Saga of Lucimia may be moving toward a hybrid business model

    
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While the topic of lockboxes, cash shops, and business models isn’t anything new — which is an understatement — Saga of Lucimia’s team is exploring these issues as it deeply contemplates how it is going to monetize the game. This suggests that the team is softening up on its subscription-only stance as it mulls a possible hybrid model as well.

“[Subscriptions have] been at the forefront of our minds as we work towards the launch of our game,” the devs posted on YouTube. “While we have always operated with ‘we want to be a subscription-based game’ mentality, we also have to understand the economics of the industry and why a hybrid model may be an option as well.”

Stormhaven’s lead developer also talks about the “grey areas” of MMO business models as Saga of Lucimia works toward release in a “couple of years,” which as we’ve previously covered is tentatively slated for the end of 2021.

Source: YouTube

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Rodrigo Dias Costa

I think is really hard for an MMO survive with a b2p sub-only business model these days. It’s not really about how competent you are on developing and supporting your game, is more about how unique your game is and how big are your niche if you’re not a big company.

There are many small sub-only MMOs out there that earns enough to keep the door open and putting out more content, Tale in the Desert being the smallest and most successful I can think of right now, but still using this same game as an example, there aren’t another game like this one anywhere.

I wish the game good luck, but I’ll not be trying it with such a huge financial barrier for entry. I hope their community supports them.

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Ben Stone

It is a tough call, in a world with so many “free” offerings out there, the barrier to entry can block you from potential customers. But it’s also a fine line between ‘convenience’ and ‘making the game super boring for everyone who isn’t a cash shop whale’. If you make the game fun, players will want to support you through cosmetic and fun items.

There are so many hybrid / F2P games I wont even touch, because I feel like I am forced to pay to overcome character progression roadblocks. Meanwhile I would happily fork out the value of a sub on cosmetics, if I was just there enjoying the game without feeling pressured to open my wallet every time I log in.

One of those feels good, you got something cool in a game you like, and the other feels bad, you had to pay to make your character strong enough to do anything fun.

I do actually like the ESO model, where you can either buy modules individually, or subscribe to access everything. That being said, the craft material bloat and lack of craft bank makes playing that game without a sub really unappealing.

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Tim Anderson

Imagine how awesome ESO would be if it didn’t feel like shit when you played without the sub?

That’s the key, isn’t it? Trying to find the balance of “how do you monetize the game while not making those who don’t pay/pay the bare minimum feel gimped” is the question of the century.

I said that right, I think?

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Like I said, for me, playing WITH the sub made me feel like a second class citizen.
Playing without the sub sucked too and I realized they only cared about the 100 dollar a month loot craters.

And then I left.

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Nick Smith

I’m really late to this discussion but I totally agree with what you said here Ben. ESO, for me has the best monetization in any MMO. Being buy to play it eliminates (or cuts down significantly) the gold farmers…. and then buying the modules I want to play when I get to them is a wonderful option. If I feel like doing some crafting and know I’m going to be dedicated to the game for at least a week, i’ll sub for a month. When I buy the game in pieces as they release the expansions, I feel like I own the game rather than “renting” the game.

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Pepperzine

Back when there wasn’t so much competition $15 a month was worth it. Now, you best have a really polished game with both a large content volume and a speedy content cadenza if you think the models going to work for the long haul. There is a reason new subscription games only stay subscriptions for a few months. Players aren’t willing spend $15 for multiple months for access to only $60 worth of content.

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Munchmeat2

Not to be mean here, but I think this company needs to actually worry about actually getting a working game first before they even discuss monetization.

If this game is 5 years away like some have hinted at on MoP, I don’t understand why they are worried about monetization at this point?

The market in 5 years could look completely different than it does today. The entire discussion around this seems moot at this point.

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Armsbend

I’m not sure you understand how modern game development works.

Whiteboard > demo > kickstarter > monetization design > ???? > project shutdown

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Munchmeat2

Hehe, well said! I admire what these guys are trying to do, but after seeing what happened with Shroud of the Avatar , I’m very skeptical of these crowd funded MMOs.

Edit: When did they start developing this game anyway? I can’t remember, I was thinking around 2015?

