Speaking of innovation…

The (not really all that) new MMO business model: Is your MMO ‘good’?

If you lied and said “Yes”, go to A.

If you ran out of money, need to ship the alpha, and said “No”, go to B.

A: Hold a closed beta open to everyone, drum up launch hype, pack a Collectors edition with a ton of junk, sell for full price or more. Promise the world a week or so after launch, while also talking about how you never expected such a strong response and that you are now playing catch-up. Patch some of the stuff you cut in beta into the game, showing how ‘agile’ your development is compared to everyone else.

Hype wears off, you actually launched another WoW-clone. Merge servers at some point, the longer you wait the worse things get. Make sure to release a paid expansion with all the other stuff you cut from release at full price. Expansion hype wears off even sooner. Go F2P shortly after. If your MMO is based on an IP, shut down. If not, get an intern to keep the lights on.

B: Hype launch, lie/cheat/murder to sound special, sell the box at full price. Wait for your game to die. The rate of death is directly tied to how bad your game is.

If death is measurable in weeks, announce a return to beta, ‘re-launch’ with a nice buzzword attached to the title, sell the game at a ‘discount’, then go F2P a month later. Shut down shortly after.

If death is measured in months, announce a “brand new, exciting” direction, go F2P. Plan B: Announce that subscriptions are a relic (despite you charging full price for a box just a few months ago) and that F2P is the new ‘it’ thing, and that you are simply doing what everyone else is doing (despite the good MMOs all being sub-based, still). Shut down months later when no one is looking.

Note: This post would be a lot funnier if any of the above was exaggerated or sarcasm. Recent MMOs off the top of my head that inspired this post: Alganon, APB, Gods and Heroes, Global Agenda, Champions Online, DCUO, PotBS. I’m sure I’m missing a bunch.

The point: If an upcoming MMO looks ‘interesting’, wait a month and play the F2P version, saving yourself $50. If an MMO looks like a ‘sure thing’, wait a month and pay $5 on Steam. If an MMO has ‘neat ideas’, play on day one because day three they are shutting down. Make sure to take day two off from work to really make that $50 count!

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Allods Online, Mass Media, MMO design, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Random, Rant, Rift, RMT, SW:TOR. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Speaking of innovation…

  1. Drew says:

    Is this the part where I point out the irony of section B and Darkfall 2.0? With a pending “re-launch” a.k.a. buzzword = “wipe”?

    For the record I don’t think Darkfall is terrible at all. Just a game you really need to invest yourself into the politics of to truly enjoy, but it doesn’t get a pass here, does it?

    • Rammstein says:

      It’s fairly asinine to compare a world reset, years later, with the phenomenon of relaunching a game that just launched last month. Might as well call every sequel a relaunch under your terminology.

      For the record, that means there’s no irony there, and it’s time to relaunch your comment.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’m not seeing it man.

      The wipe has not been (officially) confirmed, the game has been out 2+ years, the relaunch won’t be a re-buy, and the game is not going F2P. I think it pretty much misses all of B…

      • Carson says:

        Yeah, Darkfall might not have set the world on fire, but it certainly hasn’t followed the boom & bust trajectory of most MMORPG releases in recent years. To me it looks more like modest ambitions and modest success. I think if anyone looked back over pre-launch discussions (and all the accusations of vaporware!) I think they’d have to admit that it exceeded public expectations.

      • Drew says:

        I think it misses “Plan B” of section B, absolutely. Do I think Darkfall is currenty dying a slow death, though? Yeah, I do, which is why I think the re-launch hype machine is rolling. (And the fact it’s been slow being proportional to the length of time it’s taking for that to happen is a valid point about the game *not* being bad.) I think a re-launch would be good for DF, though- leveling the playing field again would probably draw in a lot of new blood.

        @Rammstein: I was speaking in general terms, not drawing a comparison to any other game – rather just using Syn’s outline above for section B. But yes, ultimately I think DF survives and probably thrives with a re-launch, so the “shut down thereafter” piece won’t apply and is a bad comparison.

