Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 09, 2009
Will you reduce MMORPG spending in 2009?

We are in the middle of a global financial crisis, including a recession in the developed world, and at least a slowdown in the developing one. So one question on the open Sunday thread was how I think that would influence MMORPGs. Well, there will certainly be less investment in new MMORPGs because of the crisis. But whether people will reduce MMORPG spending isn't quite that clear.

One aspect here is that not everyone loses money in a financial crisis / recession. People who lost part of their invested savings and those who lose their jobs are hardest hit, but that is far from everyone. Most people will keep their jobs, and just suffer from lower raises and bonuses. So it isn't quite clear how many people will feel the need to save on a $15 per month expense.

The other aspect is that MMORPGs are incredibly good value for money, if you don't count the cost of the computer and internet connection. Which most people don't, because computer and internet have become basic necessities of life. At under $180 per year for hundreds of hours of entertainment, MMORPGs are cheaper than many other forms of entertainment per hour, for example single-player games, movies, magazines, or books.

Nevertheless of course you could save money by sticking to free-to-play games, or using other forms of free entertainment from the internet (not all of which are legal). Or you could play all those old games you bought and haven't played all that much. Read free books from the local library. Watch TV, under the assumption that you're not more likely to cancel your cable subscription any more than you are likely to cancel your internet. And some people will certainly resort to such cheaper methods of entertainment, because they have less money now, or they are afraid of losing their job and start saving. It is hard to say how big the overall effect will be.

So how about you? Will you cancel any MMORPG subscriptions due to the financial crisis? Or will you rather save money elsewhere?
I've had to cancel my WoW account already, no more Warhammer, either, and my account is gone next month.
I did not notice that prices for fuel or food have gone up significantly yet. And my wage did not decrease either. The worldwide financial crisis did not affect me yet at all. This is probably true for quite a lot of people.

The recession exists in our mind, but I doubt that MMOs are the first thing to cancel for quite a lot of people. It might convince some people who are already bored by WoW & Co to try something new or get rid of the time and money whore games called MMOs for a while.

I see people rather playing MMOs if they cannot afford the weekly drink in the pub anymore...!
I don't feel there is a mmo out right now that is worth my subscription, and I'm not really to enthusiastic about the upcoming ones either. However, I would like to try out some of the fantasy ones just for the sake that a may be wrong. I think that my mmo spending is going to be pretty even to what it was last year.

Financially speaking I'll be the same as I been for the last couple years, but I have to admit I'm not feeling comfortable about it. The recession has me very worried about the future. You can be fine one month and lose your job just like that. if I don't have a steady paycheck coming in, the last thing I'm spending money on is entertainment and I don't care how cheap it is. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I think the worse is yet to come with this recession.
My spending on MMOs will change, but not really as a consequence of the financial crisis (yet :). I'm just a bit fed up with paying $15 month for two MMOs (I currently sub to WoW and WAR), now that my interests outside of gaming ("IRL") have expanded to the point where I don't see I'm getting value from them anymore.

To me, RMT games such as BattleForge, or non-sub games like Guild Wars (& GW2) are more likely to get my dollars - with them, I can consume them at my own pace, buying expansions and boosters as it suits my needs, rather than "needing" to play to get my dollars out each month. $15/mo is not a lot, and neither is $30/month, but it's not smart to spend $30/month when you don't see any more return than two hours or so in each game (December saw me log 5 hours in WoW and roughly 8 in WAR).

Personally I'd like to see more RMT style options in games. It's easier to consume more games, that is a wider variety, this way - and if you're time constrained, it may be easier to get value. And it's not like Guild Wars stops working if you don't pay one month. I really hope SW:TOR has something like this, as I probably just won't play it at $15/mo.

If RMT makes you feel unclean, think of it like this: your $15/mo is still a per-hour monetised rate, except the surplus hours you don't use when you're sleeping just expire at the end of the month, they don't carry over. If you use WoW in China, The9 sells you prepay cards with an hour allotment; they don't expire. Blizzard charges you $15/mo because they *can*, not because it's cheaper for you this way :) Some dude once said Chinese WoW players pay about 6c/hour (, it seems a better deal to me to pay at that rate :)
I think it will effect people who to pay to keep subscriptions active that they don't use but I don't see someone cancelling an account they play often - it's just too good value for money.
I think subscription MMOs are exceptionally good value for money, they are also pretty cheap, full stop. I'm not sure I can think of many (any?) paid leisure activities that are cheaper. If, as an adult, you can't afford £8 ($15) a month for a leisure activity that you enjoy and that is such good value then I think you have much bigger financial problems than MMOs!!

