Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
 
It's your fault

SOE has been sold to an investment company and renamed to Daybreak Game Company. While the official press release is "pleased to announce" their future as "independent game development studio", the reactions from the blogosphere are less optimistic. Investment companies don't buy game development studios because of their heartfelt belief in the value of good games. They buy them to make money. SOE made $60 million of losses last year, it sounds unlikely that the investment company bought them to continue exactly like before.

The latest headlines about SOE before that were all about gamers complaining about various monetization ideas SOE had, e.g. the H1Z1 airdrops, or Planetside 2 being called Pay2Win. Basically people would like to play some of SOE's games, but they don't want to pay for them; they don't even want to allow other people to pay the games, not if those payments result in any nice rewards for those who pay. This is exactly the customer attitude that will kill a lot of game studios.

I am sick and tired of entitlement kids complaining about "Pay2Win", only to then complain some more when a game gets shut down. If you don't contribute enough money for a game to survive, but are contributing to the game's "bad press" by complaining about its monetization, the resulting failure of the game or studio is your fault. SOE will either have to shut down some expensive long-term projects like EQ Next, or it has to monetize its games even more aggressively to pay for those development projects. Game companies aren't charities, and if Sony ran SOE like one, they were negligent in their fiduciary duty towards their shareholders.

"We want great games, and we want them for free!" is just plain stupid. We need to encourage game studios to make money with their games if we like those games and want those studios and games to still be around tomorrow.

Comments:
I want great games, I'm ready to pay for them, but I don't want games where people who pay more pwn me and I pwn those who pay less.

I positively loved World of Tanks, until I realized that my performance has little effect on my results, my payment does. http://greedygoblin.blogspot.hu/2012/02/microtransactions-pay-to-cheat.html

If there would be a "subscription" WoT server where you have to pay $50/month but you cannot pay more and the matchmaking system is transparent, I would pay $50/month. I don't pay a dime to current WoT and I don't play it either.

The problem is that game studios got greedy and instead of having 300K subscriptions like EVE, they want 100M "players" and lot of money from the whales. When they instead get bad press and no money, they get mad.


 
If there would be a "subscription" WoT server where you have to pay $50/month but you cannot pay more and the matchmaking system is transparent, I would pay $50/month.

I doubt that server would get even enough players for a single 15 vs. 15 match together. Even a $15 subscription today is a hard sell, just ask The Elder Scrolls Online.

The problem is that game studios got greedy and instead of having 300K subscriptions like EVE, they want 100M "players" and lot of money from the whales.

With the money you get from 300K subscribers, you can finance "Excel in space". You can't finance the development cost of a modern triple A MMORPG. Read all the press declarations from game companies saying why their MMORPG absolutely needs a subscription model, only to backpedal a year later to switch to Free2Play. They switch because subscription isn't a viable option any more.
 
"Even a $15 subscription today is a hard sell, just ask The Elder Scrolls Online."

Or you could ask FFXIV about it, but you won't like the answer.

Also notice that P4P games are shutting down, while games that do F2P right like LoL/DoTA2 continue to prosper. It's not about kids, its about kids, adults, and basically everyone else but a small pocket of foolish whales avoiding wallet-warrior games in favor of better products.

SOE being sold is the latest and perhaps greatest indicator that P4P is a short-term boost, long-term dead end.
 
I agree with you that developer need to make money, and if they choose the F2P business model, they need to sell interesting object for the player to pay.

But the basis of the F2P model is that it is fun and easy to play the game for free, until you are invested or rich enough to pay for it. If you make your free player suffering too much, you are losing the advantage of being F2P.

Pay4Power or Pay2Win cna be OK if the non paying player does not suffer too much. Providing weapon to the paying player whereas the free one play the sheep is not a good way to make those free one being invested.
 
Or you could ask FFXIV about it, but you won't like the answer.

