Massively OP’s guide to MMO business models

Not too long ago, there was all but one way that you would pay for an MMO, and that was as a monthly subscription. Oh, it used to be an hourly sub back in the wild early days of the genre, when keyboard cowboys thought nothing about racking up $481 a month playing a game on a 400-baud modem, but in the late ’90s, the monthly sub model established itself as the baseline, and most all MMORPGs fell into line behind it.

Though a rare few western games dabbled in a free-to-play model along the way, it was Turbine’s decision to embrace it with Dungeons and Dragons Online in 2009 that brought it to the mainstream in the west. Since then, studios have been experimenting with business models left and right, trying to come up with the most attractive method of emptying your wallets into their coffers.

Sometimes business models can get incredibly confusing, especially when games will use the same terminology in different ways. Today we’re going to walk through all of the major types of models that MMOs and their cousins are using. Hopefully we can find the right model that fits your budget and comfort!

Subscription

As mentioned earlier, the subscription model is one of the oldest business models in the genre, having been around since the 1980s. The idea here is that you pay one flat monthly fee — usually $15 nowadays, but not always — and you gain full access to the game and its content. The $15/month cost has remained stable over the last decade-and-a-half, although many studios have offered discounts for players who purchase multiple months or even a full year at a time.

While you won’t see monthly subscriptions over $15, some games, such as Final Fantasy XIV, offer subs under the industry standard. These can be enticing if you like a good deal or are considering multiple subs at the same time. It should also be noted that subscription MMOs sometimes require players to pay for the box client and any expansions. This should be considered when starting out, as getting your foot in the door could require a one-time chunk of cash.

Currently Star Wars: The Old Republic is trying to entice players to subscribe as the only path to unlocking its most recent expansion chapters, which is a novel approach.

The subscription model has its pros and cons — and its fans and critics, as well. Some players love it for its one-price-includes-all attitude and the lack of a cash shop, although the latter has been creeping into sub games increasingly over the years. It’s ideal if you have one MMO that you’re going to play regularly, but not as attractive if you’re juggling multiple titles or might only be logging in for a few hours. Critics of the model say that it can make them feel “pressured” to play a game during a month to get their money’s worth.

Tradable subscription

While we’re on the subject of subscriptions, we should mention that some MMORPGs offer a way to sub up that doesn’t involve your money. Tradable subscriptions are an item, such as EVE Online’s PLEX or World of Warcraft’s tokens, that can be purchased by one player for money, then sold directly or through an auction house for in-game currency.

The studios like tradable subscriptions because they’re still making money while at the same time cutting the gold buying and selling industry off at its knees. For the player, it’s advantageous to those who can make enough money every month to buy one of these items, essentially earning their subscription in-game rather than paying for it out of pocket.

Buy-to-play

As seen in games like Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online, buy-to-play focuses on the sale of a full-priced client (usually between $50 and $60) with the claim that players can enjoy the game for free after that with no time restrictions.

For the studio, it helps by giving the company up-front lumps of money, bringing the MMO more in line with how standard video games make sales. For players, there’s an initial financial obstacle to overcome but the promise of free sailing past that is most assuredly attractive. Finding this type of game on sale can be an awesome thing because you’ll be getting quite the deal at that point.

One caveat with this model — as with the next that we’ll discuss — is that buy-to-play isn’t free of attempts by the studio to make money off of you after that. This model can and often does host cash shops and sell DLC packs or expansions, but on the whole it doesn’t nickel-and-dime players as badly as seen elsewhere.

Free-to-play

Free-to-play is one of the most tortured terms in the industry, but generally it means a business model that has no up-front cost and a game that players can theoretically play all of the way through or to the top without plunking down money. Its obvious advantage is in lowering the financial barrier to the floor so that anyone can come in and enjoy a game for as long as he or she wants.

Because most studios need to make a profit, most times that you see free-to-play it comes with an asterisk beside the term that points you to the true money-making element. By making the game “free,” studios hope that it will attract more players and keep them around longer so that those who invest time in the game will eventually start sinking money into it through cash shops, subscriptions, or services.

Freemium

“Freemium” is one of those terms that makes you feel dirty just saying it, as if you’ve invoked a curse to raise long-dead pets. Its use in video game business isn’t much more sanitary, to be honest.