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Ironwu

Tim,

Not particularly fussed about having a Cash Shop, depending on the contents.

I can point to Elder Scrolls Online as a particularly good implementation. Note especially that the subscription gives a fair amount of Cash Shop Currency ( about what a month’s sub cost would buy!) as well as other perks.

Gambling boxes that provide a potential in-game advantage? Nope.

Just my 2c.

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Tim Anderson

ESO is one of the games we’ve looked at as having a hybrid model that we think could work for us, assuming we needed to switch to a hybrid model at some point down the road. Not that we would do things the exact same way, but it’s a good starting point for discussion.

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Arktouros

Subscription models in this day and age are extremely questionable and it’s always been a questionable practice to charge someone to access a game they usually already paid a box price for.

I can go fire up an Xbox and pay $15/mo and get access to literally hundreds of games and near endless amounts of content. Like I eyeball priced what games I want to play on Xbox Game Pass and a few games would cost me an entire year of that subscription. I’ll even concede at some point it’ll end up to the netflix like scenario where you spend 40 minutes looking for something to watch rather than actually watching anything but that’s still years out and more will get added in that time.

Even the few successful versions of that dated model still running today end up supplementing it with a cash shop if for no other reason than it’s just leaving money on the table.

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Tim Anderson

It’s less about leaving money on the table and more about companies subsidizing a subscription cost that, theoretically, should have gone up with the times but has remained stuck at 15 dollars for 20 years.

We cover all of these elements in the video + on the forums. Using the Netflix, Hulu, PS Plus, XBox service, and etc., I could very quickly get up around paying 150 a month in sub services, all of which are offering me varying levels of entertainment.

Is it comparable to a single MMORPG? I would argue yes, but I also play MMORPGs for 20-30 hours a week, and only watch perhaps half that of Netflix/etc.

Lots of interesting points in the conversation.

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Armsbend

15 dollars was always too expensive for a video game sub. I believe successful non-AAA MMOs like yours are better served at less than $15. Games like Albion and Runescape. Attracting more flies with honey so to speak.

With all of the entertainment options you mentioned – ones like Disney + and Apple (Apple is terrible atm but still) being <$7 means you are competing with these services. Go $20/month and you are done. people won't bother to look. NF offering a half-billion shows and movies for $11.

In my humblest opinion – $7-12 is the sweet spot. It grabs attention and isn't a burden in the sea of offerings.

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Armsbend

One last thing on the same subject. I find developers who think $15 a month is too cheap frustrating. if your game is good enough to sub a year the end user is paying $180 in that time without owning a thing besides in game eBullshit. With all due sincere respect, I know all of you little burgeoning artists are international treasures and all…with all but maybe one or two exceptions every decade, you ain’t worth no $180 a year sorry.

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Tim Anderson

@ Armsbend in regards to your “it ain’t worth no 180 a year”.

First and foremost, different strokes for different folks. The average lifetime value for an MMORPG customer is far beyond 180 dollars, so for the vast majority of players in the market, playing MMORPGs is absolutely worth 180 dollars and more per year to play. As far as which game is “worth it” to an individual, that is up to the indiviual.

Secondly, unless you are the creator of the IP, and put in the years + time + effort + investment/etc. building the company from nothing, you don’t have the right to own anything. You are paying to use a live service. Just like you pay to use Netflix (but don’t own the movies), you pay to use the toll roads (but don’t own the highway), you pay your ISP a monthly bill to use the internet + rent the router (but don’t own any of the cable that runs the service to your house), and so on and so forth.

The moment you stop paying for those services, you lose the right to access those services, and at no point along the way do you own anything from those services.

If you want to own something, you need to be the person who created it, who put in the time + effort + investment + etc. into building the company up.

If you are nothing more than the user, you have the right to use the service, but no more. Full stop.

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Arktouros

You are paying to use a live service. Just like you pay to use Netflix (but don’t own the movies), you pay to use the toll roads (but don’t own the highway), you pay your ISP a monthly bill to use the internet + rent the router (but don’t own any of the cable that runs the service to your house), and so on and so forth.

However I also don’t get charged for the movie and still have to pay for the service access to it on their servers. I can buy a movie on Amazon’s service and always have access to it or I can use their Amazon Prime service and watch it at any time should it be offered on that service. I don’t have to do both.

