Tag: b2p

Being supportive 2

Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.


Fixing SWTOR’s business model

The big announcement

Last week, Bioware teased a big announcement for yesterday. Yesterday, the announcement happened and, judging by the comments over on Massively Overpowered, most people found it lacking. The announcement was about being able to recruit the popular HK-55 as a companion and getting to play the droid in an “exclusive Episode”. The thing is, to qualify for that exclusive episode, you’ll have to be subscribed to SWTOR from now until august 2016.


As i’ve mentioned more than once, SWTOR- to me- is still a subscription game. Bioware put too many restrictions on free players, even if you’re a “preferred” player (e.g. those who bought the box). I think in itself, this subscriber reward feels….ok-ish. I don’t care much about HK-55. But i agree with one point made several times by players: this doesn’t really qualify as a “big announcement”. And when i thought about the trouble Bioware seems to be having with its subscriber rewards, one thing came to mind: SWTOR isn’t sure what business model it’s using.

Business Model confusion

It’s free-to-play

You can start playing Star Wars: the old republic now. Well, after a lengthy download. After that, though, you can log in and play up to…well, i’m not so sure about that. Is it the base game? Or are some of the released expansions free, as well? I don’t know. Also, you’ll suffer some of the most annoying restrictions for free users in the industry. Use of 2 hotbars only, for instance. No running (is it still in?), no “hide helmet” option, ingame gold and dungeon-running as well as pvp match limits and so on. There are so many of them that i can’t even remember all of them.


Of course, some of these restrictions get less annoying if you are a preferred status player (by buying the base game).

It’s a subscription game

If you choose to sub up, you’ll not only get all those restrictions lifted, but also access to all the available content in the game. And a monthly cartel coin (funny money) alotment. There are no restrictions whatsoever, but one thing that annoys me very much is that SWTOR basically sells the best cosmetic outfits, pets, stronghold items and what-would-i-know in lockbox-style “packs”. To make matters worse, there are many different packs to buy. For me, it is actually hard to search them for items i’d like to buy. Sure, Dulfy has it covered, but the ingame shop not so much.

It’s buy-to-play

The funny thing is- the content you unlock by being subscribed? You’ll be able to access that after you let your subscription run out, as well. If you sub now, you’ll get access to all expansions, chapters 1 to 9 of the latest story-centric expansion and you’ll still be able to play that content if you don’t sub next month. You’ll suffer f2p-restrictions, though (of course, there’s the possibility to unlock those with ingame-credits, as well). So this is the part where SWTOR is following the buy-to-play-route.

It’s not a hybrid, it’s a mess

Now, since this post isn’t a guide to SWTOR’s business model i haven’t done much research on restrictions, what you’ll get in the different states of the customer-producer-relationship. A quick Google Search didn’t show any interesting entries. My guess is…it’s too complicated. Even Bioware doesn’t bother with bringing their f2p matrix up-to-date. What’s stated there concerns the base game only.


Fixing this

So, with Bioware’s intentions kept in mind (they want us to sub)- how would i go in and improve what they have? I’d make it a hybrid with an emphasis on being buy-to-play.

I’d give the base game out for free. Also, i’d only put restrictions on stuff bots and gold sellers use to do their work- ingame-mail and -chat, auction house, currency cap, no rest xp. You would also be able to lift all these restrictions by spending the 5$ needed to get “preferred status”.

Then, sell all expansions and chapters of the Fallen Empire storyline seperately through the cartel market(!). This would allow for a real subscriber reward: being able to let the sub lapse and simply buy the content with saved up funny money.


Subscribers would get some bonus xp (think 12XP buff; subscribers would be able to go from 1 to 55 with class story missions only, but make it optional) and access to all “DLC”, of course. For the time their sub is up. Let it lapse and you’ll lose access. But of course, you could go on and simply buy the expansions in the cartel market.

