Sony President on DCUO: “F2P FTW!”

By Craig Pearson on November 8th, 2011 at 12:06 pm.

This is MY fortress of solitude
Tweeting like he’s just snapped the first candid picture of Clark Kent’s super-undies, Sony President John Smedley has been documenting the effect going free-to-play has had on MMORPG biffer DC Universe: Online. It’s increased the concurrent playerbase by “1000%”.

The influx of players has been so numerous that Sony are investing in more hardware to cope with the new cape-wearers, with long queues and crashes attributed to the unexpected success of the new business model.

Now obviously that just means sign-ups for the free game thus doesn’t mean they’re making crazy money yet, and not even Superman could hold aloft an MMOG when the players start fleeing. But it’s a lot of eyes on the storefront, and it places DC: Universe in a position to wave some new patent leather booties around with a price-tag on them.

It makes you wonder why Lego Universe didn’t even attempt to head down that route. It’s painful to see 115 jobs being lost when there’s an alternative to simply switching everything off. They just gave up.

Via Massively

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59 Comments »

  1. UnravThreads says:

    What an utterly ridiculous thing for them to come out and say.

    It’s been F2P for a week. It’s too early to really make any sort of comment about how it’s going better for them or not.

    • Innovacious says:

      Yeah, people are just testing the waters right now. Its going to be a few more weeks at least before they know how many of those people are actually there to stay.

      I for one probably wont be sticking around, i played it at launch for a month and enjoyed it a lot, but it doesn’t seem like its got much longevity. I’m just getting bored now I’m playing it again.

    • mjig says:

      I think they’ll still make more off this initial month than they have since launch. The fact that there’s no $30 box barrier to get in means that people will be a lot more willing to try it out.

      I for one was willing to pay the $5 for premium access, and tons of people from my League have been doing the same thing.

      I probably won’t be playing outside this month or two, but I think they will have enough constant influx of players to keep up profits.

      Who knows, maybe this means they will actually start releasing content like they planned.

    • Metonymy says:

      The amount of bugs demonstrates pretty clearly that this product has not received a lot of financial support after (or even before) it’s release. I’m not going to stop playing because I’m morally opposed to cashgrabs, I’m going to stop playing it because I expect the first ability you have access to to work.

      As someone mentioned, this is a game you try out for a while to see what it’s like, then never touch it again. Their 200k or whatever will go back down to 20k within a month or two.

    • Screwie says:

      Yes, this is way too soon to call it a success. It could still easily turn into a repeat of the game’s initial launch, which had a good bout of sales but terrible retention.

    • mmalove says:

      Indeed. And on that note, I’m tired of hearing companies use the excuse “unexpected surge in users” after doing something like releasing an expansion or converting to F2P. It’s not unexpected. Its a peak. The company running the show recognizes that there’s going to be a surge followed by a leveling out of their player base. They just calculate that it’s not worth supporting the peak volume.

    • Urthman says:

      What an utterly ridiculous thing for them to come out and say.

      But what an utterly sensible thing for a marketer to say: “Our game’s a huge success! Everyone’s playing it! It’s the new big thing! Don’t miss it!”

    • silentbotanist says:

      If I got 1000% more people in the door one day, I’d be pretty happy. They don’t have to buy, they don’t have to be back tomorrow, I just had 1000% more chances to make money that day and that’s enough.

  2. wccrawford says:

    Lego Universe was ALREADY Free-To-Play. They didn’t fail to take that option. They started on it, and it didn’t work.

    I was a paying customer for a while, but the game got boring really fast. They needed massive content upgrades and apparently didn’t have the skill and/or money for it. So they closed down.

    • Premium User Badge Craig Pearson says:

      They said it was that, but it was just a glorified demo.

    • Richie Shoemaker says:

      Lego should have been f2p from the start. I can’t think of a “universe” more suited to micropayments than Lego, aside from perhaps a Warhammer battle game. Going f2p afterwards was far too little and a little too late.

    • DickSocrates says:

      And who’s really that interested in a Lego Universe? Who with money that is going to keep buying things? Any adult that likes Lego is more likely to be into building real things for fun and the challenge, not to walk around an unattractively bland Lego world where everyone else is a child.

