Revenge Of The Subscription Game

By Alec Meer on July 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 am.

More ways to shoot pretend people! Hooray!

While knee-jerk analysts (the same ones who incorrectly declared Facebook gaming was a gold rush for all and sundry) at micro-conferences attended only by a minute echo chamber fragment of the games industry ritually declare that free to play is the only possible future of videogames, any number of other business models arrive, persist and grow. Free to play will expand, of that I have no doubt, but that’s not going to prevent a plurality of ways to acquire games. Bundles and crowdsourcing are the two most notable of the last year, while Sony’s shock purchase of Gaikai for $380m today suggests we’re about to see a whole lot more cloud-streamed (i.e. rented) gaming doing the mainstream rounds. Another latter-day content-flogging technique is subscriptions for multiplayer games – not MMOs, but the ‘games as service’ mentality that sees new content regularly generated for popular titles.

Like it, loathe it or be vaguely confused by it from afar (hello!), Call of Duty Elite is the high-watermark for this. A subscription gets early access to DLC and assorted perks and profile-management, and it’s been popular enough to draw 2 million subs. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Activision’s arch-rival EA got in on the act with Battlefield Premium. That too has broadly been a success – which means we’re going to see a whole lot more of This Sort Of Thing.

Premium is actually a strange hybridisation of subscription and DLC, entailing a £40/$50 one-time spend for access to all future DLC. EA’s revealed it’s sold 800,000 Premium ‘subs’, which MATHS suggests has brought in around £30m – and that is on top of the 15 million copies of BF3 they’ve sold. So while that game isn’t doing COD numbers it’s been bloody successful and looks likely to have a long tail thanks to DLC and Premium.

So, it’s no surprises but perhaps some alarms that EA are thinking of treading that path further. Said EA Labels big boss Frank Gibeau to GI.biz, “longer term we think that we can bring more properties into that offering and that’ll be great for the business.” He went on to add “BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSSINESS” then flew away on a zeppelin made from laminated $500 bills.

I haven’t personally been tempted by any of these services yet, but that’s because they’ve tended to only be attached to games about guns and sport, rather than thinking and crying and all that stuff we girly-men at RPS like so much. I don’t think I have any great objection to them, though – as long as people aren’t being given bullpoo for their money, I guess I’m okay with both the concept of people paying for extra and the idea of games being given longer lifespans. Although we are talking about the two publishers who are most prone to churning out sequels at the expense of supporting existent titles, so yeah, plenty of scope for this to be abused yet. Let’s hope the general mentality is that these packages need to be good value if they’re to work out.

Still, in theory I’m more down with this than I am the greater excesses of free to play. It is one of those instances where I’m worried coaxing every last penny out of new business models will be a far greater priority for publishers than making great, ambitious games, but I’m genuinely curious to see what comes out of it.

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88 Comments »

  1. Zanchito says:

    This, as an alternative to video game rentals would be okay, I can see the appeal. But I usually like to own my games, so traditional PC is it for me.

    • Quarex says:

      It would be interesting to see whether the biggest-name games would end up making significantly less money if they could be rented on release. With the insanity level of a substantial percentage of PC gamers particularly, you could see all even the biggest game has to offer in a few days, which would surely cost less than full price?

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        It is a question of a smaller number of people paying more vs a larger number of people paying somewhat less. There is also the question of purchasing on the never never, kids selling their parents on a smaller upfront cost but then wanting to rent it for months on end (I remember this happening to me and my parents with a copy of Donkey Kong Country 2) and it is also a clever (for the Publishers) response to the need for people to trade in to pay for big games: The lower upfront cost means people are able to get into a game even if they don’t have the full $60 and while they can’t save up to buy the game in full, plus the sunk cost fallacy may prevent them even if they could after a couple of months, they can afford to rent it for more than the full game cost if it is spread over several months.

        In addition, as we know, most F2P games are supported by a small number of people paying huge amounts of money, the “whales” as they’re known by the less ethical sections of the development community and I’m sure EA and Activision will be working very hard to include as many ways to snare these people as possible into any rental system they create.

      • Kuromatsu says:

        If Gaikai were to offer game rentals on the newest games at competitive prices to buying it, yet not dirt cheap, it might work out just fine. I’d pay them 20 – 30 dollars to keep up with the latest game franchise that I don’t care to own or spend 60 on. It costs them NOTHING aside from bandwidth costs which they’re paying for originally.

