Posts Tagged ‘Free-to-Play’

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Before You Think Subscriptions Are Back In Style…

August 21, 2013

ESO

With the news of payment models for Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online coming out this week, I see a lot of people have been weighing in with stunned reactions.

But I can’t say I understand the surprise. I’ve made mention before that the “Launching with a subscription and then transition to free-to-play a few months down the road” seems to be emerging as an efficient business model in itself. Make all the big money up front, and as your player population inevitably dwindles after a while when the shiny has worn off, flip the switch to F2P. On top of that, you also get the benefit of having two “launches” to maximize your publicity as well as the “second rush” that comes with the sub-free players.

Call me overly-suspicious, but as fantastic as these two games look, I don’t think either Carbine or Zenimax (or, at least, their business departments) are under any delusions of grandeur thinking they will break the mold, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they already have their contingency F2P plans in place as a fallback. From a business standpoint, that’s actually quite a very clever route to go, the cousin to the familiar “early adopters pay more to experience everything first” concept. They have no idea if their game will have lasting appeal, but they do know it’s attractive enough that a significant number of gamers will want to jump on board to see what it has to offer — and more importantly, they know this particular audience won’t mind forking out the money to do so right away.

So if one banks on the fact that a good fraction will be willing to pay a subscription for even the first month or two, then why in the world wouldn’t you launch with a sub, especially if you can have F2P all set up as a plan B? It’s not brave, it’s shrewd. You can only win, especially if the heightened number of subscribers hold out for longer than you’d hoped.

Of course, I could be wrong. And I’m also aware the theory borders on cynical (or giving companies too much credit). Still, it was what went through my head as I read these news releases, with not a trace of shock at all. And as to how Wildstar and ESO having a subscription impacts my level of interest and enthusiasm in these games? Probably not at all. As ever, my pattern is to “go all out” when I play an MMO. Which means, in the time span of a single month, I prefer to focus on no more than two games, and I’m definitely not the type to sample 4-5 different ones in a week. Believe me, I’ve tried that, and I just can’t keep up.

So subbing — even for a free game, if the option’s available — has just always felt like the easiest and most obstacle-free route to fit my style. Wildstar and ESO? Yeah, I think I’ll play the hell out of both games when they first come out; I have no doubt I’ll play enough to make whatever box or subscription price worth it in the first couple months. After that, I can always cancel. In other words, business as usual!

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SWTOR: The IMC Strikes Back

July 29, 2013
BHship

Home sweet…ship.

In light of the success that Mercy Gaming has had with the implementation of The Secret World Mondays (it’s been our guild’s longest-running endeavor so far), a few of our members have started up similar weekly sessions for Star Wars: The Old Republic. As such, the Darths at the top have declared Thursdays to be TORsdays, and we’ll be breathing life back into our old Empire guild the Imperial Mercenary Corps.

In a way, this return to SWTOR feels a long time coming. Mercy Gaming in its earliest form was assembled around that game, after all. Over time, our gaming circle has drifted from the game and we’ve lost and gained members since.

But now that SWTOR is free-to-play and has a new expansion to boot, I like the idea of going back and revisiting it once more. Actually, this wasn’t even a game I’d wanted to stop playing in the first place, but my daughter was born about a couple months after it first launched and pretty much all gaming stopped for me until that summer. By then, our guild’s presence in SWTOR had pretty much dissolved, and people had moved on to TSW and Guild Wars 2. Anyway, that’s really just my roundabout way of saying that I’m going to take full advantage of TORsdays.

My first goal: to get my Bounty Hunter to level 50. Apparently, she was 42 when I last left her — so close and yet so far to the old cap. After that, we’ll see about getting the expansion and taking her to 55. For the time being, I’ve already committed myself to at least the next two months because I sprang for the 60-day time card. SWTOR may be F2P, but it will make your life a living hell unless you sub. It appears I’ve been dreadfully spoiled by the more forgiving F2P approach employed by Perfect World/Cryptic games.

