Monday, August 27, 2012

F2P, Subscriptions, Raiding, and Community

The Old Republic announced that, as part of its F2P conversion, raiding would remain subscriber-only. Many people, including myself, knocked Bioware for that decision. However, after some thought, I wonder if that is the right decision. It might be an unsuccessful decision, but it might also be the only path to preserve proper extended raiding.

Whenever I see people advocate F2P, they always enthuse about how this will let them enjoy the game on their schedule. It's common to see points like, "I have the freedom to play for a couple nights, then go try something for a few weeks, then come back." And that's certainly true. It's a lot easier to dip in and out in a F2P game.

But consider the viewpoint of the poor raid leader. She absolutely does not want raiders who play for a couple nights, then disappear for a few weeks, then come back. She wants people who play on a regular schedule.

By making raids subscriber-only, The Old Republic is potentially allowing people to signal their commitment to the game. That they will log in and play regularly enough that a subscription is a good value to them. That they will make the type of dependable raiders that a raid needs.

I fully expect the pool of people able to raid will shrink, perhaps even shrink greatly. But the people left in the pool should be more dedicated, and could end up forming steadier guilds.

To take a larger view, I wonder if this extends to community in general. Community bonds are formed through repetition. To joining the group, and seeing the same people every time the group meets. You know, you log into your guild, and the same people are playing, and they greet you and you greet them.

But with F2P, and everyone logging in at random, will the same bonds form? Or will what passes for community end up being weaker.

I guess I don't really see the point in playing an MMO if that community isn't there, if you don't see the same faces whenever you log in. You may as well play a normal multiplayer game where everyone is anonymous.

Perhaps by abandoning the subscription model, MMOs are weakening what makes them special.


  1. The easy sort of counter-argument is that WoW is filled with people that log on only sporadically, and no doubt there are dedicated communities that log on at the same time each day even in F2P games.

    The SWTOR scenario might be different insofar that it splits the endgame community into the payers and the F2Pers. The danger, of course, is that EAWare loses both the dedicated F2P raiders and the vagrant subscribers.

    Having said all that, I do agree with the underlying premise that the average subscriber is likely to be more invested into the game than the average F2P player. Then again... everyone in WoW's Trade Chat is technically a subscriber too. Kinda scary if you think about it.

  2. I just wonder if there will be a vicious circle where people only want to subscribe to SWTOR if they are already members of a regular raid group (because why pay for access to raids if you aren't sure whether you'll have a group to raid with?)

  3. @Spinks-- You're probably leaving out people like me, who will sub to SWTOR because they think it's money well spent. Yes, I know I can get (most) of TOR for free, but I'd rather support something that I consider worth supporting. I'm sure that I'm far in the minority on this, but I intend to keep subbing as long as I can.

  4. My counter-argument is that the kind of person who says "I have the freedom to play for a couple nights, then go try something for a few weeks, then come back" is not the kind of person who would be doing organized WoW-style raiding in the first place.

    If it's simply the subscription that's keeping the player interested in the raid, I don't think the raid leader wants that player in the first place...!

    Some of the successful F2P MMOs that I have played do their raid/end-game content as transient stuff as well, or manage to handle "transient" players successfully. STO's end-game "dungeons" are super-tough encounters that you can PUG, but you're way better off organizing runs of, even if it's only 5-man. Champs is similar. LotRO has a lot of it's raids on group finder, but the ones that don't are still open to free and pay players. I think DDO requires pre-made groups for it's "dungeon" and "raid" content, though I think since they're all technically quests I guess you do need to buy their packs, though you can do it with free points eventually.

    The point I'm making is that it shouldn't be cash incentives that commit you. If that's all that's keeping you in the raiding game, then you probably shouldn't be raiding anymore.

  5. Isn't that the danger of all F2P conversions though? You lose the consistency of the general community? At least with SWTOR's transition they are almost outright saying that the subscription model is for raiders. This means that the ground floor of the community, the players who stay the longest and most active, will all be from the same bunch. I think this will define the future of the community because there is a defined base to stand on, rather than fracture it. I'm interested to see the results.