  2. thekyshu says:

    Oh, EA, what are you doing? I am fine with paying for some extra content, but then please make it worth buying. I as a student don’t wanna waste 15 € on a god damn worthless Mappack, just to get the guns, let alone the whole price of the basegame again, to get additional content ..
    I remember earlier when you paid one time for a game, and maybe 10 € for an add-on which introduced a whole lot of stuff, not 1 map or 2 and some weapons.
    That’s just sad, that EA went to go this way

    • Salt says:

      “Premium” is fairly similar to a traditional expansion. One-time payment for 20 maps (or 16 maps if you already have Back to Karkland), bunch of new game modes, weapons and vehicles. The oddity is that the release of content is spread out over about a year, so inevitably you’re buying much of it sight-unseen. If you wait a year you could totally pretend that it’s a traditional expansion pack.

      It’s probably more expensive than expansion packs in the olden days too, although SavyGamer listed a deal selling it for about £25 recently.

    • xavdeman says:

      Expansion packs weren’t €15 either. Battlefield 2: Special Forces was a great expansion pack, but it was as expensive as Battlefield 2 itself. Battlefield: Premium is too expensive right now, but for €35 or something it’d be a pretty sweet deal.

      • Kuromatsu says:

        I think it’s fine as is, I think instead they should DROP the price of Battlefield 3 to get more people into it. “Dude! BF3 is only 10 – 15 dollars go get it!”

        They’ll get egged on by the “I can’t join your server, I don’t have Close quarters / Karkand” then just eventually go Okay fine and get premium.

  3. Harlander says:

    I used to use GameTap for a bit before it stopped working in Europe or whatever happened.

    That was a kind of “pay to rent all these games” deal.

  4. Jimbo says:

    BUSINESSFACE

  5. John Connor says:

    How is COD Elite a subscription? Isn’t it just a single payment?

  6. Flappybat says:

    Subscription seems an odd choice of word when only COD Elite is doing that and I doubt it would be half as popular if it wasn’t tited to DLC.

    DLC packs replaced expansions and for 2/3 of the price contain 1/3 of the content, Battlefield 3 feels a bit more fleshed out than COD’s “here’s a port of an old map” due to the addition of weapons and vehicles but the Price Isn’t Right.

  7. Kong says:

    Call of duty subscription…my honour, my account, my money payed in advance. Must make me feel happy. Achtung Stillgestanden. The product is crap fed to mass consumer 2000. Fat burger men drooling fluids to sounds of war. Sign up now.
    Like TV. Censored, ripped by commercials or free and ripped by time schedules. There is nothing like going to the movies (ja – theaters mes enfants :)) or buying/renting/stealing the VHS/DVD/Blueray. All else is bullshit. Almost always.
    Free to feel play jerk off die.

  8. Binman88 says:

    I like first person shooters and am not opposed to a subscription model, as long as the pitch is right. Paying beyond the base cost of MW3 or BF3 makes no sense to me though, because the content/framework I’d want from a subscription isn’t there. Or at least, despite playing and continuing to play countless hours of MW3, these games are not really what I’m after in a serious FPS (one I’d pay a relatively hefty subscription fee for) in terms of gameplay mechanics.

    Unfortunately though, it seems the world at large has little interest in the type of FPS I’m after, as evidenced by the floundering Ground Branch Kickstarter.

  9. SteamTrout says:

    When people bash BF3 premium they forget that it was actually a good deal (more so if you used Indian Origin promotion discount). For 50$ you get all DLCs which cost the same or more combined (depends if you own B2K) and then extra. While extra ain’t much (a few skins, a gun or two) it’s just an icing on the cake.

    You can argue that 15$ for map pack is too much and by extension Premium is a rip-off. I do agree. However we can do nothing about that price point (no, 5 people “protesting” and not buying doesn’t count). So why not to make the best out of a situation? If you are going to play BF you would most likely want to play the new maps and use new weapons anyway.

    People would quickly suggest boycotting companies and not buying products from them to show who’s da boss. While it’s all good and dandy on paper we need to remember the Great MW2 Boycott Debacle of 20…something. Forgot about that already? This should refresh your memory – http://www.pwnem.com/t-mw2-boycott-fail What this means is that even if before companies could take internet boycotts into consideration after that…fail…they would be insane to even make mention of them on weekly “Swim in cash” meetings.

    So yeah, make smart purchasing decisions and don’t stomp your feet. Nobody can hear you scream on the Internet.

    • Vorphalack says:

      Not entirely sure what the point of your post is. People who think this kind of ”premium” deal is bad for consumers are not suddenly going to open their wallets because you tell them resistance is futile. People who already buy into this system don’t need to be sold on the idea a second time.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      At least some of them still do not appear to have MW2.

      The risk with ignoring any “boycott”, no matter how minimal, is that some people always stick to it, and as time progresses you might easily find yourself in a situation where multiple “boycotts” have accumulated a significant dent in your customer base.

      I’d probably argue that petition/boycotts about technical issues (like dedicated servers) can be more problematic than more “opinion” based ones (even ME3′s endings). Technical things are often solutions to problems someone else solved, and throwing it away can cause problems that you’ve underestimated (such as Diablo3′s complete mess by removing off-line playability).