Obviously, Bioware can’t do that anymore, because they’d take something away from people. Everybody who subscribed and directly cancelled the sub has access to the expansions now. So Bioware need the hefty restrictions on free players to get those people to keep their sub going. Without taking something away, they’d have to give access out to all of those customers and i really don’t know if that would be viable.

Still…i think this would be the way to go, but that’s just me. Maybe they like the complicated setup they have, because for me, i can tell you how i decide how to play SWTOR: don’t play, don’t pay. Want to play, sub up.

Something strange in a galaxy far, far away

So the new SWTOR expansion Knights of the Fallen Empire is a thing and the SWTOR community seems to be very positive about the potential of this new focus on storytelling- there’s even the moniker “SWTOR2” out there, although i don’t really understand that yet. I’ll wait for more information to come out and clear things up a bit, because what we know right now leaves much room for different interpretations.

What we know about Knights of the Fallen Empire

As usual, Dulfy has a good overview of the new content coming to SWTOR in the end of october 2015. She (?) even updates it with new information coming out.

We know that there’ll  be a jump in time between the “old content” and the new content of the expansion and that the level cap will be raised to 65. We also know that we’ll be able to create a level 60 character if we want to do that. There’ll be new planets, new companions, and new story- this time delivered in episodes/chapters. It seems more and more MMOs learn from Guild Wars 2’s “living story” and integrate something similar to their games- STO has been doing it for quite some time, but now at least Lotro and SWTOR will follow.

I don’t want to do spoilers- so be warned- if you really don’t want to know anything- storywise- skip the next paragraph.

Storywise, we know that the empire and the republic have fallen and that there is a new empire, the Eternal Empire. Sure enough, i don’t know more and i don’t know if we’ve heard from that faction before.

You're out
You’re out

Well, and that’s about it for the facts. There are some other promises, though: Bioware returning to their strengths, providing great storylines where choices matter. A streamlined experience to immerse the players fully into a Star Wars RPG. There also are some indicators that the existing content will be streamlined to provide a faster, more hassle-free levelling experience leading up to the new stuff.

What does this mean?

Personally, i think right now, much of what has been said can be PR speak for many things- in the worst case, it’s about a faction merge and reducing the storylines to just one for all characters. We don’t know enough and i feel similar to how i felt after the EQ Next reveal– this could be huge, but it could also be more of the same.

But i don’t really think that this will be it, because selling that as a major improvement aka expansion could- and possibly would- backfire. So there has to be something. I haven’t finished any of the Bioware RPGs, but as far as i know, they’re quite linear affairs with some branches turning left or right depending on player choices. That’s fine, and i guess this is all we can hope for, despite the fact that the official page also lists “exploring new planets” as a feature- i’d love them to open the game up by using more open worlds, day/night cycles, sitting-in-chairs and so on, but i don’t think we’ll see that.

Instead, SWTOR seems to take a turn and make the game even more accessible/solo friendly. The only thing missing is the ability to form a flashpoint/operation party only using our companions. Don’t misunderstand me- i’m fine with that, because i don’t think forcing players to play group content is the way to go. Encouragement is all that’s needed.

They’re saying that this is still an MMO, that new multiplayer content will be released, that you can still do the MMO bits, as they call them, but that the whole game will be a more streamlined affair.

You're in
You’re in

Another interesting thought that crossed my mind- is Bioware/EA bringing SWTOR back to being a subscription game even more than they’re doing it right now? The new expansion is for subscribers, stat. No preorder, no prizing- you sub or you don’t play the new storylines. It’s still quite cheap, because you unlock all the content that is available at the time you subscribe. So if you wanted to save some money, you could wait for all 16 episodes of the new content to be released, subscribe to the game and you’d have everything unlocked- even when you unsubscribe.

Or is that buy-to-play? I don’t know, but it’s a strange thing and it makes the sub mandatory again (if you want to see all the content) where it wasn’t before (you could buy expansions).

