MMO future: Social baseline

October 17, 2013

At the time of its release, WoW was criticized for not bringing much to the MMO genre, and simply being a refined EverQuest. Refining someone else’s idea was, after all, how Blizzard made a name for themselves originally. In 2004, it was a valid complaint.

By 2013 standards, not so much, considering what Rift, SW:TOR, or GW2 have brought to the market. And while it is certainly true that today’s MMO player is not as easily entertained as the average player was back in 2004 (where simply logging into a server and seeing others run around was a new thing for many), current offerings are also not even bringing to the table what WoW did in 2004, and the retention rates reflect that.

As I previously mentioned, a game generating enough interest/hype that ‘everyone’ wants to play day one is a huge factor in getting the social ball rolling for your title, and those social hooks are a major retention tool. At the same time, your game has to be different-enough that once everyone arrives, they stick around past the normal 3-month drop-off.

WoW certainly had that, in no small part because leveling to the then-cap of 60 was at least 3 months of gameplay (the insanity of viewing that as a problem to fix has never made sense to me). The longer you play one title, especially in a social setting, the more time the hooks have to develop, and the more likely you are to get involved in some form of end-game. One of the not-so-hidden dangers of being ‘accessible’ and letting everyone level to the cap solo is you deny people the natural social evolution of your game, and no matter how awesome your one-and-done content is, an MMO ultimately lives or dies by its repeatable content, be it dungeons, instances, PvP, etc.

That repeatable content is, overall, not amazing stuff. Its degree of fun can vary, but it can’t compete straight up with one-off stuff for the most part. The reason players stick around for months/years to run it is mostly due to the social hooks. A dungeon might not be amazing the 50th time through, but if you are doing it with a fun group that you meet in that game, its enjoyable-enough to keep going, especially if you are working together to advance to bigger and better things.

There is absolutely no better example of this than EVE and the ‘action’ of null-sec. Waiting HOURS to form up a giant fleet only to shoot at a structure and then head home is likely not on anyone’s top list of awesome things to do in an MMO, yet year after year EVE retains and grows while pilots in null-sec continue to do what they do. Why? Because sometimes that fleet will result in a massive, epic battle. But just as important; because shooting that structure and winning advances your alliance forward, and that’s important in EVE. The players are invested because of the social hooks, and those social hooks don’t magically appear at the level cap.

The next big MMO needs to find that sweet spot of fostering and encouraging the social aspect while not falling into the ‘forced grouping’ trap. It also needs to contain enough quality new stuff to keep people interested long enough for those hooks to develop. Those are both easy to describe but difficult to execute items, but if we are to see an MMO ‘work’ anywhere close to the level of a WoW or an EVE, it will contain them and perform them well.


The case for expansions

October 3, 2013

The recent lack of Darkfall posts is due, surprise, to an overall lack of playing DF lately. It’s moved from a game I played daily to something I put a few hours into a week, which in turn moves me out of keeping up with the day-to-day clan stuff and being part of the daily adventures that happen.

As I’ve long stated, either you are invested in an MMO and fully ‘get’ it, or you are at best floating along with it. I’m seriously floating with DF right now, and that sucks.

Part of the blame is personal. I know if I made an effort to log into the game more, I’d get more out of it. I’d once again become embedded in the day-to-day stuff and that’s very important in a sandbox. Momentum and all that. But I need Aventurine to do their part, and I just don’t think they are fully holding up their end of the bargain, at least enough for me.

I’ve been personally making the (unfair) comparison between DF and EVE lately, as EVE is once again tempting me to stop just training and start actually playing. Jester tracks EVE player activity as it relate to expansions, and one of the observations that is backed up by solid data is that between expansions activity dips.

What if you never do expansions?

That’s currently where DF:UW is, and I think the in-game activity and overall excitement reflects it. Semi-consistent patches are good and important, but there really is something about an expansion coming out, and its more than just getting more ‘stuff’ all in one day. It’s about generating excitement and getting people over the hump and back in full-time.