      • SteamTrout says:

        ME3 boycott “succeeded”, in my opinion, only because Bioware actually wanted to expand on the endings. The effect of added goodwill was just a bonus.

        While a lot of people complain about Diablo 3 I am pretty sure when Diablo 4 or Diablo 3: More Hell 37 comes out those very same people will go and buy the game. Maybe less than bought Diablo 3 but definitely enough. Diablo 5 comes out and people have already forgotten about everything bad.

        I mean look at MW. People “boycotted” it, then went and bought it. And then bought BLOPS. And then MW3. And now they’ll buy BLOPS2. To generate that critical mass of lost customers you need to release awful crap really really fast.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          I wouldn’t exactly say ME3 was a boycott (since they were complaining about something they’d already purchases… but that’s why I added “petitions”), and I wasn’t trying to say it was unsuccessful, but matters of writing, or colour-choice, etc, don’t always carry over onto other products from the same developer (unless it’s from the same team).

          Things like Ubisoft’s DRM, or EA’s Origin are much more persistent, and generate their own problems for customers on a technical level (i.e. legit players locked out of their games, while pirates aren’t)

          D3′s technical issues meant having to pay customers their money back in Korea, and I think France, essentially giving the game away for free.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Let me give you two reasons then.

      Firstly, when BF3 was announced (and pre-ordered) no-one mentioned that I would be treated like a second class citizen in server queues unless I bought a further subscription.

      Secondly, by offering better weapons to those that pay extra, they are degrading my experience, and therefore the game that I paid good money for.

      I would never by premium because they are selling a “subscription” to something that hasn’t even been defined yet, and it might be shit. And because I hate helicopters. And because it includes content that everyone who pre-ordered already has. And because they can only get away with this shit because they don’t allow modding and because they release the original game without the destruction they could have put in (after all it was in BC2) and because they released with too few maps.

      And because even after the best part of a year, I have to use a beta product to launch the fucking game, which even on a powerful computer with lots of memory takes so long I start browsing web sites while it loads. And fucking reloads when I change servers.

      But apart from that I fucking love the game. Not as much as BC2 though.

      • Yosharian says:

        It’s not a subscription, it’s a one-off payment that includes every DLC that BF3 will ever have. That’s far better than a subscription.

        It’s still rather expensive, though.

    • alundra says:

      So yeah, make smart purchasing decisions and don’t stomp your feet. Nobody can hear you scream on the Internet.

      Not sure what your point is, if we lived in a parallel universe where EA and Activision were companies of the year and made good games…all they do is defile and deface good franchises and turn them into McBurgers.

      It’s been years since I’ve bought an EA, Activision or Ubisoft game and my backlog of stupendous games is huge.

      A whole different thing is that some would like to sell you the idea that you to live you need to play (EA game) 201x, COD MOFOW 7.5 Pink Ops, or AssCringe 5, I mean, being in-fashion with a bunch of angry nerds, over the internet, is important, right??

  10. Shiny says:

    With costs to develop AAA titles soaring into the stratosphere (10x last gen) and due to climb even further this gen, publishers are looking for ways to get more money from individual games.

    $60 at the store is just the beginning – every type of cash grab ever is in play now: extra content, frequent sequels and spin-offs, premium online features, cheats, merchandise, virtual vanity items, ads…you name it, they’re doing it, everything short of shipping a coin slot peripheral with the game.

    It’s not about free-to-play or not free-to-play. That’s just a decision on whether you need the extra visibility and lower barrier to entry that F2P provides. Some games do; some games don’t; and that won’t change in the future. What it is about is turning on every possible revenue tap imaginable as the game industry dies a slow death in touchscreen hell.

    • f1x says:

      But whats making the costs so high?
      Quicker release dates? technology? game length?

      I mean, sometimes I dont really understand why costs are skyrocketing, perhaps I’m an ignorant fool,
      but I dont think game designers are getting paid more, and then I’m afraid most of the costs go to marketing and/or are related to big game publishers expecting to make more billions than past year or raising the profit margin

      somehow what I want to say but dont know how is that for me they could stick the costs up their asses, make “cheaper” games but more fun to play, more engaging, I rather have less voice acting (and less half-known actors doing the voice acting) less cinematics, less omgultralatestenginepwnzor or ultra big textures and have actually good memorable games,

      • DodgyG33za says:

        I agree. Cut the cut scenes and intro movies all together if you ask me. The only cinematics I have ever willingly watched were the ones going into the total war battles, where the often peculiar traits of the general leading your troops would come out in his pre-battle speech. But the whole idea of an FPS needing a ‘story’ to move it along. I don’t fucking care. Just give me the next bit of people to kill or stuff to blow up. Although all in all I prefer online, so spend the fucking money in stopping cheats.

