First and foremost I am not a news site, nor do I even pretend to be. So I’m not just going to rehash news that is already released on much better sites than mine. However, I will give you my commentary on the news…
This morning Carbine, the makers of the upcoming game Wildstar, which so far has enjoyed being the Internet’s MMO darling, announced the payment model for the upcoming game. This has been met with (Surprise!!!) a lot of commentary. Massively’s post on the subject has so far enjoyed an almost 2 comments per minute “discussion” on the ongoing battle of the merits of payment model. See what you have to look forward to, Everquest Next? I’d tread the topic very carefully if I were you.
On the one side, we have “The Purists”. Those that are die-hards in favor of the subscription model. That everything needs to be on a level footing in our games, and the only accomplishments achieved are from within the game’s interior. Only the
industrious need apply, as time is the only factor that should determine one’s gaming success. Want to play for free? Well you’re just a dirty freeloader and are what is wrong with the genre and is bringing about it’s downfall.
On the other side, we have “The Experimenters”. Those that enjoy the flexibility of cash-shops, free-to-play, buy-to-play, optional subs, and a multitude of playing options. They understand that not everyone has thousands of hours to play a game and feel being tied into a subscription, when there are plenty of fish in the sea, is a waste of money and a steep mental barrier. A subscription model is the past and we need to look to the future of payment models! Not every model is going to be perfect, but each one adds onto the mistakes of the past until one day we have the perfect payment model.
And, of course, there are all of those in-between gamers who like both, or neither, or who just like bashing the other side’s opinions in the comment-section-PvP-zone. They usually bring about the destruction of the never-ending conversation and
I am a full fledged Experimenter. I LOVE the path that payment models have taken. I love all the options and choices given by the developers. I see that, from the developers standpoint, tradeoffs have to be made to keep a population up, that Free-To-Play generates more income for them, and without it they would most likely not survive. Maybe we here in the Western Hemisphere are starting to see gaming more like the Eastern Hemisphere has been doing for ages now. The Internet makes the world flat, afterall, and only the most ethnocentric of us deny that. Open up the gates to the park and charge for food, snacks, and rides!it fully devolves into name calling and attacks on the mass of one’s parental units.
Wildstar’s payment model was announced as follows: You buy the game by service or box for $60 and are given 30-days free. After that 30 days, you can either subscribe for an extra $15 per month, or buy CREDD for $20 or in-game gold to use or trade that is worth 30 days of playtime. Sleek, simple, and the infographic they have on it has to be seen. I especially like the fate of Player D.
I… I don’t think their model is going to work.
I don’t mean to bash those who determine their metrics, but I don’t see this as a lasting model for the future. It simply comes down to, in my understanding of the MMO community, the lack of players who are 1-game-only types. I know they are out there. I’m personally friends with a guy who is a huge Lord of the Rings Online fan and has been playing religiously since release. That’s awesome. But all of the 1-game types, they’re already in their 1-game and will be until it shuts down. The group Wildstar is hoping to attract are the already faithful, so that they become faithful to their title. “Leave your husband so you can marry me”. Right. Sure. Okay. The faithful are the ones the sub-model was designed for in the first place and was a perfect fit for World of Warcraft. Why? The MMO genre was really small at that point, but Warcraft as an IP was really popular. They brought a huge number of fans who had never played any other MMO, and who were probably spending more than $15/month on games anyway. Blizzard’s timing was impeccable and something we’ll probably never see again.
The model is also designed for grinders and end-game players. If you can grind the gold necessary to buy the CREDD, more power to you. If you’re a hardcore raider, this should come as second nature, and so shouldn’t be a problem.
So, the uber-faithful, and the hardcore raiders. In the Venn diagram of MMO gamers, these two groups overlap quite a bit. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assess that this really only makes up less than 15% of the gaming population, assuming you can make the already-faithful cheat on their current love. And so, as a long-term solution, past the 3-month MMO hump, when we will most likely be seeing other new shinies come out, I don’t see it as sustaining profit.
My suggestion: Buy to Play. Charge for the box, and keep those box prices up well past the game’s release. Since housing and cosmetics look to be playing a large role in Wildstar, have a cash-shop! Cosmetics and cash-shops go hand-in-hand quite nicely. Have an optional subscription in-game that awards points and goodies you can’t get from not-subscribing. House decorations, clothing options. A highly stylized and colorful world, people are going to clamor for the best looking outfits. Also, keep the CREDD! I love that idea. Create an exchange so that players can buy subscription time from others in-game! So, in other words, don’t go with the STO/Neverwinter/Guild Wars 2 method of an in-game gold/points currency. Just have the basic Buy-To-Play, Cash Shop, Subscription, and CREDD but allow gold to function between them. Then, make sure the game has an appropriate amount of gold-sinks so that it doesn’t inflate or deflate out of control.
This allows for all gamers to participate in the cash environment to their liking and won’t turn Wildstar into a niche, boutique title.
P.S. – This is one of my longer posts, so if you made it to the end, thank you sooo much! Have a cookie!