Personal implications

For me, this announcement makes me think about a few things. First thing i did was renew my sub, for six months. Earlier i was hesitating, because for one, my taste varies a lot, we’re going on vacation for 2 weeks in the end of july- these were events that made me think twice about buying more than one months’ worth of game time at once. With the rewards, the timing, the fact that the vacation would fall in the “sub time” anyway, i decided to renew for 6 months. One thing that’s rarely advertised on the official homepage is the fact that you’ll receive more cartel coins per month if you subscribe for a longer period- 500 for a monthly sub, 550 for three-monthers and 600 for the 6-month-sub.

Furthermore, if the game essentially removes factions, i wouldn’t really have to decide for one and could play classes/stories on the imperial side, as well. Like the Agent’s, or the Inquisitor’s. This also influences a possible choice in guilds, if/when i make a decision. Until now, i was looking at the republic side only, but later on that doesn’t really seem to matter.

And also, now we know how long 12XP will last- until 10/19- so even when it is implied that the earlier content will be streamlined after the expansion hits, and even with the level 60 character we can create at release, i know how much time i have to make use of the xp bonus. So i decided that, for now, i’ll stick to my Jedi Sage (which seems to be my favourite class) for normal play (with 12 XP deactivated or of limited use) and the Agent for the full 12XP experience.

On the other hand i’m thinking- if they’re going to streamline all the content that’s available right now- we only have about four months left to experience SWTOR “as it was”. So i’ll be enjoying that first and come september, i might give a few classes the 12XP treatment.

Dual Wielding: let’s talk business models

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Now this is a topic you probably haven’t heard of in a while: business models. Is free-to-play a bad thing to happen to MMORPGs? Should they all be subs? What about buy-to-play? What is a fair business model? Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

The curious case of Wildstar

No surprise there

Since Wildstar’s announcement that the game will go free-to-play, there seems to be a discussion going on- you know, like every time an MMORPG makes the transition. And it still is viewed as a failure of the game in question. Before i get to my opinion, i want to express something first: a transition to free-to-play is in the plans of every newly released Triple-A MMORPG. The “suits” already know that their game will change business models, i’m pretty sure about that. Maybe the devs don’t know, but those responsible for giving the green light to a shift do. Since the Turbine leaks we also know that subscriber numbers are being kept somewhat secret even within the companies.

If we continue to be “surprised”, think that there are ways to avoid that transition or think of an MMO as “failed”, because it switches its business model, i think we’re playing those people into their cards who have no real interest in the games. We “punish” the devs by saying something along those lines- and you know what? The devs are the ones who are enthusiastic about what they do. So i think we should stop pretending that “we knew from the beginning” or “why haven’t they launched the game as b2p/f2p to begin with?”. The answer to the latter is: because it makes them more money faster.

What went wrong?

However, i do agree that the switch wasn’t expected to come quite so fast- we know Wildstar isn’t doing well because of the NC quarterly reports. I think the reason might be something else than the obvious. Of course, i’m dangerously close to extrapolate my experience/opinion on others, but for me, the main reason i didn’t like to play Wildstar is that i couldn’t relax while playing it. The housing spot might make a difference, but out in the wilds, mob count was too high, spawn time too quick and the game was constantly shouting things to do at me. All of this won’t change when Wildstar goes f2p, but the difference is that i can just log in without financial commitment when i feel like playing.

It’s not about “playing for free”, it is about “logging in for free”.

Business models

Let me begin by describing my personal situation: i’m a husband, father and i have a job. I also have the desire to do something else in my free time than playing an MMORPG. This leads to a wide range of play time during any given month. Sometimes, there are months when i play 20 hours- in another month, i might come close to 70. That’s about the range we’re talking about here. I’d be fine to pay a monthly sub in either case, if i were happy with one game only. Alas, i’m not. I play different games at different times, even if i expressed my will to stop doing that several times on this blog already. There’s no ideal game and there are almost no (commonly known) MMORPGs that i really dislike.

The subscription

Many pro-subscription arguments revolve around the fact that it is a “fair” business model and the only one that guarantees content updates. I think it is neither.

