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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » A hybrid subscription/buy-to-play model

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86 posts found
  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13156

 
OP  4/12/13 4:34:54 PM#1

One reason for the decline of the subscription model is that some people simply aren't willing to pay a subscription for a game.  People who want to buy a game don't like the idea that they're just renting it and will lose access after a while.  When you quit a subscription game and consider coming back later, having to pay before you can come back and look around is quite a hassle.

One solution to this is buy-to-play.  There isn't a subscription to end, so you don't get kicked out after a while if you stop paying.  But this has drawbacks of its own.  If you're going to make a game buy to play, you'd better make that one time purchase bring in a considerable amount of money or else you don't get much revenue for your game.  Alternatively, companies may tout the game as buy to play, but still try to supplement their income from an item mall and get a large fraction of their revenue that way.  For those who want to be free from pay-to-win item malls, that can be problematic.

From a player's perspective, you might think, well then, they can make more content and we can buy access to that, too.  But this creates two problems.  First is that it's hard to create large amounts of good content quickly.  Second is, what if a large fraction of your players decide that they don't need the new content and decline to buy it?  Companies try to combat this in expansions by making the new content offer far better loot than the old, but that just deprecates old content.

So I'd like to propose a solution.  For simplicity, I'll start with a model that has an obvious flaw, then come back to correct it later.

When games increase the level cap, they usually increase it by a lot all at once.  They often add a bunch of new content when they increase the cap, with the idea being that you play the new content to get to the new cap.  Then the level cap may stay as it is for a year or two before being increased again.  This also leaves some players bored while waiting for the next batch of new content.

What I would propose is that instead of this, you raise the level cap every month--but only by one level.  You create new content continuously, rather than releasing a bunch all at once in one big expansion.  You keep content available up to several levels above the cap.  If the cap is 60 and you want to go into a 65 zone, then have at it, but don't complain if you die in three hits.  Maybe the content for the higher level zones isn't entirely polished at first, but few players will go into it well above the cap, and they test it for you and help find bugs that you can fix before more than a handful of players can trickle in.

So what does this have to do with a subscription model?  When you pay for a subscription, you get access to everything in the game.  When your subscription expires, you still have access to everything, but your personal level cap is frozen at whatever the global cap was when your subscription expired.  If you want to increase your cap again, then you subscribe again.

For example, let's suppose that the cap is 30 at launch.  If you buy the game at launch but don't subsequently subscribe, then you can play the game forever, but never level past 30.  You can go into a level 40 or 50 zone once they're available, but if you get one-shotted, it's your own fault for being a level 30 in a 50 zone.  If you subscribe for a while and then quit, what you've previously paid for will never be taken away from you.

However, if you want to always have the maximum level, you'll need to subscribe every month.  Make it so that being a level lower than everyone else for level cap plus content is a considerable setback, so that anyone trying to do stuff at or near the cap will need to subscribe continuously.  In that way, it's like a subscription model, and a considerable fraction of your active players will likely maintain an active subscription.

This also handles the endgame problem.  The endgame is doing future content that is a few levels above the cap.  The bigger your group, the higher the level of open-world content you can go after--and the better loot (because it's higher level) you'll get for it.  Make any level requirements on gear such that if you're at the current global cap, you can use it, even if in the future the cap would be a few levels higher.  But unlike raids from previous expansions, the content never becomes deprecated, as it's the normal content for its level for people who come through a year later when it's no longer near the cap.

Now for the obvious flaw:  let's suppose without loss of generality that the cap is increased on the first of each month.  Any monthly subscription effectively lasts until the first of the next month and then expires, as in the middle of the month, it doesn't matter if you're subscribed at exactly that moment or not.  If it's near the end of the month and you subscribe, then had you waited a few days to start it, you could have effectively had your subscription end a full month later.  Telling customers, "Yes, we want you to subscribe--but not for a few days" is a bad idea.

The solution to this is to have many more levels.  Instead of increasing the cap by one per month, increase it by one per three days or so, so that the 30-day subscription nets you 10 levels.  But that doesn't mean that you need 10 times as much content; you subdivide each previous level into 10 parts, so one level only does you 1/10 as much good, and only takes 1/10 as long to gain.  Think of it as adding a decimal point to levels with one digit after the decimal point if you like.

  jalexbrown

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/19/13
Posts: 122

4/21/13 2:46:34 PM#2
How would this be different than just selling a token for $15 every month that raised the level cap?
  Vorch

Novice Member

Joined: 9/18/11
Posts: 760

4/21/13 2:47:54 PM#3
I'm sorry, but this is a very very bad idea.