        • tlarn says:

          Hell, you don’t even need a full story to move a shooter along, just a basic plot for that little bit of context. “You are Beef McLargeHuge, you’re on a mission to do things, here’s your guns and there are the bad guys. Have fun!”

      • Misnomer says:

        If you want simple, dated looking, games with few animations and incredibly limited sound design…then sure your costs have not increased any more than inflation.

        You can find any number of comparable articles on the internet, but here is one

        http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2010/10/an-inconvenient-truth-game-prices-have-come-down-with-time/

        and another

        http://www.1up.com/news/90s-game-price-comparison-charticle

        Using an inflation adjustment calculator games of yesteryear would be selling near $100 and yet few games sell at that price (even buying Premium I have only spent $90 on BF3 thanks to a pre-order deal.) Yet…

        I remember being astounded when I had to have 1 GB of Space available for Baldur’s Gate 2, today that is a patch.

        The number of people required to make a game, from artists for the massively morre intricate worlds, to sound designers, to even play testers for the piles and piles of complexity added by the size of these games….. the number of people has increased and that is the true additional cost of making games.

        If you don’t want to pay these prices, don’t play games near the top of the technology curve. Play RO2 instead of BF3, buy indie bundles, enjoy 2D games. Just don’t expect them to push graphics, physics, sound, or other high cost design. Then of course you expect those developers to take even less cash because…. well it has far less of those things so it should be priced less than a quarter of what Pong was on release… Is it cheaper to make something like Pong now? Yes. Do people have much greater expectations for the money they put down for a game? Also yes, so all the savings may not exactly translate… and as I noted above INFLATION.

        The price of pure enjoyment is not really what is at stake, it is the cost of a high end technical production tied to labor for a growing studio size required for AAA type games that fans actually demand.

        I would actually love to see RPS do some reporting on the cost to make a game these days. For how much they talk about pricing, it would be nice to see them work some journalistic connections to find the true cost.

        • f1x says:

          Great comment sir, indeed I would like to get more information about the costs or producing a game aswell

          Regarding 2D and Indie games, I’ve been playing a lot of “low cost” games for the last years, and looking back for example I’ve had much more fun playing Super Meat Boy than any triple AAA game (considering different generes and such, but still fun is fun)

        • D3xter says:

          I wish all these “Inflation WOOO” people would just disappear in a deep dark hole.
          It’s not as if the gaming industry as a whole was worth at most $20 billion in the 90s and has since grown into a $70 billion industry to dwarf both movies and music, changing from a deeply focused market of a few select people into the “mainstream” on almost all channels…
          It was considered uncool and nerdy to “play games” in the early 90s, it’s the most normal thing in the world now.
          They also fail to realize that if they’d increase their prices according to their “inflation” they would be making less money because a lot less people could afford and buy said games and not MORE, that’s why Steam Sales are being so successful and manage to make some developers lots and lots of money while putting up a price tag of $100 or $200 would not.
          And it’s always the US these people with their arguments are considering, while in other countries the prices have indeed grown and publishers are using all sorts of shady techniques to squeeze some more money out of people.

          • Misnomer says:

            You may not like math, but it will not go away.

            Now you are right about the economics of scale. More people playing should mean a cheaper product… yet indie games (plyed by less people) are cheaper and AAA games (played by more people) are more expensive. Maybe that means different profit margins being sought or maybe it means higher production costs. I think the latter is a lot more likely to explain the difference and the need for added revenue models.

            I don’t think your argument reveals that there are deeper darker greed forces driving up costs of games so much as it shows that the cost of developing games is truly increasing. While the desire for higher profit margins will drive Activision types to subscriptions, your last point about Steam sales says something about EA’s protest to the devaluing of creative work by sales. Mostly it just shows a market that has grown to the point of near saturation and thus become a consumer’s market for all by the most desirable of products….not the real cost of development.

          • D3xter says:

            It’s just such a pointless argument to make, there are so many parameters in play that it can’t ever make sense…
            Are all the wages of the people buying “adjusted for inflation”?
            Did you consider foreign markets?
            Are the prices adjusted for the growth of the gaming industry over the years?
            Did you consider the amount of games and the complexity or ease of use of tools now and then?
            Are they adjusted for the different business models and realities in the industry nowadays? (Indie Games, Digital Distribution around the world, Free2Play, KickStarter etc.)

            They were expecting to make $80-90 from a few thousand people back in the day, nowadays they are selling their products to millions and even Indie games (Minecraft, Terraria, Magicka, Torchlight etc.) can sell in the high millions.

            Day-1 DLC, Locked Content, Microtransactions on Non-F2P games, Subscriptions for non-persistent game worlds like MMOs (and even there the server costs and support staff are usually but a tiny tiny fraction of the monthly subscription), RMAH etc. are all greed-based models and I honestly hope they crash hard because of them (I already posted a comment towards that end near the bottom of page 2).