When a new subscription game releases, there will be the launch hype crowd- the servers will be full, everybody’s rushing in to get started and everybody is excited. I’ve seen people plan their holidays around game releases – they’ll play 2 weeks straight, finish all the available content, cancel their subscription and wait for new content to arrive. They paid 50 bucks to see everything. Meanwhile, i need a lot of real time. The only case i can make really fair comparisons is when Rift released. I played this game exclusively for three months. I needed 3 months to reach the max level. I paid about 90€, to see the same content all those who cancelled earlier saw for 50. Now tell me this is fair.

When you buy a book, the author gives you all the time you need to complete it- you don’t pay him 0.50$ a day to have his or her permission to read it if you’d like.

As for content – well, there are three subscription MMORPGs i know of: World of Warcraft, EVE Online and Final Fantasy XIV. EVE and FF14 do provide a steady flow of content- WoW doesn’t, and it is even charging extra for expansions, mounts and whatnot. On the other hand, f2p MMORPGs also evolve- SWTOR added many systems to the game since going f2p. The Secret World expands, as well. Maybe it is slower, but the company isn’t asking for any money in the meantime.

And don’t get me started on the deadly EX’es – PLEX, REX, APEX, CREDD, whatever they’re called- they are a way to monetize newbies in favour of loyal players- you could view this as a just reward for the veterans, but i see it as the squeezing of newbies.


Free-to-play isn’t quite fair, either. Usually, in this system, you’ll need to pay more if you are more deeply involved. That isn’t so good, either. Usually, there will be some kind of mechanic that involves the cash shop, some kind of convenience veterans find useful.

Also, it’s exploitive- by using lockboxes, for instance, allowing people to spend hundreds of dollars on virtual goods.


Let’s come to the fairer models of buy-to-play. Sure, usually, there’s also a cash shop involved, but basically, these games sell content. Everybody pays the same for the same content- discounts aside. Ideally, these games would sell content only, but of course they rarely do. I still find TSW’s business model to be the best around, followed by ESO and Guild Wars 2.

See, content really should be what studios charge for- of course, this wouldn’t be the most profitable route for them, but it would be the fair business model for us, the customers. There may be some concerns regarding the separation of the community, though, but as far as i know, that’s not really a concern for The Secret World and Guild Wars 2.

The minute sub

Another way of making everybody pay the same would be to charge by the minute- or, more general, ingame time. They could even charge a “monthly” sub (30 days ingame) and charge that time everytime i log in. So i’d have 30 days, and when i log in, no matter if it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, i’ll have 29 days left when i log out.


In the end, i’m fine with all the business models out there. One might be better suited to me than the other, but if a game is good, i’ll pay a subscription, as well. But then again, i have to say that i overspent only in subscription games- by paying for subs i didn’t need in the end, for instance. The other options allow me to spend some money on my time- and they also allow me to log in everytime i like to, without charging a subscription. So in the end, it is more likely that i play a f2p or b2p game.

Looking good, Tamriel Unlimited

I just took a few minutes to patch up and launch Elder Scrolls Unlimited to take a look at the “Crown Store” / ingame story as well as the actual prizing of “Crowns”.


Concerning the prizing- there will be some people that’ll tell you a subscription is the way to go, the main reason being that you’ll get:

  • 30 days of membership (DLC available)
  • 1500 crowns
  • +10% bonus on progression-relevant stuff

for the same prize as 1500 crowns are going to cost you, so if you’re comparing 30 days of subscription with the purchase of 1500 crowns (which would buy you about one horse and one set of cosmetic armor), the sub is the better deal.

Of course, Elder Scrolls Online offers discounts when you buy more than one month of subscription and more than 1500 crowns.

Crowns USD Euro GBP
750 7.99 6.99 4.79
1,500 14.99 12.99 8.99
3,000 24.99 20.99 14.99
5,500 39.99 34.99 23.99

So, if we’re to use the dollar pricing as base, if you buy 5500 crowns, it’ll cost you 40$, which means a dollar’s going to buy 137.5 crowns- this is a hefty discount. You’ll get 120 crowns a dollar when you buy 3000 crowns. Let’s compare this to the 1, 3 and 6 month subscription option (wait, the 6 month sub is back- i thought nobody bought those and that’s why they were removed?!?).


