31/07/2012

When the trolls are right

... you might end up innocently browsing Facebook and finding something like this. There went my good mood for the evening.

I don't like free-to-play models. I want story updates, not a cash shop filled with silly hats to extract money from "ooh shiny" impulse buyers. I suppose that not much will change in the immediate future if you continue to pay a sub, but in the long run this is likely to lead to a development direction that I'm not really interested in.

More than anything I'm disappointed in EA basically calling the current fans of the game fools for continuing to support it. Regardless of whether there are good F2P games or not, no business changes from charging for its product to giving it away for free unless they think that it's so bad that it's not worth paying for.

I also don't expect this to be good for the company's bottom line. There's got to be a reason you never hear anything about how much money F2P MMOs make after the initial duh announcement of "wow, so many more people play our game when we give it away for free". I expect that they'll regret this once previously happy subscribers cancel their subs and the people who didn't like the game enough to spend money on it before will continue to not spend any money on it (while still hogging server resources).

16 comments:

  1. Amen. The trolls were right for once and I was dead wrong. I can't believe that we're looking at Free to Play before the first year of the game is out. I guess all we can do now is hope and pray that the game turns out alright; right now, the state of the game is pretty good but this is a huge black eye.

    Also, the rip-off of Turbine points ... ugh. I mean, really? Yay Cartel Coins. We'll be buying smaller xpac updates now with Coins or cash. Bet your bottom trooper dollar on it.

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    1. What really worries me is this: if 500k+ subscriptions aren't worth keeping the current payment model in their eyes... just how many silly hats would they have to sell to please their shareholders? I just can't see this going anywhere good.

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    2. Exactly. Like Jason Winter said on Gamebreaker, this is a temporary fix to staunch the bloodflow. Not to sound pessimistic or anything, but we've gone from 2.1 million sold, to 1.7 million subs, to 1.1 millions subs, to under 1 million all in 9 months. What's next?

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    3. You have to remember that F2P can expand the revenue base in two directions. Currently if you value the game less than ~$15/mth you don't play and you don't pay anything. Currently if you value the game more than $15/month you play and you pay $15. Post F2P you get a very large number of people in the first group playing the game and paying somewhere from $0-15/month. If economic theory is even close to being correct, this group will always be substantially larger than the current subscriber base, so this represents a large pool of potential revenue. And then you have the potential to get additional revenue from the engaged customer base, by selling them convenience, cosmetics, consumables etc. so you end up expanding the amount that many people pay to >$15. it really makes a lot of sense if done right, and can bring in a lot more revenue.

      There was a good presentation on how the model makes sense and expands revenue by the exec producer of LOTRO here:

      http://cstm.mymiddleearth.com/2011/03/episode-78a/

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  2. Sigh.

    I'm still going to sub, because I think it's worth the money. The one thing that I noticed as being very interesting is that it was mentioned that "all future expansions" are covered in a sub. So things that would ordinarily you'd have to pay extra for (like Mists, for example) are covered by your sub fee.

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    1. I bet we'll be able to buy quest packs (or quest planets) in the future using Cartel Coins. Christ, this is like LOTRO 2.0.

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    2. If it's LOTRO 2.0 and not Age of Conan 2.0, I'll take it. I've seen the implementation of F2P that AoC did, and it drives me bananas.

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  3. You might be interested in my thoughts on this subject which I posted a while ago after I ended my SWTOR sub:

    http://docholidaymmo.com/2012/05/15/in-praise-of-f2p/

    From my experience with LOTRO, f2p can be a really positive thing and expand the game's audience in a really healthy way.

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    1. I can't argue that F2P models aren't handy for people who want to dip in and out of multiple games as they please, but that's exactly the opposite of how I play.

      As for LOTRO, I've never tried it. I always got the impression that the base game is very solid, but pretty much every time it's in the news these days it's because of some stupid cash shop shenanigans, so I can't say that it makes F2P sound alluring to me.

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    2. That's because most of the online mmo community are old-school and deeply suspicious of the business model and blow everything out of proportion. So a completely benign move like selling low level statted gear that's rough the equivalent of on-level crafted material, because of player complaints and statistics showing that such gear was impossible to find on the auction house on most servers, becomes a massive uproar about how the game's becoming "pay to win" (seriously, that was cause of the massive controversy earlier in the year that you might have seen).

      The fact is lotro is doing better than it ever has from both a financial and a content pov. Their first post F2P expansion sold more pre-orders, for real $$ than either of their two previous expansions, and this was 4.5 years after launch. The pace of content release, while not at WoW standards (although they did actually release as many level cap raids bosses in 2011 as WoW), is higher than it was pre-F2P and at least from my perspective the quality is actually better, both of their last two proper level capped raids have been awesome. F2P also gives them a continuing way to monetise early game content (by selling quest packs for levelling regions) so the old-world and levelling experienced has received continuing attention and revamps, which had been neglected prior to F2P. I think F2P's been an extremely positive thing for that game overall.