          • Shuck says:

            The thing is, even if we completely ignore inflation and just look at the increasing cost of development, it outstrips, by orders of magnitude, the increase in the audience size. Team sizes have gone from 30 to over 300, on top of increasing costs of middleware, voice acting, etc. Since money spent on marketing equates to better sales, marketing costs necessarily go up with production costs. Some games have spent upwards of $200 million on marketing $50 million games (and have had the sales to justify it, mostly). The average game continues to lose money, but the amount of money that it loses is now in the tens of millions of dollars – the cost of failure in the AAA space has become unsupportable for many publishers as even the best selling games don’t have nearly the same return-on-investment that they used to have. (Whereas one good selling game used to support any number unsuccessful games, one flop can now wipe out the profits from a number of hits.) The remaining publishers have become extremely cautious, conservative and constantly hunting for new revenue sources to survive.

            Indie games that get “high millions” are absolute flukes – meaningless outliers. (Torchlight, last I heard, didn’t even hit 2 million sales after several years, whereas Diablo 3 got over six million sales in the first week.) Indie games simply don’t get AAA level sales. Even though their costs are about what AAA games used to be, their sales numbers aren’t as high as what AAA games used to get, much less what they get now. With the democratizing effect of self-publishing on the indie scene, games will be competing with a much larger pool of products than ever before (at ever lower prices), making it doubly harder to make a profit.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        To make a AAA-game, you need the best in sound, visuals, physics etc. As technology progresses, sound cards can handle more detailed soundscapes, GPUs can handle more polygons and more shaders, CPUs can handle more realistic physics and more complex AI simulations, and so on.
        Therefore, as technology progresses, you need more composer-hours, more modeler-hours, more programmer-hours and so forth, just to create a sufficiently detailed world for the AAA label.

        If you don’t care about all that bleeding edge stuff, there are plenty of cheaper options in indie games and older titles. Personally, those options save me a lot of money; not just on the games themselves, but on hardware too.

        • Brun says:

          Therefore, as technology progresses, you need more composer-hours, more modeler-hours, more programmer-hours and so forth, just to create a sufficiently detailed world for the AAA label.

          That’s only if you continue to use the same tools, processes, and methods to create those worlds. The biggest reason that games have gotten so expensive to make is that development methods haven’t kept pace with technology. Modelers still craft art assets by hand, etc. Dev shops or publishers need to make the investment in tools and process improvements that will make development less time-consuming and expensive.

          • Shuck says:

            “The biggest reason that games have gotten so expensive to make is that development methods haven’t kept pace with technology.”
            That’s not, strictly speaking, true. The tools and methods have changed. All sorts of tasks are automated and procedural that used to be done manually. If you wanted to recreate, for example, Diablo 1, it would cost a great deal less than it originally did, and it would be done more quickly. The problem is that what constitutes a “AAA” game is constantly changing. That is, the complexity of games has increased faster than the labor saving of the tools, and the number of (expensive) tools has increased just to keep up with the increased player expectations. And while yet better tools would help, there are hard limits to what they can do. Modelers may make assets “by hand,” for example, but that’s only because there aren’t any functional alternatives. (Someone, at some point, has to build the darn thing.) Hand animation has alternatives such as motion capture, but I’ve worked with animators who have worked with “mocap” and they claim it’s cheaper and faster to just do it by hand as well. Apparently the motion capture stuff needs significant “cleaning up” of the data to be usable; however automated it needs someone to guide it (not to mention animators to create animations that you can’t capture in the real world). So all told, the motion capture just adds expenses.
            I’ve worked with procedural content generation systems that seemed like great ideas, but ended up being more work than they were worth – the labor required to sort through all the unusable creations was more work than just doing it by hand in the first place. Until the development of content generation software with human-like intelligence, some things are going to have to be done by hand.

  11. Hoaxfish says:

    Someone said the whole Elite style subscription is basically “buy before there is even a product on the table”… before reviews, before content announcement (though I understand there is a basic layout of what to expect in terms of X amount of maps, etc), before patching (or lack of), before you decide you even want to keep playing by the time your content is out.

  12. Kollega says:

    About David Perry selling Gaikai to Sony… does anyone else he was just creating the infrastructure and drumming up the publicity to sell the service off at high price?

  13. jrodman says:

    I was always confused in my wow-days how we were paying all this money a month and how there was so little new content added to make us want to keep paying.

    Does someone have a solution to this conundrum or are they just going to keep being their heads against the wall?

    • DodgyG33za says:

      In the case of WOW you are paying them to run the servers. In BF3 this is not the case, although I suspect that they would love to do it, and you might find that BF4 goes that way. in which case I won’t be buying.

