The Old Republic And The Revenge Of The Payment Model

By Jim Rossignol on August 1st, 2012 at 1:00 pm.


Yesterday’s news about The Old Republic means that this morning we see a wave of editorials suggesting that subscription-based games are over, and that “free” is the only way MMOs can survive. This, of course, is because “MMO” essentially translates to “quest-based online RPG” (99% of the industry can’t see any other way to do it) and that tired old road is having to find new ways to keep people coming. There is another path, however, a less travelled one that might sustain the subscription model. The MMO which epitomises this is EVE Online. A sandbox model, where player-interaction is the content.

But will we continue to want to pay subscriptions for that? Or is it just a matter of time until that is made free?

The answer to this question isn’t clear. EVE is the only real success in the sandbox space. Others – Darkfall, Mortal, Wurm, Perpetuum – have tried, and none has really succeeded to get the kind of numbers that make waves in the wider industry. Perhaps more importantly, none of them have generated the astounding stories of player-interaction that gave EVE its wealth of media attention. EVE could even be a singularity, but I suspect not.

The truth isn’t that Eve is some unique snowflake, but that developers and publishers generally don’t understand what a sandbox MMO is, or how to make one. Over the years I’ve repeatedly spoken to MMO developers who have not played Eve, and don’t understand how it works. They have played Everquest, World Of Warcraft, perhaps a few others. They know how those work, and they have made games that are remarkably similar. Funny that.

The flipside to that is that EVE is simply a better game than the other sandbox MMOs I listed. When someone finds the inspiration and ability to make a good sandbox MMO, then EVE will not be alone.

But will we want to pay for it? Could EVE’s subscription army be nothing more than a legacy?

Possibly. Probably. Possibly not.

The easiest argument against sandbox games supporting the subscription model is that it’s basically counter-intuitive. Sandbox games have less content, so there’s, well, /less to pay for/. The point of them is that players, though interaction with the world, and each other, end up generating the content. We should, give the abundance of actual hand-made content in traditional MMOs, see them as being worth more. And yet in terms of what players are willing to pay for, the opposite seems to be true. Sure, EVE’s 400k subs might be less than half that of TOR’s current population, but EVE has been steady for a long time, and it is fast approaching its tenth year. People stay. People pay.

This has many factors: the system it has created has no level cap, has no endgame, and never runs out of quests. There’s another aspect to this, too, unrelated to “content” in a direct sense, which is when a game is based on human interaction, as Eve is, then the ability and will to pay for a subscription becomes a token of your commitment. You are there because you want to be there, not because it was free and you had nothing else better to do. This kind of gatekeeping is going to become increasingly important to online communities, and I suspect it’s a critical psychological aspect of the success of EVE.

And so perhaps what we want to pay for is something we find a specific sort of value in. We want to pay for something that rewards us not with more quests, or more numbers, but with fresh modes of interaction. And, perhaps because of the surplus of quest-based MMO experiences out there, we value the rare and special service that the sandbox provides.

The fundamental truth must be this: we will pay a subscription if we judge it worth our while.


Perhaps the true lesson of EVE, as I suspect I’ve drummed many times before, is that it delivers a unique experience. (This echoes what I was saying about Zynga.) What you pay for is unlike what others play for. Not just in the sense of being a singular game design, but in the sense that your EVE experience is yours. In TOR your Jedi experience is basically the same as tens of thousands of others before, alongside, and after you. The stories are the same. And sure they might blur a bit in the multiplayer groupings and the PvP arenas, but the truth is that you’ve probably even had an experience like this before. In Everquest, in World Of Warcraft. The sandbox MMO, allowing you to choose your interactions, your route, your quests, creates a story that you can own.

It’s an accepted truth of our industry that players generally don’t want new and different games. They want basically the same thing again and again, although perhaps a little shinier this year than last. I’m sure that’s true. But I also suspect that they also come to resent paying for that same thing over and over. Personally I want to pay for things that add to the sum of my experiences, whether that’s in going somewhere different on holiday, or in what I log onto of an evening. For the games industry to grow means exploring quite different ways of doing things. As ever, F2P is not the whole story. It is not the “end” of subscriptions as a mode of making money. It could be the end of a certain type of over-explored game design, and that’s probably a good thing.

“MMO” is a technology, not a fantasy RPG. If game companies explore variety in MMO designs, then perhaps variety in payment models will follow.

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105 Comments »

  1. F. Lynx Pardinus says:

    “The easiest argument against sandbox games supporting the subscription model is that it’s basically counter-intuitive. Sandbox games have less content, so there’s, well, /less to pay for/. The point of them is that players, though interaction with the world, and each other, end up generating the content. ”
    Angie’s List has 1.5 million paying subscribers for a sandbox. Can it be considered a MMO?

    • Chris D says:

      MMO on its own is just three adjectives looking for a noun. Usually it’s understood as a shortened form of MMORPG, or at least MMOG. As Angie’s list doesn’t appear to be a game, then no it’s not one of those.

    • x1501 says:

      “The easiest argument against sandbox games supporting the subscription model is that it’s basically counter-intuitive. Sandbox games have less content, so there’s, well, /less to pay for/. The point of them is that players, though interaction with the world, and each other, end up generating the content.”

      What a ridiculously oversimplified view. First, sandbox games have less content? Maybe low-budget ones do, but nothing in the concept can prevent a triple-A sandbox title from having about just as much content as a comparable “theme park” title would. As for the rest of the argument, in limited game systems, player-generated content can only take your so far. Sandbox games may just as easily have a full development team behind them improving old and developing new sandbox elements at a steady rate. In fact, considering how confined “content generating” player interaction with the world usually is, any successful sandbox would probably have no choice but to do just that in order to keep its player numbers intact. Your “only real success in the sandbox space”, EVE Online, for example, has had seventeen expansions since its release.

      • TidiusFF says:

        You’re absolutely true. And we don’t need to go far to proves your argument : see the recently departed Star Wars Galaxies Huge content AND strong sandbox side (as I have seen, since i never played it)

  2. Spinks says:

    EVE seems to fall somewhere between a subscription and F2P model, though? Players I know seem to pay for their accounts via money made in game, so I’m guessing that’s quite common among the more hardcore players. (Interesting thought experiment to wonder how many accounts they would have if that option wasn’t available.)

    • Ovno says:

      Wrong way round for the hardcore players, they pay real money for transferable subscription tokens (known as plex) enabling your friend and others to pay in game money for said tokens and play the game for no real money and enabling the hardcore to turn real money into in game money.

      Or as it is otherwise known real money trading by the back door…

      • DeVadder says:

        Well, i suppose both happens with ‘hardcore players’. But i would say ‘hardcore player’ means someone playing a lot and that for a long time. Those people often found a good way to make their pvp ISK ingame and buy subscriptiontime with ISK as well.
        Of course there are others, throwing insane amounts of money into the game, but i would argue that those are on average newer players or people who spend less time ingame. But then again there are no metrics on who buys and who sells PLEX more likely available, so both of us are just guessing :)

        • Dave says:

          “But then again there are no metrics on who buys and who sells PLEX more likely available, so both of us are just guessing :)”

          Unless you are/were a “hardcore” player who knows many other “hardcore” players and has played the game for nearly 10 years….

          then you know.

