Bernie Madoff was a great investor. Used the wrong payment model.

“I think there will definitely be failures within the next 12 to 24 months. Many who are entering the market right now are doing it as almost a money-grab. But subscription is dead. [Star Wars:] The Old Republic was the biggest possible swing for the fences. There is no longer any argument over whether that can be done.” – Craig Zinkievich, COO of Cryptic Studios

Do you think Craig said/wrote the above with a straight face? And if so, do you think he really believes it? It would take a pretty epic level of stupid, but then this is someone from Crypic, so I’m kinda 50/50 on it.

On the other hand, Craig is right. The ‘argument’ that sub games can be done is indeed over, mostly because it was never an argument to begin with. Pretending WoW, EVE, Rift, etc don’t exist must be nice, but probably not helpful in terms of sanity. Maybe Craig will also consider the argument over once EA shuts SW:TOR down for good. Time for a new ‘6 months’ meme I guess.

“I suspect that if you’d launched Fallout 3 as a free-to-play title rather than paying $60 for the disc it would have had equal or greater success.” – Someone working on games not as successful as Fallout 3.

“Riot Games’ Brandon Beck sees the matter differently. As a co-founder of the company that created League of Legends, Beck is at the top of the West’s biggest free-to-play success story, and perhaps the most compelling example of a free game that rivals the experience of the very best $60 AAA products. However, he stops short of proclaiming a free-to-play Uncharted as inevitable – it’s an easy thing to say, but actually making it work would be a daunting challenge, with higher upfront costs than the typical free-to-play game.”

Great stuff right? The failures in the pack telling the ones who are successful how to do their job. How about instead of making F2P ‘awesome’ games like Star Trek or Champions Online, you make outdated and ‘dead’ model games like Fallout, Skyrim, or Grand Theft Auto? Maybe then you won’t get bought out?

This really hammers home a major problem in the industry today; devs think their shitty game doing poorly is not because they made a shitty game, but because ‘market conditions’ ‘payment model’ ‘timing’ ‘toothfairy’ etc. Try making a good game. I’m pretty sure more than enough people will drop $60 for it. Or if you want, try making a good game that is worth playing longer than a month, and I’m sure people will be willing to pay the measly sum of $15 a month to do it.

Or yea, keep making SW:TOR, Star Trek, Champions, WAR, LotRO, DDO, etc, and keep thinking it’s not the game sucking that’s the problem. The magic future where people pay for crap is coming.

Update: Magic future already came? Zynga made a lot of money selling trash games? Magic future is over now? Zynga is worth a buck? Damn.

So close Craig, so close.

23 Responses to Bernie Madoff was a great investor. Used the wrong payment model.

  1. MMORaid says:

    You can’t really lump WoW and Eve with RIFT. Both of those are almost a decade old when subscriptions were standard and have a dedicated base that won’t leave. RIFT is probably the only game that’s lasted as a sub game in the last few years and even that is expected to go F2P within another year or two regardless of what Trion says.

    He’s right in the sense that the subscription model is dead, there’s too many good MMOs that are now F2P that if you want to charge a subscription, your game better be unique and absolutely amazing.

    • SynCaine says:

      What good F2P MMOs?

      • coppertopper says:

        MMORPGs are formulaic now. There is EQ2, LOTRO, aion, sto, and soon swtor. Hate the FTP in your face cash shop all you want, you can get your mob killing, quest npc clicking, resource node gathering on for free now until you are bored out of your skull then purchase the next level of content. Sub games are viable but not preferable anymore.

        • Rammstein says:

          “Bad MMORPGs are formulaic now. There are EQ2, LOTRO, aion, sto, and soon swtor, in this category. Hate the FTP in your face cash shop all you want, you can get your mob killing, quest npc clicking, resource node gathering on for free now until you are bored out of your skull then purchase the next level of content, or you could just shoot yourself. Sub games are viable but not preferable anymore, unless you have a brain which you prefer to use.”

          FTFY

        • Sand says:

          that’s wonderful and all, copper, but i believe the question was “what *good* FTP MMOs?”

        • MMORaid says:

          GW2 obviously, the soon to be released Planetside 2 and Firefall, then there’s games like AoC, Fallen Earth, DCUO, although you can argue whether or not those are “good games”. My point is there’s a lot to choose from.