As of now, I’m sitting at level 45 and in the middle of questing through Belsavis. It’s always a bit frustrating coming back to an MMO you haven’t played for almost a year, especially when everything has changed and you have to redo all your skill points, user interface, etc. Not to mention the biggie, which is I’ve pretty much forgotten how to play my class. Let’s just say I spent the first couple of days back in game getting my ass kicked all over the planet, and leave it at that.

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How Neverwinter Broke My F2P Malaise

June 10, 2013

Neverwinter

I think I wrote once that free-to-play games don’t typically hook me the same way subscription games do — for two reasons, mainly. One, when I have at least one other sub game going on at the same time, that’s where my attention generally goes. There’s always that sense of “I need to get my money’s worth” chirping at me in the back of my mind, and the comforting knowledge that “the F2P games will always be there” and so that’s why it’s okay to put them on the backburner.

Two, I’m not the kind who likes to buy things piecemeal. I’d much rather just throw a one-time sum of money at a service to get the whole shebang, negating the need to wrack my brain later worrying about hitting the item store to remove any roadblocks.

Funny how Neverwinter, a game that almost didn’t even make it onto my to-play list, should be the one to break this funk I have when it comes to my track record with F2P games. It’s not so much the lack of roadblocks I’ve been hitting, though it helps that I have not yet been made to feel obliged to spend real money to keep playing. Leveling pace has been surprisingly comfortable so far; it’s definitely not fast, but at the same time I’m certainly not facing the horrific time sinks I’d expected and dreaded.

Better yet, there appears to be no end to things for me to do; between running Neverwinter’s dungeons and skirmishes, I actually had to cut back on the number of foundry missions I’ve been doing recently, so as not to out-level the game’s PvE and quest content which I want to experience too.

Granted, I’ve been taking my sweet time with this game, but I’m currently about a smidgen short of level 54 and at this rate I should be level 60 within the next couple of weeks, maybe even around the time Neverwinter officially goes “live” on June 20. When I do, it will actually be my first level-capped character in a new MMO in a good long while. Pretty sobering fact, for someone who’s always made it a point to hit the level-cap in a game before moving on to the next one. Oh how the times have changed, when all my gaming habits have turned on their head.

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The Secret World: Sub Gone, Join Usssssss

December 12, 2012

On 12/12/12 12:12 Norway time, Funcom officially did it — flipped the switch on The Secret World making it subscription-free, or in other words buy-to-play. If you were one of the lucky ones who picked up the game a few weeks ago during one of the many crazy video game sales, I’d be feeling pretty damn swell right now.

Those familiar with the game probably already know that everything had been set up for this from the get go, but leave it to TSW developers to tie the whole thing to the end of the world. As for me, it’s pretty much going to be business as usual. I’m already playing at least once a week, so I’m keeping my sub for the perks: an item which doubles XP for one hour each day, a membership gift, and — here’s the biggie — discounts and bonus points to spend each month in the Item Store.

Assuming I don’t need to be shelling out every month for a game update, can you say, new outfits, outfits, OUTFITS, OUTFITS, OUTFITS?!?! That’s right, bring it on, Syp! We all know last week’s post about fashion show competitions was directed at me.

Speaking of which, I guess now is also the perfect time for me to once again plug our guild’s weekly Monday TSW nights. Depending on who shows up and what needs to be done, on a typical session we help each other through quests, dungeons, and if we have time, watch my character Laeyn dance Gangnam style in her underwear at the Albion Theater:

[SCREENSHOT REDACTED]

Seriously though, if you haven’t had a chance to try this truly amazing and creative MMO, you now have little excuse not to. Given its genre and unique mechanics, I can’t promise the game will be everyone’s cup of tea, but Knights of Mercy will absolutely be happy to welcome any returning or new players on board. I assure you, we loooooove fresh blood!

YUMMY…MUAHAHAHAHA.

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SWTOR: Going Down A Path I Cannot Follow

August 1, 2012

(Yes, I made a prequel reference. I realize I deserve to be taken out back and beaten savagely now, but I could not resist.)

It’s official. Yesterday, the news broke that one of the biggest MMOs we’ve seen in years is going free-to-play later this fall, though not too many, least of all us current players, are surprised.

