Lifetime Subscriptions – Waste Of Money?

Free Hobbits for everyone!

Free Hobbits for everyone!

As you’ll know it was announced yesterday that the Lord of the Rings Online is going completely free-to-play as of this Autumn. Two thoughts went through my brain as I read their marketing email – firstly I was rather surprised by the whole thing and secondly I was bloody relieved I never took out lifetime subscription for the game.

Of course to generalise and say that all lifetime subs were a waste of time for LotRO is both harsh and incorrect. No doubt some people have had great value for money out of it and feel completely satisfied but I can’t help but feel that I’ve had a close call. It was only a few weeks ago that Codemasters sent me an email offering me a discounted lifetime sub, the price of approximately 6 months worth of normal subscriptions, and I’m glad I didn’t go for it because the advantages of being able to play the game without worrying about a subscription have just been rendered totally obsolete. Strangely enough though, I still have until the end of June to take up the offer even though it’s really no longer relevant at all which makes me wonder if Codemasters (the European distributors) knew what was going to happen.

To make up for this obvious flaw in the lifetime subscription plan, Turbine are giving every VIP member 500 Turbine Points per month (it’s worth noting that this also applies to people who want to still use a normal subscription). I don’t know much about what you can do with the points but I’m guessing how much value for money the lifetime sub equates to will depend really on what worthwhile stuff players can buy.

Whatever happens with the Turbine Store, I’m still glad I never took out a lifetime subscription for LotRO and doubt I will ever take out one for any game. Aside from the fact that to recoup the cost of one you’re looking at around 12 months worth of playtime, it seems like we just don’t know what will happen to any game in the future. If a MMO goes for F2P or shuts down completely (unlikely but possible) then forking out for that lifetime sub has just been one big waste of money.

Although I’m talked mostly about LotRO, I’ve got my eye on Cryptic to see what happens with STO and Champions Online. They’ve already got shops in place and still operate lifetime subs and it wouldn’t be a far stretch of the imagination to see both of those games going free and lifers only getting mild compensation in return. Unfortunately those lifetime subscriptions just seem too risky now.

-Gordon

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26 Comments

  1. As you said, it takes 12 months and a lot can happen in that time. You might hate the game, the game might crash, you might have an unexpected surprise (like a kid or change of job/living area).

    I never have and never will. The value you save is not worth the risk.

  2. Longasc says:

    You are right, I was also thinking about the LOTRO lifetime offer. I think Codemasters tricked people into buying it. I know of many users who now regret to have bought it. One month before they drop the bomb and the game goes free to play… I would say Codemasters acted with intend to defraud.

    I am also with you on the Cryptic lifetime offers. They never provided more than one month of content so far and are quite slow to add more. Their lifetimes are just a cash grab, before they go on and release the next MMO with the Cryptic engine.

    In fact I would not recommend any lifetime offers nowadays. My ideal model is that of Guild Wars 1 – and I hope Guild Wars 2 does not stray too far away into the item shop model.

    LOTRO’s F2P will be a demo. Starter areas. 1 Gold limit. If people want to play, they can pay a sub as usual or pay for areas, to allow more gold in their pockets, unlock bags, unlock traits… do people think they made the game F2P to earn less? I guess I will pay around the same price as the usual 40-50 bucks for games like GW2 to get my F2P LOTRO account in a somewhat playable state.

    In that light the lifetime offer seems actually to be a good deal.

    But there seems to be no major new content coming in 2011. And I already did everything else. And I absolutely do not share the believe that future major expansions will be free for VIPs/Lifetimers, through the 500 Turbine points they earn every month.

    Regarding Cryptic, they seem to try the same 1month content + you pay us a lifetime model every time. But especially STO is a bit like DDO, instanced and all that. Easy to add and monetize new content this way. I doubt Lifers would like that. A monthly termination pay in Cryptic points would not be good enough, at least in my opinion.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m not sure if Codemasters did it intentionally or not but it definitely strange timing. Makes me wonder if they had any idea what Turbine was going to do or if it was a last ditch attempt to try and increase their subscriber base before conceding and moving to a F2P model.