        • SynCaine says:

          GW2 is a 30 day game (not to mention not being F2P), AoC sucks (former sub game), FE is meh (former sub game), DCUO is a 3 day game (that I’m surprised to hear is still online).

          None of those games listed hold a candle to WoW, Rift, or EVE, and I’d argue DF has been more successful than FE and DCUO commercially.

          So yes, lots of choice. All choices being some level of trash.

        • coppertopper says:

          Rift and WoW are both future FTP games, unless they adopt some pay to win strategy like eve does with offline levelling to keep you sub’d or else.

          Once again, the problem isn’t “can you afford $15/mo” it’s that the competition is growing – we no longer have to choose between 3 mmos – and they all offer the same gameplay just with strengths in certain areas (rifts on the fly spec changes/soul system, GW2s amazing feel of a living world, Lotro’s lore, SWTORs story).

        • SynCaine says:

          Don’t you find it telling that, in your view, you see Rift/SW/GW2 as similar games, despite one game still being a sub MMO, another never trying, and the last having already failed?

        • coppertopper says:

          All it says to me is if a game suits your taste it is worth whatever the publisher is selling it for, and quality will always be rewarded no matter the pricing model.

    • Lyss says:

      I have never ever read about someone who said

      “I quit SWTor because I dont wanna pay the 15 Dollar for this absolutely awesome game, I wish it would be f2p”

      Tor had no Problems to Sell a very good amount of copies and had initially a good playerbase, so why had it worked in the beginning and then the people just stopped? Did they grew tired of paying, did they all loose their jobs?

      In no way it is possible to get me a good game for free which would not be better if I paid 15 Euro for it whch in turn would be used to make the game better.

      Aside from that I find it ironic to say subs are dead in times where players first cry oceans about the crappy ending for a game and instead of just stop fucking buy bad products happily pay extra to get another ending. Thats like getting pissed on your already paid for steak from the chef and being dmb enough to pay him for another one. And this Time he wont piss on it. He promises!

      So why not pay a monthly sub on a very good mmo when you alredy pay a quarterly sub in form of dlcs for your already heavily overpriced mostly overrated singleplayer games?

  2. Point of order: Cryptic wasn’t “bought out.” It was sold by its parent company, Atari, when Atari decided (possibly because of the commercial failiure of CO and STO, which I contend are decent games despite all their flaws) to focus on mobile gaming.

    • Well, Cryptic was bought by Atari in late 2008 and the sold to Perfect World in mid 2011, and the only work they did before Atari, City of Heroes, was bought out by NCsoft. So they have three subscription model games that converted to F2P, one of which is being shut down, and two of which were never stellar performers.

      So you have to take their advice with that in mind I think.

  3. Bernard says:

    I know that WoT, LoL and TF2 sit in a different category, but do you honestly believe that they all suck because they couldn’t convince people to subscribe?

    You mention Zygna in this post, so you’re encouraging cross-genre comparisons.

    • SynCaine says:

      All the games you listed are good. They are not MMOs, and at least until recently WoT was P2W, while LoL has always been P4fluff. Don’t play much TF2 so not sure what they sell now.

      • To take an example closer to home:

        If Aventurine believed they could make more revenue from taking DF:UW F2P, would you expect them not to do it as a service to the fans?

        Would you consider the game a failure if they did?

        • Sand says:

          most assuredly. i wouldn’t even consider DFUW if it was F2P.

        • SynCaine says:

          It would be a totally different game, one the current crowd would not accept. Seeing as how AV is releasing a second game aimed at that crowd, it seems they are happy and successful catering to it.

          Had DF1 gone F2P, yes, it would have failed, because it would be AV saying that the crowd they had was not profitable, and that hopefully this other group (F2P people) will be.

    • Rammstein says:

      “You mention Zygna in this post, so you’re encouraging cross-genre comparisons.”

      Comparison of apples to oranges:

      (valid)
      apples have .66 IU of Vitamin E, oranges have none. oranges have .65 mg of selenium, apples have none.

      (invalid because you’re comparing apples to oranges)
      this apple tastes bad because it doesn’t taste like an orange.

      In the same way, cross-genre comparisons are indeed encouraged by many, as long as you avoid making a cross-genre comparison between non-MMO’s and MMO’s that include phrases like “do you honestly believe that they all suck because they couldn’t convince people to subscribe?” If you do that, which you did, then you’re making the latter kind of comparison, which is fail.