Disappointment abounds though, from EA execs to yours truly. I wish the best for the game, but it does appear — after being continuously subbed since its launch — that this is to be the beginning of the end of my time with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

It’s not that I think a free-to-play model isn’t a good move for SWTOR or that I’ve suddenly decided it’s a bad game or going to be a bad game — the same way I’ve never thought switching to a F2P hybrid model has been bad for Lord of the Rings Online or Star Trek Online. On the contrary, I think it has worked out smashingly for Turbine and Perfect World, respectively.

I’m simply going by history here. Looking back at past experiences, my play time in the two games mentioned above dropped dramatically and ceased completely very soon after the announcement and switch. Maybe things will be different this time, but the data is against me. I can only extrapolate from that and apply it to what I think might happen with me and SWTOR — that I will continue to sub and play as normal from now until the switch, but afterwards I can expect to see my play time taper and diminish.

I really have nothing against F2P. I think it’s a great system which allows for a great deal of freedom and flexibility. I also know that I can go back to SWTOR whenever I want — in fact, it’s an inevitability, if they continue to update the game. But it never fails; rather than draw me in, F2P just tends to make me drift away.

While I love free MMOs, my problem is never having enough time to play them. These days, when a couple hours of game time is all I can manage each night, priority rightly goes to the MMOs to which I pay a subscription fee. I realize the hybrid model means I can always maintain a SWTOR sub even after the switch, but while I’m sorely tempted, being currently neck-deep in The Secret World and having both the Rift and World of Warcraft expansions (all sub games) and their promise of fresh content on the horizon, my economic mind is urging me to save money where I can.

I also tend to be the all-or-nothing type of MMO player, which is probably why I don’t particularly mind forking over $15 each month if it will buy quality content and everything I need to enjoy a game. In the words of my friend and fellow blogger Belghast (whom, by the way, put thoughts to words far better and more coherently than I ever could in his latest blog post), a subscription model is upfront and honest. I know I will never have to worry about encountering a roadblock and having to hit up the item store for the solution. I personally cannot imagine myself playing SWTOR this way, paying piecemeal to get restrictions removed.

For an “all-in” person like me, it tends to be a sub or nothing. That doesn’t mean I won’t find myself resubbing to SWTOR at all, but if my past experience with LOTRO and STO are any indication, it’s questionable whether or not I’ll be able to dedicate myself to the game with the same fervor again (though apparently, my purchase of a Collector’s Edition and the many months of being subscribed adds up to a good number of Cartel points which should last me a while). And let’s face it, when it comes to allocating my limited game time to a free MMO this fall, if anything that privilege will likely go to Guild Wars 2.

That said (and I’m clearly speaking from a bias here), despite witnessing one of the most highly anticipated big-budget triple-A game announcing it’s F2P plans after only a mere 8 months, I don’t think this necessarily spells the end of the subscription MMO. We currently have sub games including niche MMOs that are still flourishing, underscoring a need to keep in mind that each and every situation is different. To me, the message behind this whole situation with SWTOR isn’t so much that F2P is inevitable; rather, it is simply a company doing what it is best for their game.

Who knows how much, how long, how often I’ll find myself in the Old Republic, but no matter what, I wish them the best of luck.

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The Catch-Up

September 6, 2011

Well, earlier last month I expressed hopes that August would be a little less “turbulent”, and what happened? We had an earthquake and a hurricane came hurtling up the east coast. Such as it was, we lost electricity for five days last week in the wake of Irene. Still, trees and branches toppling onto power lines every time we even get a slight breeze happens to be a very common occurrence in my area, so no harm done. I know things could have been a lot worse.

Losing power, however, did mean putting a damper on one’s gaming and blogging lifestyle. Even after power was restored it took a while to get the house back in a state fit for habitation (hey, after almost a week in the dark, you’d be surprised to find how much you just don’t give a damn anymore). I was able to play a little catch up this weekend and read up on things I missed last week, but other than that I haven’t really had the chance to do much in terms of gaming.

