The “Premium Theater” MMO

Story time.

A few years ago the local movie theater introduced the Premium Theater. It’s $20 a ticket, which includes popcorn and soda. The entrance to this area is separate from the general entrance, its 21+ due to the area having a bar, and you can order food to be brought to your seat. Its assigned seating (pick your spot when you buy the ticket), the seats are leather recliner-style, and you also have a pullout table to put drinks/food on.

Since its release it’s the only way I go to see a movie. No kids at the theater. No worries about getting a bad seat. Dinner and a movie in one. For the time and price it just works for me, and as most shows on popular nights sell out, almost everyone buys a drink and food, my guess is it’s working for the theater as well. It wouldn’t work if they converted all the screens to this format, but one works.

I want a Premium Theater MMO. Put the sub price at $50 a month. Limit the number of entries to a set number that the single server can handle. Zero tolerance ban system. Etc.

And for that $50 a don’t expect a game 3x ‘better’ than a $15 sub game in terms of content production or even overall product ‘value’. I fully understand these things don’t follow a linear scale. You don’t get 3x the car when you buy a BWM over a Kia.

That said I would expect a bit more. Since you have one server and a smaller overall community, GM events should be possible on more regular fashion. You should be able to more easily catch hackers or abusive players. If the game is doing well have a waiting list for new accounts, with people only getting in once a previous account is unsubbed. If the waiting list grows too long, increase the sub price on new accounts.

Point being I think the model could work, especially since we have seen more than a few titles peak serious interest from niche groups, and more than a few people in those niche groups have the money to throw around (if you can drop $1000 for a Kickstarter, I’m pretty sure you can pay $50 for an actual game that provides something you want). Gamers from the ‘early days’ have grown up, some successfully so. Someone needs to cater to them. Where is my Premium Theater MMO? Come take my money already.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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24 Responses to The “Premium Theater” MMO

  1. Jenks says:

    Great minds think alike, but your hero came up with it 12 years before you did:

    • SynCaine says:

      Whatever happened to that? When was it shut down?

      • Jenks says:

        I think WoW decimated EQ’s population. I heard the GM events also dwindled down to nothing, so even the people not quitting EQ were quitting the legends server to go back to $10/mo servers with bigger populations. They shut it down in 2006 because it was a ghost town.

        It’s a shame, because when they first released it, it was everything you’re asking for above. It was awesome.

  2. tms says:

    It was actually suggested to Sony after the Star Wars Galaxies NGE to bring back the old game at a premium and it went nowhere.

    I agree that it’s still a good idea.

  3. sid6.7 says:

    Many MMOs can’t sustain a population even with a lower price point. How would a higher price point make this more efficient?

    Creating a luxury niche for movies makes sense because there is already a large market for movies. So unless you are suggesting that Blizzard come up with Premium servers, what you are suggesting is flawed because MMOs are already a niche market.

    • SynCaine says:

      Again, EVE with it’s 500k subs is called a ‘niche’ title, which is laughable but that’s the word people love to use. A dev team could make a game with 10k subs work, and I think there are 10k MMO players out there that the difference between $15 a month and $50 a month is a rounding error on a CC statement.

      • sid6.7 says:

        A niche is simply a term used by marketers to define a smaller sub-segment of a larger market. There is nothing wrong with a niche — in fact, most niche markets are more expensive and cater to a higher price point than the mass market.

        All MMOs are already a niche of the larger gaming market that are competing for the same gamer’s time and $$s.

        The point is that market forces often don’t support further segmentation of a niche within a niche. I’m not saying it can’t, but I am saying that’s a tough sell in an market segment that’s already extremely fragmented.

  4. C. T. Murphy says:

    I doubt you’d be able to sustain this. There is just too much competition and the average MMORPG player is a lot less invested in an individual game, overall. You’d get a more concentrated audience, for sure, but you’d have a limit on how much appeal this would have which ultimately limit the scope of the game.

    In other words, you’d end up with a highly concentrated, core audience playing a highly concentrated, hyper-niche game.

    It could work as an indie MMORPG, but it might still be a bit tough to pull off.

  5. John says:

    Its all supply and demand. If z people would subscribe for 50 bucks a month and y people would subscribe(the same game) for 15 bucks I am not sure that 50z > 15y. Most probably I think it would be the opposite. So why do you believe that a 50bucks/month game would offer better(or slightly better) things than the 15/month?

