Paradox Interactive, the publishers of games from Crusader Kings to Cities: Skylines, have settled into a familiar and successful model: release a game then, rather chase it with a sequel, spend years expanding it with free content updates and paid add-ons. I quite like this when I buy a Paradox game near the start of its long life, and happily buy an expansion or two a year, but the sheer mass and price of extras for later games can be intimidating. Consider Europa Universalis IV, which after sevens years has almost £200 of expansions. I'm very interested, then, to see Paradox are experimenting with an EU4 subscription service that would cover the strategy game and it expansions.
Paradox this week confirmed that they're experimenting with a subscription service for Europa Universalis IV on a small number of players. At first they only hinted vaguely about experiments, then opened up after players digging into files found details on it.
"We have heard for years from existing and potential new players that the cost of getting the game and all expansions all at once is quite expensive (and might be discouraging for completely new EU4 fans), it's been supported for almost 7 years after all," Paradox explained. "A subscription model has been suggested to us on many occasions, so we thought we'd run a test to see how popular such a service would be."
To be clear, you don't need to spend £200 to play EU4 in the modern day. Expansions are optional (and some are better than others) and it has loads of extra little cosmetic DLCs. I don't want to act like it's necessary. But, y'know, it is nice.
I am wary of the creeping spread of subscription services for this, that, and the other but I have been interested in the idea for long-running games with expansions galore. I've often wished for The Sims to consider optional subs, for example (EA's Origin Access service offers The Sims 4 but not expansions). Europa Universalis isn't my bag I might be tempted by subscriptions for another Paradox game, especially if I was coming in a few years after launch.
This is only an experiment from Paradox, mind, and only on this one game. Paradox don't know if they'll launch any such service properly. They don't know how much it would cost. They say if they might try this for other games. But they're experimenting.
They do stress that this would be optional, DLC would still be sold separately, and they wouldn't make any future content exclusive to subscribers. They're also not sure about cost, saying the results of this test will help them decide (if they go ahead).
The cost is a big question, especially when more and more keep popping up and trying to claim a monthly slice of my income. Slices may be small but enough of them could gobble up my fiduciary pizza. Nice try, Scottish Power, but why would I subscribe to your premium service when I get my electricity free from wires?
Paradox recently experimented with a different friendly model in Crusader Kings II, making the base game free to everyone then still charging for add-ons. Though that is partially to promote the upcoming Crusader Kings III too.
All this said, if you would like to buy EU4 and a load of add-ons in one go, you can currently get the game and most major expansions for £13 in the latest Humble Bundle.