Welcome to the 1,186th edition of Loading...

Loading... is the premier daily MMORPG news, coverage, and
commentary newsletter, only from Ten Ton Hammer.

Look at subscription MMO pricing behavior over the course of
its short history, and you'll discover some interesting things. Since
the market has more than doubled since 2005, why haven't subscription
fees changed? Are we paying more or less per month (factoring in
inflation) than we were in 1999? When are we due for another increase?
Evidence and thoughts regarding these questions in today's Loading...
Follow the Leader.


The Pulse

You vote with what you view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the
result is the Ten Ton Pulse ( href="http://www.gunnars.com/" target="_blank">What
is The Pulse?).

Here's today's top 5 Pulse results: href="http://www.gunnars.com/">

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/41"
    target="_blank">World of Warcraft
  2. Dungeons
    & Dragons Online
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/254">Aion href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/254"> 
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/115">Age of
  5. EverQuest

Biggest movers this week:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1407">DC
    Universe Online (UP 3 to #18)
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/177">Fallen
    Earth (UP 2 to #15)
  3. Lord
    of the Rings Online
    (UP 1 to #6)
MMO Releases



Loading... Daily

With free-to-play giant Nexon reporting that revenues have risen 37%
last quarter, there's fresh fuel for the subscription vs. free-to-play
debate. Rather than re-hashing the old argument, let's take a look at
the brief history of the monthly subscription fee, why $14.99 is the
new $9.99, and one big reason why subscription fees have remained flat
over the past four years. 

In the beginning (September 1997), Ultima Online was priced at href="http://www.uo.com/costs.html">$9.95 / month
to play, which seemed like a steal in light of previous online
games like Cyberstrike (whose ilk costed somewhere in the range of $3 per
to play, and online gamers of better vintage than me can
probably point out examples that costed even more).  A year
and a half later,  href="http://www.eqlore.com/news_detail.php3?id=60">$9.89
was the per-month price we paid when EverQuest first came online - a
slightly discounted price probably meant as a publicity stunt for 989
Studios, the first incarnation of what later became Verant and then was
merged back into SCEA as Sony Online Entertainment. It's worth noting
that in those days perhaps no one realized the size of the market; the
six cents knocked off the UO fee would have amounted to over $25,000 at
the game's last known peak subscriber numbers (430,000 in href="http://championsofnorrath.station.sony.com/headset.jsp">January

As the developer name changed the EverQuest subscription fee grew to
keep pace, and by April 2002 the price had been upped to href="http://forum.pcvsconsole.com/viewthread.php?tid=227">$12.95
/ month.  In June 2003, UO followed EverQuest's lead and
jumped the subscription fee to  href="http://www.uo.com/costs.html">$12.99 /
month, and that's where UO's sub fee stands to-date.  But EQ
went through one final round of increases (aside from Station Pass
increases, which has increased in price from $24.99 at its inception to
in March 2007 - still the absolute href="http://station-access.station.sony.com/">best
subscription deal in online gaming, in my opinion). In June
2005, EverQuest players were paying what World of Warcraft and
EverQuest 2 players were by then currently paying - href="http://eqplayers.station.sony.com/news_article.vm?id=50010&month=052005">$14.99
/ month.

Dark Age of Camelot followed a similiar trajectory, beginning at the
EverQuest-inspired href="http://daoc.catacombs.com/forum_news.cfm?Forum_thread=114750&forum_pagenum=4">$12.95
/ month, then following the WoW / EQ2 trend by increasing the sub fee
to $14.95
/ month in February 2005. In my quick search, Final Fantasy XI (at href="http://www.playonline.com/pcd/topics/ff11eu/detail/439/detail.html">$12.95
/ month) was the only 3+ year old game that stuck to its
release date subscription fees, though FFXI is currently embroiled in a
lawsuit over the href="http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3174941">Hotel
California-ness of its subscription practices.

