Would You Pay A Sub For Single-Player?


Well? Would you? (Expanded below.)

A cynical man might say, “sure, plenty of people pay for World Of Warcraft”, but that would be more about people than the game itself. You can solo in most MMOs, but you aren’t obliged to. So, cloud-gaming streamed stuff aside, would you pay a sub for a game that didn’t have server and admin costs as an expense? (I think there’s a racing game and a hunting game that needs subs too, but let’s skip that for now.) My question is, more precisely, this: What would a single-player game have to do to make you pay for a subscription?

I got round to thinking about this in one of the hivemind’s regular discussions of how content patches and expansions first tried to evolve into episodic gaming, and more recently have regurgitate themselves as DLC. Episodic gaming has been subsumed by DLC to some extent – just look at the success of Borderlands in releasing a main game and then three larger bits of post-endgame content for gamers to play through – but now it’s becoming something else: a way of making us pay for content after release. An excellent way of making us want to buy more of the same, and finding a straightforward way of delivering it.

So say this gets standardised and formalised. Say Mass Effect 3 has a piece of paid content coming out each month after release, and you buy each one… suddenly you’re paying a sub? An optional one, of course, but it amounts to the same thing. Follow the trajectory of Bioware’s DLC experiments and this doesn’t seem all that unlikely. You could very easily imagine and endgame for one of their RPGs where you end up doing a “monster of the week” quest now and again, because you were paying $5 a month for the extras.

Extrapolate this: you could conceive of an open-ended game, perhaps an Elite-style game, or a Sims game, in which you trundled about in your sandbox, but pay for the privilege of having new stuff dropped into your game on a weekly or monthly basis. We’re used to getting a hell of a lot for free, so such additions would have to be pretty significant, but perhaps they could be sophisticated enough for it to be warranted, and being single player, you could even have a degree of control over it in a way that a multiplayer game doesn’t. “I’m ready for my alien invasion scenario now…”

Yes, there’s issues: issues with piracy, with the developmental planning and precision required to pull it off, with the risk of doing it at all. But…

Stalker with a content team steady expanding the zone: it’s working its way out into the world.

GTA with new suburbs and characters slowly being written in. Genuinely new headlines on the news.

Dawn Of War where new maps and units arrive week after week in an endless war, as long as you keep paying that sub.

Would You Pay A Sub For Single Player?

370 Comments

  1. sana says:

    Nope! No money.

  2. Vinraith says:

    With fees come new design priorities. Now the important thing is to keep the player playing so as to continue to bring in revenue, and this requirement supersedes all other priorities whether intentionally or not. The result is that these games waste as much of your time as possible, lack any kind of satisfying conclusion, and generally, IMO, aren’t much fun.

    So no, I won’t pay a sub for an online game, and I certainly wouldn’t pay one for an offline game.

    • Vinraith says:

      Addendum:

      As with online games of all sorts, “constant updates” are only a good thing until they start making changes you don’t like. In the case of TF2, in the case of Guild Wars, and in the case of every other online-dependent game I’ve ever played, sooner or later those updates you express such excitement about destroy what I love about the game. This is a bad thing, it means any online, constantly updated title is temporary and, once gone, irrecoverable. If the updates are optional, all is well. If they are unavoidable, it’s just a ticking time bomb under the hood of the game, waiting to go off.

    • Feste says:

      Ah, but by the same process they have to keep you interested for longer. Assuming a £5/month sub, they’ll have to get me playing for 6 months before making the same money as they currently do. As such, they’ve got to work for their money a whole lot more.

      Furthermore, I get the option to pay £5 for a complete section of a game, not a demo or beta, and decide whether to take it further or not. As opposed to paying £30 and finding said game is awful.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Feste

      No one is talking about removing the initial cost of the game, we’re talking about adding a monthly fee on top of the initial outlay.

    • Michael says:

      It’s a slippery slope. I’d rather not risk incentivising unresolved plot threads.

    • Feste says:

      Fair enough, although I don’t think I saw that mentioned explicitly in the article. The question remains though, as you say the priority becomes: “keep the player playing so as to continue to bring in revenue”. To me that means keeping the game fun, which is the whole point.

    • bob_d says:

      Yes, that dynamic is certainly true of MMOs, but I’d argue the opposite could occur if we’re talking about subscriptions that give discrete add-ons to single player content. The MMO subscription is what allows the player to continue playing the game, so the goal is to extend out the game as much as possible; from a design perspective you ideally *never* reach the end of the game. If you’re paying a subscription for discrete bits of content, the design intentions are completely different – the designers want players to reach that (end) content. You could continue to play the game even without a subscription. Players would not continue a subscription if they’re still slogging their way through content they got three months back, for instance. Each bit of content should leave players wanting more, not leaving them feeling stuffed with unnecessary padding.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Feste

      Time consuming != fun. Addictive != fun. Quest screens that deliberately scroll just a bit slower, walk rates that are tuned to be slow enough that you only just tolerate the length of time it takes before you get to an interesting bit of content. Respawn to double the number of fights in a given location without having to put any more work into designing said location. Economy, experience, and progress systems carefully tuned to be only just rewarding enough to keep the addicts addicted. There are so very many ways to slow a player down, keep them playing, and keep milking them for-damned-near-ever.

    • Feste says:

      Why does a monthly subscription necessitate a time-consuming and addictive game? Slowing down menu scrolling would be a very strange decision. I would be paying by the month, not the minute.

      There’s almost no way that content a developer builds in a month will take me a month to play. As such, I wouldn’t be on the treadmill that you describe. The grinding of level etc, that’s already in games with a single payment option and is just bad game design. The subscription for content model wouldn’t fix or exacerbate that .

      I could see rushed, substandard levels and areas, but that’s a different story.

    • Wolfox says:

      Vinraith pretty much summed my thoughts on the matter. Quoting the last part:

      “So no, I won’t pay a sub for an online game, and I certainly wouldn’t pay one for an offline game.”

      Enough said.