DF:UW right now, IMO, needs that jolt. It’s a much better MMO than it’s population reflects, but it’s also an MMO that makes it very easy to drift away, while at the same time not doing much of anything to get new blood in or old blood to return.


Today’s Kool-Aid flavor is grape. Grape and failure

August 28, 2013

A lot of funny stuff is happening in this post over at TAGN, please go check it out. My only major complaint is that Wilhelm was light on the actual insults. I’m going to try and correct that here.

I think the biggest gain from that post is my discovery of a new blog: Zen of Design. The title is a bit misleading though; I think it would be far more accurate to call the blog “Tales from a hotbar salesmen”. That aside, its great reading, in much the same way the comments section on Massively is ‘great reading’. Just quotes on top of quotes of goodness.

But before we get to that, a few quick points from the TAGN piece; has anyone ever considered that while you benefit from having multiple accounts in EVE, the real reason so many do it is because they really, really like the game? We talk all the time about what a huge insurmountable barrier $15 a month is, so what are EVE players telling you about their game when they happily pay $30, $45, or more per month, for months if not YEARS at a time? (I really only want replies to this from people who have an above-Tobold understanding of EVE, thanks).

On the chances of TESO or WildStar being successful; in a genre with F2P abominations like SW:TOR, B2P 3-week titles like GW2, and “I have nothing in common with my 2004 version” WoW, is it really that unimaginable that there are hundreds of thousands of players just looking to play/pay for 2005/6 WoW in 2014? I don’t mean an exact copy/paste job, but I’m not buying this notion that all gamers have evolved into something unrecognizable from 2005. Not saying that either TESO or WildStar will become that game, but if/when someone does, my bet is they will be successful (just not perfect-storm WoW successful)

Those points aside, let’s get back to my new favorite blog, shall we?

I’ll state this up front; the below is a little unfair. The writer is working for EA and SW:TOR, so perhaps a lot of this is just singing the company line rather than personal belief. That said, no one (I think) is forcing the guy to write this, so it’s fair game.

“It probably comes as no surprise that I have discovered religion about Free 2 Play in a big way. It’s very clearly the way that the future of the genre is going, and any new competitor that enters the space is going to face immense competition from the rest of us that now provide a pretty substantial amount of gameplay for free. Right now, WoW is the only successful subscription-only MMO in the west, and even they seem to be sticking their toe in the pool.”

Let’s do a real quick recap of SW:TOR and its initial aim:

1) It had a built-in audience thanks to its IP (Star Wars), the devs (BioWare), and prior games (KOTOR)

2) It had the biggest budget of any MMO, with the marketing power of EA

3) Its goal initially was to challenge WoW, a title that retained millions of subscribers year after year (until everyone with talent left the company, and the interns started doing updates/working on Diablo 3)

What actually happened:

1) The launch was a disaster, with ridiculous bugs (invuln dancing), high-res textures being held out, and countless PR embarrassments

2) Players were jumping ship at an amazing rate, thanks to the game being a shallow, sub-par sRPG on a tragically terrible engine that couldn’t handle more than 5 players in one area

3) The game was forced into the F2P minor leagues

4) The F2P model itself might be the biggest joke amongst all offerings, including the beyond-ridiculous option to buy hotbars. It’s so bad that when Massively put up a “it’s not that bad guys!” piece about it, readers were not sure if it was satire or not.

5) EA has been trying to distance themselves from the title ever since, downplaying its impact during financial calls and trying to redirect attention to its successful properties

6) The heads of BioWare threw in the towel shortly after SW:TOR crashed.

So, that is the basis of Damion’s new ‘religion’. Whelp.

(Talking about NVN and Marvel Superheroes) “It also means they get to avoid the stigma of ‘failure’ that comes from a hasty conversion. Perhaps the most painful part of transitioning SWTOR from subscription to Free-to-play was reading all of the commentary describing us as a failed game, when all of the internal numbers we had showed that F2P completely reinvigorated the game.