          • DeVadder says:

            There is still way too many kinds of ‘hardcore players’ and no proper definition of the term anyways. ^^
            I was playing markets quite succesfully for two years before it bored me, and those people i know from that time and me never paid for our chars and alts.
            However i also know a guy i dragged into the game who spends endless hours managing his corp and nowadays alliance and he spent hundreds of €.
            Both could be called ‘hardcore’ is suppose. But well, this discussion kind of lacks a point imho. ^^
            I think we can agree that it takes most people quite a lot of online time to buy all their subscription time using ISK. Not all of course.

          • momxbysa says:

            “Perhaps more importantly, none of them have generated the astounding stories of player-interaction that gave EVE its wealth of media attention.”
            http://sea.blizzard.com/en-sg/company/legal/wow_eula.html

    • DeVadder says:

      You can only buy playtime ingame from other players who first had to purchase that game time from CCP. That means every day a player is subscribed has been payed for by some player. Just maybe it was not the same player who used the subscription that payed for it.
      So the playtime/ingame-currency conversion is entirely governed by demand and supply of players.

      On an unrelated note: Great article. I personally have more than three years of Eve subscription in my book and that allthough i often did not play for months. But i kept paying. Of course to keep improving my skills, but also because i still considered myself an Eve player. Even if i did not play. And i was willing to pay for that. I still am.

      I think what i like most about Eve is, that it acknowledges that there are thousands of your kind. It annoys me a lot when i play a mmorpg and the quests and bosses i kill suggest that i am the one who saved the world. Just that there are 10000 other persons who saved it the same way. That is the most immersion breaking thing ever.
      That and of course the value everything gets from the risk i had to take to get it. And it is so much more fun to fight someone if you know, when i kill him, he will have lost something. And if you loose, you have lost something. I have never experienced something as thrilling as what in Eve is called the ‘Pvp Shivers’ in any other game.

      • Ajh says:

        Oddly enough, this is the kind of thinking i try to get the role players in my RP guild in WoW into. You are not the sole savior of the world. You are one of thousands. It’s a great base for interesting RP, and would likely be a great base in a traditional MMO (We’ll see when guild wars 2 comes out.)

        Eve is not my thing, but I respect the hell out of it for it’s design and the player base seems to be filled with relatively awesome people.

        • TidiusFF says:

          In the beta, GW2 was the same “do your quest grind” than WoW. They just renamed “quest” to “event” and deleted the starting PNJ (NOT FOR ALL EVENTS OMG !). You should forget this one.

          • max_1111 says:

            You would be doing yourself a disservice overlooking GW2 if you based your opinion on comments like this.

      • nrvsNRG says:

        Is the lack of grinding for XP, and the fact you can leave the game for 6 months and come back to tonnes of skill points to spend, one of the reasons “People stay. People pay.”?
        Personally i hate the grind for XP and the way it makes you feel like your wasting your time (and money) if you leave for a while and decide to play another game, so i wonder how many of the 400k playerbase is just people on standby.
        Ive subbed to half a dozen mmo’s this year and i may have stuck with them longer if there was an Eve skill point system instead of XP.

        • malkav11 says:

          Personally, although I dislike EVE for a number of other reasons, the skill system is definitely one of the big reasons why I don’t play. Decoupling advancement from actually playing the game means that I feel like playing is pointless. After all, I’m going to make the same progress whether I log in or not. (Yes, I know playing is the main way to accumulate cash. But for me, the pursuit of loot is not particularly compelling. It’s the pursuit of character advancement that gets me going.)

    • Maxheadroom says:

      you can but it’s comparatively quite expensive. It takes around a month for the average player to earn the cash to pay for the following month (currently around 500 million ISK), and thats assumng they dont buy any fancy spaceships or skills.

      As you mentioned though the top tier hardcore players that are part of huge corporations can generate 100′s of missions a day can afford to keep their members playing for free indefinitely

  3. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Isn’t EVE a bit too much of a niche though? Personally I bounced off it because it seemed like it would take a lot of investment on my part to get anything out of it (but that said, I don’t like MMOs in general, and bounced off of WOW too).

    That said I’m intrigued to try out the secret world this weekend and see if it really is something a bit different.

    • Zepp says:

      Not really. Story-driven like SWTOR but WoWishly grindy when you reach endgame. Same story as game mentioned in the commented article. ;)

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Yep, you’re still doing quests for xp to get skill points, so even though there is no levels 1-60 its still the exact same thing.

      • derekiv says:

        No, just no. You get experience points in real time. You do quests to get money to buy ships. You don’t even have to do quests. You can just play the market or go pirate other peoples ships.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s a different take on the model, and a lot more thinky than most, but it’s not a fundamental seachange.

    • jkz says:

      There should be more niches, EVE isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be, there should be more games that do things differently instead of just trying to be the same as whatever the current successful model is.

      It’s sad that the definition of MMO to many is an online RPG, read on a forum someone saying that Planetside 2 isn’t an MMO because there is no third person view, despite the thousands of simultaneous players.

      The possibilities of MMOs are huge, hopefully more companies will realise that and start making different types of games.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        The problem with making a niche game though, is that you are never going to make big money with it ala WoW, and ofc thats what most games publishers are looking to do when funding a game. If said niche game becomes another EVE then yes it will be profitable as long as your business model is good, but for every EVE theres probably a dozen games who have tried and failed and there is no way major publishers are going to put anything like a functional budget into something that “might” turn a small profit each month.

  4. Zepp says:

    Now lets wait for TSW to go F2P. It’s another WoW-clone in its core (especially NM dungeon endgame grind). This may be not initially obvious but for anyone who played this game for a month it is clear.

  5. Sweedums says:

    It’s funny to see this now. Over the last 2-3 weeks my brother has been looking for a new MMO to play and every time he tries a new one, he tells me how great it is, until 2 days later, where he tells me it’s just got really boring. He says he wants something new, and yet he goes back to playing all the boring WoW clones (he has actually now gone back to WoW….). Every time i suggest EVE… he just kind of shies away. I don’t understand it really, he says he just loves the “player interaction” in those MMO’s, and yet they strike me as the kind that basically have no real player interaction other than chatting, trading, and occasionally dueling (does anyone actually ever do that?).

    I think for most people now, the novelty of being able to play a game with thousands of other people has simply worn off. we have all done it, and now we don’t care… unless there is a REASON for those thousands of other people being there, like in EVE

    • jrodman says:

      Personally I’d try it if griefers were punished and/or banned on repeat offense.

      That is, I have no time for that sort of thing.

      But as I understand it, griefing behavior is part of what makes eve work. So I skip.