This model is more easily understood as a beefed-up trial. You can play the game for free… up to a point. With freemium titles, there’s a hard wall that frugal players will inevitably hit, forcing them to decide whether to pay money to proceed, stay at a certain level or in a certain area forever, or to quit entirely. This model’s bait-and-switch methodology, even if clearly promoted, tends to put players off, which is probably why it’s not as much used in MMOs these days.

Cash shops

Almost any business model can — and often does — come with a crash shop. Also called item shops or stores, these in-game bazaars seek to augment the income from subscriptions and box sales or to be the sole source of revenue for a title. While every shop offers different goods, the common thread is that all beckon to players to dump extra money once they’re hooked into a game.

Cash shops are a sore topic for many MMO players, as everyone has seen examples of these in-game stores harming the overall game by introducing so-called “pay-to-win” advantages, making highly desirable items or essential features only accessible by pay, and otherwise putting the pressure on the community to cough up dough or get left behind.

No two stores are alike, of course. All can offer a mix of cosmetics, consumables, features (such as more inventory space or bank access), mounts, classes, expansions, and DLC packs. Closely tied to the store offerings is the inclusion of lockboxes, virtual treasure chests that are found in the game but can only be unlocked via a key purchased from the shop.

Completely free

Once in a great while, you might encounter an MMO that is completely and utterly free. Not just free-to-play or freemium, but fully free. This might be a game like Meridian 59 that is too old to make money or has been given back to the community, but in any case, players can enjoy the game without spending a dime — and in fact, have no option to drop money on the title even if so desired.

Hybrid

The reality of the MMORPG industry these days is that very few games adhere to a single, unblended business model. Most titles employ two or more models, hoping to both appeal to more gamers and pursue multiple revenue streams at the same time.

So a game like RIFT might advertise itself as “free-to-play,” but what it really is is a hybrid that is part free-to-play and part subscription with a cash shop. The Secret World, which became buy-to-play a while back, has a store that sells DLC, cosmetics, and service options.

Because studios would prefer a steady source of predictable income, there has been a distinct movement in many MMOs to nudge and push players into subscribing. Studios might take away features or otherwise cripple the “free” version to make subscribing more attractive, or they could go the other direction and beef up sub packages to be as attractive as possible. Access to subscriber-only areas and a stipend of cash shop currency are two methods that are employed to prompting players to break out the credit card.

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Daex
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Daex

I actually hate anything other than strict pay to play with passion. The reason for this is because the old-school sub game you drop the cash, pay the sub and you don’t have a worry in the world anymore. You play the game, and you deal purely with the game mechanics and other people, for better or worse. Problem with F2P, cash shops and all that jazz is that sooner or later, the money topic creeps up. You need to value your time against the money, decide that it’s probably better just to pay it up, and then feel bad about it afterwards no matter the outcome. 

Consider the following scenario in SWTOR which I currently occasionally play – a mount or a costume that I really like is released through a lockbox/strongbox. It’s extremely “rare drop”. I can buy it, using the entire amount of in-game credits I have through years of play, or I can gamble couple hundred euros and hope to get it. Of course, I will do neither, and feel bad about it. If it was an actual in-game item with no real money connotation, and required for example more in-game effort that I can dedicate right now, that would be a different story altogether.

One model in contrast to the above which is very specific and that I respect is not strictly MMO, it’s Dota 2 model. For those who are not aware, it has the cash shop, but it’s truly 100% cosmetic, there is literally not a single thing that you could ever buy, that affects the gameplay for even a tiny bit (distinctly different from LoL for example, where you can buy heroes, various boosts, etc.). In most of the F2P/B2P MMOs that advertise cosmetic cash shop, of course it is not this pure. It typically has stuff like XP boosts, inventory slots and sometimes worse. I cannot say honestly would such model even work for a regular MMO, but again, take a look at Dota 2 and you can perhaps see the players’ respect for the “honest” business model pays off. Heck, even their costume “boxes” from some months back that I was checking out, gave you only costumes that you didn’t already get, so you would only need to buy a fixed amount to get all of them.

corey1
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corey1

carson63000 corey1 And also, yeah, it would require a reduction in scope. Activision loves them some of that yearly-release model, so I wouldn’t be super surprised if the game reduces its scope to try and fit in with ACTUALLY giving people a new expansion every year. 
On the flip side of that: it’s flabbergasting how many employees are on the WoW team, and how slow they are to churn shit out, compared to other MMOs that probably have a 5th or less of the team size and can pump stuff out at a way faster pace. So, maybe there’s a structure in place that doesn’t really allow for that pace, regardless of how much they try to downsize an xpac (and they really can’t downsize it a bunch more with the current payment model, or people would flip their shit even moresoe than they already have.) So again, maybe this is a more serious switch in philosophy that I’m contemplating, and it’d be one that comes out of a dire situation. As much as people like to make fun of WoW for losing subs and lower quality of content, its situation is anything but dire.