    • malkav11 says:

      Kids may not have money, but they have access to adults that can often be begged, bullied, or coaxed into buying stuff -for- them.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      There are lots of P2P converting to F2P… but how many go from one model of F2P to a different model of F2P?

      I mean, they must have already assessed their first arrangement as the “optimum” version of F2P for them, and changing it would essentially involve going through the same process that they used the first time… possibly to the same conclusion.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      LEGO Universe would have been insanely successful had it been (and marketed itself as) a F2P Minecraft clone.

      minecraft is basically just digital LEGOs anyway, so setting up a LEGO MMO as a minecraft clone seems like a no brainer to me.

  3. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    You expect the President of Sony to go and say “Oh wow, look at all these sign ups. It doesn’t mean anything though so we have no opinion at this time” Not very good for promoting a product. Of course they consider it a good thing, it’s pointless trying to sell something if there is no audience. However, they need to actually start selling something worth buying soon. Once the core game has been completed then folk will drift away again without some serious DLC worth buying other than shiny boots.

    As for LEGO Universe it was the first thing I thought when I saw they were closing down. Why not try F2P, their core audience is kids with limited funds so offering bite-sized content without a long term financial commitment would be worth trying before throwing in the towel.

  4. alundra says:

    relax people, it’s called propaganda, it helps with war, investors and short sighted people

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I do wish people would stop bashing propaganda as a whole. “Propaganda” is just people voicing their opinion on a matter in which they are publicly biased. It’s not even the least bit sinister unless they’re trying to hide their bias or pretend they’re someone they’re not.

      Like, for example, someone bashing someone else’s propaganda on the principle that it’s propaganda and they themselves are unbiased. Yeah, that’s excellent logic right there and not at all a total strawman argument. *double facepalm*

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Propaganda can also be lies specifically concocted to encourage certain thinking… though I doubt he’s actually lying about the increase.

    • alundra says:

      @MadTinkerer

      Do you realize that you managed to defeat yourself with your own argument??

      Anyway, Joseph Goebbels and Wikipedia’s entry for Propaganda would like to have a word with you.

  5. Was Neurotic says:

    John – Add a ‘Cycle Target’ function to this console-pad-380 control joystick please!

  6. RogB says:

    free game = more players shocker.

    well no shit, Sherlock. You can see why he’s the man in charge!

  7. aerozol says:

    “They just gave up.”

    I don’t think that’s fair, I think it’s probably some investors who made that decision…

    • the.celt says:

      Whoever gave up is the “they” in question. Someone gave up.

  8. mod the world says:

    I have to say DC Universe Online is pretty much the best F2P MMO out there. Personally i love the F2P model for MMOs. If you don’t have that much time to spend on MMOs, it is by far better to spend a few bucks in their item-shop when you are actually playing, than paying ~13€ flat each and every month.

    • johnpeat says:

      Vindictus called – it said wants to see you outside NOW :)

    • DarkWolf says:

      I find Vindictus’s “MMO side” little more than a glorified lobby. There’s no open world so to speak of, only cramped towns and battle instances. Still, it has a nice combat system.

    • King Toko says:

      Dungeons & Dragons Online has the best F2P model.

    • Jumwa says:

      DDO’s FTP model is awful. They want me to pay for classes and races up front? So if I want to roll a character I actually like, I need to invest in the game before I even decided I like the game? Poor choice.

      Vindictus has an amazing pricing model that I love, but the world isn’t open and it grows dull because of that.

      DCOU has the potential to be everything Vindictus is but with all the gaps filled in bringing it up to “simply amazing!” status. However, the fact that every time I try to play the game I’m either A) unable to because the server is down and can’t log in, B) in a queue for half an hour or C) do get in after a long queue but find my or my partners abilities aren’t working and the game is too buggy to play.

      DCOU was quite clearly not prepared to make the jump to F2P. They can not handle this influx of players, and until they get the technicals worked out I can’t see many sticking around. I’d have loved to stay and pay them some money for their fine game (I paid for things in Vindictus after all), but I can’t play the darn thing!

    • King Toko says:

      In Dungeons & Dragons Online you can earn the right to play with the various classes and races or buy them whenever, it gives you the choice.