    • LintMan says:

      Same here – I’m with you, Vinraith. I’ve found most DLC to be extremely ungenerous in the amount of content you get for your money, compared to the base game cost. The time and cost demands for developers to provide new subscription content on a regular schedule will only make this worse and as your suggest, would inevitably result in extremely “padded” offerings. It will also result in much less content being offered in the “base” game and reserved for subscribers.

      No, thanks, I’ll still with SP games as they are now. Or stop buying them altogether if that becomes not an option anymore.

    • Devan says:

      To back up what Vinraith is saying: I am writing this from GDC Canada, where half of the sessions I’ve been to are preaching addiction and manipulation as ways to monetize the social/casual gaming market. I have yet to hear anyone talking about how to make games fun.

      As the market and profit potential is growing (and it can be super-lucrative with repeating payments like subscriptions), the financially successful projects are the ones that place “fun” in the backseat and focus on profit in the game design. It’s pretty disappointing, but that’s where these pricing models are taking us.

      So, no, I don’t want to support subscription models for single player games.

  3. Gianandrea C Manfredi says:

    Nope, if that happens I am giving up gaming. The mood breaking ‘buy this DLC’ in Dragon Age was bad enough.

    • Veret says:

      Seconded, and I’m surprised no one else has brought that up before now. My enjoyment of single-player games relies very heavily on immersion, and constantly downloading plot-essential DLC will necessarily kill a game’s immersion every time you’re forced to do it.

      This, plus all of Vinraith’s excellent points on free market incentives influencing game design, equals a world of no.

  4. jake says:

    no

  5. Serenegoose says:

    Hmmmm…. no. I go back to my games too erratically to ever want a subscription model for single player games. I can’t even practically afford a single MMO, never mind having to continually pay for games I bought. I’ll admit that the idea is an intriguing one – paying for a developer to keep your game fresh forever… I’m just not sure I’d get enough use out of it to ever want it.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, it’d be a deal-breaker for me if you lost the ability to play a single player game once you’d bought it. The idea of DLC for a subscription might be interesting, but I don’t know if they could persuade me that losing the ability to play entirely in 5 years’ time would be a good thing.

      The spectre of DRM raises its ugly head, too – you’d have to have some hefty DRM given that using a server as a remote dongle isn’t necessary.

  6. GetOutOfHereStalker says:

    hell no i don’t even pay for multiplayer

  7. heartlessgamer says:

    If I didn’t have to buy the original box, I would probably pay a subscription for a months worth of access. For example: $15 a month for access to Civilization 4 would be worth it IMHO. I’d be broke though :(

  8. Centy says:

    I would never pay a subscription for any game of any sort. Not because I am tight but because I delve in and out of games a lot for example once or twice a year since it came out I’ve gone on a TF2 bender for a month or so then I stop. Having to get then cancel a subscription multiple times would become irritating DLC is another matter as it’s a one off and it’s still going to be there (I would assume) years down the line if I ever want it again.

  9. TotalBiscuit says:

    The single determining factor as to whether or not I’d pay a subscription for a single-player game is how much good content I’d get for my money. If it was consistent? Sure. Assuming the game was fun enough to justify it.

    The factor to consider though is that one cannot afford to keep too many of such subscriptions running at any one time. I already pay for WoW, STO, my Lovefilm subscription, my broadband, my cinema card etc etc, the average gamer would have to be extremely choosy. Plus why buy such a game on launch? Why not simply wait until 12 months down the lane when it’ll have way less bugs and way more content, pay subscription for a month, beat everything then quit again? Seems somewhat self-defeating, sure you’ll get the early adoption crowd and launch-day lunatics, but in the long-run, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot with such a distribution model.

  10. Frenz0rz says:

    Probably not.

    With DLC for games such as Mass Effect I can take other people’s critical opinions into account for each of my purchases, to decide whether its really worth my money or not. With a monthly sub, theres no guarantee that I’ll be interested in everything that’s churned out, or the consistency of it’s quality and the effort put into it. It would just be a way for publishers to automatically deduct a sum from your bank account 12 times a year, regardless of what they are producing. There is of course the ability to cancel a subscription; however, the ability to “cancel” something implies that you do not wish to go back to it, thereby excluding yourself from any further DLC.

    That said, this sort of thing could very much depend on the type of game you’re paying for, so I wouldnt discount it purely for applying to singleplayer games.

  11. Phoshi says:

    First thought? No.
    After the article? Fuck yeah I would, that’d be awesome.

    • PHeMoX says:

      That’s a just plain stupid change of heart you’ve gone through then. Excuse my bluntness, but who’s to say updates will be significant? Often times not even DLCs are significant enough to be really worth their money.

      Let alone the fact a developer might take months to finish additional content, meaning you’d pay too much by definition.

      I don’t get why one would change their minds about this. What’s next? Get half a game and then pay monthly to receive the rest divided over 5 years, paying monthly sub fee? Hell no!!

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      Damien Stark says:

      Seconded.
      I was pretty skeptical until I read the bit about Dawn of War; now I have my credit card in my hand.

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      Damien Stark says:

      “who’s to say updates will be significant? Often times not even DLCs are significant enough to be really worth their money.”

      I’m pretty sure the dude with the credit card (that’s me!) gets to decide. Like the DLC example you name – I know this seems impossible, but… I didn’t buy them.

      The question Jim asks is not “are you excited about a world publishers force you to buy bad content?”
      The question is, what would it take to get you to voluntarily choose to pay subscription for a single player game?

      “Dawn Of War where new maps and units arrive week after week in an endless war, as long as you keep paying that sub.” is a pretty good answer to that question. Of course they’d have to be “significant” (and good) because if they’re not I can stop paying.

    • Phoshi says:

      Oh, it would have to be like this. I certainly wouldn’t pay if it were poorly done.

  12. Okami says:

    Did you have to give them ideas? Isn’t it bad enough as it is already?

    *breaks down and cries*

    Why, Mr. Rossignol, why did you do this to us?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Seems to me that the DLC business is working its way towards this without my help. The question is at what point it might become acceptable.