This is the nonsense of the pay to access argument, because you also charge for the product up front and then charge us a service fee to access the game content we already paid for.

If the client was free, but access to the servers not then your argument makes much more sense.

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Tim Anderson

@ Arktouros

“I can buy a movie on Amazon’s service and always have access to it or I can use their Amazon Prime service and watch it at any time should it be offered on that service. I don’t have to do both.”

You can also buy a single player game like Witcher 3 and play it at any time. Or you can pay for a service such as Playstation Now and access the game and play it while you have a subscription to the live service (but not afterwards).

Buying a movie and owning the movie versus paying for access to a live service are not the same thing.

We aren’t developing a single player title, so the argument of “I paid for it, I should own it” aren’t valid. We are specifically developing our game to be run as a live service, which means sole ownership lies with us.

The box price you pay covers the cost of development of that title up to the launch of said title. The monthly sub/cash shop revenue is what covers the live service component of the game.

Future expansions that cost X dollars use the revenue from those
expansion sales to cover the cost of development of that expansion, while revenue generated from the subscriptions/cash shop go to cover the ongoing live service operations.

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Arktouros

Buying a movie and owning the movie versus paying for access to a live service are not the same thing.

If I’m not mistaken we don’t actually own any of the games we purchase, we just license a use fee for the game. So if you really want to get into the technical jargon, your model is still based on the same model as every other game that you’re selling us a user license and on top of that you’re still charging us a subscription to access the product we already paid for a license for. So again in essence you’re charging me for the movie and charging me for Amazon prime to access the movie I already paid upfront for.

So again if you just charged for that live service, then the allusions to streaming services would make more sense. However since you’re not only charging for the game but then also charging for the subscription service to access the game you’re effectively doing both.

Like I don’t think you quite understand. We’ve all been doing this for 10-20 years now as consumers. We know how the sausage is made. We know how and why you justify your numbers. What we’re saying here is your numbers on a consumer level are bad in today’s market even if they make sense or are even under what the market will bear. This is why large companies stopped making MMOs.

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Armsbend

I’m not disagreeing with you. And I understand we don’t have ownership rights – but I am making the point that maybe that isn’t worth it any longer.

I hope you, as in all developers never forget – you exist in this space by invite only. Once the consumer bores of you – you are yesterday’s news. Just as we aren’t entitled to ownership – unless you bought the game from Nintendo – developers aren’t entitled to our money – or even our adoration any longer.

It has shifted to an adversarial relationship. Good luck. As someone said earlier – I’d work on making a great game before you worked on how much money you were going to make from your unproven game.

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Bruno Brito

I hope you, as in all developers never forget – you exist in this space by invite only. Once the consumer bores of you – you are yesterday’s news. Just as we aren’t entitled to ownership – unless you bought the game from Nintendo – developers aren’t entitled to our money – or even our adoration any longer.

Jesus fucking Christ man, i love when you go full existencial. It’s like poetry in the making.

As for Tim: Dude, good luck. But you’ll be competing with ESO, GW2, Netflix, Disney, WoW, Apple, or any kind of entertainment that the customer feels like worthy more of their 15 bucks than whatever SoL is.

I wouldn’t really spout all this data nonsense so proudly when the market tendency isn’t that you succeed.

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Robert Mann

$15 was always too expensive… AND there was never any “If we succeed and grow, we reinvest” involved in that.

MMOs took the money, and they ran. Players then look at it as a poor value, because what they are getting isn’t $15 a month of services, entertainment, and new content work. It’s $5 a month worth, with the same old business culture that is so close to ruining the entire first world (working alongside government).

I might consider $15 a month, if the game reinvested success somewhat. For example, after a $150,000 profit excluded 20% of sub profits went back into working on getting more new stuff? Yep, I might well consider $15 acceptable. Those figures are all just random, but the point is that the value is what matters. If people are getting something in return, more than just “Yep, the servers are running and you can access” that’s a better value, so long as it’s not just an excuse to shove basic customer care into a cost plan.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

PREACH IT BROTHER! THE COMING TIDE OF REVOLUTION WILL SWEEP AWAY THE FILTHY CAPITALISTS!