      All F2P games are basically glorified demos, in most you end up having to pay if you want to take full advantage of what the game has to offer.

    • Wulf says:

      Champions Online has the best monetisation model! It starts with the concept that people shouldn’t be diddled, and that money should come in based on customisation, not content, and they built out from there.

      Where it gets messy is where you charge for content (DDO), or content and customisation (City of Heroes). Of course, you actually have to have content in the first place in order for any of this to work. And of all the problems that DC UO has, the biggest is that it has two tiny zones with a lot of grindy content that’s still completed within a month. I’ve seen small team indie games with more content.

    • Jumwa says:

      @ King Toko

      Yeah, except I don’t want to play as a race/class I don’t want to be just to earn the right to play as one I do.

      The benefit of the free-to-play model is you can try a game out then sink cash into it if you like it. If all your pay walls are at the beginning of the game, something you have to dish out cash for from the get go, it defeats that purpose. Many of the western F2P games have lost my friends and I’s interest that way.

    • Arglebargle says:

      @Wulf, get off your Champions Online woody. You mean CO, the game that will only let me play my old alts for free if I change their powers to an ‘approved’ powerset. That retroactively took away costume pieces from those alts as well? Super nickle and dime store? Hmn, doesn’t sound so special to me.

      Now DCUO going free changes nothing for me. They still have the playstyle, UI, character creation, chat, and content issues they always had. It can be fun, if you like that certain playstyle, and a certain hardware controller, but it sure doesn’t have much depth.

      What can you say about a game where The Flash sez ‘I’ll be back…in a flash’. You go, writer guys!

    • Jumwa says:

      Right there with you ArgleBargle. I tried going F2P with CO, but then it made my awesome character look totally lame and reclass her to something awful, and I no longer cared to play at all.

      This is why I don’t understand putting paywalls up front. Let us get into your game before you start throwing these things at us, so that by the time we face them we’re really into the game and likely to want to pay to keep enjoying or just to chip into something we’re enjoying.

    • Asuron says:

      @Wulf
      Champions Online had a good monetisation model? Are you crazy?
      The game forced you into certain sets of powers which means you could never really customise at all unless you played , forced you to pay to ask for help in normal chat, locked out significant content and charged for costume pieces. It charged for everything possible while giving as little as possible to the player.
      A friend and I spent about two weeks playing it but just got sick of it, everything we wanted to do was bloody locked out unless we wanted to pay

      It handles monetisation just like Runescape, which is to say very shit.

  9. Lobotomist says:

    And the biggest secret : STEAM

    Its not enough for game to be just F2P
    Be F2P offered on steam and see real big numbers :)

  10. johnpeat says:

    Sony have one man just to do Search Engine Optimisation?

    Really!? :)

  11. LadyLynx says:

    Good for them that they’ve got more players but not if at’s the expense of those of us who were daft enough to pay for a lifetime subscription. Now all we get is a “Legendary” queue. So 1800 other Legendary players like me get bumped out of the game at any given point while playing in favour of these free to players..AWESOME coding there SOE.
    So now we wait until they increase the server capacity. Which in itself is brilliant cos they had 6 servers in the Us at the beginning which all got merged into 2 megaservers (and all the joy of bugs that that brought) and now we have to wait while they bring more capacity back because apparently megaservers cant cope.
    It would amaze me that they don’t seem to have actually planned for this need for more capacity, its been a week, how much more time do they need?
    Except that I’m not amazed, I’m just getting used to the bitter taste of disappointment that MMO gaming with an SOE product seems to bring.

  12. King Toko says:

    Increasing the playerbase by “1000%” is impressive but it has a average of 500 players at a time on Steam so its around 5000 or not a lot and this is me being optimistic.

    • orcane says:

      And how many play it without Steam?

    • King Toko says:

      Not a lot from what I have seen.

    • elfbarf says:

      There are over 11k playing right now (via Steam) and the number will surely climb later into the day, this is probably the slowest time possible.

    • Wulf says:

      I linked CO with Steam as soon as it landed there, despite me already having a lifetime subscription from forever ago. The reason for this? Champs has utterly ridiculous and entirely too entertaining perk names, often for just doing silly things. And I wanted those as Steam Achievements.