  6. Vander says:

    Eve is not only subscription based, it has also a cash-shop. And you can buy ISK. Not dirctly, but by selling plex.

  7. Vorphalack says:

    There’s no reason any type of persistent online game should avoid subscriptions without question, they just need to make sure the subscription is proportional to the amount of content provided. Whenever the topic comes up it always feels like the argument is (box price + £8.99+ per month) vs. (free client + micro payments + gated content). Why is no one simply charging significantly less per month with no box price? Where are the market forces working to reduce costs for the consumer?

    I’d assume that the reason for entry fees being so high is that so many MMOs devote a large portion of their budget to non-repetable theme park content. Once that’s played through it wont provide much incentive to stick around and keep subbed, so publishers want to recoup as much of their costs as possible as quickly as possible. See SWtOR, which lost the majority of its subscribers within 4 months, but seemingly made enough money in that time to at least break even.

    If a development was focused on player created content, such as Planetside 2, I think they could quite easily justify a much lower subscription fee than we are used to, and trash the idea of the box price completely. If they provide an experience that enough people enjoy, with long term support and updates, then there is much less risk of boredom and content drought setting in. I’d also like to see more MMOs support the idea that you can allow your sub to lapse, while still being able to log in and play in a limited capacity. DDO did that quite nicely, and it helps to keep the player count up.

    • chris1479 says:

      Vorphalack:

      Interesting points, but something about your (and just about everyone else’s) unerring focus on content content content just doesn’t quite sit right with me. I think we’re confusing or forgetting the value of replayability with the value of original content. Original content is very much a premium, expensive, limited resource. Vast amounts of original content for a reasonable price is a losing proposition in the long-term, because the massive amounts of resources that developers like EA have to put into making all that content mean a consequent fall in the originality and accompanying risks that they are willing to take with a project. SWTOR embodies this absolutely perfectly, being a AAA development-heavy game that simply can’t afford to stray from the well worn WoW game style.

      Get the fundamental game mechanics right, that is to say an engaging, persistent world with depth and character to it and people will happily – nay – lovingly do broadly similar content with minor differences for a much longer time, years and years longer, much longer than any amount of premium original content could provide.

  8. Jon Tetrino says:

    Don’t forget that EVE already has a form of FTP in the sense of PLEX.

    The PLEX comes from a real item that costs real money, but those with real money will buy them and sell them to those who can’t/don’t want to pay real money for in-game currency. I’ve played EVE for free using this method for about three years now.

    I would not be surprised if about a third of the entire EVE populous plays for free using this method.

    What people need to realise is that ultimately, choice is important, and the subscription fee doesn’t need to be removed for said choice. If other MMOs ran a similar system to the PLEX system (which, despite some naysayers, doesn’t actually take much grind/in-game time to earn) then they’d be able to reduce a couple of problems that they are having.

    Problem one: People not wishing to pay for their service or unable to pay for their service with real cash.

    Problem two: People trying to buy gold. The PLEX is still essentially a means of converting real money into ISK, but it allows the developers to capitalise on this trade and profit from it.

    Win-win for everyone, assuming the in-game economy could handle it.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      The thing that makes PLEX work is that however many people use PLEX instead of playing is irrelevant: in order for PLEX to be available each month, somebody somewhere has had to pay for it.

      For CCP, the net result is that everybody’s still paying for their sub in one way or another.

      • Jon Tetrino says:

        Which is my point exactly. No money is lost, but some people will see the game as FTP because of the option.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Worth noting though that you can’t realistically earn enough ISK to pay for your sub ingame for a good few months.

  9. onsamyj says:

    I’m waiting for standalone “DayZ”, ‘cause it’s seems to me as EVE-lite. It’s cheaper and without subscription (Rocket wants Minecraft model), it’s less time-taxing (you can spend hour a week and get something done, and get fun from it), but it is hardcore and sandboxy.

    • cyrenic says:

      I agree that DayZ has a lot of similarities to Eve. And playing DayZ doesn’t feel like manipulating a spreadsheet ;).

  10. aliksy says:

    I’ve never played Eve because I don’t like the possibility of being utterly fucked by other players. I know you can avoid most of that, but it’s just not for me.

    I think there are two problems with your typical MMO. The big one is the combat is kind of samey, and most of it is not very challenging. Stand there, hit hotkeys, trade blows. Tab targeting, no dodging, no locational damage or anything. Most of the “leveling” content poses very little threat. so it’s mostly just going through the motions. It’s about as engaging as filling out a spreadsheet.

    And then there’s the quests. Boring, static quests. Players have shown they’ll accept them, so they keep coming. But they make it very apparent how the world never changes, and nothing you do matters aside from making some of your numbers bigger.

    At least GW2 events can change the state of the world for a time. Most MMOs let players make exactly 0 difference to the world. In Eve, I’m told, players can do a lot more.

  11. malkav11 says:

    The flipside is that surely if the meat of the game is player interaction, more people = more player interaction. And eliminating the barriers of initial purchase and subscription fee typically means more people.

    • chris1479 says:

      @malkav11

      More people does not equal better gaming. There’s probably a sweet spot, not quite f2p, but a lower subscription cost of say £5-£10 a month max. If you lower the barrier of entry to nothing then you have an audience who couldn’t give two shits if they get banned or become generally renowned for being a douchebag.

      • aliksy says:

        I think a one time fee as used by Guild Wars is the best. It helps keep out the infinite gold spammers as well as the screaming 13 year olds, and it makes a permaban more meaningful.

        I simply won’t pay a subscription fee because I have too many games to play, and I want to be able to play them whenever.

  12. chris1479 says:

    Honestly I’d rather pay a subscription to push the quality towards the higher end and to set a barrier of entry to all but the wealthiest of 12 year olds.

    Viz the sandbox/subscription model, I’m starting to think we’ve come full circle here. EVE, let us not forget, is a ten year old game that competes with the very latest and shiniest MMOs – even with their AAA voiceovers and cutscenes. Why does it compete? Because it allows you to do what you want There are quests around to be done should you so wish, but the game doesn’t fundamentally compel you to do anything in one particular way or a single linear fashion. And this really is the crux of the matter: In the past decade the trend in MMOs has been a relentless march towards a tighter, more streamlined, more casual, and consequently more linear experience. EVE has endured and prospered specifically because the game designers have consistently resisted this right from day 1.

    The bottom line is that freedom to do what you want, and for there to be tailor made content there if and when you would like to indulge, has a lasting appeal. SWTOR is a case study in how to do the complete opposite, being virtually a single player RPG that requires an internet connection, and not a good one at that because it had little more genuine freedom and flexibility than an on-rails FPS section.

