Thursday, August 22, 2013

Subscriptions Strike Back!

The latest news is three up-and-coming MMOs (Final Fantasy XIV, Wildstar, and The Elder Scrolls Online) are going to try for subscriptions rather than Free-2-Play.

Reactions seem to mostly mirror existing biases. The people who think F2P is the future, feel this is going to fail hard, or that it is just a money grab before the inevitable F2P conversion. The people who champion subscriptions want to believe that the tide has turned, and that super-aggressive monetization is falling out of fashion.

The only real conclusion I am drawing is that, given a choice, most developers would prefer subscriptions. The steady income without the need to constantly hawk the latest items in the store must seem a more enticing proposition to the devs.

I think the key is the target number of subscribers. If any of these games are targeting a million subs, I think they're going to fail and end up as F2P. But if they're targeting 100,000 steady subs, I think that's within reach for all three games. In between those two targets is a great deal of uncertainty.

Wildstar and C.R.E.D.D.

In addition to going subscription, Wildstar is copying the Eve Online PLEX model. CREDD is worth a months subscription and can be traded for in-game currency. It does cost a bit more than a month's subscription, though, which is odd.

I'm not really sure how successful this will be. Eve has a much stronger economic simulation. In Eve, the people who earn enough to purchase PLEX are heavily involved in producing and trading the goods that make Eve work.

Wildstar, on the other hand, looks to be more like a regular themepark game where the economy is secondary to boss drops.

Second, Eve does boost the trade in PLEX because they effectively only have one character per account. That means that many players have multiple accounts, increasing the income per player, and increasing the market for PLEX. Someone who is perfectly fine paying $15/month for one account might decide to purchase PLEX to fund a second or third account. That means the market for PLEX is larger and more liquid.

I don't really see that happening in Wildstar. But I don't know for sure. It is certainly an interesting experiment.


  1. I posted this in response to a shitty 'ESO has subs, I'm no longer interested' post. But it's fitting here too.

    I'm happy to pay a sub for ESO. I see willingness to go with subscription model as a sign of belief in the game.

    Also, a monthly fee, means a regular income to the game. And means a much more solid commitment to actual content. Not just adding new sparkly things to the cash shop for as little cost as possible to keep on making a buck.

    The regular income is predictable and allows the developer to actually plan with some accuracy just what they are able to afford to do.

    I personally welcome the sub. I'm glad that 2 of the high quality MMOs coming out in the next year (ESO and Wildstar - have chosen to go with it, it's shows commitment to the game and its players. Not only to the bank account.

    While it's true that not all free to play games suck. Many do, many have very questionable practices in their cash shops, they are inconsistent and half hearted in their provision of content and support. GW2 is one of very few exceptions, as I believe EQN will be.

    But just as all F2P games aren't crap. All sub games are not a rip off. If you enjoy the content (and speaking as someone with 8 years of uninterrupted WoW subscription - who stil lvery much enjoys the content offered there) it's worth the sub.

    The games that went F2P last year were frankly half arsed in the first place in my opinion, full of initial promise, but flaky as hell when you really got into them. The reason they failed wasn't because of the sub, they failed because they were half arsed incomplete feeling games that fell well short of their potential and disappointed a lot of people.

    So yes, bring on the sub, and welcome in a cohort of players willing to dedicate themselves to a game they believe in. And put their money where their mouth is.

  2. @James Flinders, in order to prove the rest of Rohan's second paragraph, I need to note that it may be a sign of willing to cash in on the MMO tourists before moving to a model apparently preferred by the long-term players rather than one of commitment to the content.

    There has been a lot of talk about failures but based on Nosy gamer's Digital Dozen I find it hard to see indications that F2P games (LotRO, Aion, Tera, SW:tOR, Rift) fail while sub ones (WoW) don't. Even the "very successful" Eve has decreased to less than half of the playtime since Nosy Gamer started. I wonder what I'm missing?

  3. I certainly agree with you that developer expactations should lower if they want to tend to their "loyal" playerbase, and continue the sub-only route. I cannot know at what point though that number will be sufficient for the company to be financially viable, which of course varies on occasion. If 100k subs is sufficient though they should just embrace it and they will be rewarded for it imho. Better to have a consistent approach than to cater to whatever trend rises. It's like a mucisian writing music just to please the audience rather than what inpires him/her, disregarding vision and emotion.

    As for CREDD i would first like to know if there would be an in-game exchange ala GW2 (Built-in only) or on top of trading (therefore gating the price). It would seem reasonable that the price is higher than that of sub because it gives players with RL disposable income to have a incosistent way to flat out buy gold LEGALLY.

  4. for my dollar the value needs to be present in the leveling process and endgame, in both story and mechanics of play. I'm not overly fussed if I spend US$10-15 per month in a store or in a sub - but it had better be worth value.
    If ESO and Wildstar want a box purchase, plus a sub then they need to supply (a) a trial free version for evaluation so I can understand what my purchase is for.
    The box price is really where I see my risk as a consumer and while WoW is still good quality for me I'm unlikely to move away from it wit a large outlay.