Themepark goes F2P, take infinity

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%.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Rift, RMT, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Themepark goes F2P, take infinity

  1. John says:

    themepark is very catchy word lately that everyone use, mostly to show to others how awesome he is for playing “on the other side”. Still the majority of gamers are playing themepark games and rift goes F2P for much more subs than Darkfall probably…

    • Devore says:

      That’s the whole point. If DF can garner a core of subs by delivering a quality game and building a social community, and works within that budget (instead of aiming to be a WoW killer), it will be a very nice business for years. How many “subs” does Rift need to not shut down next year?

  2. Azuriel says:

    The sub model works for something like EVE because if you enjoy what EVE does, you either play EVE or nothing.

    It’s interesting that you say that. In the sort of ideal “Sandbox Age” scenario that follows themepark implosion, doesn’t this suggest that sandboxes will share the same eventual F2P fate? In other words, once the EVE-clones start rolling out, can EVE stay a subscription game?

    You can say that cloning EVE is hard, but I’m not sure anyone has seriously tried. If WoW folds into F2P while CU takes off, I’m pretty sure we’ll start to see sandbox clones sprout up all over the place. Plus, as you often say, it’s cheaper for the developers anyway since the players create the content.

    • SynCaine says:

      The EVE clones won’t start rolling out though, not in the way themeparks did.

      LotRO/AoC/WAR/Rift are all decent-to-good and people rotate in and out of them, semi-sustaining them for a bit. The formula is easy to understand and copy. You toss on a ‘unique’ feature or two, and you are good to ship. I mean if SW:TOR can attract the numbers it has despite it being what it is, then the bar is pretty low. Only the horrible themeparks die quickly.

      That’s not how a sandbox works, because you either do what you do well-enough to retain the niche you aimed at, or you don’t and insta-die. There is not the happy middle ground most themeparks sit in.

      People always questioned why anyone would playing anything but WoW if they want fantasy themepark MMO gameplay, and the answer is because WoW content runs out, and so you go to LotRO to find more.

      You don’t run out of content in EVE, not like you do in WoW, so if you are on a break from EVE, you don’t take it looking for more EVE-like stuff. If someone wants what EVE does, they play EVE, and that leaves little to no room for a clone.

      • Halycon says:

        I don’t think we’re going to see Eve-Clones because no-one can do it. 15 years of solid development; adding features, tweaking features, overhaluing features, graphical upgrades, and what not. Eve is a BIG game.

        Could you imagine the development costs to launch a feature complete Eve Clone? At a guess, a guess, to go from nothing to current Eve would be swtor money to develop.

        And you can’t just go find a game designer off the street to build it for you. There are tons of Themepark MMO developers out there, toss a rock, you’ll find one. Game designers that make the type of game Eve is? CCP has them all. And they aren’t going to leave for your maybe failure of a game when they have the most coveted position in all of game development. Stable employment in an enviornment that wants it’s employees to be long term productive members so doesn’t push them past the point of burnout.

        We’ll see more sandbox games. We’ll never see an Eve Clone.

    • Mig says:

      There is one EVE-clone out there, Perpetuum Online. It is essentially Eve’s with Mechs instead of spaceships. It has been out since 2010 and if I remember correctly has always been $10 a month subscription.

  3. Chris says:

    I don’t think being a theme park is the reason why a game like LotRO struggled to maintain under F2P. Theme parks are a legitimate type of MMO and are capable of remaining in active development for years and years. The problem is that a) the shift to F2P fundamentally undermines subscription-based design and b) F2P design shifts development attention from producing the best game they can to being as subtly manipulative as they can; game quality serves the cash shop instead of subscriptions demanding high quality content. The cultural shift to F2P has caused games like RIFT to shift and may well lead to them falling apart. If F2P never came to be, it’s perfectly possible that RIFT would have risen as one of the best, most sustainable themeparks out there. But it did come to be and now the game can’t survive without it. It’s like being caught in a trap… A product of being released at the start of a transition period for the genre.

    • Point b has really hit home the last 6 months or so in LOTRO. First was the introduction of “Mithril Coins” as a consolidated currency to buy in-game conveniences. And now as of this week we have “Hobbit Gift boxes”, which give you a daily free random reward. If you want to more than one gift box per day, just pick one up with…you guessed it, a mithril coin.

      Has F2P helped out Turbine? Yes. Its kept LOTRO/DDO alive and with more new content than if they would have stayed sub based. But even for a LOTRO fanboi (who shelled out cash to get a lifetime sub in closed beta), this stuff is going a little bit too far for me. They’re trending so far into the world of Asian MMOs that I’m pretty sure the next time they update the character models, they’ll have blue hair and saucer sized eyes…

    • Rammstein says:

      “I don’t think being a theme park is the reason why a game like LotRO struggled to maintain under F2P. [followed by reasons why F2P is bad]”

      If you were correct, then LotRO would have succeeded as a sub game, and would never have gone F2P. that isn’t the case, so your argument is flawed.

