Fun with lists

What do the games listed below all have in common?

  • Age of Conan
  • All Points Bulletin
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Global Agenda
  • Ragnarok Online
  • Champions Online
  • Everquest 2 Extended

If you answered “failed to meet expectations”, you are correct! (For the LotRO fans, go look at their ads in 2007, telling me to pre-order so I can join the “millions” of players. Oops.)

Another list, same question.

  • World of Warcraft
  • EVE Online
  • Rift
  • City of Heroes
  • DarkFall

If you answered “met or exceeded expectations” you are again correct!

Swing and a miss MMOadCrunch (nice layout…). Story stays the same, if you have a solid product, you go P2P. If your game is average at best, F2P all the way! If you are about to shut the servers off, hey, generate some buzz and go F2P for the quick cash grab. If you hate gamers, F2P is an excellent way to screw them (Hi Allods).

Worst part of it all is, short of a F2P model like LoL’s, the ones getting screwed most by F2P are those who play more, yet it’s those very people cheering the “opportunity” to pay more for less. Good job people.

36 Responses to Fun with lists

  1. Aillas says:

    That’s pretty high praise for RIFT, given its been out for what, almost 3 entire months? Didn’t Warhammer Online kick butt for at least 3 months out of the gate too?

    • Aillas says:

      To be clear, I’m not criticizing RIFT. I just think heaping “meets expectations” praise on it three months in is a bit much, no matter what axe you want to grind on P2P/F2P business models.

      • SynCaine says:

        Unless my memory fails me, WAR was already in deep trouble after 3 months, while Rift appears to be maintaining. But yea, perhaps a little early to add Rift here.

        • Angry Gamer says:

          It’s not too early to recognize quality.

          I bet Wow players were not saying eh this will be done and over in 3 months in 2006.

  2. And what do you say about this list?

    Star Trek Online
    Warhammer Online
    Final Fantasy [both of them]
    DC Universe Online
    Star Wars Galaxies
    Vanguard
    Aion
    Mortal Online

    • SynCaine says:

      Also games that failed? (To varying degrees).

      The real issue here is not F2P/P2P, it’s how short the list of successful MMOs is. Kinda crazy.

  3. Ardwulf says:

    I could quibble about your lists and the items thereon, but I won’t, because the more important point is that I agree with what you’re saying, to an extent. F2P is a way for a game to get a second chance, if it fell down on its first chance for whatever reason. I don’t know that this is a bad thing. If a game is legitimately rotten, I think it’ll continue to fail under F2P. This may not be apparent yet becuase of the youth of the movement. If it has real virtues (and all the games on your “fail” list do) the second chance can give it more life than it would otherwise have had.

    I also agree, as I mentioned today over at my place, that a big part of the reason that the games on your fail list are good games is because they were developed under the subscription model. And I agree with you and disagree with MMOCrunch’s ridiculous piece – subscriptions aren’t dying, and there are healthy examples of subscription games at a variety of levels, from WoW to (I’m willing to assume) Darkfall.

    In general, I’m not a fan of MMOs folding, even MMOs I don’t like. I’m not a fan of NCSoft and I famously hated Aion, but I still think that it going under would be regrettable, because no matter how I feel about it, there are others who love it. I can’t see how a game I hate continuing to exist hurts me any, so why should I mind, especially if a new model, no matter what it is, might save an underappreciated game that I do like

    We will eventually see F2P games fail; we haven’t yet only because of the youth of this model in our market. We can argue that some of the current conversions made a hash of things. We can assume that we’ll eventually see F2P games designed for our market that resemble the Asian grinder/moneysink stuff. I would in fact have a hard time arguing against any of those things.

    But it’s equally hard to argue that the F2P thing hasn’t breathed new life into good games that for whatever reasons had floundered under the sub model. And it’s also indisputable that a healthy game converted thusly (LotRO) is now more popular and more lucrative than ever. Honestly, I think we’ve been lucky so far – there are plenty of reasons to distrust the F2P model. They’re just not the reasons you’ve expressed in this post.

  4. Nils says:

    I agree. In a rather lengthy post I tried to compare P2P and F2P yesterday. My conclusion is that there’s little reason for players to welcome F2P, but many reasons for the management.

    Since the long term happiness of the players is in the best interest of the management only if they consider a game to have a rosy future, only those games that fail the expectations of the management go f2p.

    Your list is good proof of that.

  5. bhagpuss says:

    For any adult with a modicum of self-restraint, F2P is an excellent payment model. If you’re the kind of person who has to cut up your credit cards every so often for your own protection, then maybe not so much.

    That said, it’s the game that matters, not the payment model. There are no MMOs that I play regularly *because* they are free and none that I don’t play *because* they require a sub. Obviously, if a game I would pay to play decides not to take my money, that’s a bonus.

