Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Galactic Starfighter and Payment Models

The Old Republic unveiled its latest expansion: Galactic Starfighter. I'm looking forward to this. I absolutely loved X-Wing and TIE Fighter back in the day. TIE Fighter in particular is in my Top 10 Best Games Ever, maybe even Top 5. If Bioware can capture a fraction of the magic of those games, I think they'll be very successful.

The most interesting thing about this expansion is how Bioware is releasing it.  It's completely free for everyone. However, subscribers get access significantly earlier, about 6 weeks, than Preferred Players. Subs are also the only people who get access over the Christmas break. Then it's another month or so until F2P players get it. That's a lot longer than most early access programs.

It's also a good strategy to reduce server load. Only a portion of the playerbase will be able to try out the new content when it is first released. Then, perhaps when interest among the subscriber set is waning, there will be a rush of new blood.

It's interesting to see The Old Republic pivot back to emphasizing subscriptions. The Hutt Cartel expac is now free to subscribers. Now this new perk of time and exclusivity.

It's interesting that Bioware doesn't seem to be worried about people picking up a sub for 2 months and then dropping back to Preferred. Or maybe they feel that $30 is roughly the price of an expansion, and is $30 they might not have gotten otherwise. Plus they might get away with reporting that subscriptions jumped by a significant number for the last quarter, and then neglect to say anything when they fall back down.

In any case, as a subscriber I'm pretty happy with this method of release. It's a solid perk that makes subscribing worthwhile, but Preferred and F2P players will still get the content eventually. A perk that does not need to be maintained forever.

10 comments:

RJ said...

Eh. I disagree, really.

If you were a free or preferred player, what do you see from this release schedule? You don't see it as "Oh, that's a nice perk for being a subscriber. Maybe I'll consider it." You see it as "Wow, Bioware really hates anyone who isn't a subscriber."

All this schedule does is insult the players who, if the statistics work out for TOR like they do for any other F2P MMO, actually put in the most money into the game. Subscribers will have access to content way earlier then everyone else, and will have cleared it. And given that the big addition in the expansion is the titular dogfight PvP mode, these players will also already be geared up, while the preferred and free players will be starting from scratch.

A perk for being a subscriber shouldn't be early access to content, especially if it's progression content. Subscription perks should be convenience or cosmetic items or unlocks. It's fine to do, say, like LotRO where non-main story questing is behind the cash shop, but subscribers get it for free, because everyone can still do it all at once; just for different amounts of money over time. It's not fine, though, to lock the content behind subscriptions for months, and on top of that make it so that only subscribers can fully progress through the content at all.

I guess if you approached TOR as having a good F2P model you could see how this system is nice. But ever since the announcement of their F2P matrix I felt they were going out of their way to insult anyone who wasn't a subscriber; like it's some kind of revenge against the players after Bioware was forced to change their monetization model.

Felord said...

How is this insulting to you as a free player?

It works out the same if you become a sub for a couple months and cancel vs. outright buying an expansion. This way if you do not pay the expansion is still free to you in a couple months.

RJ said...

Because of what I laid out: Players who pay money have straight up advantages, not only due to having the content months in advance and thus have months to gear up and prepare, but also are the only ones who can fully advance through the content (according to the description page). And to top it all off get to spend those few months watching the subscribers show off content they straight up have no access to in any way, shape, or form. Remember, the subscriber early access is only for those who sub BEFORE November. If a guy who is Preferred or Free sees or hears about the "cool stuff" going on with the expansion through the Subscribers who are playing, the best they can do is go from Free to Preferred to get in a month earlier.

If they want it to work out like a paid expansion, they should just make that an option and give everyone fair footing.

RJ said...

Also, I was suggesting Preferred was insulted, not Free. Someone who buys things in the cash shop but isn't a subscriber is Preferred, not Free. And typically the Preferred-style players are the ones who actually put the most money into the game.

Rohan said...

@RJ, I don't think this assumption holds:

All this schedule does is insult the players who, if the statistics work out for TOR like they do for any other F2P MMO, actually put in the most money into the game

I think the large majority of money comes from subscribers. That the real value of F2P is that it removes the cap on how much subscribers can spend, allowing them to put more money into the game.

First, look at the wording used by Bioware whenever they discuss F2P revenue. It is deliberately vague on where exactly the revenue is coming from.

Second, actions speak louder than words. All of Bioware's latest actions are targeting or making life better for the subscribers. That strongly implies that subscribers, and not Preferred players, are the majority source of revenue.

RJ said...

I disagree. I think it means they WANT the majority to come from the subscribers, not that it actually IS.

If they got the most money from subscribers, they 1) Would not have needed to go F2P in the first place, and 2) Wouldn't feel the need to continue locking things away from F2P players in order to make subscriptions seem to be an enticing option.

I'm really just at a point with them where I want them to get rid of F2P entirely and just be subscriptions again. Because that's obviously what they want, with the way they keep tiering the availability of features and content. But they're not going to, because they obviously are getting more revenue from Preferred players, instead of Subscription players.

RJ said...

That the real value of F2P is that it removes the cap on how much subscribers can spend, allowing them to put more money into the game.

There's been subscription games in the past that have also had a cash shop, and many of them still did well financially. STO, Champions Online, LotRO, DDO, and such. But these games also still did much better after removing the subscription, like LotRO getting triple the revenue after going F2P (http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/01/06/turbine-lotro-revenue-tripled-since-going-f2p/).

Heck, TOR itself more then doubled after it's conversion (http://massively.joystiq.com/2013/05/07/free-to-play-model-more-than-doubled-the-revenue-of-star-wars-t/), yet the subscription base remained stable. While that's not an indication of Sub vs Preferred income, it does still point out that more then half of all the income is not from subscription revenue.

Rohan said...

There's a difference between income from subscriptions and income from subscribers.

I'm talking about the second thing, income from subscribers.

RJ said...

Even if we assume that subscribers are paying more money in aggregate then preferred players, though, you still did not require F2P to get that kind of additional revenue, and I'm not sure it really applies to the situation at hand.

Again, the current situation has just put me to the point of saying they should just go back to subscriptions, if they want to be so against their free or preferred members. If the majority of all income came from them, and any time they add something new it benefits subscribers and screws over the F2P players, then why even have the F2P players at all?

With that in mind, I believe that their actions are NOT one of a company who knows that most of their income comes from subscribers paying for things in their cash shop. Making such large, game effecting things be ONLY subscription (even if only for a limited time, for some of them) goes against the idea that they're comfortable with their revenue stream; instead it seems they would rather the preferred members who are paying for the majority of things on the cash shop ALSO be subscribers.

So if they're going to go this route, just cut off the F2P players and get it over with. Stop pretending like they matter.

puppybrother said...

Given how punitive the F2P restrictions are, yes, they want you to subscribe.

Never assume they actually know what's best for them. They THINK they know what's best for them, but that may not be the case.