corey1
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corey1

carson63000 corey1 I see it happening thusly(and this is, of course, wild speculation):

– Common internet opinion continues about the amount of post-expac content, and people don’t stick around for very long after the expansion releases, knowing that they’ll essentially be paying $15 a month for no new content. 
– Getting a single new (or returning who otherwise wouldn’t have) person into the game for a one time fee of $59.99 more or less amounts to a veteran sticking around for 4 months after the expansion. Do they still give 30 days free with purchases? This hinges on that. Otherwise, it’s akin to convincing a veteran to stick around for 3 months after the launch.
– Increasing cost from $49.99 to $59.99 is very roughly getting the same amount of money out of a veteran as would a 30-day subscription, without them even needing to stick around for any amount of time at all.
– Gamers who might be averse to a subscription MMO are very much familiar with paying $60 for a game, knowing full well that they won’t play the game forever. They’ll pay their money, play for a few to several months, and then maybe play another game. If they’re faithful to the series, they’ll hop back in for the sequel. Changing the model to something like this would entice a lot of people into trying out WoW that otherwise wouldn’t have.

That said, will this happen for the next expansion, or even 2 from now? I don’t really think so. Sure, WoW is losing subscriptions from one perspective, but they still have a fucking fuckload of subscriptions from the other perspective. I’d see this as a “sub numbers are not tenable, we need to give the franchise some new juice” kind of decision maybe 3 or 4 years from now.

carson63000
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carson63000

corey1 Given frequency of releases, and box prices, and sub prices.. wouldn’t such a model need to increase the playerbase something like 8x to be profitable?

corey1
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corey1

I’m guessing a new one will surface soon, from WoW specifically- Buy To Play Expansion Only.

No subscription, but you can only access the new content; no old world stuff. They’re already giving you that chance with every xpac purchase, what with the instant level boost. Drop in 3 additional level boosts and then any more cost $5 for a 3-pack or whatever, and there ya go: new business model.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

CynicalGaymer I was thinking I should comment on that…but you beat me to it.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I seem to run into the hybrid models a lot. They start out luring you with a F2P then have a spot where it won’t let you progress past unless you pay…then they include cash shops too.
What was worse was that I started out buying Collector’s Edition SWTOR, and subbed for 6 months right after launch…then after their failure to server merge I took a break because I couldn’t find anyone to group with for content on planets…then I read they went F2P…and I logged in over there and they hadn’t grandfathered anything in/given access to anything you’d paid for already….so they basically created another whole freemium tier where they want you to re-pay for the whole game. So I stuck my collector’s edition in the closet, and now it’s just collecting dust.

For a person who had 2 full servers worth of characters, that was a really stupid move on their part. They could’ve made a lot more money off me.

Their loss I guess.

BenMadden
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BenMadden

So the pricing is wrong :)

$10 for ether of those things is to much !

FYI ive play free Swtor and you can get em on the GTN  

Or should I say could , the inflation on the current expansion has made em very hard to get .

Basically you need to sub every now and then or have a trustworthy friend to buy em for ya .

Loyheta
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Loyheta

deekay_zero Loyheta Yeah I should have stated that I wouldn’t mind paying a little more a month just to get a full sub. In hindsight I do hate losing access to a game just because I let me sub lapse. So yeah mom got boring with frequent content droughts, ffxiv has one of the most gouging cash shops with no means of getting them in-game, and other mmos have that were sub have gone to other models. I bet if mmos went to 20/month they could forgo cash shops and paid expansions. IDK everything is pretty difficult to balance.

EdgarFGreenwood
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EdgarFGreenwood

I think Turbine made the F2p model sucessful. People ended up going to Vip. Some companies like the one who handles Allods completely rip you off.Never had an issue with Turbine as i was a Vip for both LOTRO and DDO.

CynicalGaymer
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CynicalGaymer

[I]”Almost any business model can — and often does — come with a crash shop.”[/I]

I’m surprised no one pointed out this somewhat ironic misspelling in the article yet.