*looks around*

Oh, sorry. I’ve been unwell.
.
.
.

viva la revolution!

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Robert Mann

LOL

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Armsbend

FFXI used to do a two month release schedule filled to the brim with updates. SE felt they owed it to us – and they did.

Now? We get more cash shop hats. Gaming really is the pits now.

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Tim Anderson

@ Robert Mann

Actually, if you do your research, you’ll find that 15 dollars a month has never been “too expensive”, and via the Business Insider article I linked in the forum post (and mentioned in the video), the data shows that, for example, the 10 year old price point on console games is way too cheap for the cost of development (along with the 15+ year old price point on subscriptions). It’s just that developers have figured out how to subsidize those costs along the way, allowing them to keep the entry level lower than it should otherwise be for the times.

Whether or not a company is investing “enough” of that money back into the game, that depends entirely on how much money the company is making and business decisions along the way. But I’ll also suggest that at no point in the history of MMORPGs has any developer been able to keep up with the rapid pace at which players consume content, regardless of that ratio, although I would point to ESO as a gold standard of a company that does a damn good job of cranking out regular updates in between expansions.

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Bruno Brito

But I’ll also suggest that at no point in the history of MMORPGs has any developer been able to keep up with the rapid pace at which players consume content, regardless of that ratio

That’s because developers focused on WoW’s standard of controling their playerbase by their own generated content, and keepinjg your players on a leash will make your sleepy nights problematic when they howl and growl all the moons away.

If you focus on making a decent game, with systems in place that allow for player freedom and agency, the players themselves will be content.

See what happened with Transmog. See why WoW’s garrison was a failure and a borefest. Lack of customization and player possibilities.

But go ahead. Use your “Business Insider” theory. I’m sure it’s what the gaming market needs. Another game that looks purely at numbers instead of the customers.

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Armsbend

Do you mind linking me the BI article? I don’t see it linked here and I’m not watching 75minutes of video to find a BI article. thanks.

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Tim Anderson

@ armsbend

You’ve got plenty of time to post commentary. I don’t see why you wouldn’t have enough time to hit up the source material and do some due diligence. It’s a great read. Highly recommend it.

I’ve already done mine. Wrote the forum post that started it all. Had multiple pages of discussions with my community on our forums. Recorded a video to cover things in greater detail. Answered commentary on various game sites.

Meanwhile, I’m off to post today’s new Topic of the Week. Onwards and upwards!

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Bruno Brito

You’ve got plenty of time to post commentary.

Jesus.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

.

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Robert Mann

Yes, I do agree with you in terms of studios needing to make a profit. Game prices haven’t changed, though, because wage to value has decreased. That is to say, when the people buying your product have less effective wealth, it is hard to charge more, even if that means you are earning less. I’m 100% on board with studios trying to make a profit, and dealing with smaller player numbers.

In short, the problem lies in the conflict of economics here. If people had gotten raises in general that kept up with the cost of things, then $15 would indeed be too little. Sadly, that is not the case, and $15 is too much for many who are struggling just to make it through the month before bills come again. It’s not the fault of developers and publishers there… but it is the reason why people are going to respond in exactly this way.

There’s always a difference between an indie project and a big game company on this stuff too, but people see where success happens. Some will always look at how those companies react. A very few companies turn around and support those who support their product, most maintain the status quo and put out big bonuses to their executives and investors. Guess which ones keep support long term?

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Tim Anderson

Netflix also offers hybrid options depending on what perks you want; which ties into our own discussions on the potential for a model with multiple subscription tiers.

As an FYI I pay for the max option that Netflix offers, mostly because I’m a big fan of 4k content. But my brother, for example, only uses the middle tier. Everyone has a different way of accessing the platform and a tier that applies to their direct needs.

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kjempff

Not that it makes too much of a difference but I would like to point out that 20 years ago an Everquest sub was actually 10$. However, the last 15 year subs has been 15$, so still a valid point.

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Arktouros

Is it comparable to a single MMORPG? I would argue yes, but I also play MMORPGs for 20-30 hours a week, and only watch perhaps half that of Netflix/etc.

