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Ton Hammer!

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style="font-style: italic;">Subscription
fees have been a hotbutton topic among MMOG enthusiasts in Western
markets ever since style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
broke the subscription barrier in 2005. Short of the usual rants or
rationalizations of subscription fees, today's Loading... looks at what
goes into a subscription fee, what players get out of it, and asks
whether our issue is the fee itself, or the online community we're made
to pay the price of admission for. That in today's href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/loading/2010/oct/21">Loading...
Subscription Friction.

cellspacing="0" width="100%">


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

top 5 Pulse results:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow">World
    of Warcraft
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eq2">EverQuest 2 
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/99">Lord
    of the Rings Online (UP 1)
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/43">EVE
    Online (down 1)
  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/115">Age
    of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
    (UP 1)

movers today

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2035">Rift:
    Planes of Telara

    - down 5
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1407">DC
    Universe Online

    - down 4
    style="text-decoration: underline;">
  3. style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1234">Runes
    of Magic

    UP 3
size="-1">Recent Releases
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">9/7
    - size="-1"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion">Aion:
    Assault on Balaurea (free
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">9/29
    - Everquest
    2 Extended

  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">9/30
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/ffxiv">Final
    Fantasy XIV (release)
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">10/20
    - Champions
    Online: Demonflame
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">10/20
    - Dungeons
    and Dragons Online: Update 7



  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">October
    26, 2010
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/170">LEGO
    Universe (release)
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">November,
    2010 - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve">EVE Online:
    Incursion (expansion)

  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">December
    7, 2010
    - World
    of Warcraft: Cataclysm


  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">January
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2539">Test
    Drive Unlimited 2
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">Early 2011
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1407">DC
    Universe Online (release) size="-1">

size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">

  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">10/22 -
    10/23 - href="http://us.blizzard.com/blizzcon/?rhtml=y" target="_blank">BlizzCon
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;"> 3/24
    3/26 (2011) - href="http://fanfest.eveonline.com/" target="_blank">CCP
style="font-weight: bold;">Rift
- Ask the Devs!

Have you got a question about style="font-style: italic;">Rift:
Planes of Telera?
Well, you have a chance to ask the devs at Trion Worlds directly. Just
submit your questions href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=53660">in
our forums. style="font-weight: bold;">Contest!
Win a Guild Wars 2 Premium Wall Graphic

To help celebrate the redesign of the Guild Wars 2 forums, Ten Ton
Hammer is having a contest where the winner receives a Guild Wars 2
premium wall graphic from LTL Prints. All you have to do to enter is
post on our href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=721">forum.
This contest ends October 26th. For all the contest details, go href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/contests/ltl-post-a-thon">here.
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/playerscore/scoreboards"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 249px;"
alt="World of Warcraft PlayerScore"

your PlayerScore?
World of
Warcraft players, find out at href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/playerscore">playerscore.com.

Loading... so much to do, so
little time.

Given long enough, people in any social group will complain about their
lowest common denomenator. Employees in a workgroup commiserate about
their boss, teachers talk about their principal, schoolkids talk about
the food in the cafeteria. And as lowest common denomenators go,
subscriptions have probably replaced addiction as the most hated
reality of top-tier MMO gaming.

In today's href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/microcosms/2010/oct/21">Microcosms,
Medawky notes that the first year cost of a typical top-tier
subscription MMO comes in at about $230, between box costs and the
usual $15 / month fee. That's a fair chunk of money, but you'll spend
more than that if you join a bowling league, take your significant
other to the movies once a month (when did non-matinee movie tickets go
up to $14, anyway?), or really any other pastime that enjoyably occupy
you for a fraction of the time that a good game can. I just joined a
gym, the most reasonable one in my area, and I'm paying close to five
times that in a years time (and believe me, I'd much rather be playing
a game than be on the Arc machine).

But I absolutely get it, no one likes subscription costs. I probably
have more sub costs per month than any three average MMO gamers - subs
are actually a line item on my budget. Even if it's a justifiable
amount of hobby money, it has a certain sleazy air of "first one's
free!" about it, past the initial 30 days. That, plus the process to
cancel a subscription once it has taken root typically ranges from
harrowing to hairpullingly frustrating, depending on the number of
hoops a game makes you jump through.