    • faelnor says:

      dlc is not acceptable. Patches and reasonably-sized expansions are acceptable, but dlc is not them.

    • Jesse says:

      Jim, I think maybe the community isn’t ready for this discussion yet…

      They would have to ease us into it. They could possibly get us there over time. On some level, depending on how it was handled, I would theoretically love to have just more Morrowind, forever. If it looked a bit nicer.

      But no one can keep making the same thing forever. An author can only milk a series for so long before there’s no blood left in it. Like Vinraith said up above, what if they begin to change the game in a direction you don’t like? The fear of maintaining a game’s userbase would be so great it could cripple most games. The devs would have to be able to consistently bring people to a new place they didn’t know they would like – balancing the new with the old. That’s not easy. It’s not easy to do sequels now, and this would be harder, because there’s no precedent. And imagine the sense of self-entitlement the gamers would have! Imagine the state of the forums, discussing upcoming, proposed changes! It would be awful.

      Valve would be able to do it. They’d probably be able to implement something, like a ‘vote for the content of the next update’ feature, and carry it out in such a way as to not alienate the losing voters. They’re good at dealing with their fans. Other, more ‘corporate-thinking’ developers wouldn’t be able to juggle their user’s desires with their ridiculous corpthink style of decision-making.

      Me, personally? I like a sense of ownership. I like to buy all of a thing at once, and then have it on the shelf, nice and secure. That’s my habit, and I’d be very resistant to breaking it.

    • jonfitt says:

      But the crucial difference is DLC is a pick and choose affair, no matter how often or piece-meal they dole out the game, each piece is optional at the moment. Each piece also needs to be attractive on its own. A subscription implies payment for some undetermined content.

      I can see the argument that an individual subs update could therefore be designed for niche appeal without having to appeal to enough people to pay for its development, but in that case lots of people are paying for something they don’t want.

      The only thing I can see myself paying for would be an upfront charge for a guaranteed series of episodes. I did this for the first S+M.

    • bob_d says:

      Get used to it; the AAA game industry is in serious decline right now. They’ve been driving off a cliff for a while and just this last year noticed it. Costs for AAA game development increase every year while sales revenue is decreasing. Income from Facebook games will eclipse the rest of the PC game market soon (if it hasn’t already). Game developers need new revenue streams if they’re going to stay in business and they’re scrambling to implement them. Neither the players nor the developers are really ready for this discussion, but it’s long overdue.

      “But no one can keep making the same thing forever.”? Well, when most AAA games are sequels (with just the occasional risky new title) because they’re the only ones that have even a chance of making a profit, we’ll get to test that, because that’s where the industry is headed (it’s part-way there already).

    • Jesse says:

      You’re taking that quote out of the context I intended. No one can keep making the same thing forever (i.e. Morrowind, or Dawn of War, or whatever) and make it good. I would (in theory) enjoy paying a subscription for new content for the same game for quite a long time, but I think the creators would run out of creativity eventually, and slowly, causing a gradual souring and disillusionment. I picture us subscribing and getting strung out forever, to the point where I realize I haven’t been enjoying my new content for two or three months, but I’ve been paying for it anyway.

      Also, of new games will still be made. Not everything will be a sequel. Don’t get hysterical. New properties also have a certain marketable glamour to them, and as long as that’s true, there will still be new properties.

    • Nalano says:

      I’m not buying that “development costs are rising” bullshit, bob_d.

      It’s the same bullshit Hollywood does with it’s blockbusters: “Look! Look at the pretty CGI and the 3D effects! It took us 10 years to make!” when the story is a big pile of steaming effluence.

      They want to dig themselves that hole, let them. I’m not responsible for paying them to do so.

    • jonfitt says:

      @Nalano
      To a certain extent the increasing costs are a product of their own making, but lots of people do demand a whole lot more from their games nowadays. The increased fidelity of animation, art, models, environments translates into additional work which equals expense. There is a reason Indie games don’t look like Crysis2, or contain the 40000 lines of spoken dialogue Oblivion did.

      You can argue all you want that you don’t require such wizardry to have fun, and maybe you don’t, but a lot of people really like the way games have progressed. Your local chess player probably mocks you for your fancy techno 8-bit games.

      Without an increasing number of sales, or other ways to recoup costs, the books don’t balance as the number of require man-hours goes up.

    • jonfitt says:

      @bob_d

      Well, when most AAA games are sequels (with just the occasional risky new title) because they’re the only ones that have even a chance of making a profit, we’ll get to test that, because that’s where the industry is headed (it’s part-way there already).

      Activision’s method of churning out sequels yearly is actually the closest thing to a subscription we have. You pay your $50 CoD sub and they release incremental updates yearly. Sports games are the same way.
      You could charge monthly and release the updates more frequently, but either way you end up with the same game milked endlessly.

    • Nalano says:

      It’s true, jonfitt. I simply can’t get it up anymore for FPSs without seeing the individual beads of sweat on those generic space marines #s 1 and 2 when they blast away generic aliens x and y. I’ll go tell Valve to turn in their Source engine for good, because those games just aren’t fun anymore. After all, jonfitt, said so.

    • jonfitt says:

      @Nalano
      Don’t get snarky with me. The point is different strokes for different folks, and there are actually a lot of people who can look back at a game from 2005 and say that it looks like arse. There are people who refuse to play the original XCOM because of the way it looks. I’ve heard people bad mouthing Source too incidentally.

      As a member of the Dwarf Fortress community who occasionally plays 25 year old strategy games, perhaps that is not me.

      Saying “I don’t need it” doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist, and the market is definitely there for ever more impressive games. Just look at the number of people who were eager to drop more money on a computer just to play Crysis at full fidelity when it launched.

      The cost of producing those games is ever increasing.

