Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The fairest business model

As No Prisoners No Mercy points out (in a post that first quotes me, then completely misinterprets what I said), both the monthly subscription model and the Free2Play model are based on "letting the other guy pay". In the monthly subscription model the players playing the least subsidize the heavier drain on resources of the players playing the most. In the Free2Play model the few percent of players spending money in the item shop finance the game for everybody else. Obviously neither model is fair.

Funnily enough, it is possible to play World of Warcraft with a business model which is extremely fair, in which every player pays proportionally to the cost and drain on resources he causes. You just need to move to China for that. The Chinese WoW business model is extremely simple: You buy a time-card with X hours on it, every hour costing around 5 cents, and every minute you are online is deducted from this amount of time you paid for. Nobody subsidizes another player, every player pays exactly what he is consuming, and the whole thing is fairest business model for MMORPGs possible.

Obviously it will be impossible to implement that business model in the western world. Nobody *wants* fair. "Letting the other guy pay" is a far more attractive business model. And whenever somebody points out the unfairness of it all, and how a pay-per-hour business model would be much better, he is shouted down with examples from ancient history, in which AOL charged people $9.95 per hour to play online games. That is of course completely irrelevant, a modern triple A MMORPG on a pay-per-hour business model would probably cost around 20 cents per hour to make the same profit as a $15 per month subscription fee. But as people arguing against pay-per-hour can hardly say that they are against fairness and for letting the other guy pay for them, they still use AOL as an example why "pay-per-hour doesn't work".

Nevertheless I have to wonder if we won't see a pay-per-hour MMORPG in the USA and Europe in a few years. As I described in the previous post, the "letting the other guy pay" business model leads to players moving to the game where they *aren't* the other guy. That leads to there being no other guy left to pay, which leads to games either shutting down, or changing the rules on who is paying.

Personally I would love a "pay 20 cents per hour" option for World of Warcraft. I do not have a constant interest in World of Warcraft, sometimes I play a lot, at other times I don't play for months. So I cancel my account when I burn out, and resubscribe later, which is a hassle. A pay-per-hour deal which would cost me roughly the same per year would be much more convenient, as I could stop and start playing without any administrative burden. But of course the people who profit the most from the unfairness of the monthly subscription model happen to be those that are also most active on game forums and blogs, and so a suggestion to make paying for WoW fairer will never be popular.
I prefer the pay-per-hour module and I think it could have saved some games from being depopulated like Age of Conan and Vanguard. I tried Age of Conan and then I had to cancel my account because I don't want to pay $15 a month when I know I'm not going to play but there are times when I feel I want to jump in and level for a few hours but I don't want to pay $15 to do so which prevented a potential player to log in.

If I had my free 60 hours that comes with the box I know I wouldn't be using half of that the first month which would prevent me from disappearing from the game once the next month start (which leads to depopulation and making the world empty that leads to server merging afterwards).

In that module the game will retain its users and if there's a positive change those players may even buy more game hours. Heck I know I would always keep some odd numbers of game hours in all the MMORPGS that I have (EQ, EQ2, EVE, WoW, L2, CoH, CO, AoC, WAR, Aion, Vanguard and others).
I personally wouldn't mind a pay-per-hour model either (at 20 cents per hour, it would be cheaper for me than pay-per month). The main disadvantage I see is that it might lead to a feeling that you don't want to "waste time" because the clock is always ticking. So it might affect people's willingness to, say, hang around and socialize. I suppose it would depend on how high the hourly fee was.
I'd like to have the option...

In fact, at 20 cent per hour, that is 75 hours a month, or an average of 2.5 hours a day. Only when I'm travelling and my options are limited due to the hardware at my disposal being not too good (so I play nothing but EvE here), does a monthly sub make sense for me. But when I'm home? I just can't go all nuts on a single game any more. WoW did it in the past, Lotro more recently, but I don't see any MMO getting that much of my time again...

Having the option would be good though.

And yeah, one failed example does not proof anything. Selling cars doesn't work because GM went bankrupt?
I don't think we as players pick a game based on whether you are paying less than the "other guy".

I pick it based on not paying at all OR playing it enough to justify paying. (as you mentioned in the previous blog post).

I don't care if i'm subsidizing a "froob" or not, and i find it hard to believe any other player cares whether they are subsidizing. I do however care if i'm paying a sub to a game i don't have time to play....

So i don't see why players would be against a per-hour based system UNLESS the -bottom line- is more expensive.