"As you read these words, a release is seven days or less away or has just happened within the last seven days— those are now the only two states you’ll find the world of Tyria."...Guild Wars 2

  Theocritus

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/15/08
Posts: 3613

4/21/13 3:03:46 PM#4
The subscription model just needs to go away period.
  DamonVile

Elite Member

Joined: 11/22/05
Posts: 4375

4/21/13 3:18:06 PM#5

Any game that could put out meaningful content once a month wouldn't need a gimmicky sub model to keep people playing. They'd of already done something no other mmo has ever done and it's success would be more about quality of game play than people not wanting to pay for it.

There's no shortage of people willing to pay $15 a month. There is a shortage of people willing to pay for the same crap each month though.

People are like cats. When they die, you get a new one.

  Axehilt

Novice Member

Joined: 5/09/09
Posts: 7213

4/21/13 3:24:17 PM#6

It doesn't seem disasterously bad, but personally if I was creating an MMORPG I would certainly design it from the ground up to work as full-on F2P, with nice chunks of gameplay that feel right sell on their own (with the majority of the gameplay being completely open and free to players to enjoy, with no paid barrier to entry.)

The other guy's suggestion of $15 per level token is a fair point.  And unless I missed a detail (quite possible: I skimmed) it also brings up the major exploit of your model: I can skip 3 months and subscribe and now I'm at the new level cap which is 3 months higher than it used to be.

  jalexbrown

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/19/13
Posts: 122

4/21/13 4:11:18 PM#7
Originally posted by Axehilt

The other guy's suggestion of $15 per level token is a fair point.  And unless I missed a detail (quite possible: I skimmed) it also brings up the major exploit of your model: I can skip 3 months and subscribe and now I'm at the new level cap which is 3 months higher than it used to be.

The problem with the idea of seleing a level cap token for one level for $15 every month is that the power curve would have to be ridiculously high for players to be willing to spend $15 to have the level cap raised by one.

  nariusseldon

Elite Member

Joined: 12/21/07
Posts: 19248

4/21/13 7:21:01 PM#8
Originally posted by Theocritus
The subscription model just needs to go away period.

It is going away. There are fewer and fewer games use it. And frankly there are enough F2P games that i will never pay a sub again.

We are in a good place.

  Aelious

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/27/11
Posts: 2303

World > Quest Progression

4/21/13 7:33:29 PM#9
Subscriptions are holding a whole lot of "F2P" games up, they aren't going anywhere. What has happened and probably will continue to is that you have what's available for free and a sub model where all is available. This is the best balance between player freedom and developer stability.

The OP is another way to give some of the game for free that is not the "whole game". It's an interesting idea for sure.
  nariusseldon

Elite Member

Joined: 12/21/07
Posts: 19248

4/21/13 7:50:58 PM#10
Originally posted by Aelious
Subscriptions are holding a whole lot of "F2P" games up, they aren't going anywhere. What has happened and probably will continue to is that you have what's available for free and a sub model where all is available. This is the best balance between player freedom and developer stability.

The OP is another way to give some of the game for free that is not the "whole game". It's an interesting idea for sure.

Pure sub games are going away. Hybrid .. sure .. there will be quite a few with the hybrid model.

  laokoko

Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/14/09
Posts: 1875

4/21/13 8:05:16 PM#11

That is like a f2p games which content lock you unless you pay for the expansion you can't enter the zone.  And you don't even need to pay for the initial game.

Why not just make it B2P and for new content you have to pay, it's the same thing. 

  Lovely_Laly

Novice Member

Joined: 11/02/10
Posts: 736

game is also real

4/21/13 9:21:43 PM#12

LotRO has similar model now, but they have full content already, so player not make beta tests on their costs. =D

simply you can't have full access b4 you pay for extras.

agree with many posts here too, with endless list of f2p, I can download a game, play for month or two free and move away instate to pay (just an example, can be different for different games).

sub is for WoW and it die anyhow.

best model beside f2p is hybrid but with box buying, IMO. not hidden half-free with hope for Item Shop, like GW2, but buy-to-play box + pay X for extra content (must be hot, like , for example, popular pvp battleground and/or high end dungeon/raids).

sure Item Shop should be here to sell you better looking fashion or mount or pet (basic item MUST be available in game), but should never sell might.

as we all became lazy and busy, game should not be slow to lvl or too challenging (or just at start so all great players can do it and sell gear to lazy noobs).

I'm not sure about storage, but prefer to find this in game or be able to earn IS tokens.

try before buy, even if it's a game to avoid bad surprises.
Worst surprises for me: Aion, GW2

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13156

 
OP  4/21/13 9:38:21 PM#13

A lot of people seem to take the approach of "the best model is whatever gives me the most stuff for the least money".  From a player's perspective, seeking that out is reasonable enough.  From the perspective of a game developer who is hoping to make a living, that doesn't work.

You basically have two choices:  get a modest amount of money from a lot of people, or get a ton of money from a handful of people.  The former almost invariably means a subscription model, often with a fairly restricted free trial of some sort.  The latter option generally means a pay-to-win item mall.