      Either way though, I wish they would pick EITHER subscription or purchase. In MMORPGs you have to purchase then pay monthly. Where I come from that is called Taking the Piss.

      • jrodman says:

        Running servers doesn’t take nearly all that money.
        Meanwhile any subscription game is going to take some sort of servers, even if it’s only to offer the downloads.

        The problem is making new content fast is just hard.

    • D3xter says:

      It was mainly because it worked, basically one of the first “money printing machines” of the industry, server costs are usually rather negligible in the big picture, support staff but a fraction of the monthly costs, new content like expansions you still have to pay for anyway.
      EA discovered it could work with Ultima Online and rode it (and is still trying to ride it) for what they can grab, back in the day almost every single EA developer was retooled to work on an “MMO”, a few of them even died in the process, there’s a big graveyard of unfinished and unsuccessful MMOs in EAs back yard (Earth & Beyond, Privateer Online, Ultima Online 2, Wing Commander Online, Ultima X, Motor City Online, Majestic, BattleTech 3025)

      Blizzard just expanded on what EA and SOE started and got it to fruition.

      As soon as it won’t work they’ll drop the model (see Free2Play MMOs, see Guild Wars model etc.)

      Same applies for DLC, Microtransactions and other rip-off models, if people could resist that urge to “buy now” they would drop it and treat everyone more fairly. If they deem that they can get away with splitting their games into 6 parts and ask full price for each or people would actually pay for bullets or to repair their gear or whatever they would do that too.

  14. SlappyBag says:

    I got my copy of Battlefield 3 for free (friend bought it yay) so paying for Premium for me felt worth it.

    Also Premium is much for focused, it isn’t just “yay new maps” but includes game modes, weapons, assignments etc. Its much more fun, even if a lot of it is superficial.

    For example, the recently released expansion focused on close combat gameplay (kind of like COD maps), the next one focuses of vehicle only gameplay etc. They actually add more to the game then just different settings.

    (Though technically, they are simply different settings, they facilitate different playstyles and gameplay.)

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Another way of looking at it is that they are charging you a whole new game for what should have been in game all along AND giving you an advantage against those who don’t want to pay the premium.

  15. MichaelPalin says:

    Sony has bought Gaikai? Great, that way PC gaming may escape some more years to the DRM nightmare that is cloud gaming. It’s nice to be able to play whatever game you want without a great PC, but cloud gaming is basically the end all to owning a game, to share games or to control the medium in a more public way, more socially.

    • alundra says:

      Exactly my first thought, so glad Sony is going to take that crap away towards their platforms.

      Pretty misleading title, two mediocre shooters made by two mediocre companies are going into a mediocre business model, how can that and Sony shooing that crap away be the revenge of the subscription model??

  16. virtualmatrix258 says:

    Guess I won’t be buying anymore Battlefield games then. I won’t support a company that does this sort of thing. Plus, I’m sick of all the FPS games, the industry is littered with them. I’d much rather put my money into a well made RPG.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Makes you wonder if Blizzard and EA are competing for the Game Company That Can Take the Most Piss of the Year Award doesn’t it?

    • Misnomer says:

      So I am guessing you missed the 2 expansion packs for BF 1942, 3 expansion packs for BF2, and the one for BF2142 that were all priced similarly?

      Or maybe you are principled and boycott companies like BIS who have released more “expansions” for ArmA 2 since it released than DICE at a much higher cost?

      • virtualmatrix258 says:

        I didn’t buy those expansions, I didn’t even have a computer that could play it back then and that was 10 years ago? So I was 15 and studying through high school :P I did play the desert combat mod though, but on my friends computer. 1943 I bought but obviously it was on console and that lasted maybe 5 minutes. If people want to pay for items that developers pay for, I’m all for it, but when you release a game DLC that is basic garbage same thing different day crap, I’m not paying. Take Dawnguard for Skyrim, I’ll be buying that. Every other FPS game that does the same thing over and over and over again? No.

  17. Goodtwist says:

    In my book, the issue of BF3 and any additional purchases, however you cloak it, was simple.

    I was expecting a number of features in BF3 (moddability, VOIP, commander, Battlelog, more sensible UI, etc) that eventually didn’t materialise. Nor will they ever do (is this proper Engrish?).

    Handing them, EA/DICE, even more of my money would only brand me a consumer idiot.

    • MasterDex says:

      I don’t see why buying Premium would make anyone an idiot. Sure, we could talk all day about what it should and shouldn’t have and what the developers did wrong but at the end of the day, BF3 is still a great game and BF3 fans are getting a pretty fair deal with Premium, even if the game isn’t the perfect piece of perfect perfection that we all wanted it to be.

      • Goodtwist says:

        @ MasterDex

        To be more precise: I don’t call others consumer idiot if they chose to buy Premium. I was relating to myself – or anybody else being able to identify with me.