So, basically, we've seen two widespread increases in subscription
fees, the first in 2003 (from ~$9.95 to ~$12.99) and another in 2005
(from $12.99 to $14.99). Sub fees have remained relatively constant
over the last 4 years. According to href="http://www.westegg.com/inflation/">The Inflation
Calculator,  these increases hold up fairly
well : $9.95 in 1997 equals about $13.30 in 2008 (2008 is the
last year for which we have complete CPI data, though the comparison
would probably suffer a bit with 2009 numbers). If you're upset about
that $1.69, consider that $14.99 in 2005 equates to $16.30 in 2008.
 Think of all the imaginary money you're saving!

What's most interesting, though, is the fact that sub fees haven't
increased during the period that subscription MMOs have seen their most
explosive growth. Once the new price floor was established in 2005, the
market doubled in size from around 7 million to more than 16 million
(according to MMOGchart.com)
yet sub fees haven't changed a bit. In each previous instance
of an increase, sub fees played "follow the leader" - EQ established
the $12.95 increase and then every other developer raised fees to
follow suit. The first of the so-called third gen subscription MMOs -
World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 - established the $14.95 rate,
then LotRO, Vanguard, AoC, etc. followed suit. Larger markets
drive competition and competition drives down prices, of course, but
unlike other explosive growth markets (e.g. cellphone service
providers), the biggest MMO "providers" don't
offer substitutable products, so competitive pricing isn't as
effective. Case in point, if you're a WoW player with no interest in
kid-focused MMOs, I'm not going to talk you into switching to
FusionFall for even the astounding deal of $5.95 / month.

Though WoW is probably past the point where a subscription fee increase
would only
inspire talk of quitting rather than actual widespread account
cancellation, we can thank Blizzard for not making hay while the sun
shone. From 2005 - 2008, how much more would WoW's millions have paid
per month to play the game? $20? $25? And other MMOs would probably
have hiked their sub fees accordingly to avoid a perception of lower
quality. We'll thank the quality free-to-play games too - 
Guild Wars, Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic, etc. - because these
games showed that a decent MMO doesn't necessarily have to charge a
monthly fee to make a profit. Our gratitude also goes out to all the
games which have exerted downward pressure on sub fees, either through
lifetime memberships and reduced-cost multimonth sub fees, or just by
charging a lesser amount per month (like Wizard101 and FusionFall).

What's your take on why sub fees have stayed the same? Are sub fees
just arbitrary prices based on market forebearance? We aren't paying
more, but has our bang for the monthly buck increased, decreased, or
stayed the same? Have your
say in the href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=47056">Loading...

style="font-weight: bold;">Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
the Day

From our href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=589">Aion
General Discussion Forum

PvP = fail

a daeva who's just one more gaming session away from level 25 and
gaining Abyss access, I'm interested to see what PvP, or more
specifically PvPvE, will bring to my Aion experience. I've already been
ganked a couple times by rift jumpers, but that was really more of a
minor nuisance than anything that would ruin the game for me. The
Abyss, on the other hand, will be a different story. Will I agree with
the poster of today's epic thread, Beerkeg, who says that The Abyss
amounts to nothing but an imbalanced gank-o-rama in which the solo
player has no chance? Will it, as he says, take Aion from "really good
MMO to sub-standard MMO?" (You'll have to come read the thread to see
how Beerkeg changed his tune later in this thread.)

If you've got something to say about PvP in Aion, head over to our
forum and href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=47148">have
it out. 


Awesome Quotes from the
Epic Thread

"They aren't there for a
fair and gentlemanly fight, they are there to gain Abyss Points and



Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=32559">Tell

9 new Ten Ton Hammer MMOG features today! 82
in October! 2,030 in

Today's New Features
  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/seasonal/hallows-end"> style="font-weight: bold;">World of Warcraft
    -  Hallow's End Guide

    End is starting up in World of Warcraft with lots of trick or treating,
    the spooky headless horseman going around causing fires and giving
    purps, and other fun holiday activities. Want some of his new ilvl 200
    gear, flying brooms, achievements, or pumpkin hats? Why not check out
    our Hallow's End Guide this year. Get all you need to know about this
    awesome holiday here at Ten Ton Hammer!
  • Gazing
    into the Past - A Look at the Lore of style="font-weight: bold;">Star Wars: The Old Republic

    or Jedi? What side will you fight for in Star Wars: The Old Republic
    (SWTOR)? To pick a side you should first know who you’re fighting for
    and the lore behind the game is already deeper than you might think.
    Knights of the Old Republic started the lore; now find out where SWTOR
    is taking it.

