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News & Features Discussion  » General: Skelton: Those Three Dirty Words

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  Stradden

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

 
OP  1/15/10 11:16:07 AM#1

MMORPG.com columnist Jaime Skelton takes a look at the recent phenomenon of the endless free trial and delves into what it really means.

Jaime Skelton

There you are, browsing an MMO site. It's a typical day, and you're looking for something new, or perhaps remembering something from your past. There's the usual news, patch notes, and events plastered along the main page. Then, in big bold letters across the site, those three dirty words appear: "Endless Free Trial."

Don't lie to me: those words tease you. They tantalize you and linger like a sultry whisper in your ear even after you take your browsing to another site. They're like a low-rate business card, stuck in your mental wallet and awaiting the moment when you'll pull it out accidentally to wonder what it is, and ponder giving it a ring on the sly.

End over-dramatization.

Read Those Three Dirty Words.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

  arctarus

Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/26/06
Posts: 2592

1/15/10 11:42:36 AM#2

"Overall, the endless free trial ploy shows a lack of confidence. "

I beg to differ.

Too many games con the players with paid to pay beta, too many games release an un-finish product.

So personally i hope all games have this endless free trail.

Instead of saying it shows the negative side, i  personally think only companies that's confident of their product will offer this.

Imagine if a company have something to hide, of course it wouldn't allow a trial, leave alone an endless free trial.

Instead it will ask the players to buy first before anything.

So i hope more companies goes by the endless free trial, to let players have the time to see for themselves whether this game is really meant for them...

 

 

RIP Orc Choppa

  Sovrath

Elite Member

Joined: 1/06/05
Posts: 17877

1/15/10 11:54:17 AM#3

I would say that the whole "play as much as you want for free and please give us money if you like it" could work if you had the right audience.

Where I live, street performers do this constantly. They ply their trade and those who like it (or who feel pity) will give them money.

Can't make money being a street performer?

A friend of an ex lived in a two family house owned by a street performer who paid for the downpayment, costs and ongoing renovations completely from his "job".

I was shocked.

Whenever I hear someone who is is the subway playing and I actually listen and enjoy his/her work I give a bit of money.

Sometimes plays will adopt the "free admission" but donat if you like model.

But as I said, you have to have the right audience. People who are more than wiling to be honest and realize that supporting something they like benefits them in the long run because they get to enjoy it and its evolution as they support it.

But truth be told, a good many if not most people will just take advantage of the free trial and not pay a dime.

From reading forums over the years it seems that there is a large group of people who are always looking for free and are never willing to pay to play.

 

  Cecropia

Gumshoe

Joined: 3/06/09
Posts: 3467

Poacher killer.

1/15/10 12:12:51 PM#4

I really feel that an endless free trial is nothing but desperation. It's like a hail mary longshot in the last 2 seconds of a Basketball game.

My issue lies with the fact that many people seem to now expect a (regular) free trial, and refuse to buy unless they try. I look at free trials much like I do children, they are a privelege not a right. This is a generation of self entitlement if you ask me.

"Mr. Rothstein, your people never will understand... the way it works out here. You're all just our guests. But you act like you're at home. Let me tell you something, partner. You ain't home. But that's where we're gonna send you if it harelips the governor." - Pat Webb

  nekollx

Novice Member

Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 573

1/15/10 12:50:17 PM#5
Originally posted by arctarus

"Overall, the endless free trial ploy shows a lack of confidence. "

I beg to differ.

Too many games con the players with paid to pay beta, too many games release an un-finish product.

So personally i hope all games have this endless free trail.

Instead of saying it shows the negative side, i  personally think only companies that's confident of their product will offer this.

Imagine if a company have something to hide, of course it wouldn't allow a trial, leave alone an endless free trial.

Instead it will ask the players to buy first before anything.

So i hope more companies goes by the endless free trial, to let players have the time to see for themselves whether this game is really meant for them...

 

 

 

i think it all depends on timing and the restrictions.

