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?