FFXIV is a prestige project. Considering the money they lost by basically creating the game twice before they got it remotely right, I very much doubt that they have recovered their development cost yet. They made $65 million of profit from FFXIV, but that is just revenue minus operating cost, and doesn't reflect the development cost. It'll take them years to break even.
 
As I mentioned on my post on the subject, SOE's financial loss last year had much more to do with shuttering four MMOs than anything.

That said, developers are not entitled to bad business models succeeding. PlanetSide 2 went from a population of 25 full servers down to 4 long before the P2W conversation shifted against them via Implants. That's on SOE, especially given the lethargic rate at which they fixed bugs and, you know, finished the rest of the game. PS2 is over two years old and there's still no endgame, no metagame, and zero sense that any of it will be implemented.

There are plenty of examples of companies succeeding with F2P, B2P, and many in between. That SOE is struggling (assuming they are in the first place, and not Sony raising cash) has zero to do with us as consumers. They are not entitled to our money - they need to earn it, just like everyone else.
 
There is a false equivalency in your post there, the assumption that we as players have to meet SOE half way or that we owe them something.

We do not.

SOE... now Daybreak... is a company in business making products that it hopes to sell to people. Their job is to come up with products at prices that people will buy. If they create products people do not like or price them incorrectly for their market, blaming the customers who complain and refuse to buy is simply wrong.

I am happy enough to put my money towards products I enjoy. I am even now subscribed to SOE All Access because I was playing EQII over the holidays, though that is about to lapse because I stopped. But implying that I owe Daybreak any more than that is silly. And saying that badmouthing SOE caused their sale... well, I think you overestimate our influence... plus I refer you to SOE's job. They need to make better games or better business models if they cannot withstand the criticism.
 
What if, just as a hypothetical, I want games that are so expensive that I can play without having to bother with all the plebs who whine about these things. :P

I hate pvp games, not for the gameplay itself, but because you run into such terrible people in those games. I could imagine a pvp game where the barrier to entry kept out most of the teenage crowd, to the benefit of the rest of us.
 
300K subscriptions give more than "Excel in space". It gives pretty much the guarantee, that the game will keep running.

A pay-to-play game is a honest offer: you pay me $15 and I give you access to the game, as it is. Maybe it's a bad offer and the game goes down. But no one will hate you.

A pay-to-win game is a scam. You are offered content for free, and then get something different - depending on how much you pay. If you pay a lot, you get god mode. If you pay nothing, you get massacred. If you pay a little, you get somewhere in-between. Those who enter this transaction naively will get disillusioned and mad.

Practically the only reasonable player approach to these games is: "I'm rich. I'm gonna spend some serious $ for the experience of pwning all the poors."

Are you really surprised that people hate them.
 
"I want great games, I'm ready to pay for them, but I don't want games where people who pay more pwn me and I pwn those who pay less."

Quoted for truth.

 
Ironically, when I followed your WT link, the teased article was

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/02/02/how-two-free-games-made-enough-money-to-buy-super-bowl-ads/

---

I get not wanting too much "p2w" But if I am getting nothing that I value, then I can't see spending the money. And without money, there are few games.

---

I still don't buy the EVE rationalization whereby you can buy power but that is acceptable in EVE but not other games. BTW, the lifetime retained earnings at CCP is negative so I am not sure that investors would see CCP as something to be emulated.

---

I think the issue is that if you are reading a fansite like Massively [R.I.P.] or even a beta forum (e.g. Wildstar) then you are a financially irrelevant customer segment to gaming companies these days. My only somewhat facetious comment is doing the opposite of what the forum warriors want is probably more profitable than "listening to the gamers." In a world where 10% read and 1% post in their game forums, just how niche are the external fansites and year-before-launch betas?
 
300K subscriptions give more than "Excel in space". It gives pretty much the guarantee, that the game will keep running.