    There always has been and always will be space in the market for a high quality, AAA, subscription-based game providing the designers are prepared to take a risk and not take gamers’ opinions at face value regarding what they say they want in a game. Truly great games take risks, many games refine and improve upon a genre – like WoW learning from the mistakes of Everquest – but the great leaps forward in MMO design usually started out with people thinking the designer was on a hiding to nowhere. Everquest was the perfect example of this, a 3D, always online, MMO with a subscription? Seriously risky. But guess what – it’s around today. And SWTOR? That’s one game that certainly won’t be played by anyone a decade from now.

  13. Kapouille says:

    I’d like to point out that Eve wasn’t the first sandbox game to be successful . There has been Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies before it.

    They have been, this being said, less fortunate than Eve in the sense that their “owners” (respectively EA and SOE) didn’t understand them and subsequently killed their sandbox aspects (in the case of SWG, also killing the remaining user base).

    Interestingly, they both shared the same creative director. Depressingly enough, it’s true that very very few designers understand the potential of a “persistent online universe”, or even what shape and mechanics it should have.

  14. alex_v says:

    There’s an assumption that a free-to-play MMO has somehow failed – I highly doubt this is the case, and I think most subscription MMOs in recent years have been made safe in the knowledge that after the initial surge of boxed products and subscriptions, the most lucrative model will become free-to-play.

    I think the elephant in the room is Call of Duty and Battlefield – at the moment they have highly successful subscription models as a sideline, but surely in the future those will become the front and centre service. So yes, subscriptions can work without sandboxes OR quest-lines.

    So I basically think the issue is not MMOs or whether sandbox is the future – the issue is that the business models on which all games are released are currently in major flux.

  15. JD Ogre says:

    “Perhaps more importantly, none of them have generated the astounding stories of player-interaction that gave EVE its wealth of media attention.”

    Not exactly a good thing, given that the media attention is mostly for thefts and griefing.

    • Dimdamm says:

      And how is that not-a-good-thing ? Readings stories about huge theft and spies that ended up being able to destroy alliances is what got a lot of players into it.

      • JD Ogre says:

        Because it gives the all-too-true impression that it’s the scum, rather than the cream, that has floated to the top.

        • Therax says:

          Which is entirely appropriate, given that the world being simulated is a no-holds-barred dog-eat-dog dystopia without effective law enforcement or even laws, really.

          Or if you’re of a cynical bent about our own world: “Look! Art imitating reality!”

    • scim says:

      Yeah, and most media attention going for other MMO’s has also been largely negative. Women letting their infants die, people murdering people over ingame items, the whole business surrounding gold farming. The media (especially mainstream) will only report the negative aspects. You will almost never hear the heartwarm ingstories of massive amounts of players holding memorial services or weddings ingame. Or helping people who encountered disaster IRL (fe. after natural disasters, accidents etc.). Those get reported on the niche websites and they apply to almost every game with a community.

      The trend I’m seeing is that people are fed up with the theme park stuff. If I look at myself I play online games for a couple of reasons and almost none of them relate to content. All of them are either to feel I am good at them (like shooters & moba’s), others are because I like the group of people I play them with (or against :)). If you look at some of the games that absolutely came out of nowhere and gained a huge following the past years I think Minecraft and atm DayZ stick out as being these cinderella stories. They start out in an alpha state and get a huge following and a lot of people keep on playing them. And the only thing both games did was give you a world and some tools to interact/live in that world. That is what MMO devs in general are getting wrong. They feel that they have to custom tailor this world to the largest common denominator and streamline your experience. I don’t want that, if I want something like that I’ll watch a movie, read a book or play a single player game. Games are interactive, your actions should matter to some extent and the average Joe should be able to become whatever it is they want. Be it a blacksmith, fearless warrior or a spymaster. That is imo why EVE is so darn good. They give you the tools & choices to be whatever you want to be. There have been corporations and alliances who solely build stuff for others, who have become the UPS/Fed Ex of EVE or who have built up a teaching entity that helps new players find their way and provides a detailed knowledge base for everyone to use. Add to that the plotting, the backstabbing and the intrigue that stems from the ability to actually posses, attack & defend ingame real estate and that is why you get these stories. EVE is the wild west of the MMO world. Anything is possible and almost anything goes. You do what you want to do and someone doesn’t let you, you shoot him in the face. In EVE actions have consequences, there is an actual risk/reward mechanic and there is freedom of choice. If only its core gameplay was a bit more exciting, then it would’ve been great.

  16. Hunchback says:

    I would definitely go back to EVE if they made it free to play. I think the only reason they are NOT moving to F2P is because the whole game market is entirely player run and it’s balanced for the current player base. If they open the game to everyone and get hundreds of thousands of players the effects on the market will be unpredictable and VERY BIG DRAMA might occur (considering this is EVE we are talking)

    *sigh* I miss my Hurricane.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I think a major factor in CCP keeping EVE-Online subscription based is due to having to implement some other financial system (e.g. microtransactions) if they go free-to-play to keep it financially viable which would be a paradigm shift for the game (and more than likely a bad one).

      The ore/mineral markets are already undermined (pun intended or not? you decide, this is RPS after all) by macro’ers/botters, flooding the game with thousands more players would further exacerbate this situation.

      I miss my Taranis =(

  17. Emeraude says:

    I’m personally a big proponent of the subscription model – if the game supports it. It guarantees equal access to all game content to all players -which I’d argue is primordial for its long term health.

    There’s also a weird inversion on incentives with the freemium models, something I’ve been discussing quite a lot recently. With subscription-based games the company flagging the title has all reasons to satisfy its customer base – unsatisfied customers leave, meaning a loss of income. The freemium model doesn’t care that customers *stay* as long as they spend. If anything, the model encourages the appearance of a myriad of lower-cost games, specifically designed to make you buy items – which has direct negative influence on game design. People can come and go between them, the company not caring one bit.

  18. frightlever says:

    Most Eve players run multiple accounts already. Make something like Eve F2P and the subscriber base would shoot up by a factor of ten.

    (Certainly most serious players have multiple accounts. It’s well known the subscriber numbers for Eve are a multiple of the actual player base.)

    • Shuck says:

      “Make something like Eve F2P and the subscriber base would shoot up by a factor of ten.”
      That’s not a great incentive on their part, necessarily. Not everyone who plays F2P games spends money, and most don’t spend as much as subscribers would. Since you also still have per-player costs even for the people who aren’t paying anything, a ten-fold increase in players might net them about as much money as they’re making now.

  19. BigJonno says:

    I’m pretty sure that there is plenty of life left in the subscription model. I can’t see millions of people suddenly deciding they don’t want to pay a subscription fee any more and that’s certainly not what has happened among my MMO-playing friends and family. What has happened is that people have stopped playing WoW, having got bored of the game, looked for something else and discovered that they’re all pretty much the same.

    I’ve tried EVE a couple of times, but never got far because the whole spaceship set-up doesn’t appeal to me. Give me the same kind of sandbox, with the same level of polish and without the overwhelming PvP (AKA, loads of idiots getting their kicks ganking noobs) focus of the likes of Darkfall, and I’d be all over it.

