I’m not a fan of free-to-play. Never have been, it’s unlikely I ever will be and, to be perfectly honest, my mind boggles as to why it’s so popular. OK, I get the money aspect of subscriptions but let’s be realistic here, it’s not as if F2P really is free. You still pay one way or another, probably the same amount as a sub eventually, quite likely even more. I mean, even before I could play a game like Everquest 2 or Age of Conan I’d have to shell out for the race and class that I prefer. And then more for broker access. And more for bank slots. And character slots. And bigger quest journals…
F2P also comes with all the headaches and distractions of having opportunities to buy extra items shoved in your face constantly and the driving motivation of developers ambiguously twisted. Give me an old fashioned, straight up subscription over F2P any day. Even if you only played two hours a week, it’s still great value, so much to the point that I think anyone who doubts it probably needs to re-evaluate their concept of value for money. Even playing only a single measly hour a week, you’d be hard pushed to find activities that were cheaper than $3.75 an hour. I guess you could go for a walk in the park… but make sure you don’t stop for a coffee on the way.
But I’m digressing here. As much as I’m an advocate for the subscription model (or better yet, free-to-try combined with a sub model à la RIFT), I know there are some people out there who are so money sensitive and tight with cash that they’d make Scrooge McDuck look generous. So to them, and the rest of the world, I offer this wondrous MMO subscription concept: the more people that play, the less everyone pays.
Imagine a game that had a sub model that cost the average $14.99 a month to begin with but for every 100,000 players past the first, the price started to drop. Now it would take some clever foreign maths genius with an insight into MMO margins to figure out an appropriate sliding scale that still meant the developers turned an increasing profit as the price decreased but I’m sure it could be done. I’m also sure players wouldn’t object to paying $5 subscriptions on popular MMOs.
Of course, this type of financial model wouldn’t likely be of interest to Blizzard (they’ve got nothing to gain) but I reckon it might attract other MMOs who were looking for incentives to help build their playerbase up. And that’s where this subscription model truly shines: it encourages players to invite their friends, it encourages them to form long-lasting communities and it encourages developers to focus on attracting and pleasing their players rather than making gimmicky, over-priced items to sell. It’s win-win for everyone.
So there you have it, the perfect subscription model. Unless you’re Blizzard.