Bobuster
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Bobuster

BenMadden “$5 to PvP and $5 to raid ?”

Sounds a lot like the business model that SWTOR tried: it is about $2.40 per week to either do unlimited PvP or do any Raids or you can do both at $15 per month. Lots of people dislike them for those restrictions though.

Cyroselle
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Cyroselle

Oleg Chebeneev There are in fact ‘real estate agents’ in Second Life who sell model homes for RL money. I read about one of the first of these in a magazine article back in 2008, and it’s probably been a thing for even longer than that.

ChristopherPierce
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ChristopherPierce

Karl_Hungus Can I like this twice?

ChristopherPierce
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ChristopherPierce

Oleg Chebeneev Entropia. And I don’t actually hate the game.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

Dixa deekay_zero Loyheta was referring to teh few games left that hold your entire game hostage if you don’t pay the sub fee every month.

Dixa
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Dixa

deekay_zero Loyheta ESO and LOTRO also pretty much give away their new expansions to current subscribers. Plebs have to pay for it.

BenMadden
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BenMadden

Im see a lot of comments that  people want to play more than $15 ? Ill pay $25 ?.

From my point of view no ones had a good go at LESS , FFS no ones done any other price point ?

Why wild star didn’t try $9.99 , or any other game other than WOW ?

$5 a month for the game , $5 to PvP and $5 to raid ?

eekamouse
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eekamouse

Oleg Chebeneev Doesn’t something like this exist in Second life already ?

blackcat7k
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blackcat7k

deekay_zero blackcat7k 
I’m talking about improving a grind, not bringing back that nonsense.When we had to get both East Coast and West Coast up at the same to take on Lady Vox in EQ… That was an experience: an experience I never want to have anyone else in the history gaming go through ever again. It could fly at that time because EQ was all we had, it could not stay stuck in the past though as improvements would have to be made.

MMOs would have to improve that grind loop overtime if the developers had the same axe (of loosing their subscriptions) hanging over their head. Now they can do what they want because they’re not making the best game to encompass the majority of players. They’re making titles that only cater to the small minority that pay and they have to make it attractive to them to keep whaling those players.

 We’re seeing a regression in MMOs with these other models that rely primarily on cash shops. We’ve given developers an out to get something for nothing. Situations that have the players grind for hours to get a chance to RNG on a useful item dropping and have all of their efforts obliterated on a roll. Lock boxes that would make casinos proud with the their horrendous useful item pay out rates. EQ would try to steal your time with each death you took, today’s titles double down on that idea based on cash spent.

Just because you can abuse a player to extract money from them doesn’t make this nonsense right. These systems have less than 15% of players contributing and it’s utterly ridiculous. No one deserves to get advancement, progression, and better loot because they drop cash in something that’s a competitive environment.  Nothing’s wrong with developers making money, something is wrong with them exploiting bad design while saying that their systems are fair.

FacelessSavior
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FacelessSavior

@BKone Ok. You singled out two of my examples, but neglected to comment on the other two more recreational ones. I’ll assume for the sake of argument you spend no money on monthly subscription based recreational/entertainment activities. Even if you don’t, there’s a group of folks out there like me, with disposable income we don’t mind using to actually pay for services, rather than pirate them or be nickel and dimed per item. Just like there’s a group that you represent that isn’t interested. The problem right now is that your group has many avenues for satisfying MMO gameplay, or at least a payment option that works for you. My group doesn’t. There’s not really any monthly sub based MMO models on modern MMO’s. I can’t play a game for long that is calling itself f2p but actually requires payment for the game to be enjoyable. So there’s money currently being left on the table that a company willing to make a game worth paying a sub for could be earning. That’s really all I was getting at.

Armsbend
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Armsbend

Mark Jacobs I truly think the industry is moving backwards in terms of innovation  and quality not forward.  I think this has been the case since the end of 2013 – when Valve implemented Early Access giving KS/EA more credence.  

I know your game is funded by KS, and I have very high hopes for what you are trying to accomplish but I think the gaming industry is either  in the dark ages or is moving into the dark ages.

Point being I don’t think it is coming as soon as you think.  Maybe after the great purge of 2018 – like the great purge of 1983.