  3. Bellus says:

    But if you read the FAQ completely, you’ll see that the Lifetime sub is actually the best deal available when we go F2P in the Fall. The people playing for Free are severely limited in what they can do, even if they buy something from the Store and become a Premium player. Meanwhile, nothing changes for Lifetime subscribers… We still play for free, and yet get all of the benefits of being a VIP player (which is exactly what we get now, plus free points accrued every month to spend in the Store).

    The Free players are really on a unlimited Trial account, and are in no way comparable to a Lifetime account. It is still a good deal, and when we go F2P, the Lifetime sub will be an even better deal than it is now.

    • Gordon says:

      Very true although even at the discounted rate, you’d still have to play for over 7 months to get your value for money. Plus it also assumes you actually need all of the extras that VIP status gives you.

  4. I agree with Bellus. Lifetime subscription is basically permanent VIP status. Free or Premium status is pretty craptacular from what I can see so far. Doesn’t look as nice as DDO’s “Premium” system is.

    I know I’m going to keep paying my sub if I want to play LotRO seriously in after the free-to-play conversion.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, the difference seems very subtle but rather important. I wonder what happens to people who have paid for an extra but then upgrade to VIP? Is that just costing them more than paying the subscription as normal?

  5. Akely says:

    I did get a lifetime about two weeks back. I do not know if I fell cheated or not. It kind of hinges on how what is in the Turbine Store. Will there be “buy this stuff to skip almost endless grinding”, potions, cosmetic stuff only. Or what? I do not know, and I can’t be bothered researching.

    Sure, my recent purchase might be a bad thing. But I can’t be arsed because it is only money and it is still about 6-7 months of the monthly sub price.

    As for Cryptic I would not be surprised if their next MMO will have a similar payment plan as LOTRO is now adopting.

  6. Stabs says:

    If you really like the game lifetime sub has always been and remains a good option.

    As others have said if it’s your main game then you really need to be VIP. VIP forever for the price of renting access for 6 months? Yes please.

  7. Dblade says:

    I think there is an issue, but all of the posters here miss it. It’s not whether or not the lifetime is good value: it’s being offered a lifetime sub to a pay to play game right before it suddenly changes to a free to play one.

    A lot of people dislike the whole free to play model, and if you are going to change a game to that, offering lifetime subs so close to the change is unethical. That locks you into possibly supporting a game that changes to a way you don’t like, beyond simple nerfs.

    Everyone is quick to say that a lifetime sub is still a lifetime, but the big issue with codemasters specifically is selling lifetimes before a controversial change.

  8. Like some people have already mentioned, I think it comes down to how much you’re into the game. Purchasing a LTS earlier this year would have been bad for me personally, because I’m such a casual LOTRO player. I have every intention of downgrading to a premium account after the F2P model goes into effect. If I had gotten an LTS, sure I would get more than enough points to pay for anything I’ve ever wanted, but they’re likely to be items I wouldn’t have otherwise bought anyway. I’d feel like I overpaid because I really don’t foresee myself needing all the perks that are accessible to the VIP members…as a premium member I’ll play for free and just buy the few items I’ll need/use.

    You guys did get a fantastic deal though, with the half off. I think I would have felt differently about the whole situation, ie. not felt like it was a waste, if I had gotten an LTS this year at that price…

    Anyway, one thing I’m happy to hear is that apparently, you won’t lose anything you’ve already paid for (with only a few exceptions like # of character slots). Because I’ve paid for SoA, MoM and SoM, I will have all those quest packs, the 2 classes, etc. even if I downgrade to premium. I also read that the gold and 3 bag limit will not apply to a person who had a VIP account from being an active subscriber…which I currently am and will continue to be until perhaps a month or two after F2P goes live so I can collect some points and see how it goes and what I can buy. I’ll have to read up on all of that some more though.

  9. I bought a lifetime sub to STO, and I currently have one character at level 20. To date, that hasn’t been a good investment. But I’m one of those types that, in past MMO experiences, felt I need to ‘get my moneys worth’ out of one month. The LTS takes that pressure away, and so long as the game continues to exist, I’ll have free and unhindered access to it. Because it’s like Bellus said – just because some people can play the game free doesn’t mean they’ve got access to all the same content as a lifetime subber.