USD: $14.99 / Euro: 12,99€ / GBP: £8.99

Crowns: 1500

Crowns per Dollar: 100


USD: $13.99 / 30 days / Euro: 11,99€ / 30 days / GBP: £7.99 / 30 days

USD: 42$ / Euro: 36€ / GBP: 24

Crowns: 4500

Crowns per dollar: 107


USD: $12.99 / 30 days / Euro: 10,99€ / 30 days / GBP: £6.99 / 30 days

USD: 78$ / Euro: 66€ / GBP: 42

Crowns: 9000

Crowns per dollar: 115


As you can see, it’s not really that easy. Consider, as well, that with the ESO plus membership, you’ll only “rent” DLC- if you drop your sub, you won’t have access to DLC anymore. I don’t know if DLC will be purchaseable without using the ingame shop, but even if that was possible, it would be additional cost on top of the sub prize.

Actually, i think this is a pretty smart prizing strategy that’s also quite beneficial for the customers- if you are a “ESO only” player who loves to log in and play pretty much every day and care for the +10% benefit in experience, gold, crafting research and crafting inspiration gain, a subscription might be the way to go. I’d advise against subbing for longer periods for the crowns, though, because the discount is somewhat marginal when compared to buying crowns directly.

Of course, they kind of sweeten the deal by giving you your subscription crowns all at once in the beginning of your sub period. So if you sub up for 6 months, you’ll get 9000 crowns immediately.

If you’re more casual, i’d go with buying crowns, i think. Sure, you’ll take a little bit longer to level and gain gold (ESO is a game that’s quite frugal in giving you coin, at least in my experience), but it might not matter that much to a casual player.

In the end, it’s a matter of personal choice- do you care for the +10% bonuses the membership grants you? Would you like to own or rent the DLC?

For me, this is a great move- Elder Scrolls Online has some interesting concepts; i count not having global auction houses as one of them, although i think there should be another way of doing things than to join multiple guilds for trading. So being able to explore Tamriel on my own terms without paying a mandatory sub is a huge boon.

The store

I gave the store a quick look, and we know it will be expanded upon by selling xp potions and the like, but what i saw looked great- i might even buy a pet or something. It looks both “high-quality” and “fitting into the world”. There are no flying carpets or giant squirrels to ride on. There could be more choice in cosmetic gear, but i’m sure this will also come. The prizing is reasonable- about 700 crowns for a mount or a cosmetic armor.

In my opinion, if they don’t go overboard with the crown store, this business model is great for both the developers and the customers, because it provides options. Options are good.

On a side note: i wonder if b2p is the “new f2p” in terms of business model conversions. Granted, many MMOs just launch free-to-play now, but if this is a trend, i have to say i like it. Selling a box and later content (DLCs), while also maintaining an ingame store and a (truly) optional subscription service puts the dev under less pressure to “trick” or “force” their players into paying for something. It seems more honest and fair than pure f2p, while maintaining the advantage of not having to sub up to play for a night/a week.

This week in /saved

Here are some articles published this week that i found worth a read.

This week, there are a lot of posts. Many of them cover the topic of Massively’s closure, but there were many other interesting posts, as well. So many, in fact, that i had to leave some out. I don’t even touch the subject of SOE becoming Daybreak, but that’s mostly because i didn’t read (but /saved some) posts concerning this topic and i…don’t have an opinion, yet.


J3w3l from Healing the Masses takes a dive into why and how permadeath mechanics influence her enjoyment of games.

While short, Belghast gives a quick view on Albion. I haven’t read anything about it that didn’t come from the official website, so i found it interesting to read, even if it’s just two paragraphs.

The discussions

There was one discussion going on about…..payment models! It’s great to see new topics coming up all the time, isn’t it? But i found this one to be quite interesting.