I'm sure Lineage/some Korean MMO actually combined it. You could pay a sub and get "unlimited playtime" for the duration of the sub [which is the same as WoW is now] OR you could pay a "per-use" fee [i.e. prepaid time] which if you did the calculation based on playing -extensively- would be more expensive than paying a sub.

That way both sides are covered. The serious players will sub, the more casual ones will pay-as-you-go.
I prefer the pay-per-month model. I am quite happy being the "that other guy". I am not only paying for my time online, but also for the continuous development of my MMO. I don't feel at all I am paying for the guy that plays 20+ hours. Paying that $15/month is seriously good value for money to me.

But we had these discussions before a few months back. All the pros and cons of all free models (sub, f2p, play-per-hour) got argued back and forth. Until one company tries it out we will just keep talking in circles. And until that time I will stick to my monthly subscriptions, and hope Icarus will use it well to make Fallen Earth even more brilliant as it already.
I'd like to challenge your figure here.

20 cents is just too low if it's an option.

You see if some players are playing over 75 hours per month and know they will they'll just pay $15/month.

20 cents would only be the rate for people who log in less.

It would need to be closer to $1 per hour and even then people with good understanding of how much they are likely to pay would save money, re-subbing for major patches then going hourly during content lulls.

It's quite possibly nice for the players but it would lose the company a lot of money.

Microtransactions lure people to spend more than they bargained for in the excitement and addiction of the moment.

Subs lure people to stay active even when they're not really playing - what Jeff Kaplan once called a "parking fee".

Your scheme would encourage people to figure out how to spend less which is not what these games are trying to do.
Choice is always good. Allow players to either pay 20 cents per hour or €15 a month. At 75 hours/month you're better of paying monthly. But lots of players just want to play maybe ten hours a week.

It would indeed be good for games like Age of Conan. I'd like to try it again at €0.20 an hour. Play ten a twenty hours or so to see if I enjoy it. It would be cheap and a good test to see if it's fun while still bringing in the cash for the developers.
I don't think a purely time-based model is any more "fair" than either a monthly subscription or a FTP model. The maintenance costs that a player causes do not scale linearly with the play time. Especially in a WoW model, playing more means repeating the same content over and over again. The players who play more and pay more in a time-based model therefore pay the development costs of the content that the others just try out.

On a personal note, I'd hate to pay by the hour as that would really make me feel like I need to reduce time spent in game. "Hey could you help my party in DT Keep?" - "Nah, I'm sorry my budget is a bit tight this month. Gotta log."
Even if the hourly cost is low, I know the psychological effect that will have on me. (Which is why I prefer flat rates on my phone contracts for example.)
One upside of pay-per-play is that it would pretty much eliminate botting and greatly cut down on gold selling. You see this in Korean games like FF and Aion, which are designed for pay-to-play and so don't (in their local market) need any design barriers to botting. When people play them on a subscription, they get swarmed (and the developers seem shocked every time).

The argument against is it ignores the cost of content, which has to be the vast majority of the money involved. Surely pay-per-zone (maybe plus pay-per-class) would be fairer?
Can you imagine the fuss people would make if they wiped in a PUG if they were paying by the hour?
A pay-per-hour deal which would cost me roughly the same per year would be much more convenient, as I could stop and start playing without any administrative burden.

Just to play devils advocate here for a minute, but I fail to see how this benefits those who feel that their time is more valuable than yours or mine when it comes to the amount of time that it takes to absorb content and progress in a given game. Why not have several payment methods and business models for the same game with individual servers setup to facilitate a players preferred playstyle?

If the microtransaction business model is truly being implemented as a means to generate additional forms of viable revenue, then why is there the resistance by developers to support more than just "one or the other"?

In the case of Battlefield: Heros, I think it is safe to say that changing the model in midstream is what is causing the issue surrounding the MT debate. EA could have simply setup, or changed a few existing servers to allow players who were ok with the new model the choice to use it.

The fairest business model is one that gives players the choice to play how they see fit, and with todays technology, and the obvious support of the MT model by gamers across many games, it makes sense to offer more than just a single choice for the same game.
Can you imagine the fuss people would make if they wiped in a PUG if they were paying by the hour?

Why would they make more of a fuss than they already do now? What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?
It entirely depends on what "fair" is. If fair means everyone pays equally, then it's very limiting. Pay models like that, whether for games, taxes, services, medicine, new safety tech for cars, etc, penalize the lower income customers.
When your higher income customers are willing to pay more, they subsidize R&D, faster game development, and delivering new things to ALL customers. When they don't, but only pay exactly the same, you actually get less money, and the lower income players must play less, so they get less enjoyment.

