Free Makes Money: LOTRO Revenue Triples

By John Walker on January 7th, 2011 at 11:43 am.

She's not exactly dancing with her eyes.

Free to play, but you’re also free to pay! That’s my clever motto. Here’s some good news. Lord Of The Rings Online, since going free-to-play (which annoyingly abbreviates to FTP, which is already used up) has tripled its revenue. That’s madness! Free things make money?! It turns everything in the world all topsy-turvy! Next they’ll be saying piracy encourages sales! Which way is up?

Develop reports that Turbine’s executive producer Kate Paiz is “super-pleased” with the results. That’s like a regular pleased that survived a mysterious nuclear blast, and emerged somehow changed, improved. It’s further proof that this is a sensible direction for MMOs to head in if they want their latter years to prove profitable, with Champions Online going that way very soon. And I’ll make Quintin eat my hat if Star Trek Online doesn’t announce the same at some point in 2011.

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40 Comments »

  1. Flaringo says:

    You should trademark that motto

  2. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    “Free things make money?”

    Isn’t Kieron enjoying himself on the Bahamas with the millions RPS made him?

  3. Jabberslops says:

    I played LOTRO for about a week. During that week I kept thinking to myself that I had wasted nearly 5 years of my life on a much better game called World of Wacraft before I quit. It’s hard to get into a new or different MMO when what you have played for so long is more appealing after quitting.

  4. MrMud says:

    I think calling lotro “free to play” is a bit of a mockery.
    League of Legends if free to play in that you can actually access the entire game without paying anything.

    In lotro you have to pay quite a bit in order to get access to the quest packs for any zones over level 20.

    • Dobleclick says:

      Hmm, I think this is not the case anymore. All regions (including the Moria and Mirkwood expansions) are now accesible for F2P players, although not all quests. And there is definitely no hard-cap at level 20. I’ve got a friend who’s not payed a single penny and he’s currently at level 53… Yes, you can buy expansion-packs, and it makes the game more enjoyable, but remember that you get store-points for completing deeds and stuff. My friend had accumulated so much points during his play that he could afford the full Moria expansion-pack.

    • MrMud says:

      I didnt find the prospect of grinding my way after lvl 20 when all the quests dried up very appealing and promptly quit.
      This was a week or so after it went “f2p” in europe.

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      skalpadda says:

      If you don’t pay for quest packs and such after level 20 you’re going to have to do an awful lot of grinding to keep leveling, and much of the game will be inaccessible. They are monetizing the shit out of *everything* for F2P players.The store points you get from “deeds” do add up, you get 5-10 points per deed (if I remember correctly), some of which come naturally as you quest, but many taking hours of grind to complete. The quest packs cost hundreds of points, much more than you’d get from simply playing through the content to get to the point where you’d have to buy another one.

      It is a lovely world to explore and spend time in, but I’d be more inclined to call it free to try than free to play, and if you intend to play the game a lot you’re probably better off paying the subscription for it.

  5. Dobleclick says:

    A tip: Turbine used “F2P”, which wasn’t used up yet… :-)

    I can support the above story of success from my own surrounding: I played LOTRO right when it launched, but stopped sometime before the first big expansion (Moria) came out. With the news of F2P launching soon, me and some clanmates (who had never played LOTRO before) decided to download the client and start playing the 1-month trial. My clanmates loved the game and subscribed after the first month. I did the same thing, impressed with all the new stuff (regions, legendary items, crafting). And now that F2P has been out for a few months in Europe, all 3 of us continue to pay our regular subscription, because we think the game deserves it, we have a lot of fun, and of course there’s some advantages to subscription play vs F2P.

    My guess is that the increase in revenue is mainly based on new subscriptions, rather than the microtransactions from the LOTRO-store.

  6. mowglie says:

    Surely it’s “F2P” – which can’t really be confused with ftp.

  7. John Walker says:

    I just have such a problem with alpha-numerics. But yes, it is.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      But the world would be a better place if we erased FTP (the file transfer protocol) from existence, because it’s a terribly insecure, slow, fragmented mess. So I fully approve of co-opting FTP to mean free to play.

    • Tei says:

      FTP is decent if you uses SFTP, the secured layer on top of FTP.
      Or you can do something fancy like rsync, that save from from remenber what file you want to upload, and has more options.

    • Hogni Gylfason says:

      SFTP is an abbrevation of SSH File Transfer Protocol, which has nothing in common technically with the FTP protocol.

      Oh, and I’m not surprised that LOTR was more profitable after the move to F2P, as DDO did the same thing for the same company a year ago.

    • Martha Stuart says:

      if you erased FTP from existance than the interent would be erased from existance too. im not at all in favor of that

  8. bill says:

    Can I create an account and go and explore middle earth?

    I don’t care about the leveling or character building or loot (or even quests), I just want to explore middle earth. Will that work, or will I get slaughtered if I step outside the shire?

