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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Would you pay for a serial MMO?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 16 2010 at 5:59PM
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I’m sitting at my day job today, running reports on different billing operations, tracking data for revenue collections, and in general making sure that our staff has work to do and that money is coming into our hospital. So naturally I’m watching episodes of Frasier, Scrubs, and The Simpsons on my iPod. And as I drown my boredom in the warm comforting glow of 20-minute solvable problems and corny sentiment, I can’t help but still drift even further off to a hobby I’d rather be partaking in back at home: gaming.

More specifically I’ve got an itch to dive into one of a half-dozen worlds that are sitting on my PC. I could go for a little adventuring in Champions, dive into the Allods Online beta, see what my guild’s up to in WoW, slice up some Gobbos in WAR, do some crafting in A Tale in the Desert, or even get all nautical in Pirates of the Burning Sea.

But I know me. I know I’d sit down and feel that where most of my characters are in each game would mean that I have to devote an hour or more to each title to accomplish much of anything. Sure I could run a quest in a few minutes in just about any of the abovementioned titles, but that would move my character’s progress bar all of a sliver. Plus most of these games’ subscriptions have lapsed, and I’d have to re-sub with the knowledge that one night might be all I get to play each week. I’ve got a fiancée, two dogs, two jobs, packing to do for a move to a new house… and suddenly, I feel grateful that I’m stuck at work where I can run some reports while watching sitcoms. It’s a good day.

And while watching Frasier help his father solve a crime that’s plagued his memory for years in a comical fashion, I start to wonder. Star Trek Online recently released with what they call “Episodes” serving as the main story-driven content. Each of these episodes I believe is intended to play out in about an hour’s time, just like the show used to. What if more online worlds delved into a similar line of thought, and catered directly to that?

Imagine a game that’s one part Sam & Max, and one part World of Warcraft, where the content was doled out in small doses from week to week and you only had to pay for each episode, or subscribe for the entire “season” as it were. You could play and replay any previously purchased content, but there would be no need to pay additional funds or a monthly subscription unless you wanted to buy into the newly released episodes.

Content would of course need to be scalable for parties of different sizes and level ranges, and I assume the world itself would be built on a smaller scale like Global Agenda as opposed to the wide-open reaches of Azeroth. And then there’s the problem of developing content at such a brisk pace as to satisfy a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. You’d better have some pretty hefty tools at your disposal to undertake such an endeavor. Still, despite how unfeasible such a game might be, I can’t help but want to see it happen one day.

It could be the perfect secondary MMO, or primary game for those like me who only get an hour here or there at most times during the workweek. I’d gladly pay a few bucks a week, or buy different episodes at my leisure which I could play and replay as much or as little as I’d like. The game’s marketplace for such a thing could have an iTunes like interface where players could rate their favorites, make playlists of certain bits of content, and share their opinions with the community. Storylines could carry out over several episodes, or be one-shot affairs, or even stretch over the course of an entire season.

But would you pay for something like that? Would a whole new subscription model attached to a whole different kind of game that’s based entirely on episodic content interest you? What would you need to see in place to make it enticing? How much would the episodes and seasons have to cost? I mean, who knows how progression and item systems would work, but I would assume they could remain largely similar to what we see in most games now. The main thing that would differentiate the game would be its way of content delivery.

And if you think I’m just a little insane or demented for even bringing up such a silly notion… then I’ll just go back to being blissfully unaware of my surroundings as I watch JD and Turk try to convince the patrons of Sacred Heart that they’re not gay.
 

Delvie writes:

Very interesting concept.  I'm not sure an hour a week is a good breakdown - might be better to sell episodes that are in 3 hours of play time chunks, played at your own pace.  Just think of the story telling possibilities.

I've actually wondered why no one has made a social world with all the elements of living (housing, crafting, shopping, card games) that then has 'vacations' you can go on - like the old show Fantasy Island.  As you complete the vacations you get a trophy to display.

Taking it to another degree - maybe different series involve your character learning different things.  Complete the first season of the Old West series and your character learns how to ride permanently in any area.  Complete the first season of Spies Are Us series and your character learns how to pick locks in any area.

