Tobold's Blog
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Open Sunday Thread

This is the thread where you can leave your questions and proposals for subjects for me to blog about without having to stay on-topic to anything.
If you want to add a little fire to you blog (once in a while): Would you like to blog about advantages and disadvantages of game consoles vs. pc systems when it comes to MMOs ? :)
I would like to know your opinion on the current trend of developers either charging $15 each month or making a game free to play. Why is there no middle ground? It has been bugging me lately, I want to know your take on the subject.
@ Void: this is purely speculation, but if someone did make that middle ground pricing system and the games were a huge success, older, pricier subscriptions would become obsolete, and they in turn would have to reduce their pricing. Methinks there's maybe an unspoken agreement that no one will undercut by much because then all of them will lose profit.
Why is there no middle ground?

Oh, that's an easy one. According to Blizzard SEC filings their profit margin is around 50%. That means of those $15, half is cost, the other half is profit. We can assume that for a smaller operation there is less benefit of scale, so every customer costs *more* than $7.50. So if every account costs you $8 or $9, going for $9.99 subscription isn't really much profit, and you can't possibly go lower than that. And if you go for lets say $12, your customers aren't all that likely to see that as being much lower than $15. So $15 it is in most cases.
I'm also interested to know about your opinion on the question of Void.

I think F2P is a fail on MMORPGs because some companies abuse of cash shop system to solve every issue that a player may experience in game, which makes the game totally unfun and pointless to play.

Of course, I'm not talking about every kind of cash shop items, which some of them could be usefull for players without making the game unballanced between who pay and who not pay.

Is really that hard to make a game fun and the players happy, without gaining unfair advantages from cash shop items, and at the same time making good profit from them?

For me, this is a legal way to offer cheats for players who pay.
Look at Free Realms for example. Middle Ground almost, with a cheap sub. They make up what they don't charge for- in the cash shop and with the TCG. The game offers free to play, however it is limited in this area of 'free'. Not everything is available just with a subscription either- Mounts, pets, etc...

I would rather pay a basic sub fee and not deal with all of that. There has to be profit or it's going to be made in other areas.
Wizard 101 probably has the most flexible pricing model. Full sub $9.95, family sub $6.95 per person, or unlock areas permanently at will at $1 to $3 per area.

The Realm is $6.99 for a monthy sub.

Saga of Ryzom is $10.95 per month.

Runescape is $5.95.

FFXI is $12.95.

Plenty of variation already. Let's hope for even more in the future.
Here's a quickie: if World of Warcraft, for whatever reason, was closed down, would you contine to play MMORPGs? If so, any in particular?
supposing they replaced all the major character costs skills, mounts etc with quest chains of appropriate length and difficulty. Or made them reliant on token obtained in appropriate level instances.

In your expert opinion would either of these things improve the game experience or reduce the desire to buy gold?
Tobold, do you think that we will see an MMO pricing model based, or partially based on product placement?

For example instead of a Mechanohog, you ride a Harley, or instead of Glacial Water you drink Mountain Dew?

It may sound far fetched, but it already happens in TV.
I'm a few hours into FFXII, and I have started to wonder about how people have talked about the game being linear.

In retrospect, FF dungeons have always been linear. My friends and I have discussed about why this game now feels linear.

I say because of the lack of an overworld. They've done away with the overworld in FFX, and it took me some time to get used to it, but it worked well. I can't see how it won't work well in this iteration, though I kinda want to have the overworld back. I want to fly around in an airship =P

My friends say it's because of the minimap. If I remember right, the minimap started in FFX as well. It guided the player on where to go, since there was also an arrow pointing the way and all. Would we also think the same way if we put a minimap in previous FF iterations?

Which comes to the question... Does the game need a minimap? and would it have been better if there was none? It certainly makes things easier, but would we want the challenge of its absence?
Your avid readers have seen how you react to surges of personal attacks from random posters, you stopped blogging for awhile. What would you do if everyone just stopped reading your blog though? Would you continue to post, and if so regularly or would you just shut down.

Oh, a good part of this blog is more like a diary. I would keep that up even if nobody would read it. In fact, that is how the blog started in the first place.
It seems in free to play games that has an Item mall, some players take great pride in getting to where they are without using it.

When met with these people I usually starts to talk about how I like the game, and also uses the mall, since without that income, the game would have to close.

How come people are such cheap asses when it comes to games? The same reason they wont spend a dime on digital music?
posted today on mmo-champion:

"One of the new features included in the guild interface/mechanics system is a Looking For Guild function."

How do you think they will design that function?

How would you design that function?
Thanks for shedding some light on the subscription model Tobold. I didn't realize the numbers worked out like that.

I guess I just feel that there are many MMOs out there that I would pay 5 or 10 dollars a month for, but I don't subscribe because they cost 15. If I am paying $15 each month then I want the polish of WoW, even though that is an unreasonable expectation.

Do you think MMOs could attract more people with a lower priced monthly subscription? I am talking about if you ignore the profit and loss of the game company. I'm thinking strictly subscription numbers.
FFXI doesn't have a minimap.Only a full-screen map. But you can only see the level/zone you're on and most have to be bought or quested.

It's a bonus if you can remember the way to places without having to look at the map. Some places you really don't want to be not paying attention to what's around you.

It makes it more realistic really.

Totally agree. I think we are becoming to dependant on certain features. Sure they make things easier and more convient but it has negative effects.

It is sad how little I know about Norrath's lay out since I can rely on the map at all times. On the flip side in EQ we never had in game maps and I knew how every zone connected and the fastest way to get there off the top of my head... and EQ has ALOT of zones.

Sure I could *not* use the map in WoW, but I'm like everyone else that plays video games. You give me a feature that makes my short term goal easier I'm going to use it.
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