Yes but who would pay for Netflix, Hulu, PS Plus, Xbox service, and etc and get up to $150/mo in subs services? I’m certainly not going to subscribe to 10 different MMOs of which I might play two of, either.

A great example would be something like Game of Thrones with HBO or Mandalorian for Disney+. I’m sure both of those services had high subscription rates at first, but soon as the content is consumed they likely saw an extreme drop off of subscribers. They need to constantly be adding new content in order to keep people or they simply drop off as who would continue to pay $15 for a service they don’t really use?

MMOs are a similar beast in many ways. Players (specifically PvE players) consume the content and then when they run out they’re done. Most MMOs supplant this with end game loops that keep people grinding (daily quests, faction grinds, etc etc etc) but after a decade we’re all kinda aware of what they’re doing there. We’ve seen this happen game after game after game in the 2010s until MMOs in general had a big slow down of them not getting made. Even juggernauts like WOW see that dip in between expansions when the content is done being put out and people are just waiting for that next content drip feed.

The inherent problem at a consumer level is the new content you come up with (if any at all in a 30 day time frame) for the game is rarely worth the $15 I am going to have to pay to keep accessing it when compared to the other options available to me today.

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Tim Anderson

Except that’s not really what we suggest throughout the entirety of the video OR in the forum discussions (several pages deep now).

We even specifically mention, multiple times, that we are still heavily in favor of the subscription-only model (I think I even mention 99% in favor of the sub-only model at one point), but admit that we would be stupid to not consider ALL of the various angles and potential hybrid systems available, AND to keep an eye on the ongoing evolution of the industry as we work towards launch.

It’s not a softening of our stance; we’ve had it up on our FAQ page for three years that we would either be sub-only OR a hybrid model. So it’s nothing new that we are talking about. Rather, we are simply discussing the merits of ALL the various models and looking towards finding which one works best for OUR game and OUR community.

Just wanted to clarify so people don’t get any mistaken beliefs that we are suddenly sticking a cash shop in our game. We are still VERY MUCH AGAINST cash shops. Please watch the video in its entirety + read through the forum discussions to understand the width/breadth of the discussion we are having with our community.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Cant watch youtube at work, ill check it when I get home. Thanks for the clarification.

My previous comment is fueled by my ESO experience. I truly did feel like a second class citizen in ESO as a subber. If I wasn’t dropping a hundred dollars a month on crates I felt like trash.

I get it by the way. You guys are in the business of making a game and by extension making money from that game. Why hamstring yourself with only 50% ROI when you could get 80% ROI?

The beast that is capitalism requires it.

*shrugs*

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Tim Anderson

I appreciate you taking the time to dig into the topic deeper. It’s a deeply complicated business decision that we’re working with our community to find the right answer to over the next year and a half or so as we work towards beta and launch.

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Munchmeat2

I have never bought a crate in ESO and I have enjoyed the game a lot. I don’t get this obsession with in-game cosmetics that has gripped the MMO community?

The cash shop is mostly fluff and a few character perks.

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Armsbend

As in life – people want to differentiate themselves from the masses with the shinies. People are the same in game as they are out of game.

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camren_rooke

People also like cool and interesting things.

Hey I have a lightning sorcerer, having a lightning bear pet would be awesome. Oh I’m subbing so I’ll have to go through the gamble boxes to get it. Well with my monthly pittance I get with the sub I could save up enough to get several crates and try for it, maybe get enough in rubies to buy it outright if I am not so lucky. Might take several months though. Oh the storm crates are gone in a couple of months? Oh, oh well.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

MMOS are at their core violent dress up dolly meet n greets. Cosmetics and pets are therefore a part of the experience of the game. Hiding those things behind gambling mechanics is, to me, unfair, especially if I am subbing.(keke)

Jim Sterling probably does a better job at explaining it than me.

I understand why companies do it. I mean why not get someone to pay 100 dollars gambling for a cool cloak as opposed to just paying 15 dollars. That’s just good business.

At the end of the day though, I don’t have to participate and if the whole industry moves to it, well I still have Caves of Qud.

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Armsbend

Good luck – at least you are being reasonable about it.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Oh oh. Here comes the subbers are second class citizens over the whales at the cash shop.

I hope not but I have a doubt.