    • mondomau says:

      /\ Exactly. The reason subscription based MMO games are failing is because they seem to stubbornly insist on following the WoW style grind-fest RPG model. I find it stunning that seasoned game designers and industry professionals alike are so utterly incapable of understanding that the WoW phenomenon was not something that can be re-engineered by copying it verbatim. It was part of a cultural zeitgeist and the result of hundreds of individual factors converging all at once.
      If they manage to implement something original in the field (not just a few aesthetic differences or gameplay tweeks to the WoW core ), they will start to generate sub numbers again.

      • theanorak says:

        Agreed. And I currently play WoW (heresy, I know).

        Personally, I’m (obviously) completely happy to pay a monthly fee. I like the idea that £9/month — the cost of two “nicer” beers in my London local — means I’ll have everything I need to play, for as long or as little as I like.

        I’ve looked at (read: read reviews, watched videos of) most of the MMOs that have released since I’ve been a WoW-player (<4 years) and the sub ones that I looked at all had a "WoW in a (theme) costume, with (feature!)" smell. None of them were themes that I simply had to play, and none of them had sufficiently unique (or enough sufficiently unique) elements to ever interest me in playing them. When I play another MMO, whether in addition to or instead of WoW, it will most likely be something which *isn't* WoW, for pretty obvious reasons.

        I guess that's why I'm thinking about a copy of the Secret World, as something which seems to have enough points of differentiation to be worth the £40 for the installer and a month or two's worth of play…

      • Chris D says:

        Yep, I would pay a subscription fee for Guild Wars 2, though obviously I’m very happy I don’t have to.

        Sorry Secret World you are A) Too expensive, B) Charging a subscription and also have a cash shop, that only multiplies the problems of both, and C) Out at the same time as GW2.

  20. shadow9d9 says:

    The lesson is to stop making wow clones with 5 dungeons to repeat and a tiny “endgame” instead of having a huge world with exploration and no endgame(asheron’s call)… not the subscription model.

  21. Tom De Roeck says:

    Boo, hiss, you said Perpetuum wasnt as good as eve.

    :D

  22. Lobotomist says:

    I am glad that the end of one era is now closed. Era of themepark P2P games.
    The fall started with LOTRO and ended with SWTOR slamming the door shut.

    However the new age can be born from this. Age of AAA Sandbox games.

    As it stands now, only games that can warrant subscription are sandbox games. Because of need for all players to have equal ground. Item shop will just not do there.

    And subscription can still be (and sound lucrative) to investors
    So they might finally decide to support Sandbox games in future.

    Its really a win win situation

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I think this is where APB failed/fails. It tries to be a sandbox but offers players incentives if they’re willing to spend money.

      I hope you’re right. As much fun as it is, the sandbox needs to progress past singleplayer pursuits such as Just Cause, GTA et al.

    • Shuck says:

      AAA sandbox MMOs may not be possible, and if they are, they’d be tough to design. The nature of the game ends up being newbie-hostile (for various reasons inherent to sandbox mechanics), and you’ve just alienated a good portion of the player-base needed to support a AAA game. There’s a reason all these MMOs have been theme parks – it’s an undemanding format that is accessible to the largest audience.

  23. Apprehension says:

    There is one thing about EVE PLEX system. It allows CCP to fight isk farmers. Now the problem is present and will be, but compared too other MMOs i`ve played its less spread.

    There are people willing to blow 100, 200 hell even 1-2k $ for advantage in game or they are lazy and don`t want to grind ISK/resources. Most times they go to some gold/isk farmer to get what they want. Breaking EULA, risking ban and being main reason game is infested with farmers.

    Now in EVE one PLEX (15$) is worth currently around 480m ISK. Lv4 missions (that are on same mental level as doing daily quest in theme park MMOs) are around 40-50m ISK/h , good Incursion fleet will neat you 50-70m /h. Not sure about mining but even in high sec it should be below 15hs to get PLEX.

    That guy with 1000$ to blow will be supporting a normal players that are willing to spend around 15h to farm bit of ISK instead some shady farmer business.

    In the end whole game benefits, bunch of people play for “free”, 1000$ dude gets what he wants and developer can be quite aggressive about fighting farmers.

    PS. One of my friends was trying to be smart and bought ISK from farmers. Saved around 10$ compared to buying PLEXes and throwing them on market. One month later he logs in to see nice red -600m in his wallet. One of best “I told you” moments in my life.

  24. Pardoz says:

    “The fundamental truth must be this: we will pay a subscription if we judge it worth our while.”

    This. It has very little to do with the type of gameplay – Rift seems to be doing just fine with a subscription model, and Asheron’s Call has been around since 1999 – it has to do with whether or not we (for values of ‘we’ large enough that the developer/publisher/wallet-keeper decides it’s not worth rolling the dice on a ‘pay to make playable/pay to win’ model) find it worthwhile.

    • tur1n says:

      Exactly. I would definetly pay a subscription for something as good as WoW back in the day.

      But the industry thinks that after all these years I would pay a subscription for something equal or worse. This has nothing to do with sandbox vs themepark or payment details.

    • f1x says:

      Actually yes, back in the day that was the great joy of WoW,
      people paid subscription but they got a lot of content, and usually (unless you were a moron and got rejected everywhere) a very nice guild with very nice people who would usually get to defy the challenges of raiding/dungeons/whatever,
      because believe it or not, the community/player base of WoW was awesome for the first 2-3 years

      Subscription model somehow tied it all together, it made sure that people were focusing on wow along with the content and the freshness of everything

      of course the over abuse of that resulted in what we have now, my point is that, not only subscription/payment models have come to a moment were they have to be “rethinked” aswell as the “grind-wow” formula, but also its the player communities that are now much worse

  25. greggles says:

    Examples of Eve professions.

    1) In game therapist. 20-050 million isk for 15 minute sessions. Actually a psychology grad student.

    2) Red frog freight. Corp which you can pay to haul your stuff around, so you don’t have to bother with logistics of moving virtual space ships.

    3) Bahari’s backgrounds/posters. 100-500m isk per poster. Recently featured in EON magazine.
    http://imgur.com/a/Ogc2T#4

    4) Streaming videos/pvp videos. Free donations of ship and isk, sponsorship.

    5) Online in game poker with game money betting.

    6) Online in game lotto’s, or out of game if you want to do it at work.

    Just some quick examples. There are hundreds of odd ball things you can do in eve. Some guys fly around making bookmarks (tacts/safes) and sell them by region. If you can think it up, and if someone wants it, guess what? Someone will pay for it. You can literary do anything in eve.

  26. KaelWolfcry says:

    Spreadsheet: The Videogame (Yep, that’s my name for it) is repeatedly lauded for being the single greatest example of how a subscription model works, when I’m not sure it’s purely for its design. It’s having a dedicated userbase and giving that userbase things to do on a regular basis, or in the case of Spreadsheet tools to do same amongst each other. When you throw up a manifesto video and then do something completely different, or call QoL upgrades “content” instead of uodating the thing people bought your game for in the first place…the value of a sub fee plummets.

