ZeniMax's Matt Firor on Free-to-Play and Subscriptions

Updated Wed, Sep 17, 2008 by Medeor

Another panel about Free to Play, but this time with meaning.

At the Austin Game Developer's Conference, ZeniMax Online's president Matt Firor grabbed the hot end of the fire poker by taking the subscription side of the Free to Play versus Subscription equation. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said, "there is really no versus" when it comes to the two business models. He commented, "The debate's over about whether free to play has a market. Obviously it does." He is right, there is always a market for free, take a look at the door of any supermarket, you can get ten different free real estate magazines on your way home. I haven't picked one up in years but if I start looking for a house, I might. Back on task regarding subscriptions and how as developers:

"You never want [your subscribers] to stick their head above the ground" and work out what else is out there in the MMO space that they could be playing instead."

He also makes and excellent point about the games not being exclusive, just because people pay a monthly fee doesn't mean they aren't playing free games as well. Maybe the two can coexist, but I think he hit the nail on the head with:

"But he ultimately believes that "people value a game based on the price you're charging for it. If you want to make a subscription game, you have to make a triple-A game." In other words, it's all about fulfilling the prophecies that you are trying to put out by attaching a certain cost on it.

So, gamers will pay for a subscription MMO, simply put, "if they value [the game] enough to do that."

I'm always been a fan of monthly subscriptions. I believe in rewarding people (developers) for their work (patches, bug fixes, etc.) and I believe in keeping some barriers to knuckleheads jumping into the game. If someone is paying to play a game then my own pea sized brain believes that on some level those people will appreciate the game and other gamers just a little bit more. Read the rest of the article at Gamasutra. I know many people are proponents of free to play, and I've played my share, but I spend the lion's share of my time in subscription based games. Are my expectations too high for F2P games or am I just an elitist? Can the two coexist or better yet, are they a match made in heaven? Share your thoughts
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