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General: Can the F2P / Subscription Twain Meet?

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

MMORPG.com Free Zone columnist Richard Aihoshi writes his column this week on the idea of subscription and F2P coming together with a specific look at Istaria's pricing model.

Richard Aihoshi

It's easy and thus not unusual for people to talk about free to play and subscription as if they are mutually exclusive alternatives. While I don't know if they actually believe this, it's simply not so.

I've felt for quite some time that the MMO space will see more variations on business models, and this has been happening, although not as a huge, highly visible trend. And as part of the movement, there are examples where the two business models show some degree of convergence or overlap in individual games.

Last week, this site posted an article about the three pricing options for Istaria, which may be more familiar to some under its previous name, Horizons. In addition to a 14-day free trial, publisher Virtrium offers two subscription tiers, at $14.95 and $9.95 per month respectively, and... F2P, which was implemented last year.

Read Can the F2P / Subscription Twain Meet

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • SimsuSimsu Corvallis, ORPosts: 360Member Uncommon

    With respect I don't think the F2P described in this article can be considered as a stand alone business model. This is a subscription based model with a "limited F2P option" (tho it would be entirely fair to call this some sort of a unlimited trial rather than a F2P anything). I think this is a good move for them, I hope it helps them out.

    It will be interesting to see how a tiered subscription model works out for them. Of all the models that have come out so far I think this one is the most attractive.

  • SimsuSimsu Corvallis, ORPosts: 360Member Uncommon

    On the topic of blending F2P and Subscription models I think we're already seeing it, but its coming in the form of "Subscription Plus" (Subs+) models where you have to pay the standard subscription fee and then you can use the standard F2P RMT stores on top of the subs. Sony and Cryptic are two of the bigger developers moving to Subs+. All in all I think this is a trend we (players, MMO communities) should be pushing back on, in efforts to get the developers to stop moving towards this.

  • EricDanieEricDanie Rio de JaneiroPosts: 2,238Member

    This is the evolution of a trial, because as you mentioned there is nothing to purchase with real money, only the subscription. No pay to win, no pay to look good, no pay to achieve, no pay for anything... except pay to play, if you ever want.

    Evolution we are seeing slowly, as seen in WAR and AoC's endless free trials, and the true nature of playing for free in some "F2Ps" where you NEED to pay to compete.

  • InktomiInktomi merrick, NYPosts: 663Member

     The other is people who will never pay, and never intended to. From an accounting perspective, he understands they have no direct value. However, through a designer's eyes, they add to the world and make it better overall.

    I thought that was a really good point. Good call on the topic, richard. I had click-saved istaria considering giving it a trial. I read an article recently about the free trial that enabled you to be human only. All I can say, if it having an active community is what they are striving for they have a good chance at it with one free race. When new players see how cool other the other races are, like dragons, they might be willing to pay a sub just for that.

    It also depends on the re-playability, cost and over-all fun factor of the game.

  • LobotomistLobotomist ZagrebPosts: 5,059Member Uncommon

    Good article.

    I personally see DDO as a future of MMO subscription ( i even read an article by CEO of GPOTATO who was giving kudos to turbine and calling them geniuses for inventing the model)

    DDO has 3 tiers of game

    1. Pay nothing for : Unlimited level progression but limited content ( although a free content path to level cap exists)

    2. Pay for content : Unlock content for one time payment

    3. Subscription : Play normally as P2P MMO with all benefits and bonuses

     

    This is a perfect system because it caters both to casual and serious players.

    - If you are casual you dont have to pay nothing and still there will be enough content for you to enjoy.

    - If you start being more into the game you have option to buy parts of content.

    - If you are serious player - well than you probably do not mind subscription anyway.

     

    A perfect system. And i suspect Bioware are considering something like this as well.

     

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  • championsFanchampionsFan Seattle, WAPosts: 419Member

    Since the launch of Champions Online, Cryptic escalated the C store as far as it could until the complaints reached a breaking point.   They wisely decided that the outcry was too large, and they have made some concessions that are a big improvement, and have the game back on track to survive, IMO.

