The maker of ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) made the statement that the subscription model offers a greater chance to come out with better and more compelling content than a F2P. I think that’s absolutely wrong. It’s all int he content. The reason why WoW can continue to enjoy a fairly large user base and still sell hundreds of millions of in game products from their store, is because the lore and the content speaks to the player. But it’s not a value proposition for subscription.
If that was true all other F2P models would struggle and not because they struggled as P2P models. Like League of Legends. 100 percent F2P MOBA from the get go and with 67 million active players and almost a billion in revenue, this has all to do with content and offering and nothing to do with method of payment.
It can be true that you take a risk by offering a product for free – but that risk would be same with a subscription model. No amount of free or paid for content can change the fact that unless the product offers something compelling players would be playing it. Having people pay up front only reduces the commitment slightly but it won’t change the end.
Take me and Rift. I haven’t spent a dime yet. In the same amount of time (going back to how I ended up playing DDO) I already spent some money and set myself up for VIP. That was based on my interaction with the game. Something I’d never do if it wasn’t F2P.
And I would never have downloaded and played Rift if it wasn’t F2P and I always wanted to try it out. And now that I have I’m struggling with the limitation of immersion. That’s not me recommending that people don’t try it out; keep in mind that Rift offer the same type of MMO that you find in WoW, Lotro and many other similar games. So if you like any of those I’m sure you’d love a graphically appealing product like Rift. But I like something that plays more like a offline game – responsive and that provides me with that feeling of individual accomplishment and not just standing in line waiting for my turn.
There’s nothing that says ESOs development team have more resources because of their choice of going subscription only – there’s simply not a real good argument for it. If that was true then SWOTR wouldn’t be F2P or any other MMO. And their reaction of going F2P is not just because other games have done it and it undermines the subscription fee model – it’s because in a crowded gaming field companies have to provide a good reason why anyone should try out their product.
It’s hard to say of DDO did the right thing when they went F2P, but with no marketing of their product and a dying game, it seems like the obvious thing to do in order to lure people to it. Now imagine if they’d done that with an advertising budget and more importantly not let their greed for short term profits blind them from the need of making sure the quality was there both in releases and coding.
Now the one thing I’d like to say about the F2P model is that we might see the death of AAA titles. At least the innovative stuff. Just look at the drop in quality that we see in titles like Sim, where EA have pushed out so much crap that the code is riddled with game breaking bugs in favor for selling what amount to store sold fluff.
This used to be a staple product.
But that’s a poor example compared to the large franchises like COD. And perhaps hybrids like Destiny is the future – big expensive games that straddle the realm of almost MMO shooter without the expanding lore and pay for fluff and DLC addition in what seems to be a multi year investment strategy. In a small way we’ve seen this in the emergence of DLC content almost as soon as the main product is released and we’ve seen that in games like the Total War series with the release of for the dollars addition. Some nothing more than different uniforms or additional units, similar to Company of Heroes 2. Now compare that to the original Company of Heroes. That one had several expansion, almost stand alone products. If I’m not mistakes 2 or perhaps 3. With CoH 2 we’ve seen lots of DLCs instead similar to how it is with the Total War series. With individual units and leaders, skins and such.
So what’s happening in the realm of MMOs is sorta happening already to single player games, even without online components. That’s good (in my opinion). Far better option than the silly 30-40 dollar expansion packs that add a few features you want but not 30-40 dollars worth. And that allows for a fully capitalistic approach to gaming; if you don’t want it – don’t buy it.
Anyways – the ESO maker shouldn’t bet their horse on this. I think WoW is pretty much unique in this new landscape. They have a loyal dedicated base and they provide with fairly good quality releases. ESO as it seems, and I don’t know until they go F2P (and I’m sure they will) doesn’t seem to stray to far away from the mold of most MMOs. They have lore, but they seems to mix in the same trivial (fetch this) type quests. Plus the factions just doesn’t seem natural to me. I know this is suppose to be set before Skyrim, but it feels so artificial to me considering that they could’ve easily made this about fighting against Oblivion and not artificial factions just to add PvP content. But whatever.