I know plenty of games who either closed down or switched to Free2Play while having 300K subscribers. 300K subscribers is just 4.5 million dollars of revenue per month. Even if you have a fantastic 50% profit margin, that is just 27 million dollars per year of profit. If a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic really cost the rumored 500 million dollars to make, you are looking at a 20 year payout period. That is just an extremely bad investment.

If you pay nothing, you get massacred.

That only applies to a very small segment of the market. How exactly do you get "massacred" if you play a PvE game? Sure, you can be jealous of the shiny stuff the guy next to you is wearing, but that doesn't really affect you any more than your real life neighbor driving a Rolls Royce.
 
"They made $65 million of profit from FFXIV, but that is just revenue minus operating cost, and doesn't reflect the development cost. It'll take them years to break even."

So you think FFXIV cost north of 200m to make? Do you have any idea how insane that sounds, when IP-based MMOs like WAR cost 60m total, including extensive advertising?

Plus the notion that FFXIV was made twice (as in double the original cost), rather than tweaked and relaunched, is comical. They made a lot of gameplay changes, but the expensive assets (art, sound, engine) didn't change greatly.

"Star Wars: The Old Republic really cost the rumored 500 million dollars to make, you are looking at a 20 year payout period. That is just an extremely bad investment."

SW:TOR is as much an exception as WoW, only in SW:TOR case its money spent rather than money earned. Provide one other MMO that cost even half of what SW:TOR cost to produce, because we know there is a long list of MMOs in the 50-100m range, which would mean FFXIV is already well into being profitable (boxes for $50+ were sold initially (both times), which that $65 number doesn't fully factor in given the game has been out for over a year as 2.0)
 
The best data I have is that Final Fantasy XIV first version cost $400 million, and the reboot another $200 million. If you have any source for more precise data, feel free to link them.

Your assertion that making a MMORPG costs $50 - $100 million just shows how much you are stuck in the 90's.
 
Of course for $50 to $100 million you could always produce another Darkfail. But then, that's Greek tax money, and not an investment.
 
I love that you looked at a forum post and took it at face value, even though a link to the 'source' was provided and it doesn't match up.

Also WAR coming out in the 90s is news to me, and if you think DF cost 50m to make I've got a great bridge to sell you.
 
Huh.

Subs failing, f2p failing.

It's almost like the gameplay isn't really there for MMOs, and that they burn people out faster than they can replace them or something. Or that you can't really expect long term commitment to one game for very many people.

The MMO interested public was once a lush, virgin forest. Sure, a few people had played UO, but it sucked and everyone was on dialup.

EQ did ok, but then WoW showed up with giant chainsaws and trucks and clear cut everything. Now you've got a bunch of companies trying to survive in the scrub brush WoW left behind.
 
So far, all the evidence shows that if a game is good, people are willing to pay for it. Many won't pay, and many will pay as little as possible, but overall a competent developer can turn a profit.

The issue with SOE's games is not an "entitlement" mentality. After all, if gamers are so allergic to paying for content, how come so many free games remain highly profitable? Rather, the issue is that the games are not good, at least compared to what else is on the market.

If the new owners can produce good games, the studio will once again be a success. Otherwise they will continue to fail.
 
So to be clear, it's the fault of the players for not paying (except for the several million paying for WoW, who apparently don't count).

It's not the fault of the MMO companies for:
1. Making games with delusional budgets, to the point that SW:TOR needed WoW scale to be successful. Only one MMO in history has WoW scale, nobody else has been even close, and most aren't even in the same order of magnitude. Anybody who budgets on the premise that you will be as successful as the lone aberration that was several times more successful than everybody else is a fool.

2. Making games where the gameplay quite frankly sucks. MMOs tend to all use the same basic, boring style of combat, and it's done better elsewhere. Stories are almost always done better elsewhere. PvP is done better elsewhere. The one thing the genre truly excels at (multiplayer) has been mostly removed from the entire levelling game in favor of making it all solo, all the time. Well hey, I can get that and a much better plot in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and EA isn't charging me a monthly fee to play it. (Incidentally it sold a few million copies, so people seem willing to pay $60 for games.)