So what is fair? Everyone being forced to be equal? Or everyone getting content faster, and having more fun, and paying what they are comfortable with as individuals?
I haven't checked recently if this still exists, but phone service as an example. back when I just started living on my own, when you payed for phone service, you payed for individual calls. And before that, I remember paying per minute. even within your calling area. it was like having a payphone in your own house. sometimes it made sense. other times, when I'd be calling a lot - my bill would shot up sky high and i didn't like it one bit.

so when the phone company offered a deal when I would pay a set fee for like 100 call allowance? I jumped on it. the only way it would be too costly if I didn't make any calls. When phone companies came out with unlimited called? ooooh, baby.

what we're paying for with that monthly fee (well me anyways) is the security of knowing that regardless of your call load, or play load, you'll be able to do that with impunity and not worry about shooting over your budget (or getting kicked off in a middle of the raid, becasue your minutes ran out and you forgot to buy more)

it would however be nice to have an option. right now, you have an option of having monthly charge, every 3 month charge (which is cheaper per month then once a month model), every 6 months charge (cheapest option but you better be sure you're going to be playing that long) or prepaid card. one more option of paying per hours would hurt the other choices, but it might actually bring in more customers.

Just don't remove our flat fee options and is all good. I would more then likely stop playing if my only option was pay per hour, I would be far to self conscious about my play time. Now I can go afk at random moments (when I solo anyways) I can idle around and decide leisurely what I want to be doing next.
I don't really think anyone is subsidizing anyone in a sub model. What part of a servers costs wouldn't exist if people played less? Bugs would still need to be fixed, bandwidth procured, electricity, IT staff, a building to store it in. Most of those costs are quite sunk, and would exist regardless of how much use the server got. The only variable cost would be the bandwidth consumed. Given Blizzards massive profit margins on the game, it is highly unlikely that its even possible for a person to play WoW so much as to cost Blizzard more than their monthly fee. In that sense everyone is carrying their own water. Those who play less are only padding Blizzards wallet (probably not as much as you would think), not helping other players avoid their due. Hence the real reason why the sub model is so popular in the west--- game companies know they pad the profit margins quite nicely.
"Why would they make more of a fuss than they already do now? What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?"

Well in a pay-per-hour it's now BOTH 20 cents AND an hour 'wasted'. While somewhat silly (since with the sub model you are technically paying for that time as well), it's not hard to imagine such a change negatively impacting the PUG scene, and I think we can all agree that's the last area in a game like WoW that needs another catalyst for a bad gaming experience.

Plus once you know you are paying as soon as you log in, things like going semi-afk start to get pricey, flight time begins to look like "Blizzard milking me for more money", and anything that someone views as a 'grind' to get to something else is now portrayed as "Blizzard just making me pay more for my fun".

I mean, don't we already do that with F2P games, where we complain that the XP curve gets jacked up to force you to buy XP pots?
I think directly monetized playing time in MMOs is silly idea. It is much too grindy of a genre for this to ever evolve successfully. The psychological impact of having to weigh every decision against a clear and cut balance impact would lead to people not log in at all.

MMOs are trying to encourage you to get immersed in their world, anything that drives you away from it - especially a direct financial decision you are reminded about every hour - would be a pretty silly design decision.

"Why would they make more of a fuss than they already do now? What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?"

The answer to that is that you can't even allow the player to ask himself that kind of question. The moment you start putting an arbitrary amount of $$ on an hour's worth of gameplay is the moment you turn away from leisurely entertainment to a productivity based medium.

"Am I getting enough return this particular hour to spend money?" is a vastly different question than "Am I getting enough return this particular month to spend money?" even if the total cost for the player is the same. It would also probably lead to dramatic drops in revenue for the operator and possibly the cancellation of the MMO.

Yes, it works in China right now, but that's because China is nothing but incremental revenue and is indeed subsidized by European/US players. The money Chinese players are paying would probably not be enough to support the massive capital content development a game like WoW requires.
Ragnarok Online (European server) at is having 30h of play time for 6 EUR since.. I don't know, 2004 or 2005.

OK, that's 50ct/h - but still it has always been perfect for a second account or if you know you would play less than 60h/month.
The fairest-of-all business model would have two pricing plans:
Either pay $15/month for unlimited access or pay 20¢/hour.
I'm torn. I don't like knowing I paid $0.20 for this hour when I play a game. It's easier on my mind to know I just paid $15 for the month and I can play as little or as much as I want.