        Taking into account my (ex post) unrealistic expectations AND EA’s/DICE’s false pretenses regarding BF3′s features I’d really have to blame myself if I shelled out even more money aside from the original purchase price.

        Irrespective of that above, I don’t find Premium fair to BF3-only customers. The deal is: buy Premium or rot in the waiting que and get pwned by superior weapons (ok, we can speculate on the former). If they told you that when you were to buy the original BF3, I might have even considered it fair because you could hypothetically chose at that point of time. From today’s point of view, it’s not much nicer than a scam.

  18. Roshin says:

    The slightly worrying bit is that *businessmen* are trying to figure out the best way to twist, turn, chop up, re-paint, these “game” thingies and then spoonfeed them to us for maximum profit. Business is business, sure, but this is BUSINESS with big letters and I feel that something gets lost in the process, the fun part maybe?

    BUSINASSFACE.

  19. bill says:

    I haven’t really ever played any games for logn enough for it to be worth a subscription.

    Even back in my student days when i had the time to devote to endless gaming, I tended to be about bored of a game when I finished it and ready to move on. The one or two games that I loved enough to buy an expansion pack for weren’t even exceptions.. as the expansion pack usually came out about a year later when I was ready to return.

    These days I certainly don’t have enough time to finish the games i already have, let alone devote a longer time to one game.

    the idea of a GameTap style subscription to unlimited games has always appealed, and early gametap was pretty great. Something like Gaikai or onlive might take it’s place. The problem is that with publisher rivalry you’d have to sign up to about 5 different services, unlike with a movie subscription site.

    But even then my problem with Gametap was that, while it was easy to download and try out a dozen games, I tended to value each one less because it felt “free”.

  20. Delusibeta says:

    With Premium, I’m grateful that I’ve passed over the game at launch, since EA seems intent in seeing how far they can milk it for DLC. I realise it’s not particularly new for the Battlefield franchise, but I still don’t like it (especially since EA don’t do “includes all DLC” editions). What is concerning me is that this is pretty much the worst case scenario people expected when Call of Duty Elite was announced: other companies would copy it until it spread so that nearly every game demanded an additional $60 for a complete experience, much in a similar way to how Online Passes spread through the industry.

    *sigh* I’ll guess I’ll have to be especially choosy as to which mainstream games I’m going to buy, then.

    • D3xter says:

      Ignoring all Activision Blizzard games and EA games going forward seems to be working quite nice so far…
      Although THQ seems to be doing it too, standing on the ledge towards bankruptcy.

      • smg77 says:

        I haven’t purchased an EA game since they threw a hissy fit and pulled their new releases off Steam. I don’t think I’ve missed much.

        • D3xter says:

          I actually fell for the Battlefield 3 Hype (being a huge Battlefield fanboy, playing that with friends growing up) and even bought SW:TOR last Christmas, but that was before all the “Mass Effect 3 Day1 DLC is awesome!” “Worst Company in America – at least we aren’t Halliburton” and “We are going to turn to Always-Online DRM starting with the new Sim City, also expect lots and lots of Macrotransactions going forward!” thing…
          Suffice to say I haven’t really played Battlefield 3 in months since it feels sullied by EA marketing and I cancelled my SWTOR Sub around the time the Mass Effect 3 controversy started and haven’t bought that either…

          I’ve been boycotting Activision Blizzard for at least 3-4 years though and haven’t bought a single title since (not even things like Vampire: Bloodlines when it was on Sale on Steam).

  21. MasterDex says:

    Yesterday I made my first purchase in a free to play game. I bought the start pack for Tribes Ascend. Now that’s how you do F2P right. Nothing is forced on you. The starting classes and their starting equipment are good enough that you can perform well without paying anything. Yet, the unlockable classes and equipment are just out of reach far enough to make you think “I should consider buying that starter pack” without making you think “This game is a rip-off! Pay to win and nothing more”.

    I’m fine with free to play but I don’t expect it to become the defacto method of games development. It’s income is more uncertain than the traditional game since with a traditional game, you just have to worry about people buying it whereas with a F2P game, you have to worry about the uptake and having a high enough percentage of that uptake actively purchasing in-game items, etc.

    F2P has it’s merits but it’s such a hard balancing act that I think most developers will continue to produce games with traditional revenue models.

  22. theaborted says:

    Ahem! Team Fortress 2.

    Free maps, free content. All paid for by people with expendable income on content that doesn’t ruin the gaemplay mechanics.

    Oh, and it’s free…and beautiful.

    It’s even tempted me to pay out every so often because of all the content produced which is way above any other game I’ve ever seen, for so little.

    So yes, it seems to work as a pseudo subscription for people who can afford, but doesn’t penalise others who can’t.