Certain series could be designed for group content - of various sizes - playing though at the groups pace without impacting characters individual activities.

Very intriguing idea Bill - really got me thinking.

Wed Feb 17 2010 12:47AM Report
UnsungToo writes:

You're gonna get your wish, because I heard that that's the plan whether the gamers want it or not.

I don't do subscriptions any more and even if I did, I can see it being just another way to nickel and dime the gamer to death.

What i will do though is buy the game and play it forever or until the hardware dies or the servers go off line.

Another thing I would consider doing is buying a portion of the game. I this case it would be the map editor  of games from FAR CRY Or Timesplitters: Future Perfect, but only if I could play my maps online with others.

Other than that it's a no go.

Wed Feb 17 2010 2:05AM Report
Zhqrxt writes:

No but i would pay full price one time, for a game whith weekly content patches. I think the company who are able to patch in a decent amount of content and character development 1-2-4 times each month, will have a good place in the future. Constantly evolving MMOs will be the successor of the "Endgame" concept.

Wed Feb 17 2010 2:57AM Report
comerb writes:

nope, sounds awful

Wed Feb 17 2010 6:31AM Report
Karmakazi writes:

I don't even comprehend the concept you're trying to make up. What's the difference between what you're trying to describe and a single player game that has save points (meaning you can play an hour, save and go about your day) and roughly 10-20 hours of gameplay if not more in some cases?

MMO's are naturally time sinks, with that said they aren't for people with tight schedules, ofcoarse you can play them but you wont advance very far. This is where single player games come in, you can play them when you want, save and quit when you want. Later, you can always start back off where you left off, there's no reacurring fees, just a one time fee. What would really be the difference between this and an "episode"? Besides paying for 1 hour of gameplay that is.

Sorry, doesn't sound like a good idea and a bit pointless if you ask me. Not to mention it would take alot longer than a week for game developer to release an hour long "episode" for you to play through.

Wed Feb 17 2010 7:33AM Report
Karmakazi writes:

I don't even comprehend the concept you're trying to make up. What's the difference between what you're trying to describe and a single player game that has save points (meaning you can play an hour, save and go about your day) and roughly 10-20 hours of gameplay if not more in some cases?

MMO's are naturally time sinks, with that said they aren't for people with tight schedules, ofcoarse you can play them but you wont advance very far. This is where single player games come in, you can play them when you want, save and quit when you want. Later, you can always start back off where you left off, there's no reacurring fees, just a one time fee. What would really be the difference between this and an "episode"? Besides paying for 1 hour of gameplay that is.

Sorry, doesn't sound like a good idea and a bit pointless if you ask me. Not to mention it would take alot longer than a week for game developer to release an hour long "episode" for you to play through.

Wed Feb 17 2010 7:33AM Report
Amathe writes:

I think it would depend on whether there was anything in game for me to do while I waited on the next episode. This would be a good vehicle for a game that featured player cities, housing, and a robust crafting system. So it would basically be a sandbox game with periodic installments of episodic adventures.

Actually that sounds a lot like original SWG.

Wed Feb 17 2010 8:48AM Report
Toquio3 writes:

If you dont have time to spare, dont complain you dont have the time to do things that are time consuming. You got a busy life? May I recommend single player games or online shooters?

Wed Feb 17 2010 8:59AM Report
Fuerchtegott writes:

It's been already done and it's called DLC.

The way it's implemented right now in single player games it's way too expensive most of the times (10 bucks for 1 hour of game play in DA:O).

I wouldn't mind having a similar concept for a MMORPG if the original content of the game is exhaustive and i don't have to buy such an episode after 1 week of playing. Also, they cannot charge much if an episode lasts only for an hour. Anything above a Dollar is already too much. Remember, technically I usually pay 15 bucks for 24h times 30 days = 720 h a month. Why would i even consider to pay 5 bucks or more for 1 hour of gameplay then?

Wed Feb 17 2010 9:07AM Report
Zairu writes:

I think Karmakazi hit the nail on the head.

Sorry, it's a horrible idea.....

Go buy a PS3

Wed Feb 17 2010 9:29AM Report
nate1980 writes:

I'd pay for that.

