Weekly Raid: How Do You Feel About F2P Games Adding Subscription Options?

It seems like MMO monetization follows the same trends as the fashion industry. A long time ago subscriptions were in, then they were out. The subscription MMORPGs that launched in the wake of World of Warcraft quickly bled out players once the included 30-day game time expired. A rush of free to play games, mostly from Asia, that were supported by cash shops seemed to thrive.

Now it looks like the pendulum is about to swing back the other way. Fantasy MMORPG Rift just celebrated a successful launch for their new subscription server (the game originally went free to play in 2013.) Even Korean developed Soul Worker is getting the optional-subscription treatment. Players will be able to buy 30-day silver and gold subs. They can be stacked, and the subs can even be traded in-game. This tradable subscription time is found in a number of MMORPGs, with EVE Online perhaps being the first major game to implement it. Not only do the subscription bonsues benefit paying players, but this system allows free players the ability to purchase premium cash shop items with in-game currency.

This optional subscription trend is not limited to MMORPGs. Even Dota 2, Valve's flagship MOBA is getting a similar treatment. Dota Plus, at a cost of $3.99 per month, grants players a whole host of account progression features along with an in-game assistant that offers real-time suggestions.

Despite the optional nature of many of these subscriptions, it does bring up the 'pay to win' issue. What's worse, these subscriptions severely segment the playerbase and perhaps incentivize developers to start ignoring one base of players in favor of another. The end results of this trend are not yet known, but my guess is we will slowly see the standard version turn into a glorified free trial with greater and greater emphasis being placed on the subscription players. The free to play snake will eat its own tail and we'll be back with the original MMORPG payment model. The same model that seems to be working rather well for every other entertainment category: movies, music, tv shows, and so on.

What are your thoughts on this new trend? Will it help the genre grow, or will it force free players to abandon MMORPGs in favor of other free to play games?

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.

  • Optoid Player

    A monthly subscription game would be just fine if the player got everything without further charge, whether they had to earn it in game by passing certain milestones and/or attaining particular achievements. Problems arise when cash shop items that improve gameplay such as so called convenience items that increase bag space or give a XP gain can seem to be a rip off when you are stumping up e.g. £12 per month. Even though that £12 is less than 2 hours pay per month for most people.

    Most F2P games rely on the nativity of youth where one can feel like you want it now so you fork out a quid here and a quid there. Before you know it you have put £40 in the game in a week. Being able to "have it all nao" for a financial remittance has surpassed the dedication and pride of actually playing the game for yourself and defeating those foes, dungeons, players etc.

    One of the joys of a sub is receiving a monthly stipend to spend on extra items. I think City of Heroes got it right by implementing a stipend that the player could choose to spend on whatever they wanted but that it actually covered all the new gear, weapons, power sets and costumes that would otherwise cost the none sub player a fee.

    If the subscription model is returning then it will probably be done differently now, almost a quarter of the way through the 21st century. Where it should cover everything the game has to offer because if it doesn't the player base will feel ripped off and word of mouth can kill a game instantly.

    • Fair points. I think the old sub model is largely dead though. Every game with a monthly sub has microtransactions now

  • TianlanSha

    I don't play them, that about sums it up.