  • Guesses
    at Aion's
    First Expansion, and When Can We Expect It

    first max level characters are just starting to roll in and the bulk of
    the player base is closer to the level cap than the newbie zones. That
    gets us wondering which direction NCsoft will take Aion in an
    expansion. While players are not blowing through the content at the
    rate witnessed in other games, they won't stay satiated long before
    they need more to chew up. Where will the lore lead us? Read
    on to find
    out some of Medeor's thoughts and prognostications.

  • World
    of Warcraft - Popularity

    ready to stroke your e-peen, show off your welfare epics and otherwise
    claim your dominance over the other hordes of World of Warcraft
    players. This week Mem takes a look at those players who take showing
    off your gear to a whole new level.

  • The
    Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

    Siege of Mirkwood expansion is due for release later this year and
    nothing will ever be the same in Middle Earth. Orcs and more foul
    creatures lurk in the dark forest, ready to fight. It falls to us to
    fight back against the darkness. Prepare for battle, because war is
    here. This trailer video is a small sample of the story and content
    players will be able to experience in LotRO: Siege of Mirkwood.

More Guides

  • style="font-weight: bold;">Gated Communities -
    A Guide to Finding the Right Gaming Home

    week in Loading.... Community Disservice, Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
    pleaded to developers to bring back games that encouraged and fostered
    the strong communities that spawned so many of our gaming friendships
    and fond memories. But ultimately we have to play the games we're given
    and not the ones we wish we had. Join Medawky as he helps players
    find their perfect virtual real estate fit, regardless of game.
  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion/guides/general/asmoaether_pt2"> style="font-weight: bold;">Aion: Asmodean Aether Gathering
    Guide 100-199

    you're done with Altgard and picked up a ticket to Morheim. Look up and
    take to the skies in our next Aether Gathering guide. We'll take you
    through the entire Aether Crystal arc of your journey to the mastering
    the long lost art of accidentally falling to your death while
    harvesting. So come prepared with something else to do while your wings
    charge and we'll begin our 100-199 Aether Extraction Guide for

  • style="font-weight: bold;">WoW Utgarde Keep/Utgarde Pinnacle

    Keep consists of two dungeons, Utgarde Keep and Utgarde Pinnacle. The
    Keep is located on the shores of Lake Cauldros in Howling Fjord.
    Utgarde is held by the formidable Vrykul, lead by King Ymiron, who use
    the keep as their main base of operations to launce attacks against the
    Horde and Alliance in the area. This guide will help you defeat the
    bosses within the keep and gain the achievements that can be found
  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co/guides/world/MC_overview"> style="font-weight: bold;">Champions Online : Millennium
    City Overview

    time to the big city in Champions Online? Well, don’t stare at the
    majesty of Millennium City like a slack-jawed yokel! Your friends here
    at Ten Ton Hammer are here to provide a quick guide to this futuristic
    metropolis. Soon, you’ll be sipping lattes like a local.

Hottest Content:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/seasonal/hallows-end"> style="font-weight: bold;">World of Warcraft
    -  Hallow's End Guide
  2. style="font-weight: bold;">Gated Communities -
    A Guide to Finding the Right Gaming Home
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co/guides/world/MC_overview"> style="font-weight: bold;">Champions Online :
    Millennium City Overview
  4. Incarna
    Incarnate - An Exclusive Q&A with style="font-weight: bold;">EVE Online's Torfi
    Frans Ólafsson

  5. Gazing
    into the Past - A Look at the Lore of style="font-weight: bold;">Star Wars: The Old Republic

  6. Player
    Created Content - A Look at Benefits and Dangers of Giving the Players
  7. Can
    Aion overcome
    the re-subscription threshold?
    href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/75321/"> style="font-weight: bold;">
  8. style="font-weight: bold;">EVE Online Video
    Q&A with GoonSwarm Spymaster 'The Mittani'
  9. style="font-weight: bold;">Champions Online -
    Battle Royale: The Min-Maxer vs. The Conceptual Creator
  10. Windows
    , Gaming, and Why You Should Care

Thanks for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network! 

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.