      I have Bark at the Moon, Bad Dog, Moontouched, Shapeshifted, and Leader of the Pack as Steam achievements. This pleases me.

    • pH-unbalanced says:

      That may be, but the *logon queue* on the PS3 was 10k all weekend.

  13. adonf says:

    I hope there’s still a few players when I manage to log in. For now these 14 GB are just sitting on my hard drive for nothing.

    I get into the queue for a few minutes then go back to the launcher with a red “disconnected” message. I tried a couple of days in a row, on either US or EU servers. Have you guys been luckier than me? Does the Steam version works better than this?

  14. aircool says:

    Surely 1000% x 0 = √FA ?

  15. Premium User Badge Driveshaft says:

    I was very interested in this game when it launched, but I don’t play MMOs regularly enough to justify the monthly fee. Now I’ve got my hands on it, I love it. The combat system works really well.

    For the last couple of days I’ve been qued (>4000 in line) for the European PVP server – only 2 servers for the whole of Europe? Madness! However, I’ve had no trouble today.

    I have to say, it really seems like SOE is on top of things – although It pains me to admit that as a former MxO player.

    Not doing very well socially though. I go by the name ‘Esperanto’ on the EU PvP server if anyone wants to team up.

  16. vecordae says:

    Been trying this one out and have found it to be interesting so far. Combat is much more fluid and satisfying to me than what I’ve tried in CO and CoH. Character creation could always stand to be more robust . There is a real dearth of powers when compared to the older superhero MMO’s, but the fact that your choice of weapons is independent of your choice of super powers does add to the variety. The long wait times are a real drag, however. I’d recommend that anyone curious give it a shot, but will warn you that the game is gigantic and clocks in at just over 14 gigs.

    Also of note: The game does allow one to use shape-shifting powers, which means a low level character can simply waddle about the open game world as a leathery lizard-chicken and condemn others for “sins committed in the eyes of the Chicken King.”

    • Wulf says:

      Well, see, that’s a matter of opinion. Fluidity isn’t everything. It’s a well known factoid (do a bit of Googling) that if you have your left mouse button mashing skills down, it can get you through the entire game. Not PvP, no, but I’m not talking about that.

      Champions Online is less ‘smooth’ because it’s not a one button game. It’s as simple as that, really. Even Batman: Arkham Asylum has so, so much more combat depth and complexity than DC Universe Online. You don’t have to block, avoidance doesn’t mean much at all, situational awareness isn’t worth crap, in DC Universe Online, if you can press your left mouse button, you can win.

      This is opposed to Champions Online, where you can avoid cone attacks by just stepping outside their cones, you can block heavily damaging attacks with a block key, and you can actually use the environment to cut off deadly maintained attacks (moving behind a pillar stops a guy with eyebeams from killing you). You have environmental weapons, you can toss cars and the like, and the powersets are vastly diverse. The only really crap powersets in Champs are probably Celestial and Telepathy, the rest are amazing.

      Another reason for DC Universe Online being ‘smooth’ is that it’s incredibly homogenised. Almost depressingly so. You have your button and you press it. This has different graphical effects for different characters, but the end result is the same. Contrary to this, even the energy builders in Champions, the most basic attacks, have more variety. One great example of this is the Force energy builder in CO, which can knock people over (and even back slightly, sometimes, when it procs).

      Then there’s the whole hilarious element of knocks. You can make a defenestration-inspired hero in Champs, in DC UO, it’s not so easy. So yeah, whilst DC UO is more ‘smooth,’ it’s only because it’s infinitely less complex. It’s like comparing a Fighting Fantasy book to a novel. In a novel your only interaction is turning the page, it might be entertaining, but it’s not a very good game. Champions Online, by comparison, offers much more variety and choice, so much so, as to how you engage, handle, and finish every single encounter.

      I’ll take CO’s complexity and variety over the ‘fluidity’ of the one-butan mashing in DC UO any day of the week.

