WildStar is now free-to-play and is probably one of the most talked about games amongst my friends, who so far from me asking around, don't mind the F2P model and rather like it. This brings us back to the age ‘ol question about what is the right way to monetize an MMO, or also known as, how humanity’s desire for static environments equates to archaic models constantly being used because of a fear of rejection of new technology and the exploitation that can come with it, along with the inherent natural filtration that a monthly fee brings.
That’s a run-on sentence, I think, but that doesn’t discredit the idea that monetization is the most important topic one could have to the success of an MMO. We’re now at the point now where monetization has reached crazy new levels of insanity, with players prepaying for content years in advance of game launches while other players snub their nose at the idea of giving a specific game literally any money for anything.
Once we left the world of a monthly subscription fee, we’ve entered into some bizarro world where there is so many different payment models, and a few that work well. WildStar, SWTOR, and TESO all share about the same model – the game works if you don’t pay, but you’ll probably want to subscribe not to have to buy all of the subscription features if you’re playing a long time, otherwise you can load it up and play whenever you want.
Yet there is a bazillion other schemes, games like Guild Wars 2 bring you in with a box fee (that’s now waived) and charge you for currency bought in their store and other various knick-knacks that make life a bit easier.
All of the games usually involve lockboxes, even though it’s a stupid idea and does nothing but make people upset, sad, or feel as if whatever is contained within those boxes will never be theirs.
Meanwhile, games like Marvel Heroes let you pretty much earn anything in the game you want, but if you want something specific right now then you pay up.
Daybreak lets you pay one subscription fee for all of the games. All of them.
Wait a minute, what? Daybreak lets you pay a subscription fee for all of the games? Woah? Who knew? Well, I mean, everyone since it’s been forever but that’s a novel idea. Wouldn’t it be cool for like $20 you got subscriber level benefits to several MMOs? If the studios could come together on something like that, that’d be really cool – you get all of the perks, expect like the monthly rewards, for several titles.
Moving on, we’re pretty much at a point now where it’s obvious free-to-play is a requirement of any future titles. The bigger question, and one I even keep asking, is what do we do from here? What’s the best flavor of free-to-pay?
I personally enjoy buy it and forget it, but there are dangers with that. If I buy Elite Dangerous right now, I’ll have to rebuy the game again when the expansion launches (although there are some specific perks to doing that). So I’m stuck between not buying it now and saving some money, or buying it now and just eating the cost to play in the short term.
No matter which way it goes, when money enters the equation people feel bad, but it’s okay because I think it’s something the entire industry is working on. Considering it’s what makes the developers bank to keep the lights on and the employees gainfully employed. At the end of the day, we all must remember that developers and game studios have one purpose: make money. Without this goal in mind, they will not keep the lights on.
This is often why indie developers are often looked up to and praised, because they don’t have the urgency to make money off of literally every second of time spent developing the game, assuming they’re doing so as a passion.
I think, one thing to note is that anything kickstarted or crowdfunded should include how they plan to monetize the game and some insurance policy on the duration of those plans. So if it’s going to be free-to-play with no gimmicks, say “we’re keeping it F2P for this long at which point we may keep the option to monetize” or just outline what the store will be like once the game goes live.
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