It’s been a great, busy week in the MMOSphere – and so we couldn’t contain it all in five days. Here’s your weekend goodness – and we’re beginning on a sad note.
- One of the most prominent Orcish voices is no more. That’s right – Michael, the man behind the curtain of inimitable Orcish blogger Ratshag of Need More Rage, is lowering the curtain on Ratshag’s writing, and the Orc himself went out in style. The entire MMO Melting Pot community will miss him – but we’re looking forward to seeing what Michael does next.
- Syp looks at the definition of “Free To Play”, and is quite frankly overwhelmed by all the things it can mean – “Should one term be used to cover such a varied blanket of business models? Should we be coming up with better terms for these different categories, and if so, what should they be?”
- And Green Armadillo goes looking for evidence for or against the theory that subscription is irrelevant – gameplay is all – “What if the truth is that every MMO that has succeeded under the subscription model has done so because that game – at the time – offered a compelling experience that was not available elsewhere? “
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The discussion of SWTOR’s F2P move continues, but it has split now into two – one between SWTOR players discussing what the future holds for their game – which we’ll cover later – and another whole discussion asking what this massive bombshell – the biggest-budget MMO since WoW admitting failure – means for the MMO industry as a whole.
There’s some really interesting thinking going on from a wide variety of people, talking about payment models, but also much more:
- Jim Rossignol argues that it’s not the MMORPG that’s dying – it’s the quest-based semi-single-player experience, as opposed to the sandbox game – “Perhaps the true lesson of EVE, as I suspect I’ve drummed many times before, is that it delivers a unique experience. What you pay for is unlike what others play for. Not just in the sense of being a singular game design, but in the sense that your EVE experience is yours.”
- Green Armadillo looks at the numbers for SWTOR, and asks where all the money went – “The catch is who gets the $210 million. The store doesn’t put the box on their shelves and pay an employee to run the checkout line for free. The distributor doesn’t ship the boxes to the store for free.”
- Rowan Blaze reminds us that the question isn’t really “did subscriptions fail”, it’s “does the game offer enough that you want to play it?” – “The real question is, Does the game service provide you value? That is, is the game designed to your tastes? Do you enjoy playing? Is your investment in time (and money) worth it?”
- Ocho compares the cost to the end user of the various potential game business models – “Content, potions, storage, cosmetic items, ships, weapons, it’s all in there, and it’s scrutinized heavily. Not only is it scrutinized, but it’s pushed like a bookstore’s endcap with the latest best sellers. “
- A Ding World briefly compares the fates of EA’s MMOs and those from Funcom – “Given the numbers Funcom provided in the earnings report they will be quite profitable with The Secret World even with numbers similar to Age of Conan. Now that about a month has passed since launch we may see some subscriber numbers soon – if they have been doing well and are able to retain players.”
It’s interesting to note just how many sandbox games are still around and collecting subscription cash. Jim Rossignol only mentions EVE, but WURM is still doing fine as far as I’m aware, Ultima Online is still out there, and of course A Tale In The Desert just keeps on rolling. OTOH, of course, RIFT and WoW are still happily collecting subscriptions too.
What do you think SWTOR’s move to Free To Play says about the future of the MMORPG industry as a whole?
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A number of potential discussion-starting posts hit my virtual desk this weekend in general MMO discussion territory – I’ll be interested to see the debate on these continue.
From Stubborn talking about a broken Skinner’s Box in MMOs, to Rowan doing the math on MMORPG development profits, here we go:
- MMOs keep failing, apparently – so why do developers keep making them? Rowan at I Have Touched The Sky demonstrates the revenue math that makes MMOs so appealing to developers – “Smarter people than I have studied the business model known as razors-and-blades and reached no better conclusion than that it seems to work—and work well—despite some logical economic “.intuition” to the contrary.”
- Stubborn looks at the seemingly obvious question of whether WoW’s a game, and in doing so proposes a reason for the current MMO malaise – “I think, in fact, that the amazing popularity of achievement hunting, pet and mount gathering, and transmogrifying is really an attempt by the player to take control of their choice making within the game. “
- Fulguralis at Killing ’em Slowly asks when it’s time to stop paying that subscription fee – “In today’s age of “investor calls” and crap like that, where subscriber numbers are reviewed and decisions are made based on some giant bottom line, I don’t want to be a black mark on a game I’ve enjoyed. I don’t want to be just another user jumping ship. But I don’t want to pay for something I’m not using either.”
- And Klepsacovic has a really interesting point when talking about the rising genre of MMO First Person Shooters – will headshots make the game unfair and unfun? – “In Stalker I might take down a team of enemies in a few seconds, at long range. At the least, it would be trivial to take down one and fall back, untouched. Obviously this is fun for me, but is it any fun for other players?”
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“Wait until it goes Free To Play” has become a standard line about new MMOs. But why? And is it really a good idea?
Gazimoff of Mana Obscura has been playing MMOs since “Free To Play” was a dirty term, signifying a game was low-quality and not worth it. Since then, of course, things have changed – and of late, we’ve probably all seen one person or another say of a new subscription MMO “Nah, I’ll just wait until it goes F2P”.
It’s a fascinating and potentially worrying development – and in his post this week, Gazimoff explores the reasons behind this attitude, and its potential consequences –
“Have our previous experiences conditioned us as consumers to expect games to switch to free to play? Are we becoming congested with too many games we want to try and not enough time to play them, so we’re cutting back on the ones we subscribe to? Or is it just a polite way of saying that we have no intention of playing a game, either at launch or for the foreseeable future?
My own suspicion is that there’s elements of all three. With pre-launch betas becoming larger in size and scope, many of us get the chance to try an MMO before we put our hand in our pocket. Instead of buying the box, subscribing for a few months then ditching the game for something else, we elect to bide our time, drifting from beta to beta while we wait for a bargain. A game might grab our interest, but we have a ready-made, plausible excuse for why we shouldn’t buy into it.”
I’d not really considered the “wait to F2P” trend before, but it’s an interesting development – and Gazimoff does an excellent job of exploring all the ramifications of gamers now considering a drop from “subscription” to “free with microtransactions”.
I found the question of the effect this will have on future MMOs particularly interesting. I can’t see all MMOs going for a non-subscription model – the subscription cashflow is just too tempting – but they’ll clearly have to do something to offset gamers’ belief that if they just wait a year they’ll get it free.
Will we see new MMOs launching with a “never to be F2P, ever” sticker?
What do you think?
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It’s another really busy day in the MMOSphere today, with the Pandas still reverberating and Guild Wars 2 making a splash with their RMT announcement. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting discussions going on other than on those topics…
What do you think about all this?
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