Payment models

I don’t really know who started this round; the first post that i noticed and /saved was from the lovely Free-to-play Fuckery series from J3w3l, in this case concerning Trion and lockboxes. It wasn’t all said and done on her site, though, as Murf continued the series on her blog with The mobile Menace. In the meantime, Tobold also had his say, beginning with a post about how “it’s your fault” that games close when you don’t spend money and goes on to say that Grind2win isn’t particularly better than pay2win. He then continues and picks up on J3w3ls lovingly titled series by arguing that f2p games, in his opinion, aren’t subsidized by people who have no money, but spend it anyway but instead by people who do have enough money to burn. Which, brought up another post by J3w3l in response, arguing, well, that it aren’t really the highly educated wealthy people funding f2p.

All in all, very entertaining, especially J3w3l’s rants. But others chimed in, as well. I can’t say who posted her’s first (i think both are female, pls. correct me if i’m wrong), but i’m with Syl on this topic– i don’t care, just make a good game and i’m fine (although i won’t spend money for lockboxes). I’ll have to close this chapter with Liore‘s short post, however. Very concise!

Time vs. Money

Off of this discussion, something branched out- the topic being whether it’s fair to value time spent higher than money spent (or vice versa) in MMORPGs. Azuriel was first, declaring time as a fair measure for progression since everybody gets 24 hours a day. Syl, again, makes the point that, first, addiction is a bad thing, whether you spend way too much time or money on something- and it isn’t depending on payment models.

To put down my own opinion, and be quick about it, i’ll say that there is no fair payment model and neither a fair progression model. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t have the time to play as much as most others, even if i’m concentrating on one MMO. I’ve seen people burn through an MMOs content in two weeks, barely sleeping. They bought the box, played 200 hours and were done with the game. In the meantime i bought the box and 3 months of sub, played maybe 150 hours in that time, but spent twice the amount of money.

Replacing Massively

Scree thought about the possibility of bloggers taking the spot of Massively– in my reply i tried to think about that, as well, and concluded it wouldn’t be easy. Aywren wrote a better post on the subject, with clearer implications on why it might not work. And then there was Liore, asking an important question- even if we were able, would we want to do it?

Massively’s shutdown

Of course, there were many posts about Massively shutting down. Some of them were mentioned in the last post on Massively, but really, this post went on longer than i thought and Wilhelm Arcturus has an excellent overview of blogs covering the topic.

Elder Scrolls b2p, take two

So Elder Scrolls Online will go buy-to-play come march. Yesterday i wrote that this is the business model the game should have launched with, so you can guess i’m in favor of this change. It’s not so much about the game, in fact, i think the negativity it gets, for instance in the comments over at Massively, is surprising and totally undeserved. Yes, features one is expecting in games nowadays are missing, but personally, i feel that this makes the game more interesting.

The game

No Dungeon Finder? Great! No global auction houses? Also great, although i’d still like to see easier ways for individual players to sell their stuff. Why not have local auction houses, at least? I like the class-building skill system- basically, you can make every class do what you want- some will do it better, some will do it worse, but a plate-armor-wearing, two-hander-wielding sorceror is entirely possible. Of course, if you want to min-max your character, you’d say that this-and-that isn’t possible/viable, but who cares about that, anyway?

Arriving in Vulkhel Guard...again
Arriving in Vulkhel Guard…again

In light of last month’s discussion about how to get players to socialize more, Elder Scrolls Online has it’s own take on the matter- there are merchant guilds, guilds can own a shop somewhere, somehow in the regions of Tamriel (haven’t looked into how they work yet) and you can join 5 guilds at a time. You have to talk to other people to get into a dungeon, knowing crafters helps, having a “crafter buddy” is also kind of recommended if you want to improve your crafting more quickly. So ESO has an opinion and at least tries to do something that makes the players communicate more and it blows in their face, since the public impression is that of “missing features” instead of “wow, finally a game where we get to know each others again”.