However I will admit that I would probably save money paying hourly. I would be interested to find out if WoW would lose money from switching to these kind of business model because they have more players under the "break even $15 point" already.
"What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?"

Although time IS money, we can't live our lives like that.
Why sleep if it's costing you thousands of pounds a month?

Instead, for most people it's enough to recognise that there is an opportunity cost and leave it like that.

Personally, I'm more concerned that developers discover what fantastic value they're offering in comparison with the competition (CoD:MW2 - £55 for 50 hours of game???) and hike up the prices accordingly.
I can't imagine any company letting western customers play for $0.20 an hour, unless they make them buy a block of hours that adds up to a substantial amount, say at least 25 hours.

And I suspect they'd also include other kinds of RMT as well that we see in the F2P games.
> Can you imagine the fuss people would make if they wiped in a PUG if they were paying by the hour?

Why would they make more of a fuss than they already do now? What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?

People are very irrational about the money/time tradeoff. They will stand in line for an hour for a free promotional ice cream cone when they could work any job and earn enough to buy multiple cones. One of my wife's strongest and fondest memories was getting a bag full of free baked goods at a bakery's closing time, when the total value was probably 15 minutes of her hourly wage.

I think paying by the hour feels different than an all-you-can-eat model, which is why the cell phone plans are also different between Asia and the U.S. I don't know how those plans operate in Europe, though.
Oh one other thing:

The No Prisoners No Mercy podcast is brilliant even if not always spot on factually. The sisters have a wonderful sense of humour and a great deal of wisdom.
There is also the Guild Wars model, and if you allow private servers to offload the "maintenance" costs, you're all set.
I wouldn't support such a change simply because I'm self-interested and thus have no interest in seeing the business model become "fairer". I play quite a bit and a pay by the hour model would most certainly cost me more money. It may be very Goblin of me but if I can get someone else to subsidize my time in WoW it's a good deal for me.
Ragnarok Online ... is having 30h of play time for 6 EUR since.. I don't know, 2004 or 2005. OK, that's 50ct/h ...

No, actually it isn't. It's 20 ct/h. Maybe one of the problems of a pay-by-hour business model is people being bad at math? :)
Although time IS money, we can't live our lives like that.

The problem with this statement is that game developers are saying that we -can- live our lives like that, and that people are willing to pay for it to be true.

Game developers are caught between a demanding public and an insatiable corporate monster looking at the bottom line. The result is an industry trying to make ends meet, while we as gamers are being forced to look at these issues through a blogosphere initiated construct of Overton's Window.
"Why would they make more of a fuss than they already do now? What are 20 cents wasted compared to one hour of your life wasted?"

Wow Tobold, way to miss the entire point of Spinks remark. Your comparison starts from a false premise, that time=money. But time is not money to most people.
Pretty valid point, but WoW would not be as popular as it is if we implimented the China model here. For example, I am not sure I could afford even $0.20 an hour at my current rate of play. So it would be good in that you would lower your play time (always a good thing), but ultimately I thiink they get more profit from the predictable revnue stream of $15 a month.
We will have pay-per-hour MMOs around the same time we go back to black and white TV, 8-track tape machines and the Victrola.

If Western MMOs ever needed to move to that payment model to remain profitable there would be no Western MMOs, not because players wouldn't pay but because the entire genre would be in freefall and no major company would be interested in it any longer.
The main problem with hourly paid game is that people would stop "hanging out" in the game.

A "hanging out" player, who just chat or do dailies doesn't consume significant resources. The developers can de-prioritize these parts of the game, who cares if there is lag in the Sons of Hodir land?

Hanging out player on the other hand has an attractive force to "his friends". The random guy see that some other random guy (a "friend" is online).

With hourly paid WoW, people would PLAY, than log off.

With monthly fees NOT the casual subsidize the HC. The social subsidize the player.
Subscription-based play spreads risk (the risk of accidentally playing "more" than you think you do) and pools reward (you think WoW would be so casual friendly w/o subs?). Why would anyone want to change that? $15 is so absurdly cheap for an unlimited entertainment resource. If you can't meet the minimum payment, it's time to reevaluate something.

The comparison to old American cell phone pricing systems is very apt. A decade ago people used to be nickel and dimed for every single usage. Over time the industry and consumers as a whole learned to prefer subscription-pricing, with the only exception being phones geared towards low-income earners where every dollar _does_ count. The service networks are healthier and consumers are (relatively speaking) happier.
As someone pointed out, a leading title like wow would be leaving money on the table with an hourly model. I'd personally hate to see mmos adopt cellphone pricing strategies...