    • bob_d says:

      @Nalano:
      No, it’s not “bullshit,” it’s a fact. Games development is not the same as movie development, to even compare the two is absurd. Take a minute and think about this. First of all, we’re talking about AAA games here, that means it has “current generation” graphics, not “Quake 1” graphics. The models, textures, environments and animation are all more detailed and complex. That means it takes more people and therefore more money to make them – in fact, exponentially more. These are basic production costs; nothing in film-making has exponentially increased in complexity, in fact digital cameras, editing and special effects have actually made film-making cheaper. When sound and then color were added as film technologies, the actors already had those qualities built in. If you adjust for inflation, blockbuster movies made in 1915 cost as much as modern day blockbusters even though they didn’t have to record or edit sound or deal with color processing in 1915. The problem is, you can’t sell a game with 1994 AAA production values and sell as many copies as your AAA game did in 1994. Games don’t exist in a vacuum, they have competition.

      This brings us to the dynamics of the “hit” where yes, film and games are similar. Traditionally, the majority of both films and games don’t make money, but are subsidized by the few that do. Films have become more profitable due to broadcast rights and DVD sales, but games don’t have anything similar to recoup costs. So, in order to make money, you either need to have a small indie production that cost very, very little to make, or a big hit that distinguishes itself from other similar products. For movies this means by having the more popular actors, or more action and special effects, for instance. If you’re making games, having better graphics, bigger levels, more features or a longer playing game might do it (assuming the gameplay of the competing games is otherwise equivalent). All these things cost money. These AAA products are competing for the same audience, so to get the same number of sales requires ever increasing expenditures. The really serious problem that the game industry is having right now is that the total sales for PC games is actually shrinking, which means publishers have to fight even harder just to get the same number of sales while needed more sales to break even.
      There is an alternative to the rat-race that AAA game development has become, and that’s Facebook games. I hope you like “Farmville,” because right now, that’s the future of PC gaming.

    • Xaositect says:

      @Jesse : ‘I think maybe the community isn’t ready for this discussion yet’ – t this strikes me as a somewhat strange comment; when will we be ready for this then? When we’re so used to the gaming industry pouring shit flavored sludge down our throats that discovering a lump of corn is going to make us go all weak at the knees? This is a dangerous idea because it sounds good – even logical – until you apply real world mechanics to it -Less content for more $. Theres the future.
      If we can nip this in the bud by saying a universal no now, mores the better.

    • Xaositect says:

      P.s. Due to rantin-raving my comment is slightly blurred – not having a go Jesse. Using what you said as a spring board. A pol ogies

    • jsdn says:

      @jonfitt
      I’d just like to point out that those supposed 40,000 lines of dialogue were voiced primarily from four people, and added very little to the game (case in point: Morrowind) when it wasn’t severely hurting the game (in one example: beggars).
      The reason indie games don’t have cutting-edge graphics or fully voiced dialogue is not necessarily because it’s too expensive or takes too much time, but that it doesn’t directly correspond to a more quality game.

    • bob_d says:

      @ jsdn:
      “The reason indie games don’t have cutting-edge graphics or fully voiced dialogue is not necessarily because it’s too expensive or takes too much time…”
      But they do take time. A lot of time, labor and a lot of money. I work in the industry, and the last project I worked on, we had very little time and money (not a AAA budget). We realized the only way we could even think about getting the game done was to go the “Torchlight” route for the graphics – a fixed psuedo-isometric view with cartoonish (rather than realistic, cutting-edge) graphics. This allowed us to simplify the environments, simplify character models, use fewer texture maps, and have simple animations, because you couldn’t see the flaws and lack of transition animations as easily as you would with standard close 3rd person views. Our levels were going to be smaller and fewer in number than a typical AAA game, and voiced dialog was a luxury we couldn’t afford. Some of the work was to be outsourced to Asia to reduce costs. The savings in time, labor and cost were enormous; we were looking at making a fully-featured game with 1/20th the budget of a typical AAA production. (And we still had more resources than indie developers.) The Korean publisher, unfortunately, thought that our indie-style graphics weren’t pretty enough to sell the game, and ultimately the studio was shut down when they realized that our budget didn’t allow for anything more complex.

      I know an animator who worked on the Diablo games (the first was released 1997). He marvels that when he worked on those games, a single artist could model, texture and animate a monster in a week. Now he’s working on equivalent production-value projects where one person models, one person creates all the various texture maps, someone rigs the model, someone else animates it, another person does the rag-doll set-up, and someone else does particle effects, in a process that can take a month for a minor monster (the process is sped along by the use of expensive middleware, too). All of those jobs individually require more technical knowledge than the one combined job did 10 years ago.

      All of which is to say: if you think development costs haven’t changed, or that somehow indie and AAA development costs are comparable, then you are talking out of your hat.

    • Anonymousity says:

      If the AAA games industry is failing, let them fail. These things are companies not charities. If they can’t find a sustainable level with ridiculous graphics, tone down the graphics, do as sins of a solar empire does.

  13. Army_of_None says:

    Nope. I’d much prefer them to spend their time working on a worthy sequel. Or, if the content is going to warrant it, packaging it into an expansion pack. People still remember expansion packs, right?

    • jonfitt says:

      I liked expansion packs. There was generally enough content to get me back into a game I’d finished. Maybe a whole new campaign, or a new faction.

      An extra horse or flaming sword is hardly going to make me want to replay an entire RPG.

  14. teo says:

    I don’t like the whole idea of it because it leads to worse content IMO. I want everything in one complete package, not fifty different things that are spread out

  15. clive dunn says:

    I mentioned the other day regarding the APB pricing hoo-har, that i used to put loads of money in arcade machines. Basically paying a (small) sub for a single player game. I am consistantly narked by buying single player games and then hardly playing them. (either through playabilility pre-patch problems or just not liking the gameplay that much)
    I think i wouldn’t mind paying maybe 5 pence a game or somesuch amount. Or 5 pence an hour maybe. The complicated thing would be calculating the right amount.
    I think it’d be pretty cool to be able to try (a full) game like this.
    I can imagine a screen popping up after an hour saying ‘INSERT 10p’. Now a good game would get a lot of payments and a shite game would wither and die. Or would it?

  16. Colthor says:

    No.

    Might buy the Game Of The Year box cheap after it’s finished, though.