So wait, SW:TOR isn’t a failed game that was forced into F2P, but yet was reinvigorated by F2P? I was not aware something already successful can get reinvigorated. Usually we call that “more of the same”.

Which again brings up the question seemingly no one has an answer to; why is it that only failed MMOs go F2P? Why is it that failed F2P games don’t go subscription? Why is it that when a F2P game does really well (Allods, somehow…), it goes from F2P to subscription? Why is it that successful MMOs (EVE, WoW for now) stay subscription? If F2P is so awesome, so amazing, so “the future”, why is it only used when you either have a subpar MMO out of the gate, or you fail as a sub? Anyone?

Free-to-play is all about making the game accessible – getting more people into the front door. SWTOR’s success here is no fluke – DDO reported that their concurrent players increased 5x. For LOTRO, the number was 3x. If anyone wants to see the effects of Free to Play on logins, check this chart

Again, that “SW:TOR success” part cracks me up, as does including a link to DDO from 2009 (at the time of the F2P conversion) and LotRO from 2010. Damion, why have you not provided more recent links to DDO and LotRO success stories? It can’t possibly be because going F2P from subs is a one-time boost for a failing game that fades and you return to just being a failed game, can it? Based on those 2009 and 2010 stories, Turbine must be straight killing it today right? What’s that, Turbine has been in financial trouble for a while now? But F2P really saved those games, didn’t it? Just like it’s going to save SW:TOR, won’t it?

Whether or not the billing model of Eve’s economic-spreadsheet driven libertarian paradise is right for a fledgling mass market MMO remains to be seen. But I doubt it.

As I’ve mentioned before, if someone associated with SOE or SW:TOR tells you something is bad, put the house on that something working out. Easy money.

One of my mantras about being a free-to-play game is that, in order to call yourself that, your evangelists have to feel good about telling their casual friends, “Yeah, you can totally play for free!”

You sell hotbars. Your fluff piece about your F2P model over at Massively was ridiculed. YOU MIGHT HAVE THE WORST F2P MODEL IN THE GENRE. Dude…

And all of those delicious quotes off just one post. So, so much more to dig into in the days to come.

Edit: F2P ALL THE WAAAAYYY (out the door)


The cure for F2P disease is quality

August 22, 2013

In the comments section from yesterday’s post, Rohirrim raised the issue that with so many failed MMOs being demoted to the F2P minor leagues, gamers today might be weary of jumping on a new game that is sub-based for fear of the F2P switch. I think the issue has two parts, one being overall recent market conditioning (which includes things like Steam sales rewarding waiting rather than buying on day one), and the other being the somewhat recent sub-to-F2P trend.

Both problems are solved by having a quality game, but making a good game is hard.

When a new game is released on Steam, I only pay full price if I want the game right away, and the only games I want right away are the best ones (for me, of course) or if my friends are playing it and I want to join in. Civ V and its expansions were full-price purchases, and I consider those money well spent. Same for XCOM and Skyrim. How many people paid $30+ for ARMA II because their friends were playing Day Z and they just had to jump in? But that is a high bar to reach, and again, most devs can’t reach it.

The same goes for MMOs; if you have a good MMO with good retention, you stay with the subscription model. If you launch an MMO that can be ‘finished’ in 3 weeks/months, or one that doesn’t have the social hooks to keep guilds going, you switch to F2P and milk suckers with the F2P math tax for as long as you can get away with it.

Will WildStar or TESO be good-enough to stay as subscription games? We’ll find out ‘soon’. At the very least, they are not throwing in the F2P towel on day one, so they have that going for them.