This goes as an example that players don’t necessarily want what they think they want. In an upcoming post about an old multigaming guild and the Repopulation, i’ll take a closer look at that. For now, let’s just say that when players say they want more of x, y, z, this is not entirely true, as Wildstar also proved.

Elder Scrolls Online is immersive, it has interesting writing/quests/areas, some unique mechanics and a lot of content, even if you wanted to treat it as a singleplayer experience. Come march, i think it is great value for money, and it really isn’t a bad game and/or MMORPG.

The business model

So they’ll sell mounts, pets, costumes and potions in their ingame cash shop in addition to DLCs and an optional subscription. The subscription comes with bonuses one would expect- a monthly stipend of cash shop currency and 10% more experience, inspiration, gold and analyzing crafting stuff and also provides access to all future DLCs (of course, if you cancel your sub you’ll lose this access).

It is a starter island, but at least it isn't instanced away- the tutorial is, however.
It is a starter island, but at least it isn’t instanced away- the tutorial is, however.

Interestingly, the DLCs will scale in level- you won’t have to be at the top to play the DLC. I like that very much, since i’m always way behind the curve (and if you scroll through this blog, you’ll know one reason for this to be the case) and i think it is a good move for them since more people will end up buying the DLCs or paying a sub to get access.

In my opinion, this is the way to go- on PC, but especially on consoles. If these DLC’s can even be played by mixed-level groups of players, even better. I think this is going to be good for the game- and also, housing DLC please!

Guess what

Yes, the announcement made me go back, which is a bummer for Wildstar, since i planned on going back to one of these games the moment they announce the business model change. I liked my experience with it good enough, although at the time i played it, it was still plagued by some issues (bots) and also i had even fewer time than i have now, so all i really did in the last days of my ESO subscription was inventory management. But for now, i think this games’ future looks good indeed.

In a surprising turn of events…

Elder Scrolls Online goes buy-to-play on march, 17th for PC users. It will be selling “optional DLC” as well as “convenience and customization items” in an ingame store while “Regular updates and new gameplay will be offered to all players to enjoy free of additional charges”. There’ll also be an optional subscription that grants ingame-bonuses, cash shop currency and access to all of the games’ DLC.

It sounds reasonable enough and it is a smart move, i think. This is the business model the game should have launched with- but then again, they got a lot of players paying subs for quite some time, so i guess it worked out for them.

Also great, ESO will be back on my radar soon. Read more on the official site.

Being a subscription game

Whenever a game announces a switch to a free-to-play or buy-to-play model, there’s talk about how the game design goals change from delivering a fun experience and good gameplay to adding grinds and developing stuff for the ingame cash shop. Often, the line of thinking is that a subscription game offers the best possible experience for the players to keep them playing, while a game with a cash shop only serves as a medium to get players to buy something from the shop.

I’ll have to disagree there. Subscription games have their own ways of making you pay- namely, timesinks. I write this after trying to get the story quests of Final Fantasy XIV up to par- so the proposed level of the story quest is the same as my adventuring level. I did this, neglecting all other quests with the exception of those which i know to offer gameplay mechanics (yesterday i learned how to dye my gear). I have to say, it is a tiresome affair- you travel a lot- going from the grand company you chose to the Scions’ headquarters there’s a lot of ping-ponging around. This is done to a degree that the last two playsessions i had were devoted to doing just that- and the proposed level of the story quest went from level 19 to 20 in this time.

Now, if i could ignore that quest line, everything would be fine. But i can’t- Final Fantasy XIV gates game mechanics with the help of the main story questline. For instance, your character doesn’t have a bank or access to the market until you clear the three introductory dungeons for the main story questline. Which is also forced grouping. As a father- i mentioned this in other posts- it is sometimes quite difficult to know when i’m able to dedicate a chunk of time – the dungeons don’t take long, but if you have to use the duty finder and play a damage dealing class you could wait some time to get a party going- so that these three dungeons pose an obstacle big enough so that i won’t consider rolling an alt anytime soon. Not that you have to, though, because one character can do it all.