  17. Brumisator says:

    “Stalker with a content team steady expanding the zone: it’s working its way out into the world.
    GTA with new suburbs and characters slowly being written in. Genuinely new headlines on the news.”

    How about they release a full game at launch?

    Now, DLC, okay, if it’s good and long enough, I’m willing to pay for one once in a while.
    Maybe a cheap and above all else optional Monthly mini-DLC could be nice, but I don’t see myself obsessing over a game enough to feel an absolute need to get the new stuff all of the time.
    If I just spend one month without playing that certain game, I’d feel like I just threw my money out the window.

    Now, on the other hand, if the game were free at launch, and subscription only, I might give it a thought, but chances are the game would just be an embryonic husk in the early days.
    Valve, of course, are making wonderful things, and for FREE, mostly with TF2. New content coming in relatively often, and all you have to do is pay once to get the game. But even at launch, TF2 was a solid and fun game.

    so I’m 95% against it, the other 5% are me trying to rationalise getting inevitable F’ed in the A by publishers in new and exiting ways down the line.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      “How about they release a full game at launch?” – Please define a full game. Because it sounds to me like by your definition, a game would never actually be finished.

      Let me give you my definition of full game. A product with a complete plot (or cliffhanger if it’s sequel territory) that gives a satisfaction number of enjoyable hours for my money.

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      Damien Stark says:

      Man, television series suck. Why can’t they just put a full story in the first episode, like movies do? I hate those greedy bastards that expect me to watch an additional episode each week.

    • Jesse says:

      Television totally does suck for that reason, though. I can’t stand TV. Movies only, thanks.

    • Brumisator says:

      Well if we’re going to talk about a game with a storyline, I’d prefer it to be one big package I pay for once.
      I guess my bringing up TF2 was a bad idea, since it is MP.

      As for TV series, the comparison is flawed. Episodic content like the new Sam and Max games is rather like a TV series, a big overarching plot for one season, and episodes every once in a while, that all fit into the season.
      But paying even if you don’t play the game one month? that’s preposterous!

  18. Gpig says:

    no

  19. Seras says:

    subscription only makes sense to me if there’s an online service that needs to be maintained.

    I don’t see why a single player game would need an online service.

    so, no, i would never pay a sub for a single player game.

    • bob_d says:

      I guess you don’t subscribe to any magazines, then.

    • Nalano says:

      The cost of a magazine subscription is close to a dollar a month.
      The content of a magazine is about 30 or so pages of professional-grade content (with 60 pages of ads).
      Magazines that don’t produce regularly and on time die.

      What we’re asking here is ten times the money for one tenth the content on no clearly-defined schedule or quality standard.

      I’m gonna continue going with NO.

    • bob_d says:

      Sorry, I was being snarky, responding to the notion of “I only pay for an online service,” because clearly people will pay a monthly subscription just for regular (not-networked) content.
      That magazine subscription may only cost *you* a dollar, but only because it’s been heavily subsidized, not only by advertisements, but also by people who buy the magazine on the news-stand and by various promotional deals. Personally I spend more than five bucks a month on each of my magazine subscriptions, and I’ve put up with magazines that published irregularly and had varying sized issues because they were interesting enough to be worth it.
      Obviously a game subscription would have to have a monthly (or otherwise very regular) release of content, and an understanding of the quality would have to be part of the deal or it wouldn’t work. Previous months’ content would have to be collected as DLCs, and they would have to be priced such that subscribers didn’t feel cheated, so that would define the minimum standard of how substantial each month’s release is.

  20. Vandelay says:

    No. I wouldn’t even get a monthly subscription to a MMO, let along a single player game. As Centy said, I like to play a range of games and I rarely stick at one for that long, unless it is exceptionally good.
    Also, I agree with Vinraith that when a game requires a monthly fee the developer will automatically be making games that require a greater amount of the player’s time in order to make the player feel like the game is worth their money. This would just encourage grinding and large barren areas to traverse.
    Don’t give people ideas RPS!

  21. Flakfizer says:

    Never, never, never.

  22. Alexander Norris says:

    I refuse to play MMOs because I refuse to be gouged for 12€+ every month. If single player games were to start charging subscription fees, I’d simply find a way of not paying those subs – whether it means piracy (if the game they’re trying to sell me for 50€+sub is released with bits missing in order to justify the sub, as is currently the case with a some DLC) or plain just not fucking playing video games.

    It’d be regrettable if I’m forced to stop playing games but if the industry wants to start charging monthly fees for single-player games I think it’ll have reached a point where it can go fuck itself and I don’t want to hear about it ever again.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Alexander

      Yeah. There’s been ever-increasing strain on my relationship with PC games of late, from install limits to “games as service” systems to GfWL and Ubi’s psychotic DRM, more and more game purchases raise the “you’re being taken advantage of” flag for me. It grates. It makes a hobby that used to be a lot of fun an increasingly large amount of work and an increasing source of frustration and concern. I’m getting tired of it, and I’m fairly certain that the widespread acceptance of this would probably be the final straw for me and mainstream PC gaming. That’d suck, but not as much as how I’d feel if I continued to support an industry that was actively trying to bend me over a table.

  23. ManaT says:

    No. I don’t like subscriptions. In any format, really. I spend money on either goods or services, and “allowing” someone to do something, in my mind, is not a service. I don’t like SaaS models unless the company I’m subscribing to is basically renting utilities, like server racks and cpu cycles.

    If the game is running on my machine (ie. no MMO component), then it’s a “good”, and I’ll only pay to own.

    If you’re implying that I would maintain access to the content even after canceling my “subscription”, then there’s really no functional difference between dlc and subs.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Well really a box that you buy from a shop is really still not yours to ‘own’
      This sadly brings us back to all the hoo har in the EULA – Have you actually read the bullshit these things contain, I know I haven’t but I’ve read enough articles on this site and on others on the interweb about some of the shit this contains.

