Almost three years ago, our writers and readers came together for a discussion about whether the age of the $15 subscription was coming to an end. Obviously, this question was injected into an industry that had and still has free, hybrid, and a la carte options, as well as games with under-$15 subs, and many of us remember the days before the $15 sub. But the reality is and was that the $15 sub was still the standard, largely thanks to games in the early aughts that cemented it as the fairest deal, and at the time, the question was largely hypothetical.
In 2022 thus far, however, we’ve seen a bit of flux in the sub and optional-sub market. But now, we’ve seen two major MMORPGs, EVE Online and RuneScape, increase their sub prices – EVE to $20 and RuneScape to $12.49. Consoles continue adding subs, GTAO added a new sub, Dual Universe has already raised the price of its beta sub, games like LOTRO and Star Trek Online made their existing subs more attractive, and then at the other end of the spectrum, Ryzom lowered its sub. There’s a lot going on here, but to me, EVE is the biggest marker of potential change. Pushing over the $15 mark is just something almost no MMOs have been able to pull off to any success.
Let’s revisit the question in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Are the days of the $15 subscription more numbered than ever? Which MMOs do you think might follow EVE Online’s lead? Or has EVE Online leaped ahead too quickly? Should more MMOs shift back to sub models that are higher than they were 20 years ago, and under what conditions would you consider it a good thing? Which MMO will be next to raise its subscription?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I feel like EVE has a really well-to-do playerbase, and as you can use ISK to buy your sub, it may be easier for them to pull this off, but it still feels like a mistake to me if you want to grow a playerbase. That’s why I’m hesitant to guess that FFXIV will be next, but perhaps only so the devs can keep focusing on making a quality product, but… well, I think one of the other writers may want to comment on their recent “cancellation” issues.
I honestly can’t imagine too many MMOs even wanting to try this. Maybe future releases will (hi, Dual Universe), but anything live right now would be shooting itself in the foot in terms of attracting more players. If everything is getting more expensive, and free-to-play games still exist, people who are feeling the economic sting may need an excuse to stop spending. On that note, however, I do wonder if some F2P games might choose to add subscriptions more. After all, if you were paying $15 a month before and are looking for a new game, $5 a month sounds like a bargain.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’m tempted to say that ESO could pull this off, but so much of the value of ESO+ is contained within that infinite crafting bag, I’m not sure how much players are willing to pay to forgo inventory woes. I feel like games with multiple revenue streams (subscriptions/expansions/cash shops) might have a more difficult time selling a price hike.
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I kind of feel like Final Fantasy XIV might angle this direction, but then that would probably be a momentum killer for all of the popularity it’s been garnering up to this point. Maybe down the line much, much later, though, assuming the trend spreads.
I also kind of feel like the Runeterra MMO will charge an EVE-sized sub as well. Just a shot in the dark wild guess; Riot seems like the kind of company that would do this.
Star Wars The Old Republic seems like the kind of game that would try the same price hike. Yes, that would be a dumb decision, but this game is not really well known for its intelligent monetization decisions.
Ultimately, I don’t foresee the $15 a month sub plan surviving for too much longer. Everything else is regrettably getting pricier, so why not subs to MMOs too?
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I almost think that it’s smarter for subs to go cheaper in the era of multiple MMOs. Look at streaming platforms: There’s so much competition in that space that these companies know they’re more likely to get sign-ups for sub-$10 subscriptions than a premium one. So I guess the question is if an MMO studio is aiming to squeeze money out of its loyal customers or expand the playerbase and convert more free players to paying ones. We’ve seen a couple titles actually decrease in cost, and that seems wise to me.
Increase? It’ll hurt your product more than help, even if you can justify the increase from inflation and more expensive operating costs. I don’t have a good prediction here, because it seems like anyone such as EVE to do this is shooting themselves in the foot for short-term revenue increases.