 

For example look at DDO: The game is still P2P but you can get a free start and if you want to grind it you can get all the entras. p2p, microtransactions, uft, it's all in excecution.

  User Deleted
1/15/10 1:40:34 PM#6

Think of this a gym membership where I live costs $30.00/mo 2 subscription games cost the same amount. I am definitely getting more bang for my buck at the gym and they have higher overhead to come out of my $30.00 than the MMO Publisher has to come out of my $15.00 comparatively speaking. Demand is high so MMO games and their subs are expensive. Timed Trials are a neccessary form of advertising if these companies want our money. Endless trials leave out content, when I try a game I want the full meal deal before I ecide to buy. 

 

Heck even Costco has a ton of free samples

 

Try it before you buy it!

  Kuraphimaru

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/06/07
Posts: 1293

1/15/10 1:46:20 PM#7
Originally posted by Cecropia

My issue lies with the fact that many people seem to now expect a (regular) free trial, and refuse to buy unless they try. I look at free trials much like I do children, they are a privelege not a right. This is a generation of self entitlement if you ask me.

 

Unfortunately in this day and age I wouldn't call it self-entitlement but a rather reasonable expectation for a game to have a normal trial. I look at it in the same way as purchasing a car, I do want to test drive it before I sign the papers so I would know what I am getting. Lots of different software gives out trials of all sorts for people to try their product so why not games. Thus, the only excuse I can see for a company not to provide a trial is when they know, full well, a person will not buy the game once they see what it is.

  rjp14

Novice Member

Joined: 9/25/07
Posts: 16

1/15/10 1:49:17 PM#8

Great article however it is very assuming in a lot of ways. You really should gather some facts to back up what your saying. What you did is look at endless trials and said this is what I see when I see the words endless trial. However what you didn't do is actually investigate to see if what you were assuming is true. You just gave off the impression that the opposite was happening. What you are calling "dirty words" is what I call change. And in this world you either change or you get left behind.

In the case of Warhammer for instance. The game is actually seeing true growth out of the new unlimited trials. Players are beginning to filter up through the teirs as oppossed to staying stay in teir 1. From as far as can be seen the subs for Warhammer are on the up swing due to the trials. So from the looks of things unlimited trials are turning into many more paying customers. Which in turn is creating more revenue for the company. Hopefully this trend will continue into the future with this game with so many more major ips set to release.

  Ozmodan

Elite Member

Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 6944

1/15/10 1:49:21 PM#9

I really enjoy your articles, but I have to disagree about the f2p games.  They are exactly what you have been railing about, endless free trials.  There is no difference between warhammer and the f2p games other than different payment methods, well except that you can easily spend far more than a subscription on a f2p.

  NadsFall

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/10
Posts: 22

1/15/10 2:39:08 PM#10

 Normally I'd agree with the article's point of view, but more recently I've started thinking that maybe "endless" trials are not such a bad thing after all. Since the OP mentioned it, take WAR for instance.

 

I played it at launch, but due to various circumstances had to cancel my sub a few months in. After a while, when I had more time on my hands,  I've been trying to get back into the game periodically, but couldn't. Why? Any starter zone, no matter what server/faction i picked was dead. Zero PvP action, PQs were a solo grind. You could literally go days without seeing any other players. Needless to say any motivation to play, much less subscribe, disappeared rather quickly.

 

Fast-forward to a week ago, I decided to repeat my experiment and i must say the trial did wonders for the world. It feels alive again! I haven't seen the beginning zone this packed since launch. Scenarios pop up constantly, the PQ areas are busy and the PvP lakes keep changing hands in front of my eyes. In the end, the decision to re-subscribe for a month or two was an easy one to make. Now, I may be in the minority of people that subscribe because of the trial and not through it, but nonetheless thought I'd offer you this perspective to consider as well.