My wife and I are looking to cut down how much we play, but that it because we are concerned that it dominates our leisure time too much, which I think is a fair concern for MMOs but it has nothing to do with money.
It depends - there is a demand for cash shop MMOs and they can be a good value for a casual gamer. But competitive gamers, by and large, won't touch them with a ten foot pole, and $15 a month for a game you play for a couple of hours every day is a very good value.

From what I've seen of 2008 sales reports, videogame sales are actually up quite a bit, as people are dumping other forms of entertainment as videogames are seen as being the best value for the money. It's not hard to see why - $20 for a DVD you'll watch once, a movie in the theatre can easily cost $20 per person if you hit the concession stand, good cable packages cost over a hundred dollars a month now. $15 for an MMO, or even $60 for good (regular) game that will get played a lot is just a lot less money per hour of fun.
I realized after buying a PS3 for x-mas how cheap online gaming is...€13 for a month of play while i can easy spent €70 for a different offline game for the same time...i only think of freezing my wife`s WoW-account `cause she`s not in the right mood to play for some time now...
Speaking personally Tobold I have always been somewhat miserly with regard to game purchases (looking for the cheapest subscription deal, waiting for price drops etc.) so while I am aware of the economic gloom I probably won't be making too many changes.

As you point out Tobold an MMO is incredibly good value if you are playing actively. However I get the impression that a lot of folks maintain subscriptions to several games at once. That can certainly add up so now is probably a good time to clear out the subs of those games you aren't actively playing.
I wonder how well people like the guy that has about 38 accounts and raids Stormwind all by himself are doing? While most of us spend only couple of subscription fees, he spends well over $5000 per year(Not counting expansions/Computer Hardware/Etc) on his World of Warcraft expansions. I've mentioned (not here, on my site) that the West will find itself soon overwhelmed by Micro-Transactions and how they will quickly replace subscription based models.

To most people, it may seem a godsend in this type of financial crisis to play their game for free and be able to purchase small items that only have a cosmetic value for a few dollars. If you don't think people would waste a few dollars on items that ONLY provide a visual difference (Thus no stats, useful abilities, etc) then you really need to check on how many people have spent money on Xbox 360 themes, gamerpics, PlayStation Home furniture, etc. Of course there is the possibility that they will add non "fluff" items that actually game balance..but..hopefully that won't happen.
I don't think I'll be changing my MMO subs, as some other commenters have said it's a small part of what i pay out each month. I'd rather not buy takeaway's and save money that way. :)

Hi Tobold,

I live in Brazil and although the financial crisis have gotten here too the impact is not that much. Some companies are more affected, like Mining and Car ones, but the rest not so much at all.

Even now with a Brazilain $Real x $Dollar ratio near 2.3, I think it's the cheapest leisure ever. You would probably pay more if you go out to watch a movie on the theather, a 3 hours pleasure. I'm now playing less, but still near 16 hours week.

Real not going to stop playing because of that.

Aka: Abomminos (Frost Mage)
Yes I have cancelled my WoW account, primarily as a result of my financial position. I also considered EVE Online, but decided against it on the same grounds. I haven't lost my job, but recognise the need to secure against such eventuality. As a result, I need to SAVE.. for the first time ever hehe. I came to the end of a fixed rate mortgage- my monthly rate skyrocketed and the interest cuts in the UK haven't been passed on to me. I'd like a new fixed rate but mortgage companies won't give good rates to anyone with higher than 75% LTV. The first thing that HAS to go for me is an MMO subscription (food and electricity comes later...).
I should clarify my previous post- I considered BUYING eve online, not cancelling it.
I'd think that if $15 represents a problem you would indeed have bigger issues and should probably not be playing any games till you have your finances sorted.

There's other things that I can save on that will quickly yield way more than $15 a month worth of savings. Picking a proper energy provider, maybe downscaling my internet connection a little, drinking with friends at home rather than in a bar, shopping in stores with concrete floors more often.

As said, plenty of things that can be done to save money...

The question is what you'd do with the time you'd normally play wow if you quit... and odds are that's going to cost you way more than 15$ a month.

No if anything I'd recommend people to pick up an MMO and party a little less
As reported by Taiwanese news, the online game companies of Taiwan actually gained a 40% increase in their businesses due to the financial crisis, due to the mass amount of people losing jobs and having nothing better to do (that cost no money).
So while all other industries are crumbling in Taiwan... Online game companies are still enjoying their 4month + end of year bonuses!
Playing around with this some to figure out what to do.

I have looked back at my Guild Wars account and may play there.

I am not subscribed to ANY MMO (thanks to so many disappointing failures last year), but I had a deal for Amazon with 10 bucks off gaming stuff, and ordered an AoC time card (as I still believe it is a viable and good game, and is making progress at least), so I will get 60 days for the price of 30.
For Xbox 360, I am playing one game at a time, and will try to go for deals first (lower priced or used) or better yet, wait until I can trade in games to go to the next title. I may even look at Gamefly as the better option to save cash there.