Enough with the friends and family, in network, rollover minutes, etc.

As I blogged recently, rather than chase the value curve down, I suspect that companies like blizzard will commoditize game time as a premium perk at some point allowing the player to pay more to minimize the in game time required for less desirable activities.

Call me a cynic, but the cheap will get cheaper while the expensive will get more so as paid realm transfer, faction change and name change have shown so far.
I would also think that the pay by the hour scheme would encourage developers to put in more grind. I would hate to see that.

If I could buy 30 hour blocks of time that I could use over several months, I'd probably play a few more MMOs. City of Heroes comes to mind as one I'd like to play now and then if I could get 30 hours for $6. Thirty hours would probably last me 2-3 months.
I think you're overlooking the part where I said that this model is already applied in China. If anything, given the ratio of average salary to cost per hour of WoW, a Chinese player is probably *more* cost conscious than a US or European one. So if the pay-per-hour model can't possibly work, then why does it already work in China?

I think that a lot of US / Euro players have relatively lot of money compared to the monthly or proposed hourly cost of WoW, and limited time. That means that if they weren't having fun spending one hour doing something like hanging out or wiping with a PUG, they wouldn't do it. Not because of lousy 20 cents, but because their free time is far too valuable for them to be wasted.
" Obviously it will be impossible to implement that business model in the western world. Nobody *wants* fair."

I don't think people attempt to avoid fair, they attempt to avoid unpredictable. Most people like a flat rate per month. They like it for internet accounts, they like it for cable TV, they like it for cell phones.

They frequently can't buy it for cell phones ("unlimited calling" plans aren't offered by all carriers, and many of them only started offering it recently), so most people buy a plan with as many minutes as they see themselves using plus some "just in case".

I don't know the psychology behind it. I know a lot of places tilt people towards it by making "bundled minutes" cheaper.

I'm pretty sure if you offered WoW at $0.20/hour and $15/month lots of people that spend less then 75 hours on line will still choose to pay $15/month. You know, "in case they get into a good raiding guild", or "so I don't feel like I'm on the clock when I game", or without a reason given.

People don't really like metered services nearly as much as flat rate services, and they are willing to pay over the odds to get flat rate services. Most industries offer flat rate services, and then get upset when a small number of people use a disproportionate amount of the service. Frequently they are upset when they are still making a profit even with the outliers taken into account.

If I made a MMORPG I would try a $1/day model. I might even try $1/day with a $15/month price cap. The idea being I can probably convince people that currently play a MMO of some sort to try another one that isn't a $15/month commitment. The monthly price cap would be there to let people know there is a maximum cost, and it isn't any higher then they games they currently play. The "per day" rather then "per hour" is to hopefully get you to forget about being on the clock once you start playing.

I have no proof that it would work though. I also don't have a ton of cash to fund a MMO startup, so it remains just "My guess at a possible pricing model".

(DDO's F2P scheme isn't bad either. Something like F2P with a subscription that gives people an approximation of having all the game effects items from the F2P store, plus some non-trivial amount of credit towards cosmetic also has the benefit of having been tried before)
You've got your head on the wrong way around - letting the other guy pay? Where'd you come up with that idea for F2P?

The F2P model is that gameplay itself is constant advertising. The people who buy the product are paying for people who have not yet bought it. That's how all products are sold in a capitalist market.

You seem to have some socialist like idea that F2P is about letting some people pay so others can play for free. No, it's so other people can wade through constant advertising of the game. A continual c*** tease.

There's nothing unfair there, the developers are doing nothing more than the usual capitalist thing. Though if you want to lay into capitalism, go for it!! :)
The concept of fairness doesn't really have anything to dow with it. The Pay-per-Play method works in China and Korea because it suits the culture better. If you're paying by the hour for the use of a seat in a Cybercafe (where 90% of MMO gaming takes place in these cultures) the jump to paying by the minute, sorry hour, for the MMO isn't that big.

You'd need a major shift in cultural perception of both money and how we game to make this a feasible option. Before you attempt that it's maybe a good idea to stop and consider the fact this scheme is applied in China/Korea because the players prefer it that way, not really because it's proven to be more profitable for the publishers.