    • DrGonzo says:

      I didn’t get very far into it, but it looked like it’s quite narrow, you will probably get stuck unless you play the quests through.

    • MrMud says:

      Its an MMO so yes you will be savaged if you stray outside your level zone.

    • jeremypeel says:

      As in life, you can pretty much explore to your heart’s content as long as you’re careful and don’t step within the immediate radius of bad things (enemies, in my limited experience, tend not to attack unless you either attack them or stand next to them).

      Not only will it work, but it’s tremendous fun, as it’s a tremendous Middle Earth. I didn’t even WANT to step out of The Shire as it’s so much fun to explore; I only left at the behest of my other half, who was hanging with the dwarves somewhere over the mountains (not the Misty Mountains, further North).

      And make sure you stumble upon the Shire’s post-delivering quest line, it really is the best way to see Hobbiton and the surrounding environs.

    • Hogni Gylfason says:

      LOTRs level progression follows the story fairly closely, starting out at low level in the Shire/Bree and level 60+ taking place in lower Moria and in Mirkwood. Further expansions will increase the level cap, the next slated expansion being themed around Isengard (Rise of Isengard, iirc).

      The aggression range of mobs increases by the level difference, so if you enter a high level area being low level yourself, they come at you from miles around. Exploration can therefore be quite tricky.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Ah. Cheers for the clarification Hogni. I’ve managed to do plenty of exploration thus far without expending low level areas, so I’d highly recommend doing that at least.

    • The Tupper says:

      Free to play LOTRO also allows you to get a horse surprisingly quickly.

      Mine is called Dobbin. I love Dobbin. Dobbin is my friend.

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      jaheira says:

      My mount is called Conker ‘cos he’s a Chestnut Horse.

    • Warth0g says:

      I presume you have to pay for the horse armour though, right?

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Don’t forget the chicken quests, you basically get transformed into a lvl 1 chicken and must visit all the high lvl places in the map to speak to some other animal NPC’s without getting hit by things that can one-hit-kill you. Great fun.

      But I also have to object to the whole free-2-play description, it’s really just free to try. After 20-25 you’re basically out of the game unless you grind pointlessly without any quests for 30 levels or so.

  9. malkav11 says:

    I think it’s more useful to think of it as an a-la-carte purchasing option than actually being free to play, which it technically is but in practice you need to shell out money along the way to get the full experience you used to get. It’s a much more appealing plan to me, because I only have room for one or two actual MMO subscriptions at a time, and LOTRO just doesn’t grab me enough to compete with World of Warcraft for that slot. It is, nevertheless, a well made game with a significant amount of interest value to me, and while I will likely never play enough to justify a long term subscription, I can see my way to a one-time investment to open up quest content and bag slots much more easily. In theory, I would also play Champions and Star Trek Online if/when they make such a move, but that does rather rely on them implementing an a-la-carte payment system that doesn’t suck. And Champions Online, at the very least, is not headed in a non-sucking direction at this moment. Reserving features, especially significant features like custom character builds, strictly for subscribed players defeats the whole purpose. -especially- when you can’t then carry over any of those features if you subscribe and then unsubscribe again.

  10. Gaff says:

    LOTRO is probably the best example of a F2P MMO (it’s unarguably the best example of a P2P turned F2P MMO). When I first heard about their F2P proposals I was sceptical, but Turbine really pulled it off well.

    There is no hard sell in LOTRO. By paying you can get significant convenience advantages, as well as some other quest areas and the expansion areas, but they aren’t essential (at least, not until you are hooked, which I suspect is Turbine’s goal).

    Compare this to Allods Online, another highly-hyped F2P MMO which rewarded its non-paying players by giving them substantial disadvantages over those who bought certain items with real money from the in-game store, and it’s clear which of these games are milking their playerbase and which actually care about the gaming experience as a whole, paid-player or not.

    Maybe I should give Dungeons and Dragons Online a shot one of these days and see how Turbine have done with that, since I hear good things about it.

    I agree that STO is probably going to go F2P itself sometime this year (probably 2H), likely after Cryptic have gauged how well Champions Online has done after its F2P conversion. With The Old Republic right around the corner then interest in STO is going to flag substantially (and it’s already quite well down); being F2P would be a major way to be able to claw back some subscribers and revenue from the major MMOs that are (re)launching this year, such as ToR, Champions, Rift and possibly Guild Wars 2 as well.

    • Wulf says:

      Dungeons & Dragons Online was really fun back when I tried a trial of it, and the only reason I didn’t stick with it (if I’m to be honest) is that they didn’t have the Druid class in there, yet. I tend to exclusively do the Druid thing when playing D&D, and the allure of this in DDO is being a Warforged Druid. (For the uninformed, this is entirely possible and supported by the rules. Ironwood feat, look it up!)