But let’s not kid ourselves, no successful MMO has ever switched to F2P, because if you have a successful title, the subscription model is where the money is in NA/EU (Asia is completely different for countless reasons). You don’t go F2P because you will make MORE money with a successful title, you go to F2P because you are failing and a cash shop might hook enough suckers to keep you afloat, especially early on as you have not yet destroyed your overall game with the kind of additions you will eventually add to the shop (gear, lockboxes, etc).

And the F2P “sell the future for the present” design destruction will only accelerate as the dummies catch on. You (usually) can only fool someone a few times before they realize buying lockbox keys is stupid, or that they are paying way more than $15 just to come close to getting what they had before with a subscription. Zynga made a lot of money when it beat everyone else to those tricks, but it caught up to them (as did the laws) and the company is worth a fraction of what it once was (that they are still in business is a miracle actually).

By the time EQN is finally released, how many uneducated F2P dummies will be left? By that time, how many actual MMO gamers will be fed up with the cash shop trash and looking for a straight-up deal? Even at a site like Massively we are already starting to see such comments, and if there was ever a bastion for F2P dummies, its Massively.

Side-note; I think the next evolution of the sub model will be to increase the monthly cost. The sub ‘barrier’ of $15 is nothing to something who actually wants to play an MMO, and the only people you are going to lose are the people who were already flaky. If you have a solid title, I don’t think increasing the cost to $20 or even $30 a month is going to matter to fans (again, people paid $30 for ARMA, an older title, just to play a mod), while it would allow a developer to continue operating at a certain level with a smaller total population.

Even at $30 a month, an MMO you play as your primary source of gaming would still be ridiculously cheap entertainment compared to anything else, but it would more than double the income a studio would get per player, lowering the ‘make or break’ threshold and allowing for more target-focused titles, rather than the ‘try to cater to everyone, deliver to no one’ junk we have been seeing over the last few years.

 


WildStar – I can’t say it sucks, yet

August 20, 2013

TAGN beat me to posting about the WildStar PLEX plan. /agree

It works in EVE because EVE has a balanced economy. WildStar being a themepark, it won’t (feel free to bookmark this and come back 6 months into release and tell me otherwise).

What I do find interesting is that WildStar, being an NCSoft title, is going to charge a sub, while GW2, also under NCSoft, does not. Now sure, GW2 is a sequel to GW1, which was also sub-free, but Anet never set out to create an MMO with GW1, while they most certainly tried with GW2. Pretty clear message NCSoft is sending with this announcement; WildStar is not a 3 week vacation.

Whether it succeeds or not I can’t tell yet, mostly because I’ve not been following the game closely and I’ve yet to read anything convincing about it one way or the other.

Now that I think about it, that’s a huge compliment to the game actually. Past MMOs have been easy; be it SW:TOR (4th pillar of fail), GW2 (living world of static zones), TESO (“we reskinned WoW with the ES IP, yo”), or EQN (SOE, parkour, boss red boxes, countless design fails in a single presentation) those games and many others were/are/will be DOA. I can’t say that about WildStar yet. Congrats?


EQN – Player freedom is too scary for most

August 12, 2013

The most interesting topic around right now is how a living ecosystem or smart AI could actually work in an MMO. Now, before you go ahead and comment “but SynCaine, you already told us how it would work in 2011”, the post today will go into a bit more detail, as well as cover some “what not to do” aspects.

At a high level, letting your players determine how an MMO goes forward is a very scary thing for most companies. If you give the players a chance to save the world, and they fail (intentionally or not), assuming failing has a real consequence (which it must if the chance was ‘real’ to begin with), are you ready to face the backlash of a destroyed world and what it could do to your player base?

Most companies are not. The ‘fail’ state is often just a delay, and sometimes players STILL get rewards.

EVE is one of if not the most ‘sandbox’ MMO out right now. CCP gives the players great freedom to manipulate the economy, determine territory control, and fight/harass each other. But that freedom can also result in things like Burn Jita, where the Goons decide they are going to shut down the biggest market hub in the game and kill anyone near it, simply because they can. Would Blizzard ever let players do that? Will SOE in EQN?