For the West it's very iffy whether it's a method that'll catch on and the benefits are even more iffy. So the question is, why bother?
Because in America (and probably Europe) they aren't going to charge you 5 cents an hour, or even 20 cents an hour. It's going to be $1, probably $5 for "overage penalties" (you played 80 hours last week! You awful person overburdening our poor non-mechanical software!)

And I think we're all pretty familiar with what a significant chunk of the Chinese userbase is doing with their pay-per-hour playtime...
I guess I'd just rather not have a reason to worry about how many minutes I'm having fun. I'd rather have a magazine subscription than a cellphone subscription - hate those things.

Also, I'd object more to having to play parts of a game that are unfun. In that respect, I suspect a monthly fee is more attractive for a developer, since MMOs right now still have periods when it's not fun to play them. If I was being explicitly charged to play those parts, I would hold the developer more accountable.
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The western worlds thrive on over consumption. If we got a monthly statement knowing how much we actually played WoW don't you think it would shock some people into playing less?

Ignorance is bliss type thing. Currently I can't guess what my /played is on any of my characters... but it I started getting monthly statements saying I used 45 hours this month... well then I may consider playing less.

If Blizzard could get the western countries to play more while sustaining a hourly fee they would make a profit.

However given the amount of play time most westerners log... and the potential to log off when not doing something.. I think Blizzard would lose money in the west by going hourly.
It works in China because they have an entirely different culture. The entire basis of the society, following three-quarters of a century of political, economic and social history derived from Marxist/Leninist Communism filtered through Maoism and finally the "one country, two systems" economic model, must necessarily produce a very different take on just about everything than our own mish-mash of constutional democratic laissez-faire capitalism.

A society that is not only able to implement a one-child rule, but maintain it for 30 years is clearly different in fundamental assumptions from most Western democractic societies. Even in Western democracies cultural and economic practices that work in one country are often not accepted in another, as you can easily see from the recent, somewhat hysterical and hyperbolic discussions on the viability of socialised healthcare.

I don't think you can extrapolate meaningfully from the Chinese model in this, or many other cases, just on the basis that "they accept it there".
As a casual MMO player I can say that playing with a "Pay per Hour" scheme would be much less of a hassle and much more cost efficient for me. I, like you, get burned out on games and I would love to be able to just take a break without paying financially.

But it comes to mind that if games do this, they need some sort of system like an Auction House (some games don't, don't laugh at me for pointing out the obvious) because without it people are stuck wasting their hours sitting around in personal shops.

Again, just pointing out the obvious.
Dont forget the inefficiences of actually charging you.

This is going back 20 years so hopefully my memory is not to far off but for a cross country phone call it cost 0.06 cents per minute for the phone company to make the call and 6 cents per minute for the phone company to keep track of keep track of how long you had been on the phone and charge you.

I prefer pay by month but then I am the sort of person who buys two of everything when I go shopping so I dont have to go shopping for twice as long.
"The Chinese WoW business model is extremely simple: You buy a time-card with X hours on it, every hour costing around 5 cents, and every minute you are online is deducted from this amount of time you paid for. Nobody subsidizes another player, every player pays exactly what he is consuming, and the whole thing is fairest business model for MMORPGs possible."

This is only true if all content is equal. In reality it is not, a 25 player raid encounter hardmode costs a lot more in terms of development and hardware (server-shards) than new single-player daily fishing quests for example. Both types of content will be desired by different groups (note that desired is not the same as 'consumed').

It doesn't detract much from your general argument though.

Note that as a rather heavy user I'm all in favour of the current situation where I pay as much as the 1 night a week player :).
And I think we're all pretty familiar with what a significant chunk of the Chinese userbase is doing with their pay-per-hour playtime...

No, you aren't!

Because if you think that they farm gold in their pay-per-hour playtime, you obviously haven't thought things through. The fabled Chinese gold farmer is necessarily playing on the servers where his customers are, and those are pay-per-month.
There are gold farmers on Chinese servers as well as US/EU ones.
this kind of model would encourage developers to make it worth your while to keep logging in. It might encourage them to put "artificial slowing" stuff into the game too but hmm, as a consumer I like it, I could try several games no problem since my time playing games wouldn't vary much.
a 25 player raid encounter hardmode costs a lot more in terms of development and hardware (server-shards) than new single-player daily fishing quests for example.

That's not really true - 25 people doing quests all over the world almost certainly take a lot more resources than 25 people in an instance. In any case, given equal quality, the developer-hour-to-played-hour ratio of raids is vastly lower than any other form of content (except perhaps reputation grinds).

That's why they were developed first, and other large time-sinks only added later and reluctantly.
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