    I bought TOR specifically to experience an awesome series of stories that only Bioware are capable of weaving. As much as people rail and rage and gnaw at the walls about playing a single-player game in an MMO setting….I /liked/ that. I liked caring about why x had to be killed for y. Currently, however, TOR seems content to invest dev time into geargaining timesinks for the userbase who have just barely enough attention spans to coordinate for an hour at a time, maximum. Thus, I left.

    TSW have said they will release updates to their world’s story on a monthly basis. My skepticism was instantaneous…yet their current patch has not just owned up to their talk, but also specifically added more of what its playerbase wants–in this case, more investigation missions. They understand that a sub fee is worth value if you build a dedicated userbase, and they are on track to doing just that.

    I’ve always said that Funcom seem happy to build their own market instead of trying to dominate the entire market. My friend, who turned me on to this game, said they should even have a “We’re Not Going Free-To-Play” event as a celebration of this. And she has a magnificent point.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      1. Bioware doesn’t exist anymore.

      2. The old Bioware just recycled barely coherent and average/cliched stories.

      3. The patch for TSW added 7 whole missions, which is nothing in the scheme of things. Oh, and 2 more of the same dungeons but harder difficulty. That was all it added.. the rest were bug fixes.

      4. In 1999, Asheron’s Call was releasing free monthly patches that changed entire landscapes, added dungeons, quests, story, items, etc.

  27. randomkeyhits says:

    Its a little hard to say what a success is in the sandbox MMO area. Eve by its larger player base is indeed clearly the leader. Wurm for example was alpha in 2002/3 went subscription in 2006 and is still going so six years with a subscription model. Is that a success?

    I’d contend with one point in that Eve is the only one with real “astounding stories of player-interaction”. This is definitely not the case, its the only one with decently publicised accounts. Other games have had their player events happen and within the framework of the game system some would indeed have been awesome.

  28. Jahnz says:

    What about a pay for time model? You pay, say $5 and get a block of time that’s comparable to what someone plays in a month. Then you don’t feel pressured to play so much every month, and the people who are on all the time are paying more for it as well. You could sell larger blocks of time with corresponding discounts, and you could let the players sell these blocks of time among themselves like the PLEX in Eve.

    Alternately, why not charge only $5 a month sub instead of $15? (Sorry, I don’t know how many pounds that is, or even how to make a pound character.) I know for me the high cost of subs prevents me from doing so. I used to sub WoW but I can no longer afford that, but I might be able to afford one or two lower cost subscriptions. Doesn’t Love have a $5 sub?

    • Ajh says:

      Ragnarok online did this when I was playing it back in 2004. I could buy hours or pay a monthly fee to play unlimited. I always paid the unlimited because of how much we were playing but I could definitely see paying the lower one if that’s all the time you need.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Yep I remember Ragnarok Online offering something similar. Never used it myself, had a monthly sub until it got boring due to the GM’s being as corrupt as the average Italian referee.

        Also in it’s original conception APB had a similar model.

  29. Ajh says:

    ..Whenever I see a game go free to play I think of DDO. Before they went free to play the servers were closing, the company owning it sold it back to the developer company even. It was getting ready to be written off as a loss. They switched to a free to play model that really really works well for the game, giving you the freedom to hang out with your friends, and nickel and diming if your friends want to play premium content. They even still HAVE a subscription if you want access to everything. They had to open back up servers to handle the population, and have since decided to expand into forgotten realms.

    Free to play is not a death knell, but the suggestion that you’d get more people playing (And paying) if you didn’t charge them an entry fee. Once they’re there and see that another player has this thing here and they’d like it, they pay say $5 for it. Then they decide they want that other thing in the cash shop that’s on sale this week for $3. You’ll get people who pay nothing, but you’ll get people who pay more than that magic $15 a month.

    There is no flat out “wrong” payment model for an MMO game. It’s what works for the game vs what doesn’t. People make WoW clones then try to charge WoW prices for it expecting a WoW sized subscription base immediately. It’s never going to happen. If they stopped expecting such things it’d probably be easier for everyone.

  30. newprince says:

    I don’t think enough credit is given in this article for MMOs in general. Just as we should condemn MMOs in the post-WoW era for copying it, we shouldn’t also conveniently pretend there were no MMOs before WoW in order to further an agenda for sandbox games. DaoC was brilliant and came out over a decade ago. It provided the kind of experiences no other MMO has even come close to replicating. Some people experienced the same epiphany elsewhere, but they give MMO fans hope that eventually the genre will be the best PC genre once again.

    There’s always sparks of light out there. The MMO genre is not stagnant, unless you don’t like MMOs to begin with (a lot of complainers admit they never played an MMO before!). DDO and GW2 have given me so many experiences that aren’t WoWish in the slightest. DDO is closer to Neverwinter Nights. GW2 is branching out and creating stuff that feels fresh. Okay, so I’m the 10,000th Ranger created. So what?

    Also, sandbox games are just by their nature harder in terms of accessibility. It’s hard for any game, regardless of genre, to get backing and major developers/publishers involved when you tell them at the top “This will be a hard game to get into”. But perhaps the success of experiments like DayZ will convince some MMOs developers to take more risks and experiment.

    • alex_v says:

      Worth mentioning that a hell of a lot of players use WOW as a sandbox, and have not the faintest interest in grinding. WOW seems to be famous for its raiding guilds, but actually I found that most people are just checking in with each other, and maybe doing a quest or two, but mostly just enjoying the world, travelling about and meeting people.

      • Brun says:

        Indeed – WoW is certainly more sandboxy than many of its successors simply due to the fact that its world is more open. There are few, if any, “invisible walls” and the entire world is designed to feel natural, cohesive, and seamless. Every zone in WoW had a good sense of place designed into it – compare that to something like SWTOR where each planet had a walled-in section of terrain to explore, and the relationship between planets was tenuous at best.

        If you ever get a chance (and still play WoW, obviously), go out and explore the world a bit. The designers really did a fantastic job, especially in the original two continents. If you pay attention you can see some of the neat little tricks and optical illusions they used to hide the boundaries between zones, or to make the zones seem bigger than they really were.

        Now, what most people seem to be asking for are MMOs that foster more emergent gameplay a la EVE. This is certainly a desirable goal, but it’s also important to note that this is another thing that WoW did better than many of its clone successors. For many years (and continuing today depending on your server), world PvP was a huge activity. Such engagements were entirely emergent, although they did tend to occur in the same geographical regions. Blizzard dabbled with fostering such activity in Burning Crusade but kind of stepped back from it after that. It’s unfortunate that Blizzard made that decision, although they had legitimate technical reasons for doing so (large-scale World PvP engagements were extremely taxing on server architecture). Supposedly they’re doing more to encourage that sort of emergent PvP in MoP, although the extent of that remains to be seen.