    I really think how an MMO company funds itself is possibly the least interesting aspect of the whole business, except to accountants.

    • SynCaine says:

      The payment model affects the game, that’s the problem. Atlantica Online would be a fantastic game if it was P2P, but since it’s F2P, it’s great features are tarnished by the need for the cash shop and what it does for the overall game. That’s the best example I can think of, but there are others (Allods perhaps being the most ‘famous’).

  6. Dink says:

    Please add Star Trek Online to the appropriate section.

  7. Angry Gamer says:

    Nils you don’t know what you are talking about.

    F2″anything” is a fail business model.
    Unless you have an indirect line of revenue (Facebook ads) then you are losing money. The F2P gambit only hides it for a few months.

    All the F2P dudes are doing is padding the IPO price for Facebook making Facebook’s business model look smart.

    Like Zuckboi needs any encouragement.

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/34850/Zuckerberg_Other_Industries_Need_To_Follow_Social_Gamings_Example.php

    Money Quote: “Earlier in the month, Facebook announced that it has expanded its partnership with ad network TrialPay for its DealSpot product, which allows users to earn virtual currency by watching videos embedded within a number of social game titles.”

    AND… birdies tell me that investors/execs are getting wise to this stunt quickly… hint watch SOE offerings as they go through a few death rattles.

    Been there done that… I the early days of dot coms all the for pay sites went “Free” to get traffic. They were wonderful places like GeoCities and such

    well… we know how this ended don’t we?
    “Yahoo! buys GeoCities”. CNN.com. 1999-01-28. http://money.cnn.com/1999/01/28/technology/yahoo_a/.

    Fox, Geoff (2009-07-10). “Yahoo Sets the Date of GeoCities’ Death”. PCMag.com. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2350024,00.asp. Retrieved 2010-11-05.

  8. Warsyde says:

    Can’t really argue on this one. Games that aren’t doing well are switching to F2P as a way to gain market share. It’s sensible, and it’s working. Most players aren’t willing to subscribe to more than one MMO, so if your MMO isn’t better than what people are already playing, good luck with the subscription model.

    However, it’s very easy to tempt someone who is currently subscribed to a game to try another game if they can do so for “free”. That they later drop $50 on the game, play for two weeks, get bored and go back to their sub game is pure human pscyhology in action.

    Hey, I’m not judging here, I’ve done it too. I’m totally going to go back to LotRO and make use of my turbine points. Someday. Totally.

  9. Snafzg says:

    I have to say League of Legends (LOL) has the absolute best business model imho, however, what happens when 10 more LOLs enter the market?

    Each title gets a dilluted population…
    Each title makes less money…
    Each new title struggling to launch can’t get enough seed funding…

    What I’m saying here is there’s a tipping point where the market becomes too saturated and innovation is stifled.

    I think we started seeing it with P2P titles. New subscription titles failed to meet expectations or simply weren’t any good to begin with and there were so many other titles to choose from that they started cannibalizing each other’s populations.

    F2P won’t be far behind.

    • Snafzg says:

      Correction: So many other titles to choose from and an 800lb gorilla.

    • SynCaine says:

      LoL already has competition: HoN, BLC, DoTA itself.

      What separates Riot, and in some ways Trion, is that they realize “Hey, we have a good game that people want to play, lets not screw that up by trying to gut our customers at every turn”. Granted, it’s much easier to be a nice guy when you have a solid game, but still.

      • Snafzg says:

        But HoN and BLC don’t have the same business model as LoL do they? I thought they were more like Guild Wars (pay box price, play unlimited). And isn’t DoTA1 completely free with no income generation?

        My comment is that LoL and the MoBA scene will probably suffer if 10 more games with the exact same model as LoL come out.

        Lots of choice for players, but smaller companies with fewer resources due to player split.

        • SynCaine says:

          BLC I thought was free. HoN is indeed box price. And yea, considering how much money Riot is raking in, expect a TON of clones in 1-2 years. Most will be terribad given how difficult it is to actually create a decent MOBA game.

        • Torcano says:

          Well Dota 2 itself is supposed to hit this year isn’t it?

          Should be interesting to see LoL actually go up against the true Dota in an fully realized and monetized form.

          Personally I preferred Dota to LoL, but could never go back to it after experiencing the gameplay surrounded by the framework of its own independent game.

        • Torcano says:

          As an aside, have you guys seen the articles about Dota 2’s possible implementation of a system designed to have a effect very similar to the Tribunals.

          Based somewhat of TF2, where ‘contributers’ to the community pay discounted prices or get things free..

  10. Phedre says:

    Where does Anarchy Online fit into this all? It is about to reach its 10th year anniversary and still has enough subscription payers to keep it afloat, and an F2P crowd as well. Their F2P model is a bit weird though, since there is really nothing you can waste your real money on. Pure F2P to keep the population up?