      “Theme parks are a legitimate type of MMO”

      No one’s saying Theme Parks are not born from married mothers, they’re saying they’re doomed to failure. Legitimacy is not the issue.

      “and are capable of remaining in active development for years and years. ”

      It doesn’t appear so.

      • kalex716 says:

        If they come up with some new rides they might not be….

      • Chris says:

        I don’t believe LotRO went F2P because it was floundering. It went shortly after DDO surprised everyone by making its incredible comeback. The transition, at that point, seemed less about desperation and more about perceived opportunity.

        The rest of your reply is failed trolling and misses the point of WHY which I address in the comment. Glad you like your sandboxes. So do I… I just don’t accept that any one type of game is bad just because I don’t play it exclusively. You apparently do.

        • Rammstein says:

          “I don’t believe LotRO went F2P because it was floundering.”

          I do; are we agreeing to disagree on this, or are you interested in presenting an argument to support your position?

          “The rest of your reply is failed trolling and misses the point of WHY which I address in the comment. Glad you like your sandboxes. So do I… I just don’t accept that any one type of game is bad just because I don’t play it exclusively. You apparently do.”

          Your reply to me makes little or no sense. I didn’t say I like sandboxes, in that reply. I didn’t say that I think that themeparks are bad. I did address the “point of WHY”. The correspondence between what I actually said and what you claim I said is at 0%; unless you can change something there’s little point in continuing to attempt to communicate.

      • silvertemplar says:

        LOTRO/DDO is a bad example in all of this. Turbine is probably considered “founders” of F2P mechanics in big MMOs. This implies, they kinda did it blind, without knowing what to expect. They also did not design their games to be F2P and was taking a shot at a new business model. It worked on DDO , so they did not hesitate to apply it to LOTRO.

        There’s a difference between making a F2P now, designing for it and knowing what to expect, compared to exploring the idea of F2P.

        So , going forward, comparing the success of Turbine vs. all the F2P conversions and made-for-f2p that followed is not exactly a good idea.

        It’s like comparing WoW’s success to anything that followed afterwards. It’s a bit of an exception….

  4. Pingback: Free to Play Foibles | Leo's Life

  5. Aeek says:

    to clone EVE you also need to clone the players, and their evolution over time, including the metagames

  6. silvertemplar says:

    The sub model in EVE works because if you play EVE enough you don’t have to pay a sub! Why is everyone conveniently skipping that part.

    If WoW had the same functionality, to play the AH, or grind a few dailies or do some farming to pay your sub every month, wouldn’t that actually make players play more often, and with more intensity?
    Imagine you could convert that $15 sub into a heap of gold which in turns convert back into paying someone else’s sub aka “PLEX” ?

    How many veterans in EVE actually pay a sub? The EVE setup implies veterans are retained easier , compared to WoW where veterans don’t have that incentive to keep them going….

    • sleepysam says:

      Does DFUW have any sort of plex in it? There’s one piece of the eve model they might consider.

    • SynCaine says:

      It’s skipped because whether someone is paying $30 a month or zero, at the end of the day 500k+ subs/PLEX are being consumed a month, and that consumption rate is only increasing. If WoW had PLEX, sure, maybe someone with way too much gold would stay active for another month or two, but people don’t leave WoW because $15 is too much, they leave because they ‘finish’ the game. That’s the themepark flaw.

  7. Friar Tuckk says:

    I’m seeing the theme park developers focusing on 6 month to 1 year expansions to bring players back. It seems to be the trend where you play for the new content and then move on. Once your done riding the new roller coaster it’s time to move on. I’m not really seeing anything wrong with this either. The market will probably continue to fragment as WoW declines and we see the maturity of a large portion of the MMO community. But there will always be a niche game that each person wants to play. DF:UW and EvE being a good examples of playing to it’s strength and pulling in players interested in their particular style of game play.

    The main question for the theme park non-sandbox games though is if the game and expansion is good enough to pull the right amount of players back in for long enough to sustain the games continued development. I think that companies that do that will have continued success and those that don’t will go the way of the Dodo.

    The paradigm shift from people playing one game for years is moving to people playing several games one after the other and then looping back around as new content for consumption is available. That is the way of the mainstream casual players and that is where a lot of companies hope the big dollars are.


  8. Tierless says:

    FTP is how sub MMOs “jump the shark”. For MOST MMOs the conversion to FTP is a sad last ditch effort to save your game. Most of the time it’s the last stop before the dreaded purgatory that is “maintenance only” (libations to WAR just now). The reality is FTP is kinda like a tattoo, it sounded cool at the time but before you knew it you ended up with a permanent bullseye on your lower back, and getting it undone is painful, expensive, and generally just not worth the effort. Personally when I hear a game “went FTP” I picture that scene from Transformers the 80’s movie where Optimus Prime is on his deathbed (still gives me a lump in ma’ throat).

Comments are closed.