    Also the theater example is not correct, because the same theater has also the “cheap” rooms. So you are on the same theater, but on a better room cause you paid more. The equivalent of this is the f2p games.

    • SynCaine says:

      In a F2P game, I can still hear the kids in the theater, and the service is still based on them being around. I pay extra to remove them, not to lord over them.

      As for the first part, from a player’s perspective one server or a dozen makes no difference to me, and if the game in question has a world designed around 10k players (example), that’s all I need. From a business perspective, if you have to cater to 50k people rather than 10k, the level of service per player drops. If it drops enough, perhaps what was original worth $50 isn’t even worth $15.

      • John says:

        its not a problem to maintain a good MMO with 50k people or 100k..the problem is to get back the production cost. So maybe, besides the 50 bucks per month, an initial box cost of 200+ bucks could work for your premium that case you can get a AAA MMO that could run with 100k people and 50 bucks/month and offer same or better experience than the usual 15/month

        • SynCaine says:

          The majority of the spending on AAA MMOs is garbage. SW:TOR with its voice acting, GW2 with it’s living story, SW with it’s linear ENTIRE game, etc.

          As some Kickstarter and indie games are showing, you don’t need $100m to make something that feels like a AAA game, so long as you avoid the flashy money pits that don’t add anything anyway.

      • John says:

        and why the level of service with 50k people rather 10k will drop? if you using the x% money from what you get from the 10k people and you use the same x% money that you get from the 50k people, the level of service will remain the same..what will change is the number of people work to bring that level of, if anything, you will create for job positions :)

        • SynCaine says:

          Much harder to nab the hacker/cheater out of a crowd of 50k than 10k, especially if there is no waiting list for new accounts.

          Also harder (or impossible if its sharded) to do meaningful one-off events that work with 50k compared to 10k.

          If you put together a great GM team, you can’t just clone them 5x if you decide to go from one server (10k) to 5 servers (50k).

          From a players perspective, its much easier to get familiar with a group of 10k than it is for a group of 50k.


        • John says:

          In that way I have to agree…

    • John says:

      and to expand on this, this might work if a game has 1-2 servers with 50 bucks a month but also have the rest of the servers for 15 bucks…that would be the similar to the premium theater. The 50 bucks server would have GM events and better GM monitoring(less bots, griefing, instant replies to support tickets)

  6. kalex716 says:

    Hell, I’d be happy if someone was making a new game worth the plain jane 15 bucks a month again.

    Don’t get ahead of yourself Syn…. We’ll start talking about premium services when we can clearly identify a good enough game to sustain a standard sub.

  7. Steel H. says:

    Yes, a luxury BMW-MMO is a go! Take my money now!

    What I want primarily, when you buy entry into the game you must fill out a trick IQ test quiz. Mainly to determine if you have more than 20 sec attention span, are able to formulate a coherent sentence, and aren’t an entitled dick. You then rate all your applicants based on the test score, and you start letting in players into the game from the top down. Also, access to the game by invitation/referral from another player in good standing. WoW tourist invasion problem solved!

  8. Wizarth says:

    This makes me think of some of the text based MUD/MUCK’s that are still running on relatively tiny populations. It’s not the same, in that they aren’t providing Gold Class service, but they often do the personalized GM ran events and similar. Small audience, high level of staff involvement.

    There was one I played, until the server went down and the lead dev couldn’t be bothered fixing it, where players didn’t begin playing until they were born. And being born depending on people in the game having a child, and children couldn’t fend for themselves at first, so being a parent was an investment. It was an interesting system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You’re lucky. In my local cinema it costs more than $20 (in £) for a normal film!

  10. Isey says:

    I agree with you completely!.

    For companies that sit on piles of data I am shocked at how little they seem to use it. Games are still a young industry and it seems they don’t follow traditional markets much – and they should, because traditional markets show time and time again that for value (real or perceived) people will pay more. Tricky in a game?

    Probably, but not impossible. A smart company will figure it out eventually.

  11. Beleg / Paxx says:

    This existed long before EQ. Gemstone III (text adventure by Simutronics, now Gemstone IV) had a “platinum” server that cost extra ($40/mo, iirc) and had enforced RP and GM events. Some other perks as well. It was a different age.

    Honestly, I was going to link to some press or announcement or something, but it is too old for me to find anything.

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