  11. Syp says:

    Darkfall met or exceeded expectations while LOTRO didn’t? You ARE having fun with lists!

    • SynCaine says:

      What was the expectation for DF? Because for LoTRO it was “millions”.

      • Irenor says:

        “What was the expectation for DF?”

        10k concurrent users per server? Aside from Launch, DarkFall has yet to hit that threshold (did it even hit that treshold at launch?).

        Even if LOTRO didn’t achieve millions, they still achieved around 200k subs according to 2009 stats (before they went F2P), which probably gave them a good amount of profit.

        By the way, Ragnarok didn’t quite fail to meet expectations. There have been troubles with the Korean version to the point where they decided to stop the project, which allowed Gravity (NA Warportal) to move in their own direction. ROSE Online has also experienced a similar situation (game had been running since 2003-04? I think for NA as a P2P and swapped in 09 to F2P). Ragnarok was doing quite well since 2003 for NA.

        By the way, do not think that P2Ps turning F2P means that the MMO is failing. The notion that AAA title should be P2P is slowly disappearing as F2P continues to show more success and offering a much longer lifespan to a game, while also providing an experience that P2Ps struggle to deliver: having a healthy playerbase at all levels, as most P2Ps eventually start running low on players in the lower level areas, which in turns will turn off newer players looking to play (FFXI is a great exemple).

        Of course the F2P model has it’s flaws, often being in the form of greedy publishers or cash shop causing imbalance but not all F2Ps fall in those categories.

        • SynCaine says:

          10k per server is the peak of what those servers can (could?) do. The number was put out to show that the DF servers are bigger than typical themepark servers (which they are, and continue to be). Considering DF is one of the very few MMOs to open a new server 6 months after release, well…

          The original list is off MMOadCrunch, not mine. I don’t know much about Rag, other than it looks like a kids game. Well, that and I’ve not heard reports that it’s blowing the genre out of the water.

          P2P going F2P has, almost 100%, been for failing games. LotRO is perhaps an exception, but then we don’t know how it was doing right before the switch. Still, you don’t take something that (supposedly) is making a ton of money and do something as drastic as going F2P without a reason.

          End of the day though, almost all F2P examples are either bad knockoffs, halfass ports, or failing games looking for a spark. When an actually solid F2P MMO comes out (remember Allods was that great big hope?), maybe it will be a discussion.

  12. Irenor says:

    For some reason I can’t reply to your last comment so I’ll do it here.

    Aventurine boasted about it’s abilties to hold 10k concurrent players. This was their expectation, as they had their server infrastructure built to represent it. They expected and wanted to have servers filled with 10k players (server being able to hold 30k active accounts was it?). So yes, Darkfall has failed to meet it’s own expectation.

    I haven’t found NA sub numbers, but in 2003 (december), Japan had registered over 300k subscriptions while Taiwan over 1,6 millions subs. The european and north american versions would be closer to 200k at best. I believe Ragnarok also has one of the largest amount of Private Servers, but I’d need to fact check on this.

    But Ragnarok has, like Dofus, often gone under the radar of most MMORPG websites (Dofus had over 1 million subs in 2008 I believe).

    F2P is indeed a popular solution for P2Ps that are struggling, but there are more reasons as to why a game may be struggling than just being a “failed game”. Look at FFXI, the barrier of entry is extremely high because of the high difficulty of the content from start to finish, it’s incredibly hard to find parties which have left many new players without any possibility to advance. FFXI hasn’t gone F2P nor plans to do so, but I’m merely using it as an exemple, as FFXI is a very fun game, but over the years players are too far ahead leaving the lower areas empty thus making it nearly impossible for new players to truly advance.

    This is one of P2P’s biggest poison, as they finally reach a certain age, there simply isn’t enough new players to cover up for the veterans leaving due to low population, a vicious circle, that will always leads to a game’s decline. There’s also the fact that gamers are less likely to buy older games and pay a sub.

    D&DO went F2P, but by no mean was it a bad game. Turbine did not make much significant change to the former version when it released it’s F2P version, and players are really enjoying the game. The issue is that D&DO had simply been past it’s age, population was incredibly low because of this, and needed a way to bring the game back to life. The F2P model was the solution. D&DO did not “fail”, otherwise even the F2P version would not be so popular.

    As for LOTRO, my guess is that, given the overwhelming benefits that the F2P model has brought to D&D0, Turbine chose not to wait for LOTRO to age too much and strike as soon as possible with the F2P model and keep as much momentum as possible. Apparently it worked, and they’re making even more money now. Sounds like a win to me.