    The other point I want to bring up is the great North American video game crash of 1983.   In short, Atari got so greedy with its 2600 console that it flooded the market with low quality games, leading to a consumer backlash and a crash for the whole industry.  Eventually the market was resurrected by Nintendo, which built their reputation around the promise of quality.

    The point of these stories is that we gamers demand a minimum level of value, and whether it means giving up our specific games (Champions, in my case) or games in general (in the Atari crash), as much as we like gaming there comes a point where the companies are too greedy and we refuse to participate.

     

     

    Cryptic is trying a Customer Development approach to MMO creation.

  • nolic1nolic1 Kingman, AZPosts: 687Member Uncommon

     I think the idea of the ftp/ everending free trials is a good idea but at the same time DDO has done a good change for ftp even tho its not a 100% ftp. If companies went with a concept of giving players a limited race choice and amount of content for free and they added an adventure system where adventure packs cost and new content always gave the players paying or not something new and added a system where players unlocked new stuff such as races and classes no weapon an armor upgrades but just for content then that is what would help these games grow. Just make it to were they couldnt get everything for free just enough to get by and then they can either sub for everything or buy it a piece at a time but are still limited to what they can get.

    But i am just one person it would take this whole community to get this kind of idea to happen. It wouldnt even need to be this idea but something close to it. Subs are good and even people spending some money is great. If more games had a option to buy sub cards at a store for the sub fees more company's would see more players for sure But giving players an option to play for free with little money spent to get what they want from the game or sub it to get everything. and make the game $14.99 a month or give a player whos played a year or more the option to buy a permanent sub for say $199.00 like Lotro offers but make it to where if they sub one year they get this option. But these are the ideas i have thought about submitting to some of the big game company's cause i know it would work.

    But great article there on the topic of ftp and sub games.

    image
    To me I enjoy gaming I dont play to be uber I play to have fun. If a game is not fun to me guess what I move on and play something else till I find one that is. When I find that great game and not sure if in my life time there will be one I hope it has everything I want in an mmo.

  • nekollxnekollx Glendale, CAPosts: 570Member
    Originally posted by championsFan


    Since the launch of Champions Online, Cryptic escalated the C store as far as it could until the complaints reached a breaking point.   They wisely decided that the outcry was too large, and they have made some concessions that are a big improvement, and have the game back on track to survive, IMO.
    The other point I want to bring up is the great North American video game crash of 1983.   In short, Atari got so greedy with its 2600 console that it flooded the market with low quality games, leading to a consumer backlash and a crash for the whole industry.  Eventually the market was resurrected by Nintendo, which built their reputation around the promise of quality.
    The point of these stories is that we gamers demand a minimum level of value, and whether it means giving up our specific games (Champions, in my case) or games in general (in the Atari crash), as much as we like gaming there comes a point where the companies are too greedy and we refuse to participate.
     
     

    yeah Atari is really falling back to old times, but they are far from the only RTM game, nore is Sony. Alot of people overlook the 11million lbs gorilla.

     

    World Of Warcraft

    Want to change your race/gender? RTM

    Server? RTM

    Faction? RTM

    and their rates are much higher.

     

    And yeah Charging for Vibro Bay was a stupid ass move but i think RTM is GOOD when used wisely.

     

    Let's be honest here, how many alts or costumes does Joe Average need? Not you, the sheep who form the masses?

    So charging extra for the hardcore and obsessed to get their "perfect game" makes sense. You provide the baseline EVERYONE agree on and let those who need more then the norm get it.

     

    But on the other hand Cryptic is really showing a lack of comitment and drive. I mean they STILL don't have the mirror universe costumes in, and those were a perk of the CO Lifetime sub. And have you seen the TOS female costume?

  • brostynbrostyn Louisville, KYPosts: 3,092Member

    I like DDO's system. You can p2p, and have access to more content. You can also buy items to help you.