A Season of whatever show usually costs around $30 for their DvD set, so if an entire season of content was released for a game and they charged $30 for it, I'd buy it.

Games sort of do this anyways, except they call a season an expansion. They also make you pay $15/mo in addition to the cost of the expansion. So they're essentially double-dipping, since they're getting subscriptions fee's to develop new content, that they'll then charge more money for when they release it.

The problem with releasing content in seasons is that it'll never be enough to last anyone until the next season releases. So what will the developers create to entertain everyone the majority of the time? Let's say a season lasts 100 hours, and they can only create 100 hours of quality content every 6 months. That's a lot of extra time to entertain the bulk of your playerbase, since only the extremely ultra casual could stretch 100 hours of content over 6 months.

Wed Feb 17 2010 10:52AM Report
Evasia writes:

Im with...." Toquio3"... He gave perfect answer to you OP.

So answer your question is NO.

Wed Feb 17 2010 3:13PM Report
Evasia writes:

Karmakazi Reply is even more perfect im also with him hehe.

Wed Feb 17 2010 3:16PM Report
jadiusmax writes:

It's a terrible, horrible idea.  What happened to giving the customer a complete game??  I'm still waiting for an mmo that DOESNT have WoW in it's title to offer me a real living world?  Not instanced, hacked up, load screen filled garbage heaps that offer half a game and then want us to buy more.  (See the recent Champions Online pay/no pay expansion drama if you want an idea of if people will like paying for content soon after they paid for the original game.)  People are getting frustrated with basic sub models i think becuase the games suck, not becuase they cant see the value in paying 10 or 15 bucks a month for 24/7 entertainment. 

Wed Feb 17 2010 3:48PM Report
Lizard_SF writes:

Didn't EQ2 try something like this, with mini-expansions coming out every two months or so? Didn't it end up flopping horribly? Of course, you're talking even shorter "content snippets".

In a grouping genre like MMORPGs, you run a real risk of "Oh, I don't own this dungeon yet. Laters." If it was limited to solo content/instances, this problem is avoided, but this moves even more towards the abandoning of the "World" MMO in favor of the "Hub/Spike" MMO, which may be a valid model but I don't want it to be the only one. In general, I like the idea of microcontent but I don't think it's a viable option for MMOs. I'd prefer smaller, more frequent, expansions -- i.e, a new zone (or equivalent) every quarter, possibly paid for by slightly higher monthly rates. (You pay, say, 18.00/month and you get the expansion content "Free", instead of 15/month and paying another 50 every year for the latest big pack.)

Wed Feb 17 2010 5:18PM Report
BillMurphy writes:

Yes but... what about a Frasier MMO!? Does no one want to adventure alongside Niles Crane!?

Wed Feb 17 2010 7:31PM Report
Palebane writes:

Sopranos might be cool. If time is your enemy, games like League of Legends, or like Toquio said, multiplayer shooter games (TF2, CoD, L4D2) and Single Player Games (Batman: AA, Dragon Age, Bioshock) are almost as good. Sometimes even better.

Wed Feb 17 2010 7:43PM Report
wildchyld writes:

I would pay for episodic add ons but only if there was also a core game that could be enjoyed at any time.

Wed Feb 17 2010 7:50PM Report
gogogogone writes:

Guild Wars did this.  btw - I think they just shutdown the Asian server.  Oh that's NCSoft, nm...they shutdown all their servers after a while.  LOL!

Thu Feb 18 2010 2:54AM Report
afr_gc writes:

 Isn't this basically the free to play model of say D&D Online? Buy an instanced dungeon to play when you want to? Subscribe if you want more content more often? 

Thu Feb 18 2010 7:55AM Report
maplestone writes:

Isn't this just an expansion pack under a different name?

The industry seems to be going through a phase of exploring how to vary prices by the customer's ability to pay ... the DDO approach of micro-expansions is perhaps the most interesting one I've seen, although I have to admit it didn't actually pull any money out of me.

Personally I don't pay for tv shows by episode.  I actually rarely even watch them on tv any more - other than the news, I watch more shows on DVD than from broadcast.  But I've never used itunes, or any similar store, so there's a market out there that I don't represent.

Thu Feb 18 2010 1:09PM Report

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