3. Making games that are WoW, only called something else. WoW already owns that market, if I want to play WoW, I can. Why would I pay you $15/month to play your version of WoW? What are you doing better than Blizzard to get me away from WoW? "Existing" is not an acceptable answer. This is where ESO fails. What's the reason to play it? It's simply not that good compared to other games on the market, and nobody is going to pay monthly to not play a game.

4. Listening entirely to the forums for what to develop. Hello, Wildstar and the "OMG hardcore only!!!!" raiding endgame. That worked out as well as anybody who wasn't part of the super hardcore predicted, because that group is tiny and not enough to sustain a game with such a large budget. They are loud on the forums, but they're trivial in market size.


But yes, by all means, blame the players. These poor companies are victims of the mean players, and their own poor decisions have nothing to do with it at all.
 
"We want the only monetization to be cosmetic! So we can mock the weirdos who actually buy that stuff, making fun of them for having a credit card. Nice sparklepony, Richie Rich. Shame you didn't do anything except work to EARN it."
 
Good lord. it has been a while since we had a good old Tobold/Syncaine/Gevlon battle. It makes me nostalgic for old times. I haven't played an mmorpg in a while and I don't really miss them but I miss the all the chat and friendly (?) discussion about them.
 
I want great games and I want to pay a reasonable price upfront for them. Therefore I want games with toxic pay-to-win models to crash and burn.
 
"If you don't contribute enough money for a game to survive, but are contributing to the game's "bad press" by complaining about its monetization, the resulting failure of the game or studio is your fault."

The success of a game is simple - make a good game and people will pay for it. If you try and fool the game paying public by hiding poor design choices behind "incentive" paywalls then don't expect people to be nice about it.
 
Well, if you WANT SOE / Daybreak to close down Everquest and all their other games, not paying them any money is certainly a good option. But then don't go moaning about it on forums and blog posts. If you play their games and spend time in those games, you *do* morally owe them money for that entertainment.
 
@Tobold
"We want great games, and we want them for free!" is just plain stupid. We need to encourage game studios to make money with their games if we like those games and want those studios and games to still be around tomorrow.

And then this:

If you play their games and spend time in those games, you *do* morally owe them money for that entertainment.

WTF!?

Do you honestly need a history lesson here?

From the very beginning it was the developers and publishers who touted that their games could be played for free, and in many cases "free forever" when F2P hit the streets, and now that the other shoe has dropped you expect F2P opponents to somehow "feel bad" because F2P doesn't necessarily translate into more paying customers when the games themselves suck?

Let me ask you this, where are all the "money-rich" players in all of this? They clammored for years to get their own revenue model so they could support developers and subsidize their lack of playtime...so where are all of these wallet warriors? And why are they not sharing most of the blame?
 
Really? REALLY?

You actually BELIEVED you could play games for totally free and were totally disappointed when you found out that you don't get the full and best game experience for nothing? You believed that game companies don't need to pay their employees, that they don't need to pay rent, don't need to pay servers, and all that?

How can somebody be that stupid?

To anybody with half a brain it was always obvious that this was "free" just like Shareware was "free" in its days. Free to try, not free for everything. Somehow a game company always needed to make money to pay the bills.

Economics don't get any more simple than that: If a company doesn't make more money from their product than it costs them to make and service their product, they go bust.
 
First off. Game studios shut down. Products fail. That's inevitable.
How can you blame the consumers when the game studios ultimately fail?

Game companies choose to risk their investments when they choose huge projects. A company must be able to throw away millions, failure is realistic. Making a 300+ million MMORPG in a highly competitive and saturated market seems insane. Although I can see how people (investors/developers) are sold by the idea of a 'new WoW'.

If you play their games and spend time in those games, you *do* morally owe them money for that entertainment.
A company (with a P2W model) should expect me to chew on their product a bit and then spit it out while walking away without paying!
It is harsh, but it is a realistic expectation. And I won't be the only customer with such a reaction.

