I saw a thread today on the LoL boards from Riot asking whether players would be ok with paying for additional features for the game. The thinking behind this was that if they are paid features, Riot can hire more people to create them rather than continuing as they are today and only having a staff supported by what they sell now. Unfortunately the post was vague in terms of WHAT those features were, and I’m guessing the reason I can’t find the link to it now is that it was deleted for exactly this reason. Well I saw it, and so here comes a post.
For starters, the idea of a donation box is a joke, and the only ones suggesting that idea are the cheap bastards who want to pay nothing and get AAA quality. You scum don’t count.
With that out of the way, I think there are a number of things Riot could introduce and sell that would still keep the core “you can’t buy power” design intact. The key is to not only design features that players would find attractive enough to pay for, but also something that would become a continues revenue stream rather than a one-time jolt. This is primarily an MMO blog, so I think you know where this is going.
Yup, subscription costs.
Be they tiered ($5, $10, $15) or not, subscriptions are by far the best way to generated repeat revenue, and so long as the price lines up with what is being offered, it would work. I’d start with a sub granting you access to the test server and a limited access test forum. This would allow those who pay to test out the latest patch, get an early look at new changes/features, and theoretically have a stronger influence on the game thanks to the test forum. Along those lines, I’d also create a subscriber-only forum viewable to all that would get increased coverage by Riot employees. Questions about balance, item design, theory, whatever; if you pay you are more likely (but not guaranteed) to get an answer directly from the source, plus less posts overall generally means higher total quality (basically any sub forum vs general).
I’d also discount skins and champions for subscribers, and perhaps have early access (as short as a week, as long as a month) to new skins as well. In addition, subscribers would get a monthly Riot Points bonus, so that even without spending MORE, you could still take advantage of the discount. Of course the idea is that once you start buying skins and such, you will be enticed enough to continue, and so subscribers would still buy additional Riot Points to feed the addiction, and this would not cap the amount any given player COULD spend on the game.
Finally I’d include side benefits like faster queue times, exclusive IRC dev chats, special forum and in-game icons, whatever ‘fluff’ to make the package more enticing without a massive dev effort.
Another area of potential similar to subs would be clans. Currently LoL has zero clan support, which is a very clear oversight in a game so dependant on playing with others, and while the current friends list is ‘good enough’, it could be so much more. A baseline clan (free) would just be a tag on your summoner name and a clan friends list. Those who pay a monthly “clan maintenance” fee could get additional benefits like clan vs clan matches (normal and ranked), clan statistics (similar to the current stats page for ranked games, but a cumulative one for everyone in the clan), member ranks and associated icons or colors, etc. Again whatever fluff that can be added to make it worthwhile but not require a massive effort. And the price would of course depend on how robust the features are and just what the market will accept. It could be as low as $3-$5 a month, or as high as $20 per clan, it depends on what’s added.
What can’t really be sold are things like maps, champions, runes, or anything else that is ‘core’ to the game or has a gameplay impact. Skins of course are just a visual, and clans, while helping a player OUTSIDE of a game, would do nothing a pre-made can’t do today. Many suggested downloadable solo player content, and while this would not in any way effect the ‘free’ game in terms of balance, it could potentially cost more to develop than it would be worth, especially since it would literally add NOTHING to those who don’t buy it. At least with clans and subs, the freeloaders can still see these things in-game and on the forums, which might motivate them to spend.
It’s definitely an interesting topic however, as the possibilities are many, and the chance for error great.
Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris always has a smirk on his face when he watches the show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.