DDO Editorial: Doing Business
Yesterday, an interesting series of questions regarding the monthly fee
of massively-multiplayer games (MMOGs) landed in my inbox. In this
editorial, I will take a look at how a monthly fee impacts a game from
my perspective. I'll also address what an established market of MMOGs
with a monthly fee means to a new contender like Dungeons & Dragons
Online: Stormreach (DDO). Finally, I'll supply my opinion of DDO's
price based on my level of enjoyment with the game.
What Good is a Fee Anyway?
At the basest level, fees keep your MMOG of choice running. To run
persistently-online games, a company needs servers. To maintain the
servers, it needs technicians. To resolve technical and billing issues,
it needs customer service representatives. To maintain the subscription
base and generate new interest in the game, the company's going to want
a website. Websites require developers. To lock 80 flamefest threads
each day and let forum posters know their digital voices are heard, the
company must hire community managers. Oh, and then there's the
marketing and public relations specialists.
Wha--? Say again? Oh! You want new content, do you? Well that means the
company will have to maintain at least a skeleton staff of writers,
graphic designers, programmers, and more. Somebody has to manage these
folks, so that'll require a lead developer (with higher salary). And
somebody will require supplies (No, not Mountain Dew! The interns go
get that!), which necessitates a logician.
By the way, all of these people will want to get paid regularly, so the
company had better have an Accountant/Budget Analyst. Then the company
should probably train these people on standard operating procedures and
prevention of sexual harassment (one lawsuit could spell ruin). Don't
even get me started on what happens if the employees get benefits.
I think…you get the point. Running any MMOG can be a costly investment.
That's what our fees pay for each month.
How Do Monthly Fees Shape the Gamer's Expectations?
Two weeks ago, my wife and I visited an upscale restaurant that opened
two months earlier. It was actually the new location of an older
establishment. We found the menu to be pedestrian for the prices, and
the bland food disappointed. We didn't complain, though. We paid our
tab with a fair tip and went to our car. On the ride home, we quickly
formed a pact to never eat there again.
I tell you that story to make a point. I am not likely to complain
about an insignificant fee, especially if I have to pay it only once.
On the other hand, I will
complain about even an insignificant fee that I pay on a continuous
basis. What I consider significant or a lot of money may not be the
same by your standards, but I believe $10-15/month for entertainment is
a reasonable price. Thus, I am willing to take the plunge and subscribe
to a MMOG. Since the fee comes every month, though, I feel I have some
room to complain if things aren't to my satisfaction. Sure, I'll pay to
play your game, but I'll stop playing if I no longer get entertainment
Doesn't the Fee Make You Want to Squeeze More from a Game?
When I pay for something, I hope to get my money's worth. The value of
a dollar is another subjective concept. I look for 1 hour of fun per
month for each dollar I pay from my MMOG. If I'm paying $12/month for
my MMOG, I feel as though I need to play at least 12 hours per month
for the game to “earn it's keep.” If I'm not able to play because of
work or family, I feel as if I'm wasting money.
Outside of self-imposed pressure to play a game I pay for, the
structure of MMOGs lends well to a reluctance to stop playing. My MMOG
avatar is an extension of myself, and I likely invested at least $125
in him ($50 for the game and 6-7 months os subscription fees to hit the
level cap). I won't just walk away from him. Not only that, new content
is coming all the time. I might miss something! Then there's my
friends—6 or 7 months of adventuring with the same group of people will
form a bond. I don't want to say goodbye to them yet!
At the same time…
Does the Monthly Fee Make You More Likely to Quit at the First
I have to admit—just like the upscale restaurant that failed to meet
expectations—a MMOG is always a trial purchase for me. If I don't like
it during the trial month that typically comes with purchase of the
box, I'll cancel my account and never return. I'll not hesitate either.
I've got little time and money invested at that point, and I likely
won't have a ton of new friends in so short a time.
So What Does All of This Mean for a New Contender Like DDO?
In the first days of MMOGs (think Ultima and EverQuest), customers just
felt excited to be a part of the next evolution of gaming. For every
person who said “Game X does this better,” a MMOG player was there to
say, “Yeah, but my game lets me play online with thousands of people!”
MMOGs don't get the same reverent treatment today. The market is packed
with dozens of games that charge a monthly fee to play. Gamers have
developed a set of clear expectations:
- Emulate the best features of existing MMOGs
- But don't copy too much because we're not looking for a clone
- Show us something new—be it new landscapes, battle systems, or
- Give us frequent content updates
- Make an easy-to-use interface and buddy system
- Have stable servers
- Respond to CS tickets swiftly
Is DDO's Price Model a Good Fit for Its Player Base?
addressed this topic
in one of our Friday Editorials last month. My
opinion is both similar and divergent. I fully believe DDO is a MMOG
and deserves to charge a monthly fee. Turbine has steadily addressed
bugs and provided new content since the game's release in February.
Additionally, I find myself going back to that list of expectations in
the previous section. I think DDO has tackled most of my list.
Ultimately, it comes down to my personal enjoyment of the game. The
MMOG market is no longer a fresh niche, and I am inclined to make
comparisons. My final analysis is that there's no other MMOG on the
market I'd rather be playing.
Agree? Disagree? Tell us [HERE]