I normally disagree with Gevlon.
> I want great games, I'm ready to pay for them, but I don't want games where people who pay more pwn me and I pwn those who pay less.
Lets take one of the few F2P games that I've spent more than €50 on: Path of Exile. They only have cosmetic effects, effects that I do not desire. But I've spent €75 since I really liked the game, and felt like supporting the developers.

If they had a P2W model I would not have contributed, since I would not have had the same rewarding experience.
To me it feels like having a gladiator fight where you pay to cut the opponents hand off before the fight begins.

 
It's obvious that the entitlement here is with the "money-rich" crowd, or you would not stand behind the assertion - that when the developers/publishers openly advertised games as "Free to Play", that they didn't mean it?

Or are you upset that you now have to admit that it was a ploy from the get-go, and in most cases was designed to illicit revenue in ways that no sensible gamer could ever support?

You champion the F2P system as if you really believe it will somehow be successful in the long term. So I would ask you:

How can anyone be that stupid?

To anyone with half a brain it was always obvious that the "money-rich" crowd had an obligation to support these games with all the fit and fervor that they displayed when asking for alternate methods to support developers and subsidize their playtime. And now you want to point the pointy end of the stick at those players who were smart enough to see this revenue model for what it really is?

You're on the wrong side of history with this one, Tobold.
 
Chris, in what kind of utopia do you live? Every single advertisement in every form of media is in one way or another a lie. No, that new deodorant will NOT make you attractive to women. I'm sorry if that comes as a shock to you.

That is ESPECIALLY true for every advertisement that uses the word "free". Nothing advertised as free is ever fully free. There is no special conspiracy of game developers, every other industry that ever used the word "free" in its advertising didn't "mean it". Or rather, it is ALWAYS a deal where you get SOMETHING for free, but never the full thing. A restaurant or bar with "free Wifi" will kick you out if you sit there for hours without consuming anything.

If anybody is on the wrong side of history here, it is you. Believing that advertising tells you the truth went out in the 19th century.
 
There are games that are 100% free forever. League of Legends and Path of Exile are two that I've played plenty of and you get access to all of the content, forever, for no money at all.

Both games are flourishing because they let people spend money on non-power options, and there are people (like me, and Kris) who were more than happy to buy some 'useless' stuff to contribute to keeping the game running.

For both games I flat out would have refused to buy power options, and would not have bought the cosmetic options either. Because I wouldn't want to play a game where I'm competing with people who are better than I am because they spent more money. And because I wouldn't want to play a game where I'd feel encouraged by game mechanics to spend more and more of my own money because my addictive personality would likely result in my spending way too much.
 
Buying a champion for money in League of Legends is not a useless non-power option. Yes, you can also get that champion by grinding, but that only makes that game Grind2Win (see my next post).
 
I feel that the quality of a game determines its success more then it's business model.

Let's jump to mobile games for a second. Clash of clans and other games like it are pay2win. The more time you spend in it the harder and harder it gets to keep playing the game for free and continue being as successful and advancing at the same rate that you did early on. Even with a p2w system like that Clash of Clans is immensely popular and makes crazy money.

There are hundreds if not thousands of games trying to copy that same magic and yet only a handful have managed to be successful and to my knowledge none have matched Clash of Clans yet.

Why is it that this game with a horrible business model is successful when other games that are essential clones with the same model aren't?

Because its far away and above the quality of anything else in that same space. It has the most content. It is the most balanced. It has the highest look of active players. It let's you progress quite a bit and get invested before payments seem necessary. It gets updated every couple of weeks. It is just the best game in that space.

Sounds like a familiar story right. Almost like MMOs.

Imagine if WoW switched over to F2P. I bet it would gain more active players then it lost even if it was perceived as P2W. Why? Because quality trumps business model. Players want good games. And they will pay through the nose for them.