      I’m with vinraith, I used to love games, they WERE great fun back in the day, but nowadays, need all constant internet connections to install even SP games, Shitty DRM (Ubi), crappy content (FAR CRY 2), and over milked and never satisfying ending games like COD:MW2 <- what BS was that campaign – I was taught in school a story should have a Beginning middle and end, not just a beginning and shitloads in the middle.

      Ive started playing my old games, Diablo 2, RA2, C&C, WC3, and am trying to get into Dwarf Fortress too.

      I'm sorry but I get quite fired up when I look at how shafted Im getting, I usually have to f*ck around for about 2 hours nowadays just to get the fking thing working. with C&C 3 I had to use Another computer – to install because securom gave me invisible disk symptom in my gaming rig, ONCE I FINALLY got GTA4 working with no internet connection, I found out it didn't like my SLi setup and was unplayable.

      I think I may have gotten sidetracked from my main point….

  24. Bassism says:

    I could certainly imagine paying a sub for a single player game. It would have to be one hell of a single player game, though.
    Typically I maintain subs to two different games: Eve, and iRacing (yes, that’s that racing game you almost mentioned :P)

    In the case of Eve, it’s all about social interaction. The game really is pretty rubbish, but I like my friends in the game and that game’s pvp is about the most fun I’ve ever had in a computer game. In short, commanding a fleet of 150 people from around the world to take out 150 other people from different places in the world is worth a continued payment from me.

    In the case of iRacing, it’s all about the quality of the experience. I also own plenty of other racing sims, which can not only be raced online like iR, but generally include some kind of single player experience as well, which iR does not. But the ludicrous amount of detail that goes into laser scanning tracks and painstakingly modelling their cars really shows through. If it takes a monthly sub to pay for that development, I’m cool with that. (Let’s not go into the fact that even buying a single car or track costs more than I’ve paid for some entire sims…) Now, part of the value of iR comes from the online component, but supposing they gave you all the cars and tracks, an equally sophisticated AI, and so on in a single player experience…. That could be worth paying a sub for.

    But I think there are certainly possibilities. Some of my favourite games of all time are the X series, which build upon the Elite model. They’re lovely games, but the universe tends to grow stale after a while. I have put immensely more hours into Eve than I ever have into X games.
    But if a company created a game, seeded with enough new content to keep the game interesting for month after month, I’d pay a sub for it.

    That’s the catch though. It needs to be something that is going to hold people’s interest. Even taking huge open RPGs, which typically last for 100 hours or more on a play, I’d expect most people are fully done with the game in under two months. With a 10 dollar monthly sub, the dev makes 20 bucks, then the customer stops playing because they got bored because there wasn’t enough interesting new content, or the game itself simply wasn’t good enough. They’re going to need to figure out a way to retain customers for at least 6 months to make it financially viable.

    It could work, I think. But it would take a game more massive, deep, and high quality than anything we’ve seen in many years. And it would also require a full time commitment from the dev to keep the game interesting. Given the big publishers’ aversion to risk, I doubt we’re ever going to see them go for it. And I don’t think any indie team has the kind of man power it would take to pull it off.

  25. Sébastien Richer says:

    If it’s utterly the awesomest game of all time (past, present and future) ever… and that when I play it I feel completely complete and life gains meaning and I even get to achieve goals in life through it as well as helping the needy… yeah sure I’d give like 5k a year easy :D

    But otherwise, I would’nt even pay a sub for x-com so… fat chance…

  26. Malleus says:

    “How about they release a full game at launch?”

    That sums it up pretty well.

  27. Malleus says:

    Oh, as for the question in the article:

    Never!

  28. James G says:

    I don’t think I could.

    For a few months I had a WoW subscription, and hated the feeling the sub made. I felt guilty playing other games, and constantly was worried about getting my monies worth. A similar thing with a single player game would mean a monthly assessment of whether it was worth it, and I certainly couldn’t keep more than one on the go at a time.

    • Jesse says:

      That’s right! The psychology of it doesn’t sit well. It feels like giving too much control over to the developer. And there are very few developers worthy of long-term trust. If Black Isle could somehow be reconstituted and given autonomy, I would subscribe to them. Valve, maybe. Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb, yes.

      Ubisoft? Activision? No no no.

    • Jesse says:

      And to reply to what you were ACTUALLY SAYING… So hypothetically, if all games were subscription-only, we would all become single-game consumers, wouldn’t we? I wouldn’t subscribe to two games at once. It seems wasteful and, like you said, guilt-inducing. Would that be good for the industry? I don’t have the data to say – others of you will know more about this – but I think I put more of my income into the games industry now, paying about ~$30/month for game purchases, than I would with a $15/month subscription fee (and I would probably not consider paying more than that).

    • jsdn says:

      Just think about an hourly subscription for people who don’t play enough for a monthly. It’d be difficult to take in the atmosphere of a game when you feel your pocket getting lighter. Or maybe trying to time your gameplay perfectly so that you don’t get screwed from paying in advance for an hour you don’t have, and forget you’re supposed to be enjoying the game.

  29. cyberpope says:

    devils advocate!!!

    Id pay. id definatly pay if it means my games go on and on. itd be nice if everyone was as mad as valve and gave all this shiny new stuff away for free but lets face it people need money. Of course id expect it to be optional since some of its bound to be a bit shit now and again and id like to opt out of some.

    back to normal
    If this wild scenario did happen though we would never have a new game ever. everyone would think “FUDGE IT! ill just keep bolting on the old game” and not bother with sequels and new ideas. eventually all the studios will be working on mass of duty: bad reach 2 and we’ll be stuck with 1 game we can never complete
    this scares me and i am opposed!

  30. frymaster says:

    no, but only due to my playing habits

    from that point of view, DLC/expansions are a better fit for me, as I play in bursts

  31. westyfield says:

    I find it interesting that you say this: “Say Mass Effect 3 has a piece of paid content coming out each month after release, and you buy each one… suddenly you’re paying a sub?”, as my response to your question “What would a single-player game have to do to make you pay for a subscription?”
    was ‘be Mass Effect 3’. I dearly hope they don’t do that, but I’m such a fanboy I probably wouldn’t be able to resist. I quite like the DLC system that currently exists (bar the stupid Bioware points system) – I want to get the Kasumi Goto content, but not the extra outfits/armour. A sub would be a way for a company to force lesser-quality content and justify it by saying ‘look, we’re gonna release some awesome stuff soon!’, in my opinion.