    Personally, I think the items are way overpriced. If they made them more reasonable I think DDO would see more sales. In a virtual world where the items you buy are limitless, yet situational and short lasting, people are not going to spend 5 to 10 dollars a pop.

    I'll give an example. You can buy a potion that last 10 minutes that ups your stats by 2. This potion is roughly 2 dollars/bottle. Why so expensive? Wouldn't they sell more if the potions where .25 cents a pop? Therefore making more money with the same amount of resources?

    You can buy a rest shrine for 10 dollars. Honestly, I wonder if they have ever sold a rest shrine.

     

    Anyways, my point is I don't mind the p2p structure at all, btw, DDO is also subsricption and RMT. I don't know why you guys think its not. If Turbine and SOE lowered their prices on their items they would actually make more money by selling more, and their products are 100% profit, because it takes no resources to make a potion appear on a video game. 

     

    Wouldn't they rather sell 10,000 potions a day at .25-.35 cents a pop, rather than selling 500 at 2 dollars a pop? There is no more worked involved in selling the 10,000 than the 500.

  • Superman0XSuperman0X San Jose, CAPosts: 1,606Member Uncommon

    The F2P described in this model is pretty much what every F2P offers. There are two groups: one that will convert to paying players (whether via microtransactions, monthly fee, zone fees, etc) and one that will never convert. The whole purpose of F2P is to offer a full game for free, but entice the customer to want more (and pay for it). It is also used to build community, and to grow the userbase.

    It is valid to state that other F2P games offer MORE, but some also offer LESS. The overall effect is basically the same, but the extend will depend on how F2P is incorporated into the game (via mechanics).

    The reality is that the gaming industry is evolving. F2P is the new standard, upon which every game is looking to build. There will be varying levels of integration, but they are all seeing the benefits of F2P, and using it as the first step to get players into their game. Some games may look at this as a second round option (WAR) once they have gotten their money up front. Some may see it as a change of pace (DDO).

    F2P is the lowest level of entry for any game... and as games become more competitive, they will seek to remove barriers that prevent players from experiencing their game. It is turning into a players market, and F2P caters to the players.

  • majikkatmajikkat auburn, NEPosts: 7Member
    Originally posted by Lobotomist


    Good article.
    I personally see DDO as a future of MMO subscription ( i even read an article by CEO of GPOTATO who was giving kudos to turbine and calling them geniuses for inventing the model)
    DDO has 3 tiers of game
    1. Pay nothing for : Unlimited level progression but limited content ( although a free content path to level cap exists)
    2. Pay for content : Unlock content for one time payment
    3. Subscription : Play normally as P2P MMO with all benefits and bonuses
     
    This is a perfect system because it caters both to casual and serious players.
    - If you are casual you dont have to pay nothing and still there will be enough content for you to enjoy.
    - If you start being more into the game you have option to buy parts of content.
    - If you are serious player - well than you probably do not mind subscription anyway.
     
    A perfect system. And i suspect Bioware are considering something like this as well.
     

     

    I do see this being the way forward...

    DDO does it

    Funcom has it with Anarchy Online

    Istaria/Horizons has it also

    Hardest part is for things such as PVP since the dreaded word 'balance' will spring up no doubt due to premium customers having more things to add to their characters than freebie players.

  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,205Member Uncommon

    Good article. Would be interesting to see other games try different models like this. My only issue is...why pick Istaria for the example here? The reasons I didn't sub to that game have nothing to do with pvp, or monsters/loot, but with 2 VERY IMPORTANT and often OVERLOOKED features: Controls and Graphics. These 2 things alone made me not want to continue my journey in Istaria no matter what the other gameplay mechanics were.

    Anyway, I think DDO has it right, and games like AoC and Warhammer could possibly do well with those type of options, heck even games like Tabula Rasa. This way games on the way out can maybe stay alive and those developing companies can maybe make a turn around. All good either way for gamers and economy.