    • Enkinan says:

      “DaoC was brilliant and came out over a decade ago. It provided the kind of experiences no other MMO has even come close to replicating. ”

      Agreed. I’m hoping GW2 will provide some similar moments.

      • shadow9d9 says:

        DAOC was just a huge grind in a tiny world with a small amount of control over your character. Try Asheron’s Call for an experience yet to be replicated.

  31. Retroblique says:

    The problem I have with MMOs is that I simply don’t have enough hours in the day/week/month to devote to them.

    That’s not to say I don’t have enough hours for gaming—not a day goes by without me playing something on my PC, PS3, Vita or iPad—but because I enjoy a variety of games I find it difficult to invest so much time in one single game.

    I have a number of friends and work colleagues who regularly play MMOs. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they only buy 2 or 3 triple A titles a year. So last October/November they all bought Battlefield 3, played it for 12 hours over the course of a couple of days, then went back to TOR/WOW. March rolled around, they all bought Mass Effect 3, played it for a week or so, then went back to TOR/WOW.

    So I can certainly see how those types of gamers have enough time and money to invest in a sub-based MMO. On the other hand, I’m the sort of gamer who buys twice as many triple A games but also devours the backlogs of Steam and GOG. So much so that it would take a few years just to clear my current backlog of unplayed games.

    There are MMOs I’m superficially interested in (Elder Scrolls Online has piqued my curiosity more than most), but if I were to plonk down fifteen bucks a month for any of them, I’d be hard pressed to find more than a couple of hours to devote to them during that time.

    So, a free to play model that doesn’t penalize players for an extended leave of absence, but nevertheless rewards players who wish to spend time and money, is one that interests me more. Now I just need to sit back and wait for the ideal MMO that takes advantage of that model.

    • TormDK says:

      I agree, I’ve been planted firmly in the MMOG camp but the last couple of years I’ve been spending more and more on games as my interest in MMOGs vanes. (I do buy them all, I just don’t play them)

      The ESA recently released some demographic data on the american gamers : http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2012.pdf

      Interestingly enough the average gaming purchaser is in his (Or hers! There’s approx 47% females gamers) prime (Mid 30′s) . The idea of the young teenage male as the stereotype gamer doesn’t quite live up to it’s reputation.

      It could go well in hand as to why we spend more and more on games – as we have gotten older our wallets have gotten fatter, and we don’t really care what the DLC price is because to us it makes no difference if it’s 5$ or 10$ as long as we get it yesterday.

      • Brun says:

        I imagine if you were to eliminate mobile phones and Facebook games from that survey (i.e. restrict it to real games) it would shift dramatically back toward males in their teens and early to mid twenties.

        • TormDK says:

          Would it? I know more people in their 30′s that are gamers, than I do that are in their teens/Early adult hood.

          One thing to note is that the ESA information does not include Steam sales numbers, but then I would imagine that it would not change much.

  32. afarrell says:

    The price of playing EVE is playing EVE. Also, the price.

  33. Thoric says:

    I think EVE, Minecraft and DayZ are more than enough evidence that the market is ripe for sandbox titles and we’ll definitely see the genre swing back in that direction.

    It just can’t be very soon, as MMO development takes 4 years minimum. That’s precisely the reason we’re still being bombarded with WoW-likes despite WAR and AoC’s failure. Rift, SWTOR, TESO, they were all started in 2006-2008 when “WoW has 6 million and rising, we should be able to hold 500k no matter what, right?” sounded like a sensible prediction.

    So when it turned out WoW was an anomaly, not a formula for success, they were too far in to pull back and we have to watch them hype up, get good launch days, then swiftly lose their subs and cling to F2P while circling the drain.

    Hopefully the memory of this series of failures will stick, and the next suite of MMO titles will be driven by innovation, rather than trend.

  34. LintMan says:

    Am I the only one hoping that SWTOR going F2P will send a signal to developers that the gold has all been mined out of them thar hills and that the MMO gold rush is over?

    • RakeShark says:

      I pretty much called the death of the MMO gold rush dream back when Cryptic couldn’t float STO on a subscription base, and APB was the final nail in the coffin. Everything since then has been flowers on the grave.

  35. FriendlyFire says:

    One thing I’ve been thinking about often is that… Most “MMO” games we have aren’t really MMO games.

    After all, how many times you do really encounter what you would call a “massive” number of players during your day-to-day play? Not that many. Endgames in particular are often instanced dungeons (raids in WoW, whatever they call it in TOR, etc.) where you see a limited number of people you already know. That number tends to be low, often lower than a typical FPS multiplayer server, yet we don’t call FPS games MMOs do we?

    I would however consider EVE to be an MMO. While I don’t play it myself and have never managed to get hooked, it gives a level of freedom and possibilities that nearly no so-called MMO does. Perpetuum comes closest to that, but still falls short of the mark just by way of being younger and thus not having the breadth of content that EVE does.

    One other thing CCP does right is that they rarely, if ever, intervene. The game is as much as possible self-contained and self-controlled. If scams of the level of EVE’s had been possible in WoW, I seriously doubt Blizzard would’ve let them happen. EVE’s hands-off approach reinforces the sandbox feeling and really means “anything you can do in game is fair game”. That’s laudable.

    One thing I’m wondering is whether it’s possible to even make a non-sandbox game that can truly be called MMO. Some games have portions which can be considered as such, namely all the large-scale PvP battles in games like DAoC/WAR or now GW2. However, those features tend to be but a subset of the gameplay which many people will never actually play. Can a “theme park” MMO actually be an MMO?

  36. Demiath says:

    I continue to be amazed by the fact that the gaming community has belatedly arrived at the exact same place where I found myself way back in 2005, when I confidently asserted that paying for access to a single, repetitive, grinding-oriented RPG month after month (á la World of Warcraft) was, y’know, stupid.

    Ironically, although my MMO experience is still very limited I find myself being far more accepting and forgiving in my attitude towards the traditional $10-15/month subscription model these days. Marketing spin or not, I now tend to believe that Bioware’s pre-F2P justifications for sticking with subs were perfectly valid; there just are no long-term guarantees that F2P can pay for good new content on a regular basis. For example, The Secret World is a mind-blowingly awesome game in some respects, but – reality check, people! – not in ways which can ever be sustained without subscriptions. And sandbox games of both the online and offline variants always come off as inherently pointless to me, so that’s definitely not a route I want developers to go down…

  37. Milky1985 says:

    I have seen teh feature comparision, lots of it makes sense, no raiding unless you pay etc.

    But you ahve limited travel options if you don’t pay? So its harder to get around the world, thats just going to annoy people rather than make them want to pay.

  38. Jimbo says:

    Nice to see a bit of sense being spoken about this for a change, rather than the usual ‘Subscription model is dead!’ nonsense.

    People are prepared to pay subscriptions for all sorts of shit (movies, music, whatever), so they’ll certainly still pay a sub for a game if they deem it worthwhile. What they won’t do is pay a sub for a game whose entire pitch is ‘We’re just like WoW!’, when they could just go subscribe to actual WoW.