So I won't try to justify subscription costs -  I don't like
any arguments I've heard in favor of subscription costs. That servers
and game communities require constant professional maintenance is a
given, but detractors point out that Arena.net seems to be doing just
fine with Guild
, with a highy
anticipated sequel on the way. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/dcuo/interviews/2010/jim-lee-and-chris-cao"> style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
notables point out that they
view subscription cost as a lot like DLCs and plan to make monthly
content to suit, but no other game requires you to buy DLC to keep

Instead, I'm more interested in what goes into a subscription fee, what
should go into a subscription fee, and whether we actually value what
we're made to pay for. The accountant in me understands that online
games have fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are fairly easy
to understand - they're what it takes to design, develop, and publish
the game. Things get tricky with variable costs. If we apply the
classical definition, variable costs are what it takes to maintain and
support the game experience for one more player (including bandwidth,
depreciation on hardware, etc.). Things get complicated in terms of
variable costs - the cost of the 300th gamer on a serve and the 499th
is probably negligable, but the cost between the 300th gamer and the
39,801st gamer playing on a server is nothing short of astronomical,
due to the expenses and depreciation of the sort of cutting edge
infrastructure it takes to support interaction on that scale.

Thoretically, the average variable cost per gamer should form the core
of any subscription fee (just like the cost of printing, bundling, and
shipping a magazine to your door should be the starting point of what a
magazine subscription costs), but in reality the market tends to
dictate the price. style="font-style: italic;">WoW
commands $14.99 / month, so every other MMORPG targeted at the same
demographic has followed suit. Kids' MMOs like style="font-style: italic;">Wizard 101
command about $9.99 a month, so style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universe
have followed suit. This is not to say that the subscription cost is
arbitrary or exploitative, only that so few games have found any market
equilibrium at all, so they'll take what they feel they can get.

In reality, if you're not willing to spend $15 a month, I doubt you're
willing to spend $10 or even $5. It's the recurring aspect of the
payment that makes it feel nickel and dimey. But I sense that the real
problem people have with the subscription model is that you're made to
pay monthly for something that has little real value to you: the large,
anonymous online community. As the Wired article Shayalyn pointed to href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/loading/2010/oct/20">yesterday
shows, the Internet is (paradoxically) a far smaller place than it used
to be, and the natural attraction to meeting other people with shared
interests has largely faded from the online games scene. The confusion
over Chinese gold farmers has maybe even made us more xenophobic than
we used to be.

Added to that, today's MMOGs have done an excellent job of making us
dissociative - if another player moves in on the quest spawns you need,
what are the chances you're going to say hi? Its a small illustration
of a huge problem, and while I care little about saving the
subscription model, I care greatly about preserving the magic of decent
online gaming communities.  As problems go, they might be two
heads on the same Brahmin (to use a style="font-style: italic;">Fallout
analogy). Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=54291">Loading...

Shayalyn's Epic Thread of the

From our href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=142">WoW
News Discussion forum

4.0.1 Explodes onto the Live Servers

4.0.1 undoubtedly brought some major changes to World of Warcraft, but
are they all for the better? Our WoW community isn't so sure, and
they're talking about it in today's epic thread. With BlizzCon
dominating the gaming scene this weekend, Blizzard is the hot topic of
discussion. (Then again, when isn't it?) Come href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=54222">give
us your thoughts on WoW patch


Quotes from the Epic Thread

I the only one who has logged in, gotten a headache trying to figure
all this stuff out and logged out?

- href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showpost.php?p=444248&postcount=2">Medeor


and Exclusive Content
Today at Ten Ton Hammer

7 new Ten Ton Hammer
features today! 74 original features in October! 1134
in 2010!