The comical part of the above is an event like Burn Jita most likely gets CCP more subs than it costs them, because EVE gets a ton of free marketing out of the great player stories it creates, even if those stories result in some players un-subbing because of them. The willingness to let the players sort themselves out is something most companies are missing, because it’s scary, and the genre has a history of that ending poorly (Shadowbane and its infamous “play to crush”, where the players did just that to the game). But those poor results are not because the players are jerks, but because of poor design. SB failed not because the players choked every server, but because the design allowed and encouraged them to do so.

A living ecosystem and mobs actually roaming/reacting is exactly a test of this; how much control are you going to give the players? Are the players driving the game, or are they simply answering the occasional yes/no question along a pre-set dev storyboard?

The EQN example of a tent city becoming something more smacks of yes/no storyboarding. Why is ‘phase 2’ attacks from an underground cave? Are the devs just predicting players will dig, or is phase 1 of the PQ a digging event that just walks the players to phase 2? Much like GW2 and its ‘living’ zones, I suspect EQN will play it very safe, and rather than a living world, we will simply see a series of pre-planned dev events that players progress through. And just like in GW2, it will feel fake and pointless once you have seen the ride once. The big selling point SOE made was that their PQ takes 2-3 months, and once completed goes away. Neat, sure, but not all that different from the on-rails scripted content of every other themepark.

The mob AI is the same thing. Can the players truly hunt creatures out, or will hunting them simply trigger phase 2 of the cycle? The cycle approach seen in GW2 is again easy and safe, and not just for the devs, but the players as well. How much frustration would the average GW2 player experience if they headed to their favorite farming zone after work only to see that everything has been wiped out and migrated to the other side of the world (let’s pretend GW2 has meaningful travel and not teleporting all over)?

In GW2 that can’t happen, because the devs played it safe. In EVE it can.

If you live in a wormhole, your sleeper sites can be run by visitors, and given the respawn timer and mechanics, this could result in your home being devoid of PvE content for hours if not days (if you get camped or the visitors cycle correctly). This temporary extinction is also noticeable to the players because it happened in a space they care about (their home wormhole), and they can’t simply teleport over to the next zone and farm away.

In order for these things to matter, they must have positive AND negative aspects. If you remove all the negative, your players will notice and shortly stop caring. Those GW2 centaurs are probably attacking a village right now, and no one outside the zone cares because that village burning has zero consequence, no matter how hard a manifesto tried to tell us otherwise. EQN is in its own ‘manifesto’ stage right now. Will SOE dare to make more than just hype out of it? And if they do, will they have the talent to avoid the pitfalls of SB and the like?


The blogs reflect the genre

July 10, 2013

This post about blogging over at TAGN, along with the comments, is worth reading, even if you are only vaguely interested in the topic of MMO blogs. As the posts-per-day rate here has slowed over the last two months, it’s a topic I’ve thought about as well. This blog is almost 6 years old now (yikes), and I still don’t feel like I’m ‘done’ talking about the MMO genre. At the same time, something has happened to slow the content rate here, and not all of that can be pinned to changes in my RL (though that is a major factor). So what exactly is going on?

First, I don’t think the fad that is blogging is passing, if only because it never was a fad to begin with. Sure, blogging might have had its ‘time in the sun’ around the time the Warhammer hype machine was at its peak, but it was around before that and is still around after. So long as MMOs still somewhat resemble virtual worlds, they will be worth writing about.

What is happening is that the genre itself is changing, and right now the change is just not really giving us much to talk about. A little history lesson first.

When I was writing about WoW sucking before writing about WoW sucking was cool, a major reason for that was because Blizzard was shaping the genre, and the direction they were going in was not one I liked (or that works). I don’t really care about Blizzard/WoW now because they are non-factors. No one is building the next ‘WoW-killer/clone’. No one is taking a great IP (Warhammer) and driving it into the dirt thanks to the WoW taint.