Final Fantasy XIV isn’t the only offender, of course. World of Warcraft is also a very time-intensive game, in EVE skill gain is time gated and the coming Pathfinder Online also has this mechanic. In Elder Scrolls Online the inventory- on character and the available bank slots- is so limited that you spend a considerable amount of time managing your inventory, especially if you are like me and want to keep all the crafting stuff to level crafting disciplines later.

Maybe this is one reason sub games don’t work out that way anymore- if you have limited time- and we all know the MMORPG population to be aging (i think the average age is 37)- these timesinks and content gates, including forced grouping, are really some kind of quit wall. If i couldn’t manage to do these three introductory dungeons in FF14, limiting my access to bank and retainer/markets stops me from, for instance, crafting- because a bank inventory and access to the market help a lot with that, that would be a huge disadvantage for the game and i’d maybe consider whether keeping the sub up was worth it. Luckily, i’m with a free company who finished those dungeons with me.

On the other hand i know that Final Fantasy XIV has content to keep me happy and occupied for a long time- if the fun lasts as long. There are a few adventuring classes i’d like to play and come the expansion, the astrologist and the machinist also look very interesting and sooner or later i’ll want to level every crafting job. Add this to the fact that i’ll probably never really reach “endgame”, and i could play Final Fantasy XIV for quite a few years. But that’s another topic.

Subscription games time-gate content to get you to pay for another month, and another month. Free-to-play games try to get you to buy stuff from their cash shop. I’m not entirely convinced that f2p works in the long term- i don’t think there’s still more players playing Lotro or DDO, for instance, now than there were when they were subscription based, and both models surely have their downsides. But both- or all three, if you count buy-to-play- have to balance the opening-your-wallet-part with the game-being-fun-part. So while there might be a change in design philosophy, i think it’s a minor one.

As for my preferences, i don’t really care if a game is b2p, f2p or p2p. I like how i’m able to hop into a game for an evening to see if i like to play it some more / return to playing it for free in b2p/f2p models, but i’ll also pay 12€ to do that in sub games i know i’ll like to play for at least a few days. Wildstar and TESO, though, they won’t get a sub from me while they are still in p2p-mode. For p2p/subscription, i’d really like one studio to try and do this with ingame-time- i’d really love to buy, for instance, 100 hours in game for 15€ or something- they can still include the monthly subscription as a flat-fee-option (and maybe even raise the price point), but for me, paying by the hour would work out better.

Oh, and btw., i think studios profit from players subbing up for 6 months and maybe forgetting to cancel it in time or maybe not playing a lot, so i continue to think removing such an option is likely done to avoid doing refunds after a business model change.

2015 predictions – Elder Scrolls Online won’t go f2p

There’s a little bit of drama going on in the ESO community- Zenimax pulled the 6-month-sub-option and now only offers subs in 1- or 3- month intervals. Of course, the rumour mill is going on and there are suggestions that ESO will go f2p (possible, but unlikely) or shut down entirely (not going to happen). Zenimax stated that the 1 and 3-month options are more popular with players and therefore they removed the 6-month-option…..yeah, that’s right, i also call BS.

Look ahead

But it’s not going f2p, guys. I also believe there’s something coming up, i also believe it’s difficult to get a sub game sold to console players who already have to pay Sony/Microsoft to even be able to play online. But there’s something very few people suggested yet.

I think it’s going buy-to-play. ESO can possibly sell quite well on consoles, given that the ES games used to be hits on consoles, so why would ZOS reject that money? Console players are used to paying for their games once, so that’s not a barrier. They’ll just remove the one barrier there is- the sub.

Now i don’t know what they are going to sell- DLCs? Would be the least-intrusive style of cash shop, and i think they do care for immersion, since that’s a strong point in the single player games, as well. We’ll see, i guess….or not.

But anyway, that’s my guess: ESO’s going b2p with console launch and console launch will happen in the first half of 2015.