I missed the bulk of information coming out of PAX Prime this year, only getting bits and pieces from random tweets in my Twitter feed during the power outage, and from catching up on reading blog articles from last weekend. Granted, I know PAX is a fan convention and I was mostly paying attention to MMO-related news especially with regards to upcoming titles, but for better or worse I guess nothing really big happened.

Though if my computer had been connected to the internet last week, I think most of my time would have been spent refreshing The Secret World site, even though after the countdown clock reached 00:00 a whole lot of nothing happened. OMG, it could have been part of “the plan”, after all! Of course, I found out afterward that I was already registered for their beta for doing their “personality test” way back when oh who knows how long ago.

Here’s the thing: I would be thrilled if I got into TSW beta, but I do draw the line at anything that involves the words “requires Facebook”. While participating in the full experience apparently ups my chances, I have a strict no-whoring-myself-on-Facebook policy, call me an old softie but that’s just how I feel.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a game I’ve had on my radar screen for a while, and after it got good reviews from critics and the people I know I decided to pick it up. Ended up buying the Xbox360 version because every once in a while I want to remedy the fact I’m neglecting the poor console. Unfortunately, I was literally in the middle of playing this game when the power went down last weekend, so I haven’t had the chance to get very far. What I’m really liking so far is the story, which is something I knew I could count on, though sadly I have to say the voice acting is rather atrocious.

Perfect World Entertainment has plans to make Star Trek Online free-to-play later this year.

You don’t say.

I didn’t think the news of STO going where many others MMOs have gone before was going to be that surprising, considering how almost everyone including myself has been expecting an announcement like this ever since Champions Online went F2P. I admit I’ve sort of wanted this to happen for a while now, ever since I realized the F2P model probably better suits the pattern with which I play STO.

When the hurricane arrived last Saturday, Rift’s half-birthday celebration was like the last thing on my mind. I assumed it was over when we managed to get back online again late last week, but to my surprise the perks notification was still popping up and sure enough our alts were still benefiting from the extra experience gain. I didn’t even realize Trion had decided to keep the event going on for another week until just now, citing the east coast weather problems as the reason for the extension.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone was beating themselves up over not being able to take advantage of the half-birthday bonuses, not when there are so many other things that take priority in a storm, but I have to say I am seriously impressed by Trion’s consideration.

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A Long Weekend Of Patches

July 5, 2011

I hope everyone stateside had a restful long weekend this 4th of July. Personally, I had planned on getting in some gaming time, but instead found myself distracted by other activities — activities such as grilling hotdogs and burgers out in the yard, and enjoying many nights of firework displays around town, for instance. It was my first Independence Day in America, and I wanted to make it count!

I might not have done as much gaming as I’d have liked, but while I bustled about, my computer and internet chugged away at downloading updates all weekend, which was just as well:

Star Trek Online

I almost missed this, but Cryptic had another one of their Tribble test events this weekend, inviting testers to check out Season 4. I dabbled for as long as I dared, without revealing myself to too many spoilers. What little I did see was impressive enough, and I am itching to experience the new and revamped ground combat system as well as duty officers with my character on the live shard. Spending an hour or two on the Tribble test server this weekend also qualified players for a special reward, and this won’t end until 10am PST today so there’s still time if you hurry.

Age of Conan: Unchained

I’d been talking about jumping back into Hyboria ever since last week when AoC officially went freemium, but of course, I’m procrastinating already. I didn’t take the time to update the client until a couple days ago — and it was a massive download. Oh right, I’ve been away for a loooong time.

I’m definitely tempted to play, especially since I miss my level 80 Priest of Mitra, but seeing as full access to all the best gear, the best zones, and all the best content including the Alternative Advancement system requires a premium membership, looks like there’s a good chance of having to shell out at some point if I intend to do anything fun.

World of Warcraft

Another game I haven’t touched in a while, but decided to update anyway because of Blizzard’s recent announcement that you can now play WoW for free until level 20. I also got an email from them offering me seven days of free game time to experience Patch 4.2 Rage of the Firelands. Not that I have any interest in any new raids or gear, but one thing I do regret is canceling my WoW sub earlier this winter without first playing the Goblin starting zone. I may jump back in one of these days just to do that.