  39. Vinraith says:

    I’ve always said the problem with subscriptions isn’t the actual cost of subscribing, it’s the game design that results from the need to keep subs playing the game. The pressure isn’t to make a fun game, it’s to make a lengthy and addictive game. The problem is, F2P carries with it the similarly cancerous design pressures. It’s not as much about making a good game as it is maximizing microtransaction throughput.

    • LintMan says:

      I totally agree. And I think that perhaps F2P actually encourages even worse game design decisions than the subscription model. At least with subs, the content is “all you can eat”, but F2P partitions off content and encourages “pay to win” and “pay to avoid the grind” schemes.

  40. Cooper says:

    Planetside 2 is the closest to an upcoming sandbox MMO than anything else. Not quite as “the player interactions make the world” as EVE, but much much more close to that than anything else.

    It will be free to play. The logic is that, if player interaction is the most important thing to drive your world and make it interesting, then more players is probably a good thing. F2P means more players.

  41. Erithtotl says:

    I think the key is to combine a game with the depth and long term playability of Eve with something that has smaller barrier to entry.

    I can think of 100 ideas off the top of my head but it does seem like no one is willing to invest in sandbox games. everyone wants to hit the home run in the first at bat. EVE’s success took a lot of time and patience.

  42. Fearzone says:

    Nicely worded this, and all true, except I think EVE screwed up when they introduced PLEX, but that can wait for another day.

    It is surprising how many studios go making MMORPGs with seemingly no understanding of what makes MMOs fun or what makes RPGs fun.

    Like stated above, MMO fun comes mostly from other players, and succeeding in the MMO world as you level up IS the story, and with a good MMO each playthrough will be quite a bit different because the people you are playing with and forming guilds with is different, and so gameplay that benefits from guilds and has good guild management systems is what you need there. Not some dog and pony show up to level 50.

    What makes RPGs fun is gearing up and developing your character, in its own direction, to your own liking, in a way that distinguishes it from many other possibilities of character development. For this, reasonably good balance is essential, otherwise the range of character development narrows.

    Now, what *doesn’t* make MMORPGs fun is story, since that is just good for one playthrough and distracts from the uniqueness of the experience. Story is actually counterproductive in an MMO because no two characters should have the same story. Each character should have their own journey, not be guided through a series of scripted events.

    Also what *doesn’t* make MMORPGs fun is combat. You are going to be doing so much of that it is going to be tedious no matter how interesting or skill based or action based you try to make it. Not that it is wrong to mix up combat a little for each new game, just that it cannot be relied upon by itself to make a good MMORPG.

    So, if there is a good game world with good interactivity and good character development, without a scripted story, and not relying solely on good combat to carry the game, I think subscriptions are still a viable model and a new MMO coming out today could enjoy a large amount of success. Since most of the MMOs lately are variations of single player games, of course you can’t charge a subscription for that.

  43. neofit says:

    I don’t mind paying a subscription fee for a game that feels like a world, but definitely not for one that is merely a string of missions, and “finishable” within 1-2 months to boot. I’d resub to the old SOE SWG even post-NGE in a heartbeat if they turn it back on. I won’t go back to SWTOR after my first month there even for free.

    It’s all about the activities the game lets you engage in. In Raph’s SWG, I spent many months in total in Tattoine alone, doing lots of stuff: adventuring, freely exploring, prospecting, crafting, furnishing my home, helping manage our player city, just grinding kills for loots and collections, and I’m sure I am forgetting a lot things. Never once have I thought that I was wasting money.

    Now this new SWTOR thingy… To stay with Tattooine, I was done with Tattoine within a week-end. What did I do there again? Oh yes, followed a chain of mostly solo missions with a few side-tasks here and there, then a few repeatables on a timer. Sure, I may have squeezed another week-end out of it if I wasn’t too bored to do the other faction, but what’s the point? All this “content” for a mere 200 gajillion spacebucks.

    It’s not the model, it’s the content.

    Oh and please SOE, bring back SWG, I could really do with an online world right now.

  44. manveruppd says:

    There really is no way to make another MMO like Eve. Its success isn’t just based on its sandboxy gameplay, but also on its single server structure and its truly vast universe, which is enabled by the fact that it’s easy to make thousands of different solar systems when they’re mostly composed of the cold black vacuum of space. Any MMO whose setting (whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi or whatever) dictates a hand-drawn world can’t possibly have the same vastness, and if they did they wouldn’t be able to fit in enough people on the same server to fill it.

  45. Hardmood says:

    for me mmo´s r outdated because,
    - 12-14euros a month is too much for a single game experience, if its repeating over and over again
    - no scaling content for minimal groups (like u have when u play a coop shooter for example. up to 4 players)
    - coop with friends is much more fun (and dont call guilds “friends”…ridiculous)
    - content regularly turns into massmarket friendly “easylistening” stuff
    - no innovations in combatsystems (like aoc tried) they all copy the same blueprint.
    - no innovations in craftingsystems (sandboxes)
    - stupid design decisions
    - bugs/cheats/exploits killing immersion and trading and gameplay
    - stupid communities killing immersion and trading and gameplay and pvp
    - stupid managment decisions killing immersion and trading and gameplay and pvp and support

  46. nimzy says:

    Subscriptions died the very same day Guild Wars demonstrated you can pay once and play forever. It’s economically viable and you don’t milk your subscribers for a certain amount of money per month–an amount of money, by the time you get to the actual cost breakdown, is simply pure profit. And look what happens to companies that don’t have to work for your money–they go the way of Blizzard, dissolving into a corporate mass of focus groups and design-by-committee.

  47. harvb says:

    I might be missing the point here, and I suspect I probably am, but I thought the initial point of the MMO was that you were paying a monthly sub for fresh content and for the fact that servers don’t come cheap and it requires a shed load of servers to run different shards of the same game.

    I never played Guild Wars, but didn’t they charge for expansions? Having said that, I guess WoW have done the same for their major pushes.

    Have to say that since SWTOR merged servers I’ve had a much better time of it. Always someone to group with, plenty of trade, good Guilds, etc. Far better experience.

    If the end of subscription models means the end of the traditional MMO (EQ, WoW, SWTOR) then I’m not sure it’s a good thing. If it means *less* MMOs and the ones that come out being of a higher quality, I’m all for it.

    I do fear though that developers and publishers will now only shoot for the smaller game, the lesser quantity.

    I guess time will tell.

  48. browolf says:

    As per usual no one mentions ffxi which is still going under p2p and 10 years old. The reason for that is there’s a VAST amount of content and the endgame stuff is ridiculously massive too. People may hate grindy and beyond ridiculous long winded content but it keeps people in the game (as least the ones that can live with the grind and apparently there’s enough of them still playing to pay for a new expansion). Certain features make for a very socially sticky environment: multiple guild membership, single char multiple classes, scalable content.