Right now, everyone is basically in two camps. You are either in the EAWare camp, where you just believe MMOs don’t work, or you are in the indy camp, where you understand that MMOs work when they are virtual worlds rather than sRPGs with a login server, and that the market for THAT is not millions. There is no “let’s make a bigger/better WoW” camp, and so I no longer need to keep educating people about it. You’re welcome. When WoW goes F2P in 2015, it won’t be a surprise but rather confirmation of about a hundred posts I made in 2007/8. Feel free to look back and just leave a “damn, Syn right again” comment on each one. It’s the least you can do.

Where MMOs are going is both obvious and as uncertain as ever. It’s obvious because EVE is still crushing it and for good reason; it’s the definition of MMO design done right. If only someone had pointed that out in 2007… What’s really scary is that CCP might be doing its best work with the game right now, ten years in, so rather than decline like “all MMOs do”, EVE is still very much on the way up, with the only real question being just how high up it will go. I know I said the market is not millions, but CCP might prove me wrong in a few years.

The uncertain part is, spaceships aside, where does everyone else go? I think Darkfall: Unholy Wars is a much improved version of DF, and the patches Aventurine has been doing are hitting all the right areas, but the game and the company behind it have a long, long way to go before they reach anything close to current EVE/CCP status. The foundation is there, certainly, but the goal is so far away its borderline impossible to even think about right now. And much like EVE itself, DF doesn’t NEED 1m subs to be what it needs to be. The current population in the game is just right; fights can be found, but the world is not overcrowded to the point of game-breaking (as can happen).

GW2 continues to do what it’s doing, but nothing since the 3rd week has struck me as a reason to return. It’s just there, which since day one has pretty much been the issue with the game. Again, there is a reason Anet isn’t asking for a monthly fee, and it’s not because they are just that nice. Similar statements can be made about most other MMOs; it’s amazing SW:TOR has not been shut down, Secret World is what it is, and a few other titles are chugging along or milking the last bits for whatever is left (LotRO).

The genre is evolving and devolving at the same time. It’s evolving in terms of how games are made; Kickstarter being the biggest factor, but even having games on Steam vs requiring a box in a store is a big change for gaming, and MMOs in particular. A niche game for 50k gets made today if that 50k votes with their wallet strongly enough, while just a few years back this wasn’t the case.

It’s devolving in that we are returning to games based off what Ultima Online was trying to do (virtual world) vs what WoW became (sRPG). Designing your game for a target audience vs ‘for everyone’ is once again happening. Games with scale and longevity are being pitched. Catering to the lowest common denominator is once again seen as a negative.

The great unknown right now is whether the above will deliver or not. Will an MMO off Kickstarter release and be what it promised? Are all of the devs that today talk about “not being WoW” follow through, or are we just in another Warhammer cycle where people in white shades talk about bears but really just deliver a crappy knockoff?

And because all of this is unknown right now, we can’t really blog about it at length. The genre, and as a result, blogs covering the genre, are in a bit of wait-and-see mode.


The difference between good and great games

June 17, 2013

If there is one thing real MMO fans struggle with it’s the acceptance of ‘grind’ to justify progression or rewards. This is often expressed as “remove all the crap and just let us do the fun stuff”, and in that form it almost makes sense. After all, we play games to have fun, right? So anything ‘unfun’ sounds counterproductive. Yet much like anything else in life, working towards something is just as important, if not more so, than the actual result.

The lack of full multiplayer in “Eador: Masters of a Broken World” brilliantly drives this home. In that game, the only multiplayer you have is essentially the pivotal moment of any game; the one big battle between the two sides to decide a winner. Before the game you pick your hero, level him up, and select items and units based on point values. Your opponent does the same, and when ready you fight it out.

What you can’t do is play the hundreds of turns building up that hero/army, finding all the items, and all of the other stuff you do as part of the normal game. That, hopefully, will be patched in ‘soon’.