    • karthik says:

      All of the extra armour/weapons is either stuff you don’t have to pay for, or pay right at the start by buying one of the several “deluxe editions”.
      (I think there’s been one cosmetic DLC, and no one seems to care about it anyway.)

    • Manley Pointer says:

      Outside of the Kasumi thing (which cost too much) the ME2 DLC was worthless. I think developers have a really poor track record of putting out DLC that a) matches the quality of the original game and b) matches the style of the original game (i.e. isn’t an “arena” or Operation Anchorage or some other low-effort “experiment”). I’ve almost never seen paid DLC that was worth the price, and even the developers that have made some decent DLC have produced over 50% garbage.

      Every piece of DLC needs to feature the voice cast (when appropriate) and production values you expected from the original game. If it feels in any way cheaper or less polished — which is almost inevitable, given the smaller size of DLC dev teams — it hurts the original game by association.

      So, unless the sub-plan content is magically better than the half-assed DLC that developers usually make, it wouldn’t be worth it. And if developers aren’t doing a good job under the current system, imagine what DLC would be like if their subscribers paid for it in advance — they’d have even LESS incentive to make it good.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Cooper says:

    No.

    I’m gonna use the ‘but, Valve’ argument so many people hate.

    Valve regularly update TF2 with some great content. They do so for free for people have purchased the game.

    They recoup their costs by having special price deals around the updates, bringing in new players, keeping the game strong, bringing old players back and keeping the game fresh, busy and in people’s minds.

    With this model, Valve have ruined the chances of any publisher seriously trying to get people to subscribe for extra content.

    • Brumisator says:

      Best selling games on Steam on the week the passing, Free DLC for L4D2.
      L4D2 : 20€
      CoD:MW2 map pack: 15€

      My point, you ask?
      1) Valve kick ass for doing it for free, and they make money doing so, everybody wins.
      2) People are stupid and will pay billions in order to eat shit if you tell them it’s caviar.

    • jonfitt says:

      I might just point out that TF2 is a multiplayer game, where the rules of updates work very differently.

    • Jimbo says:

      It’s unreasonable to hold the rest of the industry to Valve’s standard. Valve recoup their costs by owning Steam. Whilst you’re signing in to play your freely supported TF2 and L4D2 updates, you’re probably buying every other Steam sale you pass on the way in. The ‘generous’ TF2 and L4D2 updates are just loss leaders for Steam.

    • Jamus says:

      Spot on Jimbo- I don’t get how people miss this vital but obvious point.
      The TF2 and L4D2 strategies are simply to pull in as many additional players as possible, and get them locked into using Steam regularly. Its a useful side effect the this also keeps existing players happy and loyal to steam.
      The COD:MW2 strategy is completely different, leveraging their existing user base to milk them for additional DLC. Its so much more effort to pull in new users versus milking exsiting users. Why would you go to so much trouble trying to entice anyone who *still* hasn’t bought TF2, COD or L4D2- the answer is simply the future value to Valve (whereas there is very little for Activision).

      Valve could effectively give away these games if it locks people into Steam and keeps people coming back and buying new games in the sales. Its just to maintain the illusion of generosity that they charge us anything at all!

  33. juv3nal says:

    The problem with a subscription is you get taxed while you’re not playing it. If I buy dlc, I can not touch it for a year and it’s still there. Versus paying for 12 months of playing nothing if it were a subscription. If subscription rate went by how much time I was actually *playing the game* and the price was right, I’d consider it, otherwise hell no.

  34. Mark says:

    Hell no. Then again, I won’t even pay a subscription for multiplayer.

    • Mark says:

      For a monthly subscription, I would feel like I’m throwing away money if I go for more than a few days without playing it substantially, and the half-dozen games in all of recorded history that I’ve ever played that often were already presented in the form of a nice convenient lump sum payment, and, judging by typical monthly rates, I’ve saved money by buying them for standard retail price anyway.

      For an hourly subscription that only charges me for the time I actually use, I would feel like I’m throwing money away if I don’t rush through the game as fast as I can. That’s actually okay for some games, but they’re not my favorites.

    • Mark says:

      Of course, the example you provide is not a subscription: it’s paying for expansions. They don’t go away when you stop paying for them, you can (presumably) skip the ones that look like crap, there’s market pressure to make them worth the price of entry, nobody feels cheated if they stop making new ones or fall behind schedule… it’s superior to a subscription in every way. And we’re pretty much already there.

  35. Feste says:

    Assuming that this is a subscription, and not paying for continued access to my game, then depending on the quality of the product, sure. Ultimately if I end up paying a similar or slightly more amount for the game, then all that’s happened is that the cost has been defrayed over time. If it was for a longer period of time, then we’d have to see at the bang/buck ratio.

    There’d be no reason that I couldn’t go back and replay, indeed the shortened section length would be conducive to that as going back to play a full game in a new way is always slightly daunting. However, playing a 5 hour game again in a different way would just be fun.

    For an open world game, I think that you would need a significant amount of world to start of with. Maybe not the entire galaxy as Frontier did, but maybe a stellar arm?

    • Feste says:

      A slight proviso: Horse Amour, and it’s nickle-and-diming ilk, have made me deeply suspicious of how a lot of companies view DLC and episodic gaming. So it would have to be an awesome game.

      Also, isn’t this just a restatement of the premise of episodic gaming?

  36. Jaz says:

    In theory, if it was that absolutely brilliant and there was nothing like it and you wanted to experience it, you’d have to.

  37. Daave says:

    I’d pay a sub for Elder Scrolls 5 if the amount of new content was high and it was of good quality.

  38. Bozzley says:

    If they went and did proper episodic gaming, then yeah, I probably would. 24 eventually bored me, but if it was a game series instead of a TV show? One new “hour” a week? Fuck yeah, I’d go for that.