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  • ThomasN7ThomasN7 87.18.7.148 1, NJPosts: 6,690Member

    For me the solution is downloadable content(dlc) just like XboX 360 and PSN players pay if they want extra content. It is a win win situation for everyone and players do not have that monthly fee hanging over there head each month. Perfect examples of success is Dragon Age in 2009 made over 1 million in sales and in 2008 Call of Duty map pack made 10 million in sales. I see no reason why dlc won't work unless developers are that greedy. Depending on how good fo a product devlopers make, developers can make a ton of money on dlc .

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  • DwarvishDwarvish Stratford, CTPosts: 208Member

    Great read Richard .

    This looks like a winning biz model for a game. It satisfies all types of players ( excluding hcpvpers). I may give it a try...there is nothing to loose!! If it turns out to be enjoyable the full sub is still cheap entertainment, something I'll go for in a heartbeat.



     

    Gl to Istaria. I agree we will see more of this type of creative billing in the future.

     Still waiting for GW2......soon, very soon!!

  • LodenDSGLodenDSG Crawfordville, FLPosts: 266Member

    all things aside I am most happy to hear this; "the best thing for Istaria is to focus on and build upon its core elements in order to have the strongest possible appeal for those to whom those strengths are most important".

     

    But ya the f2p or unlimited trial or what ever else you want to call it, I think is a good idea; it got me back in there to try it out again and its much improved (last I played was before the company change over and vista support) and im or rather we (the family) are about to sub up (3 new subs for them)

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  • Default101Default101 Bloomington, ILPosts: 55Member

    I'll have to give Istaria a try at some point. I remember being in the beta for Horizons years ago. The lack of polish as well as my lack of time prevented me from ever getting involved with it for long.

    If you are talking about F2P/subscription mixes though, I am surprised no one has brought up DDO yet. Their relaunch as a F2P title has been a huge success. They also feature the most fair and well thought out cash shop I have ever seen. Some might disagree with me, because at first glance it can seem rather pricey. Once they understand the system though, I think most would agree it is more than fair. Whatever your opinion, it cannot be denied that this switch saved DDO from certain failure - and turned it into a relatively successful game.

    I think there is a place for these multi-subscription model games, especially as the younger MMO crowd gets older, many  may be looking for a more casual game that allows them pick and choose what features they want to play. This is my firsthand experience, because I don't really have the time to enjoy a P2P game to it's fullest. Paying 15 bucks a month when I may only play a handful of hours some months is not efficient use of funds. Games that offer more than one subscription model go a long way in solving this problem, provided they are well polished games with fair cash shops (not the trend among F2P titles).

    Edit: I see someone has already brought up DDO. Sorry - I missed that post. It only reinforces the fact that DDO rules though :).

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  • AeturanAeturan Freehold, NJPosts: 27Member

     First off, I have to ask, why are we randomly seeing more about Istaria than usual?

    Secondly, I have to say that the F2P and Subscription "Twain" can meet if done right. A lot of people praise DDO's form of limited F2P and Wizard 101 has a similar setup. On top of that, you have Face of Mankind that literally gives unlimited access to a cash shop that doesn't exist for their monthly fee with all core features available for free, if you understand what I'm saying.

  • pojungpojung Central, FLPosts: 810Member

    I'd need more than 2 hands to count the number of times I've seen the P2P/F2P models discussed as both proper threads and weekly columns on this site within the past half-year.

     

    While it's offtopic from the post: I think MMORPG's should be more worried about their simple existence in the onslaught of online social gaming. Subscription, pay-as-you-go, cash-shop models are all nice and well, but given the low entry level of social gaming and the nigh free nature it implies, with the fast turnaround of consumer-dev reaction, I'd be far more worried about the very existence of my genre of play come 5 years from now.

    Let's see a fresh article exploring more pertinent ground. Subjective? Absolutely.