        • SynCaine says:

          Kinda off topic, but if AV did not go into relaunch mode, they would have released an expansion or two more by now, keeping people interested and likely maintaining some of the momentum they had going after the second or third expansion (I forget when, but for a bit the pop was growing). Obviously when you don’t do major updates for a while, and then announce a relaunch, the in-game activity is going to dry up. I think they expected that, but are banking on getting a much, much larger base of players with this relaunch. Whether or not it happens all comes down to how much better 2.0 is. Hopefully it delivers.

  2. Tim Coninx says:

    Shouldn’t you be looking for a hobby outside MMO’s Syncaine ? The Cynism is getting far too strong in you.

  3. Angry Gamer says:


    Btw the innovation article in previous post only had like 2 credible game developer type quotes. The rest of the people were noobs just talking out their hindquarters. (the guy from ABP please take the opposite of what he says)


    Your cynical views of business models in the current environment are somewhat interesting.

    What is amazing to me now is that gaming studios/publishers are now more mainstream fixed asset companies.

    Back in the day we could care less if Blizzard went out of business after diablo 2. Now if a studio of an MMO is financially iffy. We have to strongly consider their viability to operate in our gaming decision.

    Due to game resales being a problem ALL publishers are either online or digitally updated. So… again we care now about that company behind the retail box.

    Trion or any other upstart may find it difficult to compete in a future of 2 or so BIG MMOs that are heavily backed. Much like we care if Ford of GM is a viable company BEFORE we buy their cars.

    Welcome to mainstream commerce gaming studios!

  4. Bronte says:

    Perfect examples:

    A: Champions Online
    B: Alganon.

  5. bhagpuss says:

    Did I miss the announcement where DCUO went F2P? And didn’t PotBS last several years as a subscription game?

    I put all the endless cynicism, naysaying and schadenfreude we see on MMO blogs and forums down to the exaggerated over-importance we give to these games. It’s just a hobby when it comes down to it, for heaven’s sake, for all that some seem to think it’s a religion.

    If you think an MMO isn’t much good, ignore it. If other people like an MMO you don’t, leave them to get on with it and mind your own business. None of it matters in the greater scheme of things.

    • Anonymous says:

      It all depends on who you are and how passionate you are about your hobby. If you are as passionate (about MMOs) as Syncaine you can expect exaggerated and even cynical statements on his blog. It’s not NYT or Wall Street Journal. Writing this blog is not his job. He doesn’t need to be heedful nor politically correct with his statements here. Obviously, blogging (cynically or not) about computer games doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things. But so what?

  6. Ardwulf says:

    Cynical even by your standards. I give it a 9.4.

    • SynCaine says:

      It is but it’s not.

      I mean, when Gods and Heroes came out for $50 + $15 a month, was there ANYONE, including the CEO of that company, that expected that to actually fly?

      Hell no, unless they expected to stay afloat with 100ish users (being nice).

      But they got their money from the dummies willing to buy on day one, milk that for a minute, then “play nice” and reduce the price to what it originally should have been (free in this case).

      And that’s just one example.

    • Straw Fellow says:

      I’m inclined to agree with Syn there. It would be cynical if he wasn’t just stating a bunch of unfortunate facts. The quality of a good number of MMO’s being released lately are simply not worth the box and sub fee anymore. Then they go free to play and quietly slip into obscurity until Massively runs an article about how they are shutting down. I played in Beta for Gods and Heroes and I figured out from the character screen alone that it wasn’t worth the money.

      We need either brand new concepts or an AAA budget to make a game that can compete at the sub level now.

  7. j3w3l says:

    i really don’t get why its either freemium or sub based, you would think there could be some middle ground by now. why not more just buy a box models like gw2, or have the base game free but have a monthly sub

    Also with overhead such as server costs going down pp and customer service basically being completely outsourced why is a sub still 15$

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