      • Not sure what your opinion is – but sorry you didn’t like my phrasing.

        • Rammstein says:

          I don’t have an issue with your syntax, I have an issue with your content.

          “but do you honestly believe that they all suck because they couldn’t convince people to subscribe?”

          This doesn’t make sense, because those games aren’t MMO’s.

          Not sure why this is unclear. Syn already said this, so I didn’t think I needed to repeat it.

  4. silvertemplar says:

    Well the important part of the original article and the part i took from it was not “subscriptions are dead” , but that “content is king” .

    So ironically i sit between 3 MMOs right now,
    1. Guild Wars 2 , paid for the box, and basically free for the rest
    2. LOTRO , paid for expansions up to Isengard (my char is still in Mirkwood). F2P from there with a “nickle and dime” thing in everything you do in that game.
    3. RIFT , paid for the Storm Legion Expac, subscription game which i haven’t played since launch after i hit the level cap .

    Trion opened the game for free this weekend , so i suppose everyone can just check out what has changed, because subscription games does have this “problem” of locking you out once you stop playing.

    Anyway, my point is, between the 3, i’m going to be playing Rift. Why? Content and Quality! Sure Arenanet did alot of good things, but Rift still did it better, and it’s even better now than before. I thought i was having ADD attacks in GW2 with all the activities to do, Rift actually got all the same activities but it’s so much more interesting. Character progression, sorry Rift does it better.

    Now as for LOTRO, also great content, but the age is showing and their F2P is becoming a nuisance to me. It’s like they put the Eye of Sauron on my actionbar making my character do the “cower in fear” thing and when i click it, it opens up the Turbine Store with a list of items to temporarily get the eye to look away from me.

    So interestingly Rift is a subscription game, and i would pay $15 a month if they could keep me captivated long enough. If their expansion content last me 6 months, i’ll pay the $15.

    Likewise if a F2P games captivates me for 6 months, you bet i’ll spend $15 a month on whatever stuff they got in the store, assuming it’s actually “content” and not “sparkly ponies” .

    SW:TOR is a RPG with an end, just like KOTOR or Mass Effect or Skyrim. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad game or even a “failed” game in terms of content/quality, they just did not seem to realise their game design implied people are going to eventually FINISH or STOP playing their game in the same time people finished Skyrim.

    It’s like Bethesda asking $15 a month while you play Skyrim and then wondering why everyone stopped playing Skyrim after 3 months! (a: because players are “done” with the game or b: players don’t feel the rest of the content is worth a subscription).

    • Shiolle says:

      First it’s snide of Craig Zinkievich to talk about money-grab as the cause of failure in new free to play projects when Cryptic and PW have been doing pretty much the same ever since converting STO to F2P. Probably the only reason why they weren’t sank by lawsuits when they introduced gambling (in 12+ rated game) via lockboxes is there were only digital prizes for winning. I’m sure they were drawing from Perfect World’s vast experience Craig is so fond of. Mindless introduction of new (often P2W) ships made a mess of space portion of the game. The way they introduce new content in tiny portions heavily geared towards mindless grind for months on end isn’t doing the game any good either.

      I’m so bitter about this because I found STO a decent MMO when it was a subscription game even if lacking in content or innovation. It had a really promising and fitting the setting feature of foundry and a lot of potential for innovation. But when faced with a choice to improve the game or milk it via free to play in the face of financial troubles, Cryptic chose the earthier way. They weren’t bold to innovate when they worked under Atari, and now they don’t seem to see the need to, when their project has stabilized under F2P.

      One thing not mentioned in the article is that using F2P as a ring-buoy for a sinking subscription MMO doesn’t make your game any better. You are still in the same ever growing ocean of other MMOs, some of which are still simply better for your audience. The breathing room given to you by the influx of new players who can’t pass something new labeled as free may end any day when those same people move on to another MMO.
      Even more likely such MMO will stabilize for a while, and its developers can congratulate themselves for making more money without improving the game. After all it’s easier to produce more ship models and tiny portions of content for players to grind than to really do something significant for your game to stand out among the crowd.

      Free to play may work better for developers who want to stay on the safe side and stick to their borrowed ideas, and try to catch up with pioneers of the genre. It doesn’t make subscription model dead though.

      P.S. I no longer play STO, but I still check on their progress from time to time.

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