MMO: Pay 2 Play?

Jan 21, 2013


Recently I stumbled on yet another article speaking on subscription based games… and I am not going to bother listing them because we all know which ones are still relevant and currently in the hunt, albeit very few from a few years ago.

Joe has always been kind enough to research sale figures and give us more insight on why these big titles eventually go free-to-play, but there has to be some other form of impact to the industry and us as gamers and that is what I want to speculate and comment about. Reason being, if we can find something to fight for by way of where we spend our money, I’d like a head start so I still end up with the solid MMO experience at the best price.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic is the latest MMO I have played to go free to play. I’ll be honest I was more excited about character creation and the way the models moved and behaved using their powers than I was with the first 5 hours of game play and in truth, I did not make it that far into the game before losing interest and eventually uninstalling it from my PC.

This is just my opinion but I feel that there are 2 major classes of gamers out there within the MMO veil of gaming. The first is diehard: they will pay for anything and everything to get ahead, become powerful and be put in position to experience industry shaking content with their buddies or guildies. The second is everyone else: from casual players to someone looking for the social bug or maybe it is just boredom, trying to find a worthwhile experience for their money with consistent “challenges” each time they log in.

What they have in common is the subscription fee but to each class it represent different things. $15 may sound nominal by itself for unlimited access to more content than you could get on a console game but once you take it away, I believe the desire to play “harder” decreases and you have a huge influx of new users and old users dropping in and out of play more often.

The MMO model worked well, maybe not for as long as any of us expected, but the last 10 years especially were fairly good. Is it on it’s way out though? Star Wars lasted barely a year, Terra is now free to play as well. Can companies afford to spend a few hundred mil and not be competitive free-to-play and I say… yes! The difference between a successful MMO and everything else is exclusivity. Let me address a few big areas within that discussion.

Subscription: Players whom want to play that pay a subscription fee, will have a stronger tie to the game and subsequent fee based games.

Content: Graphics, quests and pretty scenery only get players so far before they get bored. There has to be a reason to log in and experience the world because it is exciting. An example would be lore. World of Warcraft is loved as being a great MMO because of the Warcraft Universe and previous success earning it a place in all of our hearts as probably the most successful MMO of the last 15 years. People log in because they can see fabled orcs and humans kill each other.

Exclusivity: Players want this badly in MMO’s. They want to be the best, they want the best gear and all the vanity and bragging rights with epic and rarity all over their account. The rewards need to appear within our grasp but be far enough away to warrant dedication in order to motivate players with tangible accomplishments.

When you add these things together you create a good MMO, worthy of a subscription and one that players will always pay for, which forces everyone else to compete in a different way (micro-transactions). Simply stating that subscription based gaming is going by the wayside is premature at this point in time as millions world wide swipe their credit cards and continue to put in hours every day.

Joe brought this up the other night and I have been thinking about it ever since. Going off of the 3 main points to a successful MMO: what would make a good candidate for the next big one? Let me list 2:

Fallout: A huge fan base, boasting open world games in an interesting and well liked setting. Obviously there would be room for rivalry, factions, crafting, exploration, action and sanctuary within “post apocalyptia”

Star Wars: Wait, didn’t I just say it lost my attention? Yes I did, but that was just that game not the universe it is derived from. Star Wars has been popular since before I was born and look, it still is today. No one yet has been able to capture the magic of those worlds and translate it to the MMO stage which is where I think it needs to be. Imagine a truly epic world, alongside the stories of old and into the future awaiting your touch. I can hear the music now, escaping on your ship or maybe taking it to dock in the cloud city to off load some gear and resupply. SWKOTOR may have failed to be exclusive but the universe is rich with potential.

In closing fee based gaming is a great way for the hardcore crowd to get their fill and it’s expensive after a few years of adding up the costs of playing an MMO worth your time. If all MMO’s went free to play, who knows maybe more people would play them but here is the million dollar question: “would any of them have the impact on our senses like the ones we cherish now?” My guess is no and I hope quality remains at it’s highest and continues to grow because why else would you invest so much for mild entertainment?