If we return to the first paragraph of this post, the MMO argument is that Eador removed the grind and let you jump right to the fun stuff. And for a match or two the multiplayer is fine. It’s entertaining-enough coming up with different combos of heroes and units and quickly testing them out. The fights themselves are also generally close thanks to the point system. Perfect right?

Again, for a fight or two. But after that my friend and I were both wishing we could play the full game, because the real fun is in playing to GET to that final fight, even if it’s more lopsided when it happens than the staged fights. And when looking at what makes a game great, the ability to keep playing it ranks high.

A good game will entertain you for 10 hours; a great one can do it for 1000.

GW2 is a cute 3 week distraction; EVE is a 10 year masterpiece.


Honesty

June 7, 2013

GamesIndustry International recently spoke to David Reid, CCP’s chief marketing officer about both EVE and Dust 514.

“The thing about Dust is not the shiniest guns or the perfect shooting mechanics; it’s about this meta-game, and the persistence, and the customisation, and we do think that we’re doing that better than anybody else. It won’t be for everyone. It won’t be the EVE learning curve, but it certainly won’t be the Call of Duty learning curve, either. It won’t be everyone that figures this out right away, but it doesn’t have to be either.”

 

Now sure, I’m a bit biased because I’m a card-carrying member of the “CCP are the best” fanclub, but still, how many devs will ever admit that their game is not for everyone. Furthermore, how many will point at the biggest title in a genre and say “we are not like that”?

Maybe if more devs had that attitude and honesty, we would get fewer GW2-style “redefining” of genres and more games that actually move the needle.


Themepark goes F2P, take infinity

May 15, 2013

Some quick thoughts on the Rift F2P thing, since a few people have asked.

First, it’s not surprising. Scott Hartsman leaving Trion was basically the “Rift is going F2P” announcement.

Second, not surprising given what Rift is. It’s an above-average themepark MMO. Being a 3.0 themepark still does not fix the core problem (being a themepark), and so F2P happens.

Third, F2P won’t save Rift, like it hasn’t saved any other MMO going F2P. Trion will likely release some nice-sounding numbers in 2-3 months, telling us that players/sales/whatever are up 500% and F2P is a massive success. Then they won’t tell us anything for a few months and eventually layoffs will happen. It’s the Turbine story with DDO/LotRO all over again. Again, F2P does not fix the core problems of your game (being a themepark), and ultimately just adds issues to it (the shop and how to get people to buy).

WoW will likely be the last themepark to go F2P, and that will happen soon (2014 remember). The issue isn’t that F2P is great for players and devs (it’s not), the issue is that themeparks are all more of less the same, so when one is just above-average, unless it really clicks with you (and continues to click for months), you might as well go with the F2P one over the $15 one (not how I would do it, but I think that’s how many look at it). Or hell, drop $50 and mess around with GW2 for a few weeks and return whenever content gets added.

The sub model works for something like EVE because if you enjoy what EVE does, you either play EVE or nothing. There is no EVE clone (because making EVE is hard, cloning WoW is easy), and EVE is not designed to be fun for a few weeks. It’s a hobby. Same for Darkfall. The target audience is much smaller than EVE, but the fact remains that if you like what DF does, it’s that or (maybe) Mortal Online, and MO is a mess. Why does Camelot Unchained have a chance as a subscription game? Because if it does what it aims to do even reasonably well, the options will be CU or nothing.

I also think long-term F2P is either going to evolve or eat itself alive. Selling fluff junk is not sustainable, players will eventually catch on to the lottery schemes, and the NA/EU market is not nearly as tolerant of P2W as Asia is. As themeparks race to the bottom, the quality will continue to dip, the shop scams will get worst, and eventually most are going to wake up and realize that playing a graphically better version of Farmville is not worth the time, aggravation, or cost.

Themeparks need to evolve or they will go the way of Farmville.

Edit: Also see this TAGN post about F2P, as I agree with it 100%.


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