My two cents.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

blackcat7k deekay_zero you’re talking about an era of 3am alarm clock raids and grind so soul crushing that it made the now anathemic wow vanilla grind look incredibly casual friendly by comparison.
where having just one epic is something people who had one still brag about “achieving” 15 years later.
where dying meant 2-4 hour corpse runs even if it was near the end of your scheduled game play time unless you wanted to quit the game forever in impromptu fashion.
where if you wanted to be in a raiding guild you were expected to put that raid guild and raiding activities before all other aspects of your life: spouses/so’s, kids, work, school, social life, give them your phone number and answer the phone at 3am or pm to log in to do a raid boss. to skip taking a poop or peeing in a bottle to keep at the keyboard to dps during multi hour raid bosses.

ignorance indeed.

Quarashi
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Quarashi

I am surprised that there is no mentioned of Anarchy Online in this article.  While I would agree that Turbine made the big media splash with their F2P conversion, Anarchy Online instituted a F2P program in 2004.  At the time this was unheard of and was innovative in that they use in-game billboards from real companies as advertisement to help pay for the program.

Oleg Chebeneev
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Oleg Chebeneev

Im pretty sure we’ll soon see a new type of model that will become a norm for future virtual worlds. You will be able to trade virtual money for real cash and it will be fully supported by devs (virtual worlds will be like countries where you can settle and support yourself through), and they will earn money by taking a small cut from each trade.

blackcat7k
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blackcat7k

deekay_zero blackcat7k 
That monetization design could only go so far, it had to still factor in the enjoyment of the player above that. To argue that the early MMOs were doing it ignores the fact that didn’t slam the grind in your face at every opportunity because they had to keep their customers. 

They could only go so far with lockouts, RNG colored loot sets, respawn timers,etc. before their customers would dump them like a hot rock. That kind of threat to their bottom line kept that grind nonsense in check as long as there was competition. With the cash shop fueled MMO we’ve gone backwards to even more regressive systems that subscription would never be able to get away with. We now have subscription on top of being able to buy our way through not even playing the game. 
You want to talk about abuse? Now that these games are giving away free access or the lie of B2P while still clinging to subscription we get even more nonsense. Developers are making grinds that would they could never get away since they’re giving away part of their title for “free”. Shoddy design and anemic improvements have to be overlooked because part of the game is being given away for “free”. 

If this ignorance is what we have to hold up as the gold standard due to giving any part of an MMO for free I would gladly pay even more than 15 USD to see this genre final improve their gameplay loop to actually make a grind that was actually enjoyable. Yes, that is very much possible because all games have grind in them, the best ones make you actually have fun so you’re fine with it.  They don’t use it as constant dig to extract more money from you.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

BKone FacelessSavior runescape had free play option (as opposed to the $5 premium sub option) long before turbine made ddo f2p as well. 

which idk why runescape’s history is so underreported on considering it continues to be one of the most popular games in the genre in the west by a large margin (may actually have more players if not subs than wow at this point).

carson63000
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carson63000

deekay_zero carson63000 Yep, agreed, I consider Eve to be a lot closer to this than it is to the “box + sub” model (especially given that they don’t do box-priced expansions). The fact that your first month costs $20 rather than $15 is about as mild a barrier to entry as can be imagined, and of course there is a free trial before you need to pay that $20.

deekay_zero
Guest
deekay_zero

Celestial SallyBowls1 soe has been gating new content behind expansion pack fees every few months since the early aughts if not the 90s.

deekay_zero
Guest
deekay_zero

carson63000 eve has a $5 administration fee in the box cost which includes a month of play. which stacks with the free trial. often you can get a discount on the start up cost or a premium start up package that has total value that negates the administration fee.

so it’s kind of in the same ballpark as that.

deekay_zero
Guest
deekay_zero

paragonlostinspace except monetization driven design is a major hallmark of the sub model since inception. 

content in sub access fee games has always been heavily padded compared to other games both online and offline in order to keep you playing hour after hour month after month giving them more money for your access to the game. often in addition to putting new content behind paid expansion pack barriers. 

there was never a time in this genre when the content design wasn’t primarily influenced by how much the game company can nickel and dime the player.

look at the prime years of eq1 and soe – full priced box entry fee. $15 sub access fee. $20 expansion pack in which all new content was gated behind every few months. for years. 

compare that to the tradtional post launch revenue model of non mmo games – dedicated server hosting rental licenses. a group of friends can pay for rental of a server, get full admin/customization/admin rights, and often even host on their own solution, for a low price that keeps the gloabl matchmaking servers online and profits for the game company. and i’ll tell you i’ve yet to see an mmo have nearly as good admin/gm/moderation/anticheat enforcement as even a hands off dedicated server with kickban mod installed.