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    3. PB, I guess the real fear is that folks who have an active subscription will still get gouged via the cash shop. It's a jarring new reality we have to deal with; I agree on the LOTRO part - I subbed for a couple of months and then dropped it in 2009. I came back for F2P but I don't really play it much anymore. And therein lies one of the problems; since its F2P I feel zero commitment to it. Hell, I don't pay for anything as it is. With SWTOR, I see this F2P conversion as a bandaid on a gangrenous wound. Sure, it'll help at first, but will it do anything to address the issues the game has, or just give me a shiny tauntaun mount in the cash shop?

      Granted, I'll get used to it in time, but for right now I'm in F2P shock.

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    4. Just an addendum; they could have allayed all of my fears by just saying, "All subscribers will get all content all the time." By allowing us to have free 'Cartel Coins' every month, they're keeping the door open for the cash shop, even for sub owners. I know it's a remote possibility, but as I recall, LOTRO VIP members get an allotment of points every month ... that they can then replenish through real money.

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  4. On the bright side, it does seem to have worked for LOTRO, and, so far as I know, City of Heroes. And is sort of working for Champions, despite their apparent determination to destroy themselves. (The amount of hoop jumping required by their latest switchover was absurd. I'm afraid of the hoops turning my subscription back on will/would entail.)

    I don't know what the people who didn't stick with SW:TOR expected. Though I wonder how much of the continued decline of subscriptions is because Bioware/EA don't seem to have the vaguest idea what they're doing rather than because of the game itself.

    The only thing people who don't like it ever seem to say is that it has the same mechanics as WoW. Which is true. But it also has brought some very different things to the table. I keep feeling like somehow it's bad press rather than anything about the game itself that's causing the problem.

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  5. It has the same fundamental flaws as WoW and many other MMOs.

    No mentoring solution to allow people of disparate levels to play together (this is a big plus for GW2 *if* it works well there)

    Not enough non-combat activities from the start. Player housing is just a travel mechanism, why can't I collect 'trophies' to store in my ship? Why can't I craft ornaments or customise it's appearance? Time-sinks like this are great for non-raiders to keep engaged with a game at level cap; just see what EQ2 players have done with the housing system!

    Too much focus on endgame content in post-launch updates - where is the encouragement for casual players to bother staying subscribed? This is a game sold on story, raids do not sell this - maybe Bioware should be looking at Chronicles from Rift to address this issue?

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  6. I'm not real happy with the F2P model being implemented in SWTOR basically for the same reasons Targeter has stated. But I am also at a loss as to which MMO's are not using this model except for WoW? I am willing to give this a try as is my guild and see where it takes us. If I start getting gouged for more than my monthly subscription than I may have to reconsider, but right now I still love the game and will continue playing until then. As a side note I can't wait for some of the F2P crowd to get into PvP so I can mow them down like so much grass lol.

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  7. As a lifetime subscriber to LotRO, from the initial offer after the beta, I can't say that I'm surprised by this move. LotRO made the initial mistake in offering the lifetime option, I was effectively playing for free before Moria dropped. They trapped themselves in a situation where they managed a good initial cash influx but then starved on the sustaining dollars.

    SW:ToR just never managed to grab many players which is far worse. I played for most of a 6 month subscription but it was honestly not a good game at level cap. I'm not a raider but I do spend a great deal of time in instances, daily quests, faction grinds, crafting, etc. Add in a solid story-line and this sounded like a good game. And it was, mostly, while leveling. That places me in the great mass of subscription losses they have suffered since launch.

    Will this change my mind? Honestly I don't think so. As I said I'm a fairly casual player but I'm not an occasional player. That is a difference that is important for the FtP debate. A casual player is not interested in raiding, arena, what-have-you that the highly competitive player craves. We just want to log-in, blow-off the stress of the day, and do some fun things. Rift, WoW, TSW (when it works...), and maybe GW2 will support that style of play. SW:ToR does not. My Inquisitor hit level 50 with something like 3 million credits and a place on the Dark Council. I spent a few weeks running dailies and rep with the companions but that's done. Even if it's FtP why should I log-in?

    The occasional player who decides to spend an hour or two a week on the game will probably be attracted. The casual player who spends an hour or two most nights probably will not. Altaholics are the possible exception. Four classes in each of two factions each with LS/DS options is a lot of ground to cover, especially if the content consumption speed is lower than content release speed. I'm just not sure that there are enough people with that profile to sustain the expensive game BioWare produced.

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