    Team Fortress 2: Years old, player numbers still in the top 10 of all games on Steam.

  23. Siresly says:

    “It is one of those instances where I’m worried coaxing every last penny out of new business models will be a far greater priority for publishers than making great, ambitious games, but I’m genuinely curious to see what comes out of it.
    Indeedy. Only I’m more worried than curious.

    For instance, gander upon Battlefield 3′s unlock system. There are like 15 weapon attachments. You have to unlock them all separately, on a preset unlock path, for every single weapon.

    It’s all business and no play.

    The general idea is to keep users from moving on from your game. An added perk is that the longer it takes to unlock a thing, the more value gets associated with it, so that EA may sell their shortcut packs for a couple of more moneys and make the idea of double XP events more appealing.

    In return users get to have their options restricted until they grind their way through all these unlock paths. You’re unlocking the same attachments over and over. You can’t choose what to unlock. There is no interaction. There is nothing compelling. There is zero sense of reward when you unlock a thing. Weapons without attachments are worse, making you not want to try out other weapons. Also, weapons and gear that is vital to the various roles of Battlefield are locked from the start. No mines, Stingers, SOFLAM or flares for you.

    Etc.

    EA recognizing that there’s a need to give users the option to pay to remove it, I think says enough about the whole thing.

  24. scatterbrainless says:

    I have a kind of instant disgust reaction to most forms of new games’ monetization, but if I’m honest that is a knee-jerk reaction. Most new business models have produced at least some new games that are great and whose purpose fits their model.
    But I don’t think it should be overlooked that different forms of monetization produce different games. I enjoy many different forms of games, thus diversity is fine, however domination of a single business model also spells domination of a particular game model. F2P works fine for TF2 or Tribes style games, however it worries me that the industry may look at the success of these and decide that games such as STALKER, Metro or Far Cry 2 are economically not viable by comparison. I guess I’m worried that the games that I think are most important in terms of the industry achieving a strong cultural influence will be less easy or viable to monetize than the “cheap thrills” profile that seems to be the accepted mask of videogames.

  25. D3xter says:

    God I so hope for a video game crash nowadays so all this stupid nonsense stops at once…
    And the signs are there: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-06-21-stock-ticker-why-eas-market-valuation-has-crashed
    I’m just really hoping it happens: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-29/vivendi-said-to-plan-sale-of-stake-in-activision-blizzard.html
    Lest gaming be less about “fun” and “gameplay” and all those good things and more about having no rights, “DLC”, RMAHs, gambling sorts of things, Macrotransactions, Pay2Win, even worse DRM, paying for “service” and games designed solely for the one purpose of extracting ever more money out of peoples pockets as the time goes on…

    • Brun says:

      Don’t be so sure. If there’s going to be a crash anytime soon, it will happen when the next console generation starts – that is, when Durango and PS4 release, Wii U probably won’t matter that much since AAA publishers aren’t likely to be publishing there beyond some initial exploratory forays. The console refresh will basically be a reset button to the entire industry – no one knows if the established “formulas” will work on the new consoles, primarily because players will be approaching the consoles with their eyes open for the first time in 6 years. They’ll be paying attention to what’s going on in their games because they’ll be trying to justify their purchase of the new hardware. If the publishers can’t deliver experiences that are highly distinctive from what we already have, they will be punished severely by the ever-fickle audience.

      That’s (partially) why you keep seeing developers and publishers saying “we don’t want next-gen!” They’ve figured out the current generation already – they’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t, and can kind of coast on that knowledge. When the next generation hits they’ll have to start doing real work and taking real risks to differentiate themselves, and that will upset the established order.

  26. MachineCode says:

    The blind insatiable never ending lustful hunger for more profits more money continues with this latest salvo in the big companies war against their customers. Its a sad sad day to read that 2 million chumps have fallen for this brazen attack on their wallets, and their intelligence. Their failure will hurt all gamers (and many games) in the long run. Mark my words.

    The DLC rebranding
    Limited activation DRM
    Forced online in singleplayer
    Dropping of singleplayer completely
    Overpriced DLC
    Cutting content for pre-order bonuses/DLC
    Absurd free to play cash shop prices
    Stealth subscriptions
    “Premium” subscriptions
    Cloud-streaming

    I guess as long as enough gamers act like vacuous, mindless cash cows more than happy to splurge the contents of their wallets all over the latest gimmick designed by former beverage, pharmaceutical and childrens entertainment company executives to make the most money in exchange for the least amount of work and creativity all the while whittling the rights of their customers down to absolute zero. Then they will keep treating us all like fools.

  27. piratmonkey says:

    I’m ok with this actually.

  28. Melf_Himself says:

    I really see this “model” as not having much longevity. They release these games every year and expect people to fork over the full cost of the game as well as this premium subscription? Really unlikely to last.

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