I am far from poor, but this year the MMO scene is a major drag, so spending money on a genre that is stale just seems worthless to me. Plus, I plan on a major vacation this year (going to fly FAR away), so will need a nice bundle for that...
Yes I will cut back on my MMO spending. Mainly because I used to have multiple accounts in multiple games: 2 DAoC accounts, 3 EVE accounts, LotRO, WAR, AoC, AO, etc. etc. So I've pared it down to "just" 3 EVE accounts, and my one Wizard101 account. I'll probably go back to WAR and LotRO eventually, but we'll see. AO and AoC have been perma-cancelled - unless AO has a major overhaul. DAoC is still iffy - but it's probably at perma-cancel as well.
Unless I lose my job, I don't plan to change my MMO spending. I currently have a lifetime subscription to LoTRO as well as a 3 month for WAR (up in February) and a 6 month for EVE. I'm already planning to cancel WAR when it's up for renewal, but that's because I have to budget my time, not my money. EVE will get renewed as long as I'm still employed when the renewal comes up.
I will be changing mine not because it's a financial burden. But at time when spending habits should be more cautious than in previous years, I'm not going to frivolously pay for games I'm not paying, when I'm cutting back on other entertainment expenses. I've run multiple subscriptions to the same game even when no one was logging into that game regularly. I've kept subs going unused for months, on the off chance I might want to log in down the road. I won't do that in 2009. I'll only pay for what I'm going to play at least a few times a month. Right now that's Wizard101, returning to EVE Online and I'd like to add one fantasy for when I really want high fantasy and some crafting. I'm going to search for the latter in the Free2play space before re-considering any of the AAA games I unsubscribed from in 2008.
I will cut my MMORPG time this year but not because of financial things. I feel like MMO's are taking too much of my time (I'd even say I have an addiction of some kind which I'm now trying to destroy).
I'll wholeheartedly second 56K Noob's comments. Only the hardcore (or those who play for inordinate amounts of time every day) can make the valid claim that any subscription is worth the cost. If your playing time is constrained by work and family (or trying to find a job), subscriptions are extremely poor on a cost/benefit analysis. The GW model, charging for content, not access, is much, much better for those who can't spend hours a day playing a game.

That said, a jobless couch potato living on welfare will have even more time to play than if they were still employed, so subs will be great value for them. To each their own, but I tend to think that overall, the constant leeching of $15/month for access to a game will be something that gets cut for a lot of people in tight situations. It's a luxury that can't be justified when there are good free games out there and games that charge for content, not access. (GW) The addiction factor is strong, but recessions threatening to be depressions have a way of making some hard choices a bit easier.
Personally if I lose my job my playtime will increase dramatically, as I will impart on my new career as a GoldFarmer and powerleveler!
If I didn't play WoW, I would do other things that would cost money - much likely well more than I spend playing WoW. Heck, just buying 3 beers at a bar is the same price as the subscription...
Usually "sin" (alcohol, movies, smut) industries do well in times stagnation. I think online gaming will fall into that category as far as consumption patterns during a recession. Online games are relatively inexpensive, provide an escape from unpleasant reality, and can occupy those who find themselves with too much free time but too little opportunity (resuting from job loss, going out of business, or lack of funds for more expensive activites).

I think the highest cost of playing a game like WoW is not the subscription fee but the opportunity cost incurred by the player not doing something productive with the time: like getting a college degree or (another) job. If the economy gets bad enough to send people scrambling for basic sustenance then MMOs will undoubtedly suffer.
Short answer... yes. Long answer, I spent a lot on lifetime accounts and this next year I'm getting married so my money is no longer just mine so... yeah. :D
I see a lot of comments revolving around the fact that if $15 dollars is breaking you, you have worse problems. However I think the point myself and others are trying to bring across is a majority of MMO players in general play more than just one game. So adding several subscription fees do add up rather quickly, especially if you're married and your spouse plays as well.

And even then, you have to ask yourself if your $15 is worth playing a game you may or may not play several hours a day when there ARE some decent games that are FREE to play. While I have a place in my lil nerd heart for games like World of Warcraft, free games are less stressful and less addicting in a good way. By addiction I mean I never have that urge " I have to play for so long, get so much gear, etc per day or I've wasted some of the money I've spent ". It's rather...liberating.
Wow, there have been some interesting comments on here. Let me first state where my thoughts are on the "economic crisis" currently affecting us. There is legitimate concern I think for a lot of people out there. Their 401ks (or other work related retirement products) took a big hit, the rates for CDs and other savings products have decreased, and the market is more volatile than most of us have ever seen in our lifetimes (this of course does not apply to my 95 year old grandmother who came through the Great Depression). A lot of folks have lost jobs in industries that have been hit hardest and others may have not lost their jobs, but realtors sure are not rolling in the cash right now.