Thom Terrazas Talks House of Thule - Ten Ton Hammer Live Episode 24


week on Ten Ton Hammer Live Ben, Jesse, and Dav welcome returning guest
Thom Terrazas from EverQuest to talk about the recently released
expansion House of Thule. 17 freakin' expansions! Can you believe
that?! They talk player housing, scary nightmare realms, and of course
the ins and outs of EQ fandom.

Also this week, Jesse and Ben
discuss the darker side of the gaming industry as EA Louse spreads
rumors through the tangled web of cyber space. Then Davlen has cooked
us up a great master looter this week welcoming a listerner of the show
on to challange Jesse to the ultimate battle of pointless questions
that in some way relate to the guest.

All this and more! On this week's Ten Ton Hammer Live.


Forecast: An Everquest II Extended Review


Sony Online Entertainment launched the spiritual successor to one of
the most popular MMOGs of all time it was hard to predict that another
new game launched that same year would become the most popular MMOG of
all time. While many wrote Everquest II off for dead the game is still
going strong, and with the launch of the new free-to-play Everquest II
Extended, the future has never been brighter. Join Jason "Medawky"
Bolton for a look at the new server in our full review of Everquest II


A Microcosms Look at the Cost of Free-to-Play


of the hottest trends in gaming is undoubtedly the emergence of
free-to-play. While everyone loves free stuff, could we be guilty of
missing the point of microtransaction gaming? Join Jason
Bolton this week as he seeks to illuminate what free-to-play gaming is
all about.


for BlizzCon 2010 - A Ten Ton Hammer Tutorial


happens but once a year and it is the dream of most Blizzard fans to be
able to attend the event. Promising to be an epic adventure filled with
everything a gamer’s dreams are made of, it’s easy
to focus on simply
getting to the event and forget that before you go, there is actually
much to be done. To help you in this process we here at Ten Ton Hammer
have provided a list of things that will help you not only be fully
prepared for BlizzCon, but will also help you pass the time before the
grand event.

to the Patch 4.0.1 Glyph System


4.0.1 completely changed how the glyphing system works, added new
glyphs and also changed around the values and effects of a huge number
of existing glyphs. It may look complicated on the surface, but with a
bit of time and patience you can easily navigate the new glyphs and
figure out what's best for you and your spec. Ten Ton Hammer tells you


Speculation For The Incursion Expansion For EVE Online


with some spare ISK can do quite well by themselves if they invest it
wisely, prior to any expansion to EVE Online. Ten Ton Hammer
Contributing Writer, Space Junkie, has painted some broad brushstrokes
about likely investment items.

of Legends Patch Notes and Review


League of Legends community has largely been disappointed lately with
the lack of significant changes in each week's patch. Turns out Riot
Games has been saving them up for one large deployment, and with this
deployment comes a fabulous new hero and some unexpected remakes and
designs. We give you the full patch notes and details on the impact
each change will have on the game.

Top 10

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/dcuo/interviews/2010/jim-lee-and-chris-cao">DCUO's
    Jim Lee and Chris Cao Talk Green Lantern, a Moon Mission, &
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/seasonal/hallows-end">WoW
    2010 Hallow's End Guide
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/reviews/everquest2-extended">Extended
    Forecast: An style="font-weight: bold;">Everquest II Extended
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/rift/interviews/reader-submitted-questions-part3">The
    Ascended Class Soul System - style="font-weight: bold;">Rift:
    Planes of Telara
    Reader Submitted Q&A #
  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/cataclysm-glyphs">Guide
    to the Patch 4.0.1 Glyph System
  6. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve/guides/business/incursion-speculation">Market
    Speculation For The Incursion Expansion For style="font-weight: bold;">EVE Online
  7. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/classes/hunter"> style="font-weight: bold;">WoW
    Hunter Guide 4.0.1 Patch Update
  8. href="http://tentonhammer/com/wow/blizzcon/2010/expectations">BlizzCon
    2010 Expectations

  9. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/patch401-resources"> style="font-weight: bold;">World of Warcraft's
    Patch 4.0.1 Resources
  10. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/main/league/intro">The
    Newbie's Guide to style="font-weight: bold;">League of Legends

for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten
Ton Hammer

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars Game Page.

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.