    • Gordon says:

      A few years ago I was a lot more tempted by the LotRO lifetime sub but now I just don’t have as much freetime and also jump between MMOs more. I’m not sure I’d like the time in LotRO to make it worthwhile.

      • I’m not sure I’d like the time in LotRO to make it worthwhile.

        That was the biggest oversight with my plan. I was so concerned with avoiding feeling forced to play, that I never stopped to ask myself ‘will I play enough to make it worthwhile?’ I continue in my (increasingly misguided) assumptions that 1) at some point in the future, I’ll have enough time to play, and 2) that I’ll enjoy it.

  10. Bootae says:

    Lifetime subs may not always work out to be a waste of money, but they’re always a risk. I’d never consider it for any MMO, because you just never know what patch or change is round the corner. Even our safest most perfect MMO can be ruined out of the blue by a developer losing the plot. The moment that happens your investment suddenly might not work out so well.

    Thankfully from comments here and elsewhere it sounds like with LotRO the benefits for lifetime subscribers after going F2P will be reasonable. Still, this whole situation has just highlighted the risk of putting big money on one of these special deals.

  11. Wakela says:

    I like the lifetime subscriptions because it gives me the option to go in and out of games whenever I feel like it. I don’t have to worry about whether or not my subscription is in good standing to play it. I have lifetimes in STO, Champions, and LOTRO. So I now have the option to play those games whenever I feel like it until they close the servers down. It gives me versatility. Plus since I do tend to play a lot of different MMOs, it ends up being cheaper for me. Can you imagine how much I would be shelling out if I paid for subscriptions for all 3 of those, plus my Station All Access and WoW?

    As for offering the lifetime subscription before announcing the F2P, that is just wrong. How can they not know that it was going F2P? They had to have some clue. They could have put a little subtext in there stating that the game was going F2P and there would be special benefits to anyone who holds a lifetime subscription. That way, people would have the option of whether or not they want to get the lifetime and have those extra bonuses when F2P happens.

    As for good value, I would say that even though I refuse to play a game that has a F2P model like DDO and soon to be LOTRO, I would have to say that I got my money’s worth for the game. Not only did I get all the nice little bonuses in the beginning when I signed up for the lifetime subscription, but I know that I played more then 12 months worth total since the inception of the game.

    • Gordon says:

      If it’s a game that you love then it’s definitely worth it. The tricky thing can be trying to decide if you will like it or not because being given the chance to try. For instance, I thought Cryptics approach of only offering lifetime subs before CO even came out was not very appealing at all. Fortunately they reversed the decision after everyone complained.

  12. Charn says:

    Well . . . at least it’s better than Hellgate: London. They had a lifetime subscription option (though it STARTED as a F2P game with a subscription model as well) and that game is now gone. LoTRo, at least, is still going and you’re getting SOMEthing for the membership.

  13. Lomax says:

    I’ve always been extremely suspicious when a lifetime subscription is offered, to me it says the developer really isn’t too serious about supporting this MMO in 5+ years time.

    Its like the whole “free to play”, I don’t actually believe that any MMO goes free to play if they can make more money via subscriptions, so either LOTRO was actually in pretty bad terminal decline and its a last throw of the dice (the subs numbers do not tell that story), or they think they can squeeze more money out of people with this pricing model.

    Therefore I know that if I’m serious about any MMO then I’m going to be one of those players who will end up paying a bit more hence I avoid F2P games. Here I have to give Kudos for Blizzard and SOE for keeping their costs upfront and known, I’m expecting too that Bioware won’t be offering F2P or any lifetime subscriptions either.

    One piece of news that hasn’t helped them is the seeming cancellation (or freezing) of the hobbit due to MGM’s difficulties, that would have given them some great free publicity for their MMO.

    • Gordon says:

      If I was being cynical then I’d agree that it does somewhat put developers off from trying as they’ve already had their payout right at the start. If the company’s income is based purely on a monthly system then they need to keep performing and producing new content in order to maintain their cash flow.

  14. Valyndor says:

    This whole post is irrelavent because if you read up on a free to plays subscription restricts, buying a life time would have been worth it in a matter of months. reguardless of the game going free to play.. with a lifetime you get acess to everything that they have or will be relasing, as a free subscriber.. you dont

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