    That is exactly right, and we're not saying NO to save WoW, because it is already a lost cause. We are saying NO to dissuade the next group of greedy suits who decide to emulate Blizzard and Cryptic, etc.
    We can prevent some of the future games from spewing this crap, but the sooner we start saying no, the better the results will be.
    So - Stand up, pull up your pants, and walk away.
    - MMO_Doubter

  • WSIMikeWSIMike Catskill, NYPosts: 5,564Member
    Originally posted by Lobotomist


    Good article.
    I personally see DDO as a future of MMO subscription ( i even read an article by CEO of GPOTATO who was giving kudos to turbine and calling them geniuses for inventing the model)
    DDO has 3 tiers of game
    1. Pay nothing for : Unlimited level progression but limited content ( although a free content path to level cap exists)
    2. Pay for content : Unlock content for one time payment
    3. Subscription : Play normally as P2P MMO with all benefits and bonuses
     
    This is a perfect system because it caters both to casual and serious players.
    - If you are casual you dont have to pay nothing and still there will be enough content for you to enjoy.
    - If you start being more into the game you have option to buy parts of content.
    - If you are serious player - well than you probably do not mind subscription anyway.
     
    A perfect system. And i suspect Bioware are considering something like this as well.
     

    Well I'm curious about Turbine's approach, though.

    Depending on how long term you intend to play, the one time purchase would seem to be the best value in the long run; it makes it more like a Guild Wars model... pay once, play forever, when ever, no sub fee.

    A sub fee is good in that it gives you all access to all aspects... but after a while, you're paying far more than the one-time purchase would get you.

    So, while I prefer the subscription model, given the choice of those two options, I would go for the pay once option and be done with it.



    As for Istaria... I think it's great they ahve an effective "free forever" option. I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to include the option to play a Dragon, only you can't ascend to Adult or Ancient so long as it's free. At least let players try out the Dragon path and see if they like it better, because the Humanoid and Dragon paths in Istaria are *very* different experiences. And, of course, being able to play the dragon has been Istaria's key selling point as far back as I can remember, into its earliest days as Horizons. Although the Humanoid path definitely offers far more variety and far more options than the Dragon path does in the long term. Not very many MMOs left that offer Istaria's level of customization; that is in terms of character development, not character creation :).

     

     

    "If you just step away for a sec you will clearly see all the pot holes in the road,
    and the cash shop selling asphalt..."
    - Mimzel on F2P/Cash Shops

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  • OrlenaOrlena Lititz, PAPosts: 22Member

     The thing about a model like what Turbine has done is that they base their business model on frequent "must purchase" expansions.  Turbine has a large enough development team that they can be working on large enough expansion packs to put out a couple times a year that players who want the new content must pay to purchase.  What's been interesting to me to follow is how with the most recent such expansion (Mirkwood), the marketing has seemed to be getting a bit more "desperate" than happened with, say, the Moria expansion.  Don't get me wrong, I love their "once and done" subscription offer, and took advantage of it right from day one.  But they've also gotten quite a bit more out of me money wise since then that I'm still not quite sure that I've actually "saved" anything in the time I've been playing.  I'd have to calculate months played times normal subscription fee, and compare that to the initial outlay plus the expansions to know for sure, but at this point I think Turbine and I are pretty even, actually.

     

    Hmm... interesting thought.

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member

    I can shorten this article by answering that last "wonder" you posted. I don't think any company, ever, will look to Horizons and think "We should do what they did". I think Horizons is one of those games that exists purely to show companies what not to do when making an MMO.

     

    When you have to change your name because the initial product was so terrible, there is nothing you can ever do to fix that image.

     

     

    Now onto the actual topic of the article.

     

    I think DDO's revenue system is interesting, and I am sure some more games will attempt to do the same style. However I still don't want to play a game that is a hybrid in that way. I want to play a subscription game where everyone pays the same amount and has the same options, and that is it.

     

    Even with DDO's hubrid system, spending extra money will still give you an advantage. Even if you do the subscription model, spending extra money gives an advantage. I never want to play any game that has that concept included. I want same cost to everone, same benefits to everyone.

     

    I'll stick to my P2P games until they don't exist, then I'll be done with MMOs.

  • UnsungTooUnsungToo Lake Worthless, FLPosts: 276Member

    I'll buy a game, but I won't subscribe to subscription based games anymore.

