As I sit here this weekend, eagerly awaiting the release of Diablo 3 this Tuesday, I've been desperate for games to play. Here's where the problem comes in: almost all of the games I've played over the past couple years have been MMOs. I've cancelled all of my monthly subscriptions to them, and I just can't justify paying a subscription fee for a game I'll only be playing a couple hours a month, if even that.
I'd love to hop in an one of my old games (or all of them), see what's changed, talk to some old friends and just screw around. However, I can't justify keeping a subscription, or multiple subscriptions active, while I'm not actively involved in the game.
This lead me to start thinking about all the different models companies use to charge (or not) for their games. There's a lot of games that are free to play, some games use micro-transactions and others have a monthly fee associated to their accounts. Companies mix and match these different payment models, but you never see a MMO that goes "Free to Play" after you've been a loyal customer for years under the Subscription Model.
So, my question is: Why? Why can't I just go back and revisit these games, with my characters, without having to re-activate my account?"
- Ultima Online - Purchase Game, Monthly Fee, Purchase Expansions
- Everquest - Purchase Game, Monthly Fee, Purchase Expansions
- Star Wars: Galaxies - Purchase Game, Monthly Fee, Purchase Expansions
- World of Warcraft: Purchase Game, Monthly Fee, Purchase Expansions, Micro-transactions (Mounts, Pets)
- Age of Conan: Purchase Game, Monthly Fee
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Purchase Game, Monthly Fee
I've purchased, payed monthly fees, payed transfer costs, gone to midnight releases for expansions and even vanity pets. All of these games have taken more of my money than I care to admit. I still have friends that play some of these games and I'll occasionally read an article about what's going on in these games, I still have some interest.
This weekend would of been the perfect time to log back in and revisit some of them.
I had a World of Warcraft subscription for SIX YEARS, lets look at the math of this real quick...
- $50 Vanilla WoW
- $30 Burning Crusade
- $30 Wrath of the Lich King
- $30 Cataclysm
- $15 month * 12 months * 6 years = $1,080 in subscription fees
I've spent more than $1,220 on World of Warcraft alone... that's pretty ridiculous. I'm 99% positive that some business model has to exist that would allow players to become "Free to Play" after paying for so long.
But, why in the world would a game company want to do this? Well, you'd end up with players like me, a player who hops in and plays it occasionally. I keep up with the game, I follow it's progress, and possibly someday I may play again.
Games need players. There's nothing worse than logging into a game, looking at your guild list and/or friends list, and seeing it's empty. By eventually allowing some of these players to play for free, it would keep the game's population a bit more stable. It would help keep communities of gamers together and probably extend the lifespan of the game in question.
Maybe this is just me rambling, but part of me wants to believe that this type of evolutionary pay model, going from pay to free, would help the MMO industry. The first few years of the game would have a healthy subscription base, allowing for expanded development teams and continued bug / stability fixes. As time goes on, the subscription base would start to shrink, but the team needed to maintain the game wouldn't have to be as large either. Expansions could fund their own development, I wouldn't even care if this meant expansion prices jumped to $50-60.
Anyways, enough of a rant on my part. Someday maybe we'll see this model of pay in a game. I'd sure be interested.