So how about those anniversary gifts in WildStar, huh? A year ago I was tremendously excited that the early start to the game’s launch just so happened to coincide with my own birthday, which I felt was the best present I could’ve gotten. But this year I get a rowsdower with a lollipop on its nose and a boombox that turns anywhere into a rockin’ dance party, so I am equally delighted.
Yes, it’s been a year for this quirky sci-fi title, and what a year it’s been. From the heights of hype and launch to the lows of fleeing subscriptions and hardcore fatigue, WildStar’s been anything but stable and drama-free. Yet what used to feel like a wildly capsizing ship has started to right itself again with more casual-friendly patches and a very cautiously optimistic community that’s come to realize that there’s a good game here, a game worth saving.
And while there have been those who have fought any notion of a business model change with kicking and screaming, in my opinion, triggering the end of subscriptions and the start of free-to-play was the only thing that could save the game, realistically. For me, I’m delighted. Eliot’s already given his perspective on the switch, and so here are my five reasons I can’t wait for F2P to hit.
I’m under no illusion that free-to-play is a magic success card. We’ve certainly witnessed several titles make the switch and still struggle to bring in both players and revenue. But if it’s done right and matched up with a solid game — which I believe WildStar is — then it can be a catalyst for renewed interest, a bigger community, and greater profits.
The WildStar playerbase sharply declined in the months following launch, to the point that many critics assumed it was teetering on the brink of extinction and fans were deeply worried that their game wouldn’t have much of a future. After all, NCsoft has shown that it isn’t afraid to kill titles here in the West. Yet instead of pulling the plug, the publisher gave the go-ahead to invest in a F2P switch with the hopes that it will start bringing in more money than what the subscription forecast anticipated.
The PvP servers are reportedly wastelands in need of fresh blood to get the battles roaring once again. And while I’ve been happy with the apparent population on the PvE side, it can certainly stand to be bolstered with new and returning players. I can’t tell you how many of my friends and colleagues I’ve heard say something like, “I’ll check out WildStar once it’s free, but I’m not going to subscribe for it.” Well, now their money doesn’t have to be where their mouth is, if that makes sense.
2. It’s one of the better free-to-play models I’ve seen.
I’ve read through the free-to-play FAQ a few times, and I must say that I don’t see a lot of red flags here at all. I know that for many there’s a deep-rooted fear that F2P will ruin a game with “pay-to-win” and lockboxes and suffocating restrictions. But I am not seeing a lot of that here.
There are a handful of limitations for a truly free (i.e., never subbed, never bought the box) player. You will be limited to two character slots, four costume slots, a smaller bank, and a smaller decor limit for your house, plus there will be limitations on some of your social features. Past that, the game is yours, with no content restrictions, no penalties to XP, and no one telling you that you can’t wear the best quality gear. Some of the restrictions present can even be lessened through the loyalty (aka “pay us some money at least”) program. Carbine’s approach seems to be more of “let’s buff up subscribers” than “let’s nerf the freebies,” and I love that attitude.
I also like how the studio is adding a way to earn what it’s going to be selling in the cash shop. Players can accrue “omnibits” in their travels to buy the same things, which makes me all kinds of happy.
Now, we don’t know all of the details of the conversion. It’s likely that lockboxes will rear their ugly, annoying heads. I’m willing to bet that future DLC will incur a fee. And there’s always the real risk of gold sellers finding ways to exploit the system. That said, what I am seeing gets a big thumbs-up from me with few reservations.
Let’s be frank: Anytime that WildStar has come up in the news or conversations in the past half-year, it’s almost never been to say something glowing about it. While the past couple of drops have been terrific improvements, the game has struggled with staff desertions, a bickering community, and plummeting finances.
However, now we might be looking at a summer renaissance, a do-over that could cultivate positive buzz and beef up the community. WildStar’s subreddit saw an amazing jump in subscribers the day of the F2P announcement, and I imagine that this is only the beginning. By getting back in the spotlight in a year when very few major MMOs are launching, WildStar gets a second shot at positive exposure. Let’s hope it makes the most out of it.
4. It hints at holiday events and expansions.
The FAQ has two small notices that caught my attention. The first was a mention of holiday events in related to earning currency, which is interesting in that WildStar has yet to host any sort of holiday. We know that there have been some in the works, including Shade’s Eve, but these have taken a back seat to more pressing patch content. I adore holidays in MMOs and am greatly anticipating seeing them arrive in this game.
The second notice ties into paying for DLC as I mentioned about, as the team wrote, “We may also offer some new content and full expansion packs exclusively for purchase in the future.”
Full expansion packs? Dang, boy, you are the hopeful one, aren’t you? There’s a good chance this wording is in there to keep options open, but I like to see it from the perspective of a dev team that is optimistic about what F2P can do for the game and is preparing for a long-term future.
5. It’s very generous to previous players.
In any business model switch, it’s vital that a studio go out of its way to coddle its die-hard supporters (and customers) even as it looks to bring in new blood. Players who have invested a good chunk of money with pre-orders, box sales, and up to a year’s worth of subscription fees easily could get upset if a little pampering isn’t on the way.
Well folks, we’re getting pampered. Carbine’s preparing several avenues of rewards for previous and current subscribers, which is a two-fold crafty move that could excite players and convince others to sign up prior to the F2P start. For starters, we’ll be getting some items, a music track, titles, and four months of post-F2P subscription perks. On top of that, subscribers will be granted “loyalty points” for a store based on a variety of factors, including having purchased the box and how many months paid to date.
Hey, I won’t complain at extra stuff, especially if I was planning to play anyway. The one sore spot in the community is the issue of the crawler mount, which will be given only to players who have been consistently subscribed from launch until now (which does not include me, by the way). I understand that not getting all of the shiny toys your friends are is galling, but I have little sympathy for the attitude of entitlement on display here. It’s Carbine’s game and Carbine’s gifts. The studio can give as it chooses, and it makes sense to hand out a little something extra to players who have been there the longest. Besides, it’s just a mount. In a month, you won’t be thinking about it anyway.
Even with all of the above points, I am nervous about WildStar’s prospects post-F2P, especially since one can never earn a second first impression. But if there’s a game that deserves another shot by the larger community, this one would be it.