A few years ago CCP removed the Learning skills from EVE Online. To quickly recap, the Learning skills took about three months to train, and their only benefit was a boost to training other skills faster.
They were, overall, a design mistake, in large part because players are famous for min/maxing, even to the extent of taking the fun OUT of a game that is intended to be played for fun. In theory the Learning skills would be something you training when you don’t have more pressing skills to finish. In reality, the common advice was to sit your pilot in a station for the first 3 months and just train those first before you started playing. If you are a new player asking for advice, being told to do nothing for 3 months isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the game.
Again, they were a design mistake, and CCP was right to take them out while refunding the skill points.
Would CCP have done that if EVE was a F2P MMO?
One of the criticisms of the sub model is that developers will put things such as raid lockout timers to keep you subbed for longer. Now, I find that criticisms a bit silly, because what ultimately makes someone unsub is the simple question of whether you are having fun or not with the game, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoyed a game overall but then unsubbed because of some lockout timer. (Timers help pace the players to content, yes, but IMO that’s more to help players not burn themselves out.)
As EVE is a sub MMO, isn’t CCP hurting themselves here by removing a nice 3 month sub buffer? The short-term view would say yes. The long-term says no. The game is a better game without Learning skills, and as CCP is in the business of running a successful game for years, not weeks/months, long-term making EVE the best possible game is what’s best for business. When you have a solid product, you don’t need cheap tricks to leach another month or a few bucks off someone before they catch on to the garbage you are peddling.
But of course the big elephant in the room here is that under F2P, ‘lockout timers’ are not only in place, but are a prominent feature in the business model; be it locked chests that require a cash shop key, slower XP gains designed to push you towards an XP booster from the shop, long pointless travel unless you buy a portal license; the list goes on. In most F2P MMOs, the “learning skills’ would be an item you purchase in the shop, and just like in EVE, that purchase would do nothing for your actual enjoyment of the game; you would simply feel like it was something you needed to do. We players can be dumb like that, and more than a few suits (and basically everyone at EA) are not above exploiting it.
So again, if EVE was a F2P MMO, would CCP have removed the Learning skills (an example of bad design), or would they have instead introduced that new item to their cash shop to allow you the pleasure of paying to remove the design mistake, and allowed freeloaders to suffer that 3-month “do nothing” phase?
If EVE was run by SOE, Turbine, or EA, I think we all know the answer to that question.