 

(And yes, I realize that my opinion may likely change as I progress through the game and leave the "trial zones", but that's a different issue altogether.) 

  dadown

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/29/04
Posts: 203

1/15/10 3:20:22 PM#11

 First of all, I've learned the hard way to never buy a game if I can't try it first; I've had too many disappointments. Next, unless the game is really engaging, I'm usually looking for something new after a couple of months. I hate to spend $50 on a game if I'm not going to be playing it for at least 3 months and preferably 6+.

So lately, I've been playing F2P and free trials. I really like the endless trials for games like War that I can visit occasionally for a change of pace, but don't like enough to play regularly. If I'm pay a monthly fee, I feel obligated to spend a lot of time playing it or I'm wasting my money. I think the combo mode games like DDO are ideal: you can either play them casually as F2P or pay monthly for full access if you want to play it all the time.

For those that can't many days of the week, it would be nice to have day-pass plan where you could buy 15 days of play for maybe $10, but the days wouldn't have to be consecutive. On any day you chose to play, you could play as much as you wanted in a 24 hour period and use up one day's credit. Then you could wait until next week if you wanted to use up your next day. I think this would be better than paying by the hour because with hourly rates you feel pressured to always be doing something because the meter is running,

In any case, free trials are a must and endless tree trials are great (in my opinion). And the more choices a player has the better. Don't lock people into a single payment model.

  tkobo

Novice Member

Joined: 3/17/06
Posts: 472

Current MMO dev teams = Keystone cops.A pure comedy of errors,sadly its not as intentional.

1/15/10 3:20:58 PM#12

The basic premise here by the OP is pretty much right on.

The devs know their "new" game is just a reskinned "old" game with little to nothing to hold an experienced and discriminating customer.So they spend alot more time and effort on the early stages of the game,hoping the "shiney " they put there will fool some of the less discriminating possible customers into thinking "this intro is good, the whole game will be like this",when in fact the game goes seriously down hill the farther you progress into it.

But of course to reach that "farther in" requires a payment.

Its no different than the "rewards" given to keep players paying.Just a "toy in the cereal box" for the easily distracted,so they will want to pay for another box of the same old same old.

And yes, its as clear an indication as closed servers,that they know their game lacks what it needs to stand on its own. And so any shiney gimmick they can spin in front of the prospective customer to catch the interest of the few who are easily lured, easily mesmerized, and easily entertained who will make the mistake of paying good money for bad product is put forth

On the positive side though, the majority of their prospective customer base isnt easily fooled or mesmerized by "shiney".So when they do bother to waste time on the "free trial",they realize its just more crap the devs cant actually sell outright.And that it will likely either close or go even more "free to play" in the near future, and that even at the "free" price,it wont be worth the time to play.

Heck even the "We will pay you to play our game" schemes,like "recruit a friend" are not drawing very many people to the poor products mmo devs keep crapping out and wrapping in hype.The products are just that bad.

 

  Loke666

Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 17190

1/15/10 3:30:28 PM#13
Originally posted by Sovrath

I would say that the whole "play as much as you want for free and please give us money if you like it" could work if you had the right audience.

Where I live, street performers do this constantly. They ply their trade and those who like it (or who feel pity) will give them money.

Can't make money being a street performer?

A friend of an ex lived in a two family house owned by a street performer who paid for the downpayment, costs and ongoing renovations completely from his "job".

I was shocked.

Whenever I hear someone who is is the subway playing and I actually listen and enjoy his/her work I give a bit of money.

Sometimes plays will adopt the "free admission" but donat if you like model.

But as I said, you have to have the right audience. People who are more than wiling to be honest and realize that supporting something they like benefits them in the long run because they get to enjoy it and its evolution as they support it.

But truth be told, a good many if not most people will just take advantage of the free trial and not pay a dime.

From reading forums over the years it seems that there is a large group of people who are always looking for free and are never willing to pay to play.

 

Well, mix it in with a small bonus for givers (like a title, a small random item like a minipet or some kind of RPG clothing, nothing that really matters but still feels nice) and some adds at the character select/creation page and I think it could actually work.
 

