To Subscribe…

…or not to subscribe, that is my question. Or rather, is the monthly subscription model for MMO’s a factor in an online game’s survival?

About two years ago I would have said no and was dead set against paying a monthly subscription – after having forked out to play Myth of Soma for over a year. In fact, I lapped up the opportunity to play Guild Wars when it was released with its then revolutionary ‘subscription-free’ financing model, and it must have worked, because it kept me playing through the Factions, Nightfall and Eye of the North campaigns. Even now, after trialling some of the more recent MMOs like EVE:Online and Age of Conan, I’m usually put off further playing because it would entail an on-going financial commitment I’m just not willing to make. And I’m convinced that most casual gamers don’t play MMOs for this very reason as they are used to purchasing a game and playing it whenever they like at no extra cost, unless they specifically want to purchase add-on or third party content.

However, I have recently changed my view regarding monthly subscriptions when I began to realise that since upgrading my LOTRO account to a lifetime subscription my play time has decreased. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised the same thing used to happen at times with Guild Wars. The problem is complacency. Whenever one parts with their hard-earned cash, as a result they want to see value for money – it’s human nature. And the same must be true with MMO gaming. If you pay a monthly subscription, you want to get your money’s worth and therefore you become more focused on playing regularly and developing your character. So the converse is true and it’s what I’m now experiencing, that a single one-off payment can quickly be forgotten and the pressure to squeeze out every penny’s worth of the subscription fee is just not there. Inevitably then, the “Oh, I can just play any time I want to…” mentally quickly takes root.

I don’t regret paying for my Lord of the Rings Online lifetime subscription at all, but there is definitely something to be said for the monthly subscription fee arrangement. I now believe it could well be a factor in whether an MMO’s community stays vibrant and active and therefore whether ultimately an online game survives at all.

//HoC

2 Comments

  • I much prefer the monthly subscription method to the current trend towards micro transactions. That is I'd rather pay monthly for a game than have it free, but have to fork out my cash when I want extra's or nice shiny items that people without cash can't afford to buy. At least with a monthly sub everyone who pays their fee is on the same level, the rest is down to time spent in game, not real life fortunes. There are exceptions such as players that buy in game cash but this is another topic entirely. ;)

    I too have a lifetime LOTR sub and at the moment I don't find myself playing the game. If I had a monthly sub I'd either cancel or play the game more to get my moneys worth, as you suggested in your post HoC.

    I think you might find that MMO's which go down the transaction method of paying for a game will result in players spending less time in game than those games where a monthly sub is required, for the same reasons you outlined in your post.

    With Everquest 2 I have paid my monthly sub since the game was released and I enjoy the game so much still that I always get value for money. Paying monthly for my MMO's also helps me limit the amount I play as I will only ever pay for 2 MMO's at any one time. Not only does this limit how much I spend, but from my experience means I get more out of each game I play. If I were playing 4 or 5 MMO's I'd never get anywhere or see much in any of them.

    I only play online games now and having 2 MMO's means my main MMO (Everquest 2) is kept fresh as I have a 2nd game for something a bit different.

    At the moment (I blame Sres), my 2nd game is Battleground Europe as Sres's posts here intrigued me. I'm in the free trial at the moment, but this game is also a monthly subscription game should I continue past the trial.

  • Although I prefer having monthly fee to no fee and paying for items in game I've never really liked the fact it makes me feel like I have to play (to get value for money) rather than play because I want to. And I sometimes found my real life suffered as a consequence. The LotRO lifetime subscription was perfect for me. Now I can play 24/7 if I want to or take off for a month or two without feeling guilty about throwing money away. And two years later I can say I've definitely had my money's worth.

    I've never really had a second game during this time. Played a few betas but nothing grabbed me and to be honest didn't want to play yet another fantasy genre MMO. So it will be interesting when Bioware's The Old Republic launches (hopefully later this year?) to see how the monthly vs lifetime subscription plans affect my time given to each game (unless of course there's a lifetime option for TOR hehe). Especially as it was a Star Wars game that dragged me into this genre of game in the first place ;)

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