Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 20, 2018
How long is a lifetime?

I received a notification that the credit card which I used a long time ago to pay for my lifetime membership of Lord of the Rings Online has expired in 2013. I'm told "To link a new card for automatic renewal of subscription Lifetime VIP in project The Lord of the Rings Online ™, click here. Otherwise, your subscription will be cancelled on January 1, 2038.". So apparently a lifetime is 25 years after your credit card expires.

I think I won't link a new card. I'll have to live with the fact that I won't be able to play any more in 2038. :) This Lifetime VIP membership turned out to be a bad idea years ago, as I didn't play LotRO all that long. In addition the game went from subscription model to Free2Play model, so the lifetime membership made even less sense. I think I had a certain idealism at some point in time in which I believed that MMORPGs would be eternal and the gaming model of the future, but that turned out to be not the case.

Jan 19, 2038 is when the 32-bit UNIX timestamp rolls over. I wonder if the date chosen is relative to that. I can kind of see a programmer setting "expiry date" of the lifetime subscription to be the maximum possible value. Then the email system has some fiddling to set the day of the month properly.

They may not be looking for more money. Maybe their system requires a linked credit card, either for security or so you can easily buy extra stuff. Or maybe it just demands the renewal of all credit cards, regardless of whether further charges are required.

If they didn't say anything about a specific payment, one of these scenarios seems probable.
"How long is a lifetime" is a good question. Developers do not get notification when the lifetime subscriber actually dies. So they have to use indirect methods. This time, they ruled that dead customer is a customer who fails to link their credit card for 25 years.
Seems like the set up for a movie- the MMO that knows when its players will die. Use your time well!
Or a newly-risen vampire... he deliberates whether he should try to be 'good' and not prey on humans and decides to try it. So his first night, instead of going out hunting, he decides to boot up LOTRO instead and even have a sort of social life with humans online who don't know he is a vampire.

But his subscription has been cancelled, and it is difficult for the undead to obtain a credit card! Enraged, he sets out on a bloody rampage...

Turns out this email that was sent was an "error". Standing Stone Games have tweeted a clarification from their LOTRO account.
Generally I'd say the lifetime of an MMO will be significantly shorter than the lifetime of their 'lifetime' subscriber. I've definitely had a handful of them die.

I'm both amused and disgusted by how resentful devs/publishers are of their lifetime subscribers, too... to the point one actually went to the trouble of rebooting the game under a different title with minimal changes that could've just been a patch, just to get away from fulfilling their obligations.
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