Even for the moochers you still get some money for the adds but since you don't see them in game it shouldn't really bother people.

Still, you have to keep costs low but it is possible.

I would aim for the old RPG community, I think they are the most likely to pay to support something they like and they are one of the largest groups that have very few games for them right now. 

  wildchyld

Novice Member

Joined: 5/28/07
Posts: 35

1/15/10 5:09:07 PM#14

I think that a quality game is going to do well with free triaps but that isn't whats currently happening.

Instead bad games are trying to get people in by giving them free offers. In the future I think you'll see more good games coming out with free to play or free to try models.

  Irish

Novice Member

Joined: 1/09/04
Posts: 263

1/15/10 5:14:26 PM#15
Originally posted by Sovrath

I would say that the whole "play as much as you want for free and please give us money if you like it" could work if you had the right audience.

Where I live, street performers do this constantly. They ply their trade and those who like it (or who feel pity) will give them money.

Can't make money being a street performer?

A friend of an ex lived in a two family house owned by a street performer who paid for the downpayment, costs and ongoing renovations completely from his "job".

I was shocked.

Whenever I hear someone who is is the subway playing and I actually listen and enjoy his/her work I give a bit of money.

Sometimes plays will adopt the "free admission" but donat if you like model.

But as I said, you have to have the right audience. People who are more than wiling to be honest and realize that supporting something they like benefits them in the long run because they get to enjoy it and its evolution as they support it.

But truth be told, a good many if not most people will just take advantage of the free trial and not pay a dime.

From reading forums over the years it seems that there is a large group of people who are always looking for free and are never willing to pay to play.

 

I will agree with you and say that although this is a novel idea, I don't think this kind of thing could ever be successful in an online environment for multiple reasons. The biggest being that when you are online, you don't feel guilt or need to throw money at something looking for it. Most would just leave it to others to perform this. And those few that would donate may become bitter that online recognition of said donation is never as great as in-person.

When a Salvation Army volunteer is freezing his/her ass off shaking a bell and holding a door for me, I am obligated to not be a dick and throw them money. Unfortunately nowadays, I only carry my cards and rarely have cash, so they are shit out of luck and I have to look like a jagoff. That's a whole different story that could go along with my other bad habits.

The online world really de-humanizes things for us and emotion rarely can be evoked from it.

I once played a MUD that was free to play, with optional donation. They sweetened the deal with special donation equipment. I guess it was an early form of microtransaction, but as the game was so small scale, it was nice to help it out and receive some solid gear at the same time. I suppose it was because the developers were in-game and you could speak with them.

 

 

  Meridion

Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/22/06
Posts: 1503

None of you understand. I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me!

1/15/10 5:32:55 PM#16

(...)across the site, those three dirty words appear: "Endless Free Trial."

Don't lie to me: those words tease you. They tantalize you and linger like a sultry whisper in your ear even after you take your browsing to another site. They're like a low-rate business card,(...)


Erm, I don't get it. Honestly. 

"Endless free trial" doesn't tease me a bit. At all. It's like 'play for free'... No matter what these games do or don't provide. I could be subscribed to three P2P games simultaneously and still run cheaper than single player games.

Warhammer is an excellent example. The box is how much, five dollars/euros? You get 30 days free and then you have the full experience for only about 15$ a month.

I mean come on, it's only 15 bucks, watching two movies at the theater is like 15, my internet connection is 40 bucks per month, one night out in a bar/club easily leeches 50 bucks, heck, a bus ticket for one day is 5. 

It's really, really not that much money, at least for me as a 'westerner'... comparing it to "free" love service - easily costing hundreds of dollars/euros - is downright ridiculous.

M

  Balechnay

Novice Member

Joined: 8/10/09
Posts: 20

Don't feed the trolls.