The hope of this model is that most of the players who would have been willing to pay a subscription in a pure subscription game still would.  You could, as one person said, only pay once every third month--but then you'd be at a major disadvantage in 2/3 of the months if you had a max level character.  $15/month to avoid that isn't outlandish, and people who aren't willing to pay $15/month usually wouldn't be willing to pay to play a subscription game at all.

Meanwhile, it would try to supplement that by making the bulk of the game available as "buy to play" to try to get some additional revenue from people who object to subscriptions on principle.  It's plausible but far from certain that this could bring in substantially more revenue than a straight subscription model or a subscription model with a very limited free trial such as some subscription games' version of "free to play".  If it can do that, then it would eliminate the need for a pay-to-win item mall, which is the real goal here.

I also had some hopes of manufacturing an endgame that isn't completely terrible, as the endgame would change some every few days with a slight level cap increase.  Leave for a month and come back and the endgame will be meaningfully different from what it was before.  That would sure beat the "grind exactly the same content for a year until we release the next expansion" that usually passes for endgames these days.

  issling

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/09/12
Posts: 122

I have my rose tinted glass's at a full shine!

4/21/13 9:53:59 PM#14

Thanks Quizz for trying to think up a payment model that everybody could work with. But I think it just shows the great divide between mmo gamers at the moment. We can't agree on the same game mechanics let alone a payment model:(

 

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

4/21/13 9:58:51 PM#15

Too many words.  If you cannot explain your business model to me in a tweet, I'm not going to trust it.

(How does this idea compare the dungeon packs in DDO?  If you ignore the rest of the cash shop in DDO, wouldn't buying packs of dungeons be essentially the same model?)

  Wizardry

Elite Member

Joined: 8/27/04
Posts: 6559

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

4/21/13 10:47:43 PM#16

It is NEVER about the pay model,it is ALWAYS about value.

if a game has the value to charge a sub fee,it should and will.The problem is that developers have tried to pit us against the ones that do not meet their pay plan.

The ONLY thing that can determine VALUE is an educated gamer.If you know absolutely notrhing about the effort that goes into a particular game,you most likely using some shallow reason for playing.Example"it is f2p" "My friends are playing it" "it is highest rated or most hyped game" "I am bored" "trusted developer"ect ect.

Even if two gamers both have an extensive knowledge of game design,they will have totally different ideas on what is aceptable value.

So really it doesn't matter if a game charges 15 or 50 bucks a month,there is a market for everyone.

Developers do NOT listen to you the gamer,they sit down and decide with their investors and Board on what kind of return they can get for the money they invest.They also factor in risk,so if they feel their game might fail,they invest very little into the game.

There lies the reason for all this fuss over pay plans.it is becuase no matter what type of investment or effort a developer puts into a game,they willl tell you THEIR pay plan is the one that matters because they are giving you  the greatest thing since Penicillin.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Napolianboo#p/u/15/rCYLLQCNc1w
Samoan Diamond

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

4/21/13 10:57:56 PM#17
Originally posted by Wizardry

The ONLY thing that can determine VALUE is an educated gamer.If you know absolutely notrhing about the effort that goes into a particular game,you most likely using some shallow reason for playing.Example"it is f2p" "My friends are playing it" "it is highest rated or most hyped game" "I am bored" "trusted developer"ect ect.

Small quibble: I may be a loner myself, but I don't think "because my friends are playing it" is a shallow reason to choose one game ove another.
  Rhinotones

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/21/13
Posts: 191

Respect people who speak their mind factually and intelligently, and please, never put anyone down.

4/21/13 11:27:36 PM#18

I thoroughly enjoy reading posts like this where the OP shows original thinking and balls to share their concepts.

I think this idea has potential though I do see floors as well. I'm going to think about this for a little while, absorbing what you have written and respond when I believe my reasonings are sound and thought out rather than a quick response. This post deserves no less.

  Draucant

Novice Member

Joined: 7/28/09
Posts: 30

4/21/13 11:49:48 PM#19
Why not just have subscriptions based off time played? The max amount payed will be the standard 14.99. So if your someone that just plays the weekends you might only play about 20hrs a month. Now the maxed payment is timed at say, 80hrs month, anything after that time is still 14.99. Now the person that plays only 20hrs a month only pays 3.75. These are just random numbers but you can get the general idea.
  Axehilt

Novice Member

Joined: 5/09/09
Posts: 7213

4/22/13 12:00:08 AM#20
Originally posted by jalexbrown

The problem with the idea of seleing a level cap token for one level for $15 every month is that the power curve would have to be ridiculously high for players to be willing to spend $15 to have the level cap raised by one.

Hmm, yeah I'd agree with that.

And at that point it would kinda make the whole system feel a little gougy and bad.  Maybe the OP's version is better after all.

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