Massively Overthinking: The most unusual subscriptions in the MMO space


A while back on the MassivelyOP Podcast, so long ago that I can’t remember who or when, a listener asked us about unusual MMO subscriptions and whether we’d pay them. We’re in an age when even having a subscription at all, especially a mandatory one, is pretty unusual, but set that aside for a moment, as in this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’re going to talk about the games that do (or did) have them, especially if they weren’t the typical $15 variety.

I’ve asked the writers – and readers! – to rattle off the non-$15 MMO subscriptions they’ve seen and/or paid over the years. How much was it, and what did you get for the sub? Was it worth it? Did it work for the game? Should more games reconsider adding subscriptions, be they low or high? Tell me about the most unusual subs in the MMO genre!

Andy McAdams: I don’t think I’ve ever paid a non-standard sub; it’s always been the $15/month. The only two I could think of were Glitch and I think Wakfu has sub-$10 subs, but I never paid either of them.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Interesting timing, as I am paying for an EVE Online Omega (akin to a subscription) account, which CCP recently raised the prices on. It’s now $20/mo (up from the usual $15), a change that has been universally panned by the playerbase and seems to have led to lower-than-normal active player numbers. Subscription increases seem to affect EVE players even more than other MMO bases, considering the most loyal and invested tend to run multiple accounts simultaneously. Coupled with lackluster content releases and the community perception that the EVE faithful are merely funding other CCP development efforts, I’d say the $20/mo isn’t working out very well for them.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I am writing my response last after everyone else’s is in, and it seems like we really don’t have many examples, which surprises me. I remember when subs were $10 at the dawn of the genre, and I remember how they creeped up and up to the $15 level and how that actually helped wreck a few games along the way. But personally, I have a much easier time mentally not worrying about a sub that’s under 10 bucks – I’ll just drop that and not even stress it, whereas $15+tax is something my brain sees and feels like it needs to budget for.

Trove comes to mind as an obvious one, and the $7 it (once?) charged was well worth it for the boosts and jumping. (I think the pricing has changed in the last few years; I just went in to grab a screenshot for this piece, and it now starts at a 15-day $5.49 sub, while the monthly is $9.99. I think it used to be $5 and $7? Does anyone remember?) RuneScape has a $12.50 monthly sub right now; I know it used to be much lower. Right now I’m effectively paying $10 a month for LOTRO ($30 for three months), which used to be a standard fee for the long subs. And I want to say the old Glitch sub was $8, though it all got refunded when the game went under.

On the other end of that, I’ve also paid $10 a month in Albion Online – but subs there are per character, up to three characters a month. A couple of times, I’ve paid for two at a time, and that was honestly too much. I had to rein myself in. I understand why SBI has this policy (it’s a sandbox, and sandboxes can be wrecked by alts), but for the way I played Albion, it was not really a smart buy.

One more thing I wanna note here: The cash-shop stipends some sub-optional MMOs offer can sometimes change the value measurement for me. If the cash shop is actually filled with stuff I’d want and my lizard brain would otherwise shell out for, then that stipend really is free money equivalent to a cheaper sub – and it’s not something the old-school games would’ve contemplated.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Speaking for myself, I genuinely don’t have a good answer. The most unusual MMO sub price I’ve ever paid was a lifetime subscription to The Secret World, but that was a one-off deal and most of the time the baseline sub price is what I pay.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Technically, the weirdest sub I pay for is Final Fantasy XIV because of the Legacy bonus. Back when the game was in the middle of being renovated, players who stuck it out during version 1.0 were promised a few benefits, and one of those benefits was a discounted subscription price of $10 per month. Yes, multi-month subscriptions still get a discount there. The bonus is also active forever for everyone who earned it, which means that I will be playing the game at less than full price for the remained of its lifespan. It’s a neat way of saying “thank you” to players who stuck it out, and it isn’t why I keep playing the game, but it sure is a nice bonus.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I certainly never paid more than $15 a month — nor would I, even counting modern inflation — but there have been a few cases where I’ve dropped less. I know I dipped into Wizard101’s family-friendly pricing structure a while back, and I did appreciate that FFXIV charged a few bucks less for a single character on an account. But honestly, that’s probably it unless I’m forgetting some stuff from the Ancient Days(tm) of pre-F2P.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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