1/15/10 6:12:32 PM#17

RE: Free trial bashing

Hell yea,  I DO expect a free trail. I am not about to go out and pay upwards of $60 for a game that I may end up not liking, or it ends up being an unfinished game that fails. My money is hard earned and I don't spend it frivolously on a game that MIGHT be what I am looking to play. 

 Hell yea, I do expect a free trail because it only took me once to figure out if I put total faith in the games' demo videos (money that could be spend on development instead of pimped up videos designed to lure you into buying it), that I will end up dissapointed with a $60+ worthless game.  Oh! Not only that,  the "head start" which was a big promotional point, crashed & burned! Servers crashed & the game was unplayable. 

Now-a-days, no trial...no taste of what the game could mean to me...me no buy.  Pimped up, awesome looking, awesome sounding demo videos posted to youtube won't do it for me anymore. 

 So game developers out there, you expect more peeps to P2P, better expect to dish out some free trial time because I KNOW I am not the only one who feels this way or purchases games based on free trial experience. Hell, that's how I became a fan of WoW , because of the free trial! Otherwise I would have never TRIED it!!! That's the flipping idea!!! 

Seems like a no brainer to me. 

Moo. There. Are you happy now?
----------------------
Don't feed the trolls. If you must comment, consider participating in a long held internet tradition of responding to trolls with random discussions about food. Elk Jelly anyone?

  Gyrus

Novice Member

Joined: 11/20/07
Posts: 2336

1/15/10 6:40:10 PM#18

Heh - not the "Three Dirty Words" I was expecting.

With Pre Order (only)?

Life Time Sub?

Pay to Beta?

 

"Endless Free Trial" is well down the list.

Lack of confidence?
No, to me it says "Take a good look.  Take as long as you like.  No Pressure.  We are confident that not only will you keep playing and coming back but that eventually you will want to go further."

 

Endless Free Trials can also be used to populate a game.
Planetside offered the Planetside Reserve IIRC and every so often the discussion of a "Free Rifle Account" is raised at WWIIoL.
In both cases the 'restrictions' on the player do not (would not) stop them enjoying and being a valuable part of the game.

 

It depends on how it's set up of course.

Free Trials need restrictions - a bunch of players with no real investment (money or time) in your game could be very destructive if they choose - it means nothing to them.

If Developers hope to make money then they need to be careful that the "Free Trial" doesn't turn into "play for free" either.  But then again, players tend to feel more at home in MMOs when they see other people running around?  So maybe developers are happy to suffer a few 'freeloaders' knowing that they will help maintain a living world for paying customers?

 

 

 

Nothing says irony like spelling ideot wrong.

  Vexe

Novice Member

Joined: 5/25/06
Posts: 554

Hoorah

1/15/10 7:17:42 PM#19

They make these models because they are desperate. They do these strategies because they need money. They need the kind of money that this attracts, which is, any money they can possibly get. As much as I like AoC, they need more money to maintain all their staff and stay in production and thy aren't getting as much as they would like. They've already pulled almost every trick in the book, until they see this other little game (that shall remain nameless *coughwarcough*) pull out this thing called the unlimited free trial. and it seems to be attracting players. It's just one of those industry work-arounds that they come up with every year or two to gain popularity and subscribers. Free-trials didn't become popular until a few years ago. Now they came up with this. They look desperate because they are. That doesn't make their game any worse than it was. Just advertises that they need financial support.

  Nesrie

Novice Member

Joined: 5/24/08
Posts: 652

1/16/10 2:12:52 AM#20

MMOs cost too much to just throw out your money on a box plus subscriptions not to try it. Heck, even getting into Open Beta may not prepare you anymore thanks to tacts used by Cryptic. I completely disagree, all MMOs should have a free trial after the settling down period, 1-2 months after release. It's not as if it completely eliminates risk anyway. I mean most games are fine in the early levels, its the later levels that show where the publisher forced the game out too early.

parrotpholk-Because we all know the miracle patch fairy shows up the night before release and sprinkles magic dust on the server to make it allllll better.

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