So with there being somewhat of an issue, and it not looking to improve in the near future, will it impact the economy to the point where games such as WoW and War feel the effect? No one knows. We can guess at it, but we do not know for sure what tomorrow holds. I can only look at my own spending habbits. I am more of a casual gamer, but I do agree that the $15 p/month fee is not that bad and I do not see cancelling my account any time soon.

The stress of the economy has just had me refocus my spending. I put a little extra away every pay check. Try to pay down my bills a little quicker than before, and have cut back on going out for entertainment and food as often as I use to. I also pay more attention to my 401k and other savings accounts. I tend to look at WoW as being a hobby and it definitely comes in cheaper than going to the bar with friends, sporting events, movies, or any other form of entertainment/hobby that I can think of.

By spending more time home, I do seem to play a little more, but being blessed with playing with friends I know and work with only makes it more of a community feel. On top of saving on the base expense I am not wasting gas by running all over from bar to bar or wherever the wind blows. It will be interesting to see the long term effects though of the real world economic conditions on the gaming community as a whole.

Great topic, I always enjoy reading your stuff!
I don't plan on stopping either of my 2 accounts. I just bought a new Dell XPS PC specifically for WoW (better performance in raids and Wintergrasp). The major effect of the recession on me is placing a hold on plans to buy a house, because who knows how much lower housing prices will fall!
I can certainly understand cutting down on the number of subscribed games, especially if you are not playing them often. My husband and I each have WoW account. I briefly had a second account, but no longer have that one active. Primarily because I wasn't using it very much. However, we definitely have evaluated the money we save playing WoW (evaluated before said crisis started). We would spend waaaay more than $30/month to go out for dinner, movies, frequent console game purchases, and other frivolous spending.

I think some of it also comes down to your financial priorities. I see some other commenters saying that if someone is feeling the crunch on $15/mo, then they have bigger problems. This may not be necessarily so, but it would go back to what their financial obligations and priorities are. If someone is looking to save some extra cash each month and they don't place a high value on their WoW account, then that would be one of the first things to go.
Something to note, though it is not LEGAL per say is there is some advantages to having an account to a popular MMORPG. I'm not approving this, nor advertising for it, but I have known people in my guild who have sold their accounts when times got really rough. While you do put in*usually* more money then you'll get out, it's interesting to see how some players will use their *as an example* World of Warcraft account as a quick fix incase something occurred to throw their financial stability out of whack.

Again, not legal by any means, but an interesting aspect to the whole recession business that I just realized. How many people will sell their accounts to help get some money for more important(no such thing!)matters?
Direct answer to your post topic question: No, I will not reduce the amount I spend on my one and only subscription that I have.

But I'm not inclined at this time to purchase any new MMO's during 2009, as the free/available time I have to put towards a new MMO just doesnt exist. Simple economics dictates this as a no-brainer for me. Why buy a game that I cannot commit the time to playing?

I'm enjoying WOTLK right now, and it will take quite a game to pry me away from it.
No, I will not reduce my spending. I'm actually likely to have an improved financial situation this year, from near-broke graduate student to *slightly* better paid postdoctoral fellow. But I only ever have time and energy to carry one subscription at a time anyway, and the only game that there's a decent chance I will check out besides WoW is Aion.
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I recommend Wizard101 to all. Seriously, it doesn't have that super-addicting quality, but it is still great fun. It's combat is also fresh(turn based CCG). They offer many payment options, subscriptions, or pay-as-you unlock new content.
The financial crisis may have crushed my retirement accounts, but it's not going to change whether I subscribe to any MMO's. For me, it's more that I'm burnt out on the major subscription based MMO's more than cost. $15/month could easily be made up for by me not eating 1 lunch at a restaurant during that month. Or not seeing one movie, or having beers with friends at one of our places versus hanging out at a bar. It's really one of the cheapest forms of entertainment there is.

Hey, in fact, with gas prices being <$2/gallon, I'm already saving about $40-50/month from that alone. Dunno about groceries...
I will likely (sadly) stop playing WAR in favor of my lifetime LOTRO account.
"If RMT makes you feel unclean, think of it like this: your $15/mo is still a per-hour monetised rate"

RMT has nothing to do with paying per hour. RMT is buying in game items and gold with real world money.

A per hour pricing option (as opposed to per month) would not bother anyone that is bothered by RMT. Which is not to say that folks would necessarily choose it, they just wouldn't care that it was there, nor would it have any real or perceived impact on their game.

On topic:

I personally will stop paying/playing WAR, will continue with LOTRO Lifetime and WoW.
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