      The game is really fun though, the dungeons have a narrator (this works far better than it does in LOTRO, but you’ll have to take my word for this until you experience it), things which are stat based, and traps. I absolutely love stat based things. One of my favourite memories in DDO was being a Warforged of some combatant class or other in an entire party of combatant classes.

      …we found a switch…

      …we were all too stupid to figure out how to push the switch…

      So we just stood around and stared at it for a while, and even investigated whether there was some way to bash the wall down. We found a route eventually, but it was pretty funny that we were dumbfounded by a switch. This really reminded me of playing a 3 INT (or lower) character in Fallout 2. I could just imagine a bunch of barbarians sitting around it, wondering how it works.

      “Me am want know if thing come with manual!!”

      Eventually I got bored of doing the fighter thing though, and none of the other classes interested me, so I drifted away from it. It’s because I have a hard time linking myself in to any other class than the Druid. I have to say that one of the reasons I’m digging Ego Draconis so much at the moment is because the character is some sort of bizarre Dragon Druid. It’s just my class, it’s what I enjoy doing.

      However, they’ll be introducing the Druid at some point this year, in an update, and when they do that I’ll be completely sold on it, because DDO is a truly great game and I can’t help but admire just how D&D-ish they made it feel. You’d probably dig it as it is though, since you may not be quite as attached to the Druid class as I am. But yes, once they have Druids, I’ll be playing DDO again. A Warforged Druid is just too exotic of a play option to pass up, especially in a game that’s so very, very good.

    • Gaff says:

      I know what you mean when you talk about enjoying a specific class or type of character.

      For me it is mind magicians or illusionists that are the big draw.

      The best examples of this are the Illusion Controller I made in City of Heroes and my Mesmer in Guild Wars. Two of my absolute favourite classes in any MMO, ever.

      I am very much hoping that the class reveal for Guild Wars 2 which ArenaNet are teasing for this month is going to be a Mesmer. This will make me a very happy camper indeed.

    • Torgen says:

      Offhand, I’d say that the combat in DDO is probably the most engaging that I’ve seen in a MMO (Asheron’s Call would be the next,) Positioning matters, you can physically dodge, and as mentioned above, stats actually matter. In the converse of the above example, I’ve been in parties where we were all thwarted by a barred door none of us were strong enough to open (admittedly, a more common occurrence than the INT-based one, though there IS an early quest where you can shut off the lightning traps if your INT is 16+.)

      The thing that was the biggest drawback for me in DDO was how heavily instanced it was. I believe it was one of the first Western MMOs to go that route at release, though it’s gotten better. The new starter area introduced at F2P launch is great.

  11. Premium User Badge

    RQH says:

    I hate to break it to you, John, but various folks at EA (and certainly other studios) have been using the term “Free to Pay” with a straight face for /years./ It just hasn’t dripped into external marketing yet.

  12. johnnyjustice says:

    Don’t be hasty, that’s my motto!

  13. pipman3000 says:

    speaking of lotr i never really liked hobbits. put some damn shoes on you country bumpkins

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Are you kidding, they sit around and drink and smoke weed all day, how could you not love them

  14. Starky says:

    The important question about this game is… do you get experience for walking?

    You totally should, just walking.

  15. Sigh says:

    John,

    That was one of the best opening blurbs I have read on RPS. Well done. I liked the “super pleased” line of reasoning.

  16. scharmers says:

    OK, now how about some comments from someone who as actually played the game as a paying and a (currently) free player:

    There is no “post-level 20″ gap, grind, or anything else. The logical level 20-29 hunting grounds, the Lone Lands, are have their full sets of quests provided for free. The North Downs quests, which are kinda of the Lone Lands’ partners in crime (but can easily get you into your mid 30′s by hanging around Esteldin) are frequently offered “on sale” for a ludicrously low amount of Turbine bongo bucks, as in “I can get this amount of bongo bucks just by grinding deeds” amounts.

    Yes, it does help that I bought the expansion packs as a paying player, because that opens up Eregion et.al. to me and it give me a nice little starting cushion of bongo bucks to careful parcel out. As long as you’re a player who just don’t have to have every little trinket and trifle, have ranger friends who can port you around, and don’t care about monster play, you’ll do just fine as a free player without paying actual monies.

    Now, let me level this alt past North Down levels and we’ll see if the invisible hand of commerce starts feeling up my wallet, but I doubt it.

  17. MrEvilGuy says:

    Me and my friends took a whirl at this game over the holidays – I got to level 34 until I torched my computer and refused to ever play the game again (my usual response to overly playing MMOs).

    None of us spent any money on it, but we came close to it. If I was a poor soul who kept playing it beyond level 34, I would have certainly spent a load of money on Moria and other random things. I almost feel like paying them now for letting me play for so long.

    Also, I was lucky to have created my character two years ago with a “1-month free trial” back when it costed money – only got to level 10, but when I came back to the same character now, it had all the premium services for free (including 5 bags, instant travel, auction house selling – all the VIP stuff), so I got extra lucky.