Actually the free to play model when a game is well made earns a lot more money over time than even with a up front purchase and subscription model.
The keyword is "microtransactions" by having a bunch of small purchases you end up earning a bunch of money because someone is paying for convenience or a clear edge over other players in a game. So they end up spending 15-20 a month or more. But they're doing it 2-3 bucks at a time and don't realize it. It's exploiting the compulsion for an impulse buy.
The big problem with the industry as a whole right now is that big name publishers see success like world of warcraft, and call of duty/battlefield. They want to get that success and so they emulate. Not realizing that they need to stand out and experiment. It's why you don't see many space sims, RTS, god games, or adventure games anymore. They're "dead genres" because they never got huge payouts on launch days. They can still make money. But when a company is run by a moron (like riticello with EA) they're looking for big payouts and not a steady stream of profitable income. Which is more just a symptom of the ass backwards american corporate culture. (not all corporate culture is bad. It's a greed pretty unique to american companies). So, we end up with mindless rehashes that at best look like shiny painted over versions of other games that have already come out.
Look at Star Wars: The Old Republic. That game had an officially disclosed 200 million sunk into it's development. And now it's F2P as a desperate gambit to make some of the money back. That probably would work. If they remembered that you need to actually have the game be fun without paying money for people to want to put money into it.
This article seems to forget and totally gloss over several factors about the new "entitlement" generation of games.
Most games can be just as difficult or -more- difficult than games of the past. All you have to do is go to the difficulty setting and turn it up a little higher. It is a rare game that you can't find some challenge in it by doing just that. Even as some hardcore uber gamer. Now if you want to complain about level design being dumbed down, about linearity, about features in the gameplay that make the game too easy on any difficulty level... Then fine. I can see the point.
I think what this article, and a lot of older gamers from my generation mistake is accessibility with difficulty. World of Warcraft is trying to hybrid the idea that everyone should get a shot at the raid, but not everyone can beat it on the hardest settings. The goal is to create equal and open opportunity, not a guarantee at the ending.
Now, as they say in this article not every game does that. And that is an issue. Being basically handheld along til you eventually win sucks, but as long as I can put the difficulty higher, get a challenge, and then win the game feeling satisfied. How does that diminish my enjoyment of the game when someone else can beat it easily? Except to be an elitist dickhead.
Dark souls is another example of a game that hasn't bowed to the trend. It's hard, and part of the game's entire focus is on the difficulty of your fights. As well as the grind of moving around because teleporting between bonfires or dying/resurrecting at one causes monsters (not bosses) to respawn. That game didn't add in an easy mode, because it's focus is the difficulty.
So, while I can see some of the points this article makes. I also think it's glossing over way too much that counters it's argument.
p.s. Oh, and planetside 1? You could reset your certifications every 24 hours. So that "you can't pilot whatever" argument is bullshit. Planetside 2 may let you invest points into everything. But those certification sinks give you some pretty powerful upgrades. 200 certs into a scythe is a lot better than a guy who has no certs in a scythe. And you can never reset those certs. You're stuck with them unless you make a new character.
I thought it was rather amusing that DPS players were portrayed as "victims" in this article. I play a mage as my main, and I have to say. If anything, tanks and healers tend to be victims. DPS is the absolute easiest role to play in the entire game. Sure it may be hard to get a good rotation as something, but you have very little in responsibility compared to the tank, or the healer.
So, the idea that DPS are a victim of huge queue times is totally due to the lack of tanks and healers in the system. It's a high demand but low supply. So blizzard puts in an incentive to get people to play those classes or for people to queue up as those roles more if you're a hybrid class. Then the above article complains about it. Claiming that one specific and small fraction of the community is going to exploit it and that makes the entire mechanic and effort of it terrible. That just strikes me as idiotic.
The fact is, the only way to "fix" the 45 minute queue times is to have more people playing tanks and healers or willing to queue up as those roles. This encourages that, and unless over 50% of the tanks in the entire game are pulling /trade spam I call it a win.
I've long been a person who believed that the paid services are too expensive. The vast majority of them are completely automated now and the marginal resource cost to blizzard to conduct a fully digital transaction is not worth 15-30 dollars.
In fact, if you look at their store... It's like they're trying to cash in on the micro-transaction fad that's sweeping most online games. People have seen browser games like farmville suck in tons of money because they have small charges like $5-10 to buy advantages in the game. Thankfully, blizzard hasn't put a significant mechanical advantage in the game you have to pay for. However, it's like they're confused. They want paid items and micro-transfer revenue added to WoW but they're putting things in the store for way too much money.
For instance, when the flying lion mount becomes available I guarantee it'll be at least as much as the sparkle pony. Now, that's not a dig against the item, I just forget the real name. The most hilarious part is that if you put the pony on sale, permanently reduced the price, or even offered the lion at less than the original mount you'd have people who bought it at the original price flipping out. "Why did I have to pay so much." It's the same knee-jerk anger that comes about with the game being streamlined and made easier, "Why do they get the same rewards for less work?!"
Anyway, this has become far longer than I intended and rambling to boot. I'll just sum things up by saying that virtually all of the "premium services" blizzard currently offers should cut their prices in half. This includes the mount buying etc. The rule of thumb should be that no one item or service, even if it's a package of services like faction swapping, should exceed one month's membership. I think that's fair, and blizzard still makes a huge profit.
A lot of companies, even with tons of data, forget or completely go against the idea of lowering prices, expanding your available market, and ultimately making more money that way. i.e. If I have a $30 item and only two people are willing to buy it. That's 60 dollars. If I have a $15 dollar item and five people are willing to buy it now that's $75 dollars. It seems less impressive at first glance because it's five sales of $15, but it's still more money over all.
Not to mention that repeatable services like character transfers, faction swaps, recustomizations, new names, etc. Would all be much more frequently used if the most expensive of the bunch was only $10 or $15 bucks.
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