deekay_zero
Guest
deekay_zero

Loyheta only game with a sub i am aware of that you only need to pay the sub access fee for new content is eve. wow for example has a long history of content droughts before added fee expansion packs for new content, ffxiv does a bit better but has still done a paid expansion pack gate on new content.

all of these games have cash shops on top of the sub/

the f2p model has largely mellowed out from it’s earlier days and asian roots. even alot of western or eastern published asian f2p games have gotten a lot better in terms of respecting consumers with their monetization. talking about core pc gaming here tho, fb and mobile f2p games are a different animal, tho my so called “i’m not a game i don’t play games… oh well yeah i spam you with facebook game invites every day but that’s not really gaming” friends play those games without ever paying a dime for years until the next game that’s trendy comes along to sweep them up.

deekay_zero
Guest
deekay_zero

blackcat7k the mmo genre and it’s predecsor subscription games have always had monetization driven design. 

the grind was lengthened and padded compared to other kinds of games offline and online in order to get you pay for another hours or month. and this has long been a major point of criticism of the genre both in terms of the monetization angle from consumers who are increasingly weary of added monetization beyond the base price and for players who are otherwise willing to pay that fee but end up feeling like they are being abused with never ending treadmill grinds with their goals always just out of reach.

one of the the things (besides not having a major credit card i the days before paypal adoption when not all games had timecards available at gamestop (orgamestop being out of stock often enough)) was the people i often met who played eq talked about the souless never ending treadmill where the goalposts kept getting pushed out of reach just as they were nearing the end of the tunnel, and feeling abused by SOE for it.

blackcat7k
Guest
blackcat7k

The model that can keep its mitts off of the gameplay the
most is the one that will stand up best overtime. It’s appalling when
developers keep features out of their game like AoE looting so that they can sell
more efficient looting methods in their shop. To know that a development team
is intentionally hobbling their own design becomes a constant aggravation when actually
seeing new ideas in these titles, because the game is going to kill itself
before it’s had a chance to shine.
Many of these MMOs would do pretty well and have a solid
following of more committed players if these sleazy design methods would just
die. A title watering down gameplay and mechanics because they’re trying to find a way to make it exploitative
through the cash shop is complete step backwards for games period and it’s
something that’s spread beyond the MMO sphere because of how damned successful
it’s been.
If the argument for the reason why a design is put in the
game is because it “makes more money”, rather than to make the game more
compelling experience then it’s going to hit a hard wall to its growth that it will
never overcome. Many of these varying models are trying to sell fairy-tales
when the studios know that the game needs solid development capital to improve
its core gameplay. It’s a complete waste of time, yet more studios engage in
this than ever before.
All of these seemingly minor downgrades to coerce a player
to buy are slowly killing titles by small self-inflicted wounds. Games where
all the players are in the same world arena are affected negatively by things
that put swaths of the population at a disadvantage. The developers know this
because these used to be talking points when 100% of these MMO populations were
paying. An inherent lack of fairness that can never be overcome expect through
cash spent is going to bring a certifiable death to many titles that could have
actually become powerhouses in their own right.

Rohirrim
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Rohirrim

SpaceOdyssey I also prefer sub model, though I must admit that B2P shop is nowhere near the same as f2p shop… compare ESO shop with any F2P game shop and you will see…

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I like sub to be honest. Assuming there is no cash shop. It is a good way to get steady content of hopefully good quality. Next to that I enjoy buy to play. I’ve played a few of these and I’ve always loved them. Now with the two aforementioned business models. I do not like seeing cash shop exclusive items. I was having a ton of fun in FFXIV but it became more and more unattractive as it added more and more things to the cash shop. I finally gave up on it when it added a couple of amazing looking mounts with no option to get them in-game. So now I’ve been playing a free to play game, which i usually loathe. However I’ve been doing a lot of things without noticing anything I was missing out on. Sure, the cash shop is filled with tons of stuff to buy. However, all these items you can get through playing (usually with gold on the auction house). If anyone is curious this game Aura Kingdom. Fun little anime game that feels really rewarding. Good community too although the web presence is non-existent.