    Of course not all stories have a knight in shining armor, and there have been many “fail games” who went F2P. STO, CO, ABP, etc. I would not include AoC since it has greatly improved since launch, and the last expac in particular has been rather well received (the expac that fleshed out 20-40 and added more end-game content). But as for STO, CO and the others, yes they have failed, yes they are now F2P. It doesn’t mean that the F2P model represent failures, but gaming studios simply believed that there would be hope, giving D&DO and LOTRO’s success, to at least let the game running. Personally if I had been working on a game for more than a year, I’d rather it go F2P than to just shut down servers and be done with it.

    As for Allods, I still can’t believe that people were outraged at Allods, when even before the Open Beta started, there were A LOT of information on the game’s cash shop content,prices and other cash shop-related information based on the Russian version. Despite all of this, gamers chose to ignore those facts and blindly follow the game like the sheeps they are. Serves them right.

    There are a lot of great F2P titles out there which are doing incredibly well, what they are depends on the players though. And the “bad knockoffs” or “halfass ports”, what about Warhammer, or Aion? upcoming games SWTOR and W40k? They’re all bad knockoffs or halfass ports yet are P2P. In fact, I’d argue that it is the F2P industry, where many titles offers far more unique experience than many P2Ps out there (Dungeon Fighter, Mabinogi, Vindictus, and Black Prophecy immediatly comes to mind). The F2P industry is REQUIRED to bring something different to the table because they need to compete with a much wider amount of MMOs. This also becomes incredibly more obvious if you look at developments in mostly South Korea, where the genre has taken a nice shift since 08-09, not to mention XLGame’s ArcheAge deal of 40 millions USD with Tencent, which appears to have amazing sandbox features and depth.

    And I’ll leave it at that, before I start writing a book.

    • Kant Lavar says:

      I’ll jump in here for a second…

      First, STO is not F2P, and unless I’ve missed a devblog somewhere, there are no plans to take it F2P. Second, I’d argue against the perception that STO and CO have “failed.” To me, “failed” means “dead.” While I grant neither CO nor STO are WoW-killers, but both games are still going strong, STO especially. The reason, I think, that STO had such a troubled launch is that Cryptic wanted to leave plenty of room for themselves to adapt to what players wanted – that’s why sector space has been – and will be in the future – changed. That’s why STO has the Foundry – and say what you will about user-generated content, but some of the missions I’ve seen coming out of the Foundry are on par or better than anything done by the devs. Player response is why we have Featured Episodes. It’s why we have the dabo minigame. Hell, it was a player who made the initial contact with Chase Masterson to see if she’d be willing to do some VO work for the dabo minigame. Missions are getting “remastered” to improve drama and immersion. Season 4 will add a duty officer system, refinements to the Bridge Officer system, a major overhaul of ground combat… all in response to what the player base has wanted.

      I’m not saying STO is a perfect game. I’m just saying that people who tried it at launch and then decided they didn’t like it really should consider coming back to the game at some point, even if it’s just for a month, to see how things have changed.

      • Irenor says:

        My mistake. I do recall reading something about STO going F2P in an interview, although it may have been merely speculation.

        That said, there are more reasons behind player’s trouble with STO, and you seem to be sugarcoating a lot of it. For exemple the Cryptic Store on top of the Subscription Fee.

        As for the troubled launch, I do not believe it’s because they wanted to leave room to adapt to the playerbase otherwise they would’ve been more than happy to discuss about it. Which company in their right mind would leave room to adapt to players and not make them aware of it from the get-go? The Foundry was merely Cryptic’s response to their poor ability to deliver content.

        Not to mentionned the hundreds of players who were “scammed” by the Life-Time Subscription and all that mess around Launch. And now Atari jumps off the boat. Really not the best time to give the game another shot if you ask me.

  13. Random Idiot says:

    you didn’t mention “Mount & Warblade” multiplayer, and I wondered if you had given this title a shot?

  14. Ramizeth says:

    Now I don’t know if you can classify World of Tanks as a true MMO but from all indications its recent release as a pure F2P game has blown away all the developers expectations so far.

    • SynCaine says:

      WoT is LoL-lite. More gear based rather than skill based (so it’s even more casual-friendly), but still a very similar setup.

      Most definitely not an MMO though.

      • WoT is biased towards being skill based in my opinion. It is more a vehicular FPS than any sort of MMO.

        I’m not great in the game, but I rove the battlefield in my zippy little Luchs, often the lowest rated tank in my matches, and pop higher tier players that err badly, spot for the arty when my little gun will just bounce off, and hunt the enemy arty when I can get into their backfield. Knowing how to use your gear is more important that the gear itself.

        • SynCaine says:

          Oh yea, WoT is far more skill-based than typical MMO combat (not counting something like DF, which is more FPS-ish anyway). My point was it’s more gear-based than LoL, which allows those of average skill to still win if they are in the right tank against the right opponent. it’s a very interesting “middle ground” between something pure-skill like a FPS, and something that’s “play more = win” like an MMO.

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