    Godspeed my fellow gamer

  • Originally posted by SnarlingWolf
     
    I'll stick to my P2P games until they don't exist, then I'll be done with MMOs.



     

    Ha! I've recently concluded the opposite. I will stick to F2P/unlimited trials until they don't exist, then I'll be done with MMOs.

    Paying a subscription for your *first* MMO I think is good value. After I'd left my first MMO I spent hundreds trying new MMOs, none of which I stuck with for very long even if I thought they were good games. You see, after the first weeks of play I found every MMO settled in to being much the same generic gameplay and much the same experience. And the truth is that I can have this for free.

    Companies will have to produce something truly special now for me to reach for the credit card.

     

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member
    Originally posted by Strap

    Originally posted by SnarlingWolf
     
    I'll stick to my P2P games until they don't exist, then I'll be done with MMOs.



     

    Ha! I've recently concluded the opposite. I will stick to F2P/unlimited trials until they don't exist, then I'll be done with MMOs.

    Paying a subscription for your *first* MMO I think is good value. After I'd left my first MMO I spent hundreds trying new MMOs, none of which I stuck with for very long even if I thought they were good games. You see, after the first weeks of play I found every MMO settled in to being much the same generic gameplay and much the same experience. And the truth is that I can have this for free.

    Companies will have to produce something truly special now for me to reach for the credit card.

     



     

    I research any game I consider playing, I don't pay for boxes let alone pre-order. And I only try a game that will let me free-trial and then start paying a sub fee and give me all of the content (the game and any expansions) free of charge.

     

    So if I do pick a bad MMO and get bored after a month or two then I just spent less then buying a single player game anyways. I play lots of other genres like FPS, RTS, racing and subscription MMOs are cheaper. For instance I get CoD MW2 when it comes out and it's $60. I get 4 months of a subscription MMO for that same price. I haven't had another type of game hold on for those 4 months in many years. The last game I got true value out of was CS(HalfLife since it was a mod for it) and CS:S since I played both for years. Maybe MW2 will make it the 4 months but we'll have to see. I find most none MMOs hold my attention for a couple weeks quite often, occasionally one will hold on longer. Currently MW2 has made it a month and a half and there's plenty about that game that irritates me and will eventually get me to stop playing.

     

    I'm also not a cheap person, I go to movies a lot, I have a higher end cable package with plenty of optional channels, I like to go out and do things. Of everything that I do for entertainment, subscription MMOs are the cheapest.

     

    I can see how some people would want f2p games because they don't want to spend money. But the moment those same people enjoy their f2p game they will make up for all the money they saved by buying little things here and there. In the end they won't save anything over someone like me and most will likely spend far more.

     

    Cost isn't the issue for me however, someone being able to bypass or speed through parts of the game because they're willing to open their wallet more then someone else is what gets me. For that reason alone I will never play a f2p MMO. I also won't play any sub based mmo that starts selling in game items for real world money. It's just my personal choice. I do have less time for MMOs then I once did, so if they did all go F2P and leave me none to play it wouldn't be a big loss either.

  • AladyleynaAladyleyna SingaporePosts: 269Member

    I actually think this is quite a good idea. Having an unlimited trial would entice more players to actually try out the game (I never try a game without a trial though, unless the box price is really cheap), and if they like it, then they'll subscribe to it. It's certainly a lot better than having a subscription, and a cash shop on top of that. Of course, I still prefer the buy to play model, but this model that Istaria may well be my second favourite mode of payment.

    I particularly love the idea of two tier payments that Istaria offers. This is because some of us might not be so financially inclined, yet still want to have more options than just sticking to free to play. It isn't really that expensive either, and I think it is quite a good idea. It wouldn't be such a bad idea for subscription games to payment tiers at all, ad if Istaria does prove this model to be a success, then I dare say more companies might try this.

    Main characters:
    Jinn Gone Quiet (Guild Wars)
    Princess Pudding (Guild Wars)

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