Thursday, November 15, 2012

Free-To-Play Is Expected?

So says Craig Morrison, the director of Funcom Montreal, the team that did Age of Conan. But even as things change, he still believes there is hope with the subscription based model. Ironic considering that Funcom was one of the first to start the free-to-play shift with Anarchy Online and Age of Conan.

It’s become expected as we have seen more games move to free-to-play and flourished. Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan blossomed once making the shift. Even Guild Wars championed this notion of a free, quality MMO. You only need to buy the base game and have at it! The Old Republic will put this to the test with its recent shift to FTP. I’m curious to see how much the game changes because of this. (I still argue that it came out too early, else it could maintain a subscription service.)

World of Warcraft is still holding on. After so many years and still being one of the top MMO’s, it has a subscription service, with someconcessions in order to lure in more players. But it’s been working for Blizzard. Subscriptions are still holding and they’re still the top MMO to beat.

"If they see the added value in moving into a hybrid, or a subscription, or buying something through a virtual store, then they will. I don't think players are averse to spending money if they think they're getting added value."~ Craig Morrison

As a long time gamer and MMO-er, I’m not one that expects a free-to-play for a game. A trial period after purchasing the product, yes. And it’s not because I don’t associate FTP with quality. I do. There are a lot of free Flash games and phone aps that are great! Really well constructed products that offer a lot of things I want in a game. If I want to get more in-depth into the games, then I have the option to buy tokens, or coins, or something to enhance the experience. That’s fine. FTP can be amazing tool when it’s used properly. So can subscription services.

FFXI, while not a Western game, has been maintaining its player base with a subscription for over 10 years. It’s still going. WoW too. Even the concessions offer limitations (Can’t get over level 20, you can’t mail people, you can’t use the AH, you can’t go over 10 gold, etc). If you want to really experience the game you have to pay for it.

It’s a matter of finding that balance and what works best for your game. In the case of The Old Republic, the product was released too soon. I can remember all of the concerns we voiced throughout the testing cycle (another wonderful reminder that I was in the very first testing group up to release date, so yes. I know way too much about TOR). Some of the smaller issues were addressed, but the big issues were persistent throughout alpha and beta. So much content that was needed to really give the game the oomph it needed to be a subscription MMO wasn’t there. Endgame was very lacking, as well as the need for a collective group.  (To this day I still argue that one of the highlights of FFXI is the need to group with others. Social interaction is a big feature in MMO’s and you need it to survive.) With the shift to FTP, TOR has a lot more options on the table. They can finally space out their development and really bring gamers what they want, instead of rushing on EA’s schedule.

Aside: Welcome to post 666! >.>


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