  39. karthik says:

    Not a subscription, no.
    I did buy some ME2 DLC. As long as I can pick and choose the extra content I want, and the game is complete in every respect without any of it, I don’t have a problem with DLC.

    Can’t be selective about extra content with a sub, can I?

    • Snidesworth says:

      Exactly. I’m fine with DLC. I can choose what I want and pay for that. Subscriptions mean that I get everything, the bad and the good, and if I ever stop paying for it then I loose access to it all.

  40. PHeMoX says:

    What would a single-player game have to do to make you pay for a subscription?”

    The mere question is a downright insult.

    Not even MMOs will make me pay for a sub, there are no games that are actually worth paying each month for. Not even a Halo 3, Crysis 2 and so on.

    The only legit reason for anyone to ask monthly payments for a game, is because there are expenses involved keeping the servers running.. and even then I think multiplayer servers should be free as developers can stop support for them at any time and for any reason.

    Subscriptions for games are like a cancer. It’s like pay-per-view, except you’re being forced into paying way too much.

    • Feste says:

      In what way is it an insult? We’re talking about money for content, the barter of goods in fair exchange. My understanding of the context is the idea of subscriptions in the magazine sense not in the MMO sense; i.e. you’re paying money each month for new content. That’s pretty much at the heart of the modern world. Capitalism.

    • Nalano says:

      Content? Content? WHAT content?!

      Buying a game is exchanging money for content.

      Renting the right to play that same game is money down the hole.

      At best it provides a captive audience (ie: you) to whatever “content” the developer decides to add on to the game. This includes the infamous “horse armor” DLC. This includes map packs, mission packs, weapons mods and multiplayer modes that used to come FREE. This includes “add-ons” that come every four months and have one hour’s worth of content. You pay regularly, independently of the quality of the product offered. There becomes no need to produce a quality product, because sales are guaranteed. And this assumes you the consumer even get to access any of this the second you cancel your subscription.

      It’s a damned insult.

  41. Wednesday says:

    Some kind of constantly expanding thing akin to a televised serial drama, but the way they make games today just wouldn’t do it for me.

    I’d require reliable, consistent and regular releases of high quality and decent length. I’m not talking some new maps or a new area, but a small expansions worth, much larger than any recent DLC offerings other than Awakening.

    Not very likely to happen.

  42. Reverend Speed says:

    I kind of already do with the TellTale games.

    Would I sub for the Mass Effect 2 DLC? Nein x giggles = hohohono.

  43. Robert says:

    I did, and would do so again.

    Sam & Max series 1: ep 1t/m6.

    For games where this sort of episodic content is possible, contained stories with head and tail, I would do it. Else, no.

    • DSX says:

      Agreed, games which package nicely into episodic style content, and are PRICED to match, I would indeed pay for. But 60 bucks for 60 hours of ME3, and then a monthly 10-20 dollars for 5 more hours of play? No way. I’d pirate that shit like everyone else.

  44. Eric says:

    It’s easy to argue that this isn’t so different from what Fallout 3 did; the Fallout 3 expansions were essentially regularly scheduled content additions with a $10 almost-monthly fee, they just stopped it after five of them rather than continuing to churn them out forever. In theory, though, they could have kept it up. The pricing model was different but the concept wasn’t by much.

    My answer is probably no, though, because I don’t think you can keep any game interesting forever just by tacking more on top of it. The games that last forever do so because their central mechanic is good enough that you don’t mind repetition or slight variation on a theme, not because somebody slaved away on yet another bunch of cookie cutter quests or a few new enemies to toss into the mix.

    What I would do – and have done – is pay a season subscription to an episodic game with a finite end like Tales From Monkey Island. I have no problem funding episodic development in a lump sum, if I trust the content developers to deliver a solid product.

  45. Alex Weldon says:

    For sure, provided I wouldn’t lose access to the stuff I already had if I stopped paying the subscription. The way I see it working in the future is with regular releases of DLC, wherein you can buy them a la carte if you want, but get them more cheaply if you take a “subscription” to receive (and be charged for) them automatically as they come out.

    If the subscription is required to play the game at all, then no way in hell. But subscribing to add-on content, sure.

  46. deimos says:

    Nope.

    I’d probably lean more with the DLC option, I could skip things that I don’t want. With subs, they’d give you (potential) crappy content ‘regularly’.

  47. Sagan says:

    I would not if it was as expensive as having a copy of the game which I can play whenever I want.

    But: Recently there was news of StarCraft 2 having a subscription in South America, China and Russia, (or something like that) and the model there is that you pay half-price and can only play the game for like a couple of months. Then you have to start paying. For some games I would do that. Not StarCraft 2, but for example Far Cry 2, I would have gone the half-price-with-later-subscription route. Because I only finished that game once, and I don’t plan on playing it again. I don’t want any DLC or anything else, I just want to play through the game once.

    That being said, a subscription model for the western European market would probably be as expensive for players as the full price game. The only reason why StarCraft 2 has that model in those countries is, that Blizzard can’t make as much money with the traditional model.
    And it’s not like publishers want to make less money, so subscriptions would be expensive. And for that I don’t want to pay.

    But there are tons of models for which I would.

  48. Tauers says:

    In a perfect world where developers make very interesting and polished DLC every week or month it would be cool. Sadly, a few games have done it properly and big publishers aren´t doing fair business. How many games are broken on release? How many “horse armor” DLCs?

  49. Lobotomy Lobster says:

    no

  50. [21CW] 2000AD says:

    Gut instinct is ‘no’ as to me a subscription means I only have access to the game as long as I’m paying. As it is right now DLC is fine, if I want the extra levels the I pay for them, if I don’t then I just stick with the old ones and everythings fine.
    If it was a subscription then I’d have to keep on paying just to play the old stuff. I regularly re-install and replay old games, frankly I can’t picture myself doing that if it meant I had to pay for them again.
    A subscription to recieving new content would be ok, a subscription just to play the single player game would be out of the question.