guild goes tits up, I can find another one. If I have to change my raiding schedule, there's a raid out there with the schedule that I need.

Various hybrid pay models are fine, but I want many people to play with.
I'm thinking of Rift when you talk about this. I like it because I'm willing to pay money to get full features, and play for free people keep populations up and make the game feel better.

If I weren't willing or able to pay anyway, I'm not sure whether it would make me happy to be a second class citizen of the game. But I am willing, and other people seem ok with playing a limited game for free, so I don't worry about it.
All I know is the SWTOR model is so brutal it's not functionally F2P at all. I played when the game originally came out and when I went to return 6 months go and see if I could get back into it, it took about 3 hours "playing" it free to convince me that it wasn't for me. I've never seen a F2P cash shop game so limited.
I think examples of the hybrid system run the gamut from restrictive—punitive even—for non-subscribers to reasonable enough that it almost seems pointless to subscribe at all other than to feel good about keeping the devs afloat. I like the systems of Rift and TSW (actually, box+) and have periodically paid the subscription for both.
TSW is probably my favorite hybrid model. you do have to buy a game, but once you did - base game is yours for the taking. any extras? story modules, cute outfits, etc- those cost extra. it encourages you to subscribe, without being punishing if you don't.

SWTOR is my primary MMO and as much as I like it, f2p model is... well... to be perfectly honest, this game is not f2p, its free to try. sure you can see all 8 original stories for free and you can even experience a little bit of pvp and flashpoints. but even with all possible unlocks (which I have on my account and my husband's account) - its just... so many quality of life features are missing. its possible to play for free, but its just not as fun. (my least favorite restriction is the fact that you cannot get quest boxes as f2p. they are unavailable, unopenable and that includes things as simple as starter gear for your companion)
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