Posted Tue, Jul 26, 2011 by Sardu
Freedom. It’s a word that evokes many different reactions based on the context in which it's used, as well as the personal life experiences of the person hearing it, even though it has a pretty clearly defined meaning. For some, it might resurrect embarrassing memories of early 90s high school dances courtesy of George Michael. Others might associate it with the patriotic rhetoric drilled into our young, impressionable minds each day in grade school as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
When applied to City of Heroes, it takes on yet another possible interpretation. It speaks volumes to me that Paragon chose that word rather than announcing City of Heroes: Free-to-Play, neatly avoiding some of the negative connotations associated with that particular business model, even if they have thankfully been on the downswing for the past couple of years.
No, Paragon chose to use the word Freedom, but in many ways you could consider it to be synonymous with Choice, because that’s exactly what the new hybrid business model brings to the table. Putting the choice of how to pay for a service directly into the hands of players is one of the best things Paragon could have chosen to do.
Announcements of this shift in philosophical and marketing approaches typically go one of two ways with fans, and it all boils down to how much you respect your existing fan base. In the case of Paragon, it’s abundantly evident in the following interview with lead designer Matt “Positron” Miller that respect is king.
I caught up with Matt just as the show floor at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 was nearing a critical mass of culture-hounds, and it was great to see that City of Heroes was receiving as much attention as its monolithic NCsoft booth partner, Guild Wars 2.
Ten Ton Hammer: It seems like a very smart decision on the part of Paragon to make the CoH Freedom release a la carte based on some of the other free-to-play conversions we’ve seen for existing MMOs so far. What inspired you to go in the direction of giving players choices in terms of how they invest in different gameplay options?
Matt “Positron” Miller: We love our subscribers, and our subscribers love us. We have an excellent relationship with them, and we did not want to damage that in any way, shape, or form in going to this business model. We wanted to make sure that we were catering to them, and their needs, and their concerns, and make sure that they felt special – that we didn’t forget about them and were just concerned about the free players.
So really that became the genesis for all our design decisions going forward. What could VIP players get? How could we make this more attractive for the VIP player? It really has just been that relationship we’ve had with those players, and we didn’t want to damage it at all.
In fact, we had a focus group about three months ago where we brought in some of our biggest board posters from all over the country, and went over everything with them so that they knew what we were doing and we could get their initial reaction. It started off with some hesitation – kind of, oh my gosh, what are you doing – and by the end of the day they were like OK, I’m on board with this.
That was really validating for us that our veteran players got on board with this within the span of eight hours of doing that focus group.