    • vecordae says:

      I’m glad you enjoy CO. I did, too, and I have played it extensively. You’ll notice that all I said regarding the fighting system in DCUO was simply that I found it more fluid and satisfying. I didn’t say that you would find it more satisfying or that people SHOULD find it more satisfying. I’m not entirely sure why that prompted a multi-paragraph defense of Champions Online as at no point did I say anything negative about the game.

      Edit: I realize, now, after rereading your impassioned declaration of your preferred game’s superiority, that the calm, detached, reasonable, and open outlook I maintain isn’t for everybody. It was wrong for me to arbitrarily assign you any of those qualities without getting to know you first. I am sorry.

    • Torgen says:

      Yes, Wulf, it is a matter of opinion. However, it seems to you that only your opinions are the valid ones. Your tens of thousands of words proclaiming CO the pinnacle of MMO design and trashing the others in every superhero MMO article, does nothing but encourage people to tune you out and assign more validity to the numerous posts pointing out its deficiencies.

  17. Ganj says:

    I played DCUO when it was originally released for a couple of months or so, then stopped due to both a lack of content and players, ( it wasn’t entertaining enough to consider re rolling on a more populated server). It was a fun experience and had they been able to sustain their promised monthly content updates, (and been more proactive with the cheats in PvP) I’d probably have hung around longer.

    Returning for a peek at the f2p version, nothing much seems to have changed. I didn’t bother getting the Light Power DLC that had been released since I’d stopped playing, (something that was originally supposed to be free?) so outside of raids, in the five or six months I’d been away, new content consisted of one new challenge mission, (a max level, daily, solo quest) and one level 27, (the cap is 30) normal quest chain.

    The game itself is still a good deal of fun to play. If you’ve not experienced it before, TB has a short series that’s well worth a look, but I suspect the biggest problem with the change to f2p will be the one responsible for it’s lack of long term success – the money cap.

    Limiting basic f2p players to $1500 and premium to $2000 is possibly the worst decision they could have made. New players trying the hard mode alerts, (DC’s version of small party instances) are bound to die / wipe a bit which will easily eat $300 each time. Add to that the need for consumables – a stack of which will clear most of your available cash – and raiding becomes a practical impossibility. This also limits access to the auction house, since anything actually worthwhile available from it, (bar the odd collectable) is over $2k.

    Money you earn over the cap is put into escrow, so it’s not entirely lost, but the cash-shop item required to access it costs about $5 for $25000 in-game currency – which is a one-use deal, rather than permanently expanding your cash cap. It would cost me $72 to withdraw the money I’d made prior to cancelling my subscription, which comes across as a little too harsh.

    • elfbarf says:

      Yeah…the money cap is ridiculous, it should be AT LEAST 5-10k for free, maybe 25k for premium. Seems like most people are just using DCUO to tide them over until Friday when Skyrim is released (or later this month for Saints Row 3). Also, has the game always been this buggy? I can’t see paying $15/mo for this, it feels like a beta. I highly doubt all of these issues (not being able to see your teammate’s animations, health bars showing as empty despite people being alive, etc.) are being caused by lag. What’s confused me the most is how it seems as if lag is considerably worse in instanced areas like alerts and PvP arenas, the open-world seems to be considerably better (though you can tell that it’s still a bit laggy).

    • thegooseking says:

      Seems like most people are just using DCUO to tide them over until Friday when Skyrim is released (or later this month for Saints Row 3).

      The fact that it’s already been released on toyboxes notwithstanding, it seems far more logical that they’re using it to tide them over until Arkham City. I know I am.

  18. wazups2x says:

    I would have never given this a try if it didn’t come to Steam as a F2P game. Now all of my friends and I have been playing a bunch. It’s my first MMO and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

  19. Josh W says:

    1000% is the best way to say “ten times” I’ve ever seen, especially if you elongate the “ow” as you say it.

  20. Serician says:

    I’m trying it for the first time, and I gotta say, the game makes me look like a superhero, but I sure don’t feel like one.

    Sure, I can fly – which is super-cool – and I carry swing a hammer that looks like it weighs 400 pounds. But a piddly little robot bad guy takes 5-8 hits to kill. WITH A 400 POUND HAMMER. Maybe it’s just a prop, made of of painted styrofoam or something.

    I certainly don’t feel superheroic.