Rohirrim
Guest
Rohirrim

paragonlostinspace First they “Boycotting” a new MMORPG sub game and pray for it to fail so it goes F2P, and then they join in and complain about the shop, because x,y,z. No wonder why no AAA MMO is on the works right now..
I remember a thread on MMO-C about Wildstar and there were certain people that was swearing for the game it was awesome etc and not even that, they also attacked other who were skeptical about it. Once carbine announced the business model will be sub, the exact same people started to flaming and blaming the game that will fail with that model and that they are gonna wait for it to go f2p!!!
I wish I could keep screenshots of that for my own amusement…

Rohirrim
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Rohirrim

For me the deciding factor is time not money. I rarely have the time to play more than one MMO at a time. So I play the MMO I like the most. That said, I prefer the sub model. Even if I chose to play a F2P MMO I do sub to it to avoid as many “F2Pannoyances” as I can and then use the points I got from subscription to skip even more annoyances.
So my preferred model for the game I chose to play is Sub > B2P >>>>>>> F2P

Rohirrim
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Rohirrim

Mark Jacobs I would pay 25/month without the live events, DLCs etc. I would pay for a game I love, not a game that is fun enough to play. For example, I would pay 25/month for wow legacy server.
Developers now dont try to make games that some people will love, but games that lot of people will think is enough fun to play by trying to please more and more people.
A 25/month MMO should be a niche game, with a targeted audience, not jack of all trades.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

Mark Jacobs Damonvile  Everyone is stuck in the mold. Same monetization options, same gameplay style, copy WoW, DIKUMud, etc.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

BKone FacelessSavior  That would work for a modern day or cyberpunk game, with billboards and product placement everywhere. Unfortunately, it would take quite a bit of hustle to get all the tie-ins, and then the advertisers would want to have a say in the content and gameplay. A game like GTA could never do something like that, ( not that they need to ) because of the satire and violence making the products look bad.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

FacelessSavior  Value is in the eye of the checkbook holder.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

SallyBowls1 Mark Jacobs FacelessSavior  Unity 5, and UE4 already have shops where you can buy pre-made game parts, including systems such as in game mail or auction houses or even server code. Amazon paid for CryEngine, linked it to AWS, and calls it ‘Lumberjack’ or somesuch. You really need to catch up.

BKone
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BKone

Mark Jacobs I can’t see *any* current company pulling this.
Not even Blizzard. (And they ate Titan’s 100m USD cost w/o a word.)

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

With the genre procedurally receding back into the niche hole it crawled out of, the only way it has a chance of resurfacing on the radar of gamers everywhere is if a universal model were adapted, one that console gamers are no strangers to. There are far too many monthly subscriptions in entertainment these days. Between shit like HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Xbox Live/PS+, etc etc etc, the subscriptions are piling on. Having to pay a subscription just for access to a single game is not a paradigm that will last much longer. 
Camelot Unchained gets a pass because they know they’re developing a niche game within a genre that is descending back to its niche roots. The various investors behind CU are not expecting a WoW-like return on their investment; they seem to be very grounded in their expectations. The days of games like SWTOR and Wildstar spending hundreds of millions on development and expecting a subscription model to work at launch, well those days are over. That’s why they both had to cut their losses and dramatically change course in both design philosophy and business models. 
I think ESO has the best model going forward for the genre. You buy the base game just like you would any console game. There’s a subscription service offered just like traditional MMORPG’s but it’s completely optional. There’s a cash shop with vanity items as well as the option for unsubscribed players to purchase additional content akin to DLC, much like single-player games like The Witcher 3. ESO has effectively bridged the gap between MMORPG players and the console gamers. It’s very popular on the consoles, rivaling even the PC crowd. 
If there is ever going to be another “AAA MMO” again, it is going to have to abide by current market trends. Investors have dumped hundreds and hundreds of millions in the last half a decade or so trying to be the fabled WoW killer and they’ve come up short every single time. That is why we’re seeing crowdfunding becoming so prominent because the big investors are fleeing the genre like it’s persona non grata. MMO’s have become too risky to invest a lot of money into and much of that has to do with archaic business models and expectations.