Would it cause bad press? Of course it would but let's face the reality here. The true "average" gamer does not read Kotaku or the Escapist. They don't read blog posts about video games.

The only knowledge they have of the games industry are commercials/ads and what they see when they walk into a store.
 
I feel that the quality of a game determines its success more then it's business model.

Let's jump to mobile games for a second. Clash of clans and other games like it are pay2win. The more time you spend in it the harder and harder it gets to keep playing the game for free and continue being as successful and advancing at the same rate that you did early on. Even with a p2w system like that Clash of Clans is immensely popular and makes crazy money.

There are hundreds if not thousands of games trying to copy that same magic and yet only a handful have managed to be successful and to my knowledge none have matched Clash of Clans yet.

Why is it that this game with a horrible business model is successful when other games that are essential clones with the same model aren't?

Because its far away and above the quality of anything else in that same space. It has the most content. It is the most balanced. It has the highest look of active players. It let's you progress quite a bit and get invested before payments seem necessary. It gets updated every couple of weeks. It is just the best game in that space.

Sounds like a familiar story right. Almost like MMOs.

Imagine if WoW switched over to F2P. I bet it would gain more active players then it lost even if it was perceived as P2W. Why? Because quality trumps business model. Players want good games. And they will pay through the nose for them.

Would it cause bad press? Of course it would but let's face the reality here. The true "average" gamer does not read Kotaku or the Escapist. They don't read blog posts about video games.

The only knowledge they have of the games industry are commercials/ads and what they see when they walk into a store.
 
Buying extra champions is _not_ a power boost. If I was introducing a friend to the game who wanted to win and had the option to choose how many champions they started with I'd choose 5. One for each of the 5 standard roles in the game.

They will be more powerful by having limited options because they'll be forced to learn the way those specific champions work. They won't end up overwhelmed by having to think about 700+ abilities when they're getting started. They'll have a chance to ease into things. Then as they get used to those champions they can expand their pool.

One of the skills in the game is certainly knowing what all of the champions can do so you know how to play against them. This does mean it's eventually important to have played some games with every champion to maximize your personal power. Fortunately the game rotates 10 free champions every week (and in particular they guarantee that newer champions get rotated in to the free 10 after a couple weeks) so someone who plays a reasonable amount of the time will have the ability to learn all the champions without needing to own them.

In the long term you will be marginally more powerful if you own all the champions that you've mastered compared to someone who doesn't own them all because you will have more flexibility in your choice of who to play. But again, fortunately, you earn more than enough in game currency to buy all the champions you have mastered.

There simply is never a point in time where anyone would be more likely to win by buying extra champions. Someone who buys champions is going to be less likely to win because they will not have the mastery of all those champions and being better at a champion is more powerful than having the 'counter' for a given champion without having mastery of the counter.

I do not know of anyone who has ever bought more champions, other than myself. Almost everyone I know has paid money into the game but has never spent that money on champions. Because it simply doesn't make you any more powerful. I bought one champion, because his name was Ziggs, my only name is Ziggyny, and I wanted to reward Riot for naming a champion after me. Even then I bought him in a bundle with 2 skins, and I wouldn't have bought it if it didn't come with the skins.
 
So what you are saying is that League of Legends for years and years introduced new champions to their game and the shop, and NOBODY EVER BOUGHT THEM? But the devs never noticed that, so they kept producing them?

I find that somewhat hard to believe!
 
No one who cared about power ever bought them.

Not everyone cares about power. Some people like variety and would rather play a new champion right now than get good at an old champion. That's fine, but they're not gaining power by making that purchase.

Just like in my example of myself where I did buy a champion. I did not get more powerful as a result of that purchase.

The devs keep producing champions because they make their money on skins and they're more likely to have a skin to sell someone if they have more champions to skin.

They also keep producing champions because the competition keeps producing champions and they want to keep ahead of dota2.

They also keep producing champions to shake up the professional scene.

They also keep producing champions because their developers like making new champions.
 
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