And as much as I love the concepts behind games like Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Gloria Victis, they will eventually hit a brick wall, of which they cannot grow beyond. As long as they are okay with this, then things will be alright for them, but us old MMO veterans saw what happened when companies with niche games got desperate for growth and gave us things like the New Game Experience and Trials of Atlantis in order to compete with the kinds of games they were never designed to compete with. Perhaps because of crowdfunding, this new generation of MMO’s will be removed from the pressure of corporate publishers to compete, but we’ll see. As far as the overall future of the genre goes, I expect things to start mirroring the console model more and more. Destiny, The Division, etc.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

I’m mentally exhausted over the whole deal as it stands. I’ve been online a quarter century and have watched and experienced it all. I’ve raised my concerns repeatedly with breakdowns of why I think some of these business models are bad for the mmorpg genre from a player side and from a developer’s of things.
 I saw this article earlier and thought to myself “ugh, I just can’t right now, not again.” I don’t want to read the same old ignorance and player mindset that they want something for nothing, that they refuse to consider that it does cost money to develop, maintain and expand an mmorpg. That buildings cost money, that hardware and software cost money, that upkeep costs money that employees like to get paid and game developers wouldn’t mind seeing a profit and hell maybe benefits like insurance etc.

 It amazes me that some players come off like it’s insulting that those things I just mentioned exist and are pretty much requirements for them to have access to an mmorpg. (Btw I keep mentioning mmorpgs because that’s the sub genre of mmo that interests me the other mmos really don’t) If game developers can’t make money they can’t and won’t develop  mmorpgs. 

 With that in mind, I think that what used to be standard of buy the box and then pay a monthly subscription fee with occasional large expansions costing an additional box fee is the best business model over all for both players and game developers. The other business models end up negatively affecting the design approach of an mmorpg. I’m tired of beating the drum on this because from what I’ve seen this war is already basically lost. 

The B2P/F2P business models with cash shops and nickel and dime-ing everything “is” the standard nowadays basically. As someone who is older and can afford this crap I’ll make use of it as it’s offered, (meaning I can and do spend thousands every year in cash shops) I still think it’s been a crappy business model and that it is ruining the mmorpg sub genre of mmo. And yeah I don’t see a fundamental difference between B2P and F2P, they’re a variation on the same theme and they both suck.

 And with that I’m off to bed, this whole thing just makes me go “bleh” anymore.

SomebodyYouUsedToKnow
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SomebodyYouUsedToKnow

BKone FacelessSavior A few games have tried ad-support, but as I recall it wound up failing miserably. Of course, they weren’t exactly great at it either. It was a bit like the Pepsi spot from Wayne’s World every time I saw it.

BKone
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BKone

FacelessSavior I work on internet, mabbe he does too. I depend on water so I need to pay for that, too. These are operational cost that I can’t function without.
That’s why I prefer F2P and B2P myself. I can hop on and off from a game and buy ingame stuff on my terms.
Ad supported MMOs would be an interesting proposal too.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Sorenthaz Mark Jacobs Yep. But I really do believe that 100K would be low, and I’m usually conservative when it comes to sub predictions. 

Unfortunately, this sort of MMORPG couldn’t really be funded by a KS unless it goes big like Star Citizen. It would need VC/publisher help *if* you want the content, polish, etc. that you want to have for this game on day 1. This would also be a longer dev cycle since tech is key, at least in my vision, to make this feasible. We’ll have some of the tech we’ll need once Camelot Unchained launches but I would need a lot more so…

Pipe dreams for now but who knows?

SomebodyYouUsedToKnow
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SomebodyYouUsedToKnow

Mark Jacobs SomebodyYouUsedToKnow Damonvile Probably not in the traditional mold of current sandboxes. There are quite a few that have made me sad to use that term. But if you remember The Matrix Online, before it was abandoned then shut down…Devs used to show up to advance metaplots to an extent and tended to be awesome…for the people that were there. CoH used to do random GM’s showing up in game and again, awesome! If you happened to be online at that moment. 

One thing that’s been lacking that you mentioned, app support. Add that to alert players to the goings on in game (especially since things can happen while they’re away), to be able to talk with their buddies/groups, and give players to personalize their characters through unique clothing options as well as skill choices.

Prompting stories doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. People will tell them without realizing what they’re doing. Just look at Eve Online for example. There are some amazing stories that come out of that game (just that gameplay itself is often lacking for some people). All it takes is setting the right atmosphere, giving the players the tools, and a little nudge. Curiosity will sort out a lot of things (“Hmm..I wonder if I could stab this bartender in the head…..Oh crap it worked! Run!”)

I think knowing a bit about psychology probably helps plan some of these things out ahead of time…Of course, no one could prepare for anything but…forethought, then test, then correct, then test, then plan, then test….

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