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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » How can a MMO justify subscription ?

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Novice Member

Joined: 5/19/11
Posts: 174

11/02/12 9:14:31 PM#161
Originally posted by ShakyMo
I'm more annoyed at things like box prices for expansions than I am subs. They should be free, that's what you pay your sub for.

I was just to post samething on the same lines until I spotted your post 


Elite Member

Joined: 6/17/11
Posts: 8333

11/02/12 9:16:20 PM#162
Originally posted by Lobotomist

Here is a question for you -

How can a modern themepark MMO justify box price + ongoing 15$ subscription ?

Are we being ripped of ?


Lets analyse here :

1. Server cost : Today cloud servers are dime and dozen , its actually much much cheaper than even couple years ago. Asking players to chip in for server cost - false

2. Engine development cost : Let assume that MMO engines are more complicated than your regular game engines. And so they cost more to develop. But today there are several licenced engines that are so good even the biggest companies use them - Players chipping in for engine cost - false

3. Game development cost : What makes MMO more expensive than single player RPG ? Amount of content ? Judging from todays trends I seen single player RPGs with same or more content than many MMO games at release. Yet they dont ask for subscription. And even if amount of content is a question. Why not make less content , and than charge for aditional content as DLC ? - Platyers chipping in for content - false

4. Constant updates : Yea. I heared that myth. Most of MMOs fire 80% of work force month after release. And all those "Monthly new content!" turns out to be just PR bull.. Even if new content comes after all , it happens once or twice - than it turns into payed mini expansions. So paying for developers developing something that we get to pay for again. - Players paying for constant updates - false


So what we are paying 15$ for ? 180$ yearly ? Plus 60$ on box price ... thats 240$ a year from each player.

Not bad. No wonder the market is full with MMO wannabies that planned to cash in on this golden goose !


I give credit to games like EVE that are sandbox , and PVP based. With amazing "all players on same server" technology and actual free updates all the time. Even they could live with B2P+F2P model - if there was no PVP balance to keep in mind.


But themepark PVE games ?

No excuse !





Most MMORPGs are not well suited for being hosted by cloud companies like Amazons EC2 cloud solution.

I work in IT industry in Austin TX and have friends who work for major game companies here - cloud solution is not an option for any of them due to network, server and storage limitations that EC2 has currently. All of them have considered it, but as you can see no major mmo is hosted by a cloud provider yet.

Latency is a critical component and that is something that is a weak spot for cloud providers when it comes to optimizing tens of thousands of client sessions based on latency. 

CDN is where cloud shines, but latency sensitive client/server apps - weak spot for cloud providers.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/09/08
Posts: 1196

11/02/12 9:37:50 PM#163

Look at Rift & Trion.

That's how you justify a P2P.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/22/11
Posts: 423

11/02/12 10:49:17 PM#164

Here is an interesting response about how much NCSoft pays for server bandwidth and operating expenses across all of its MMO titles, including GW1, Aion, and others. I personally read through the report just to see if the screenshot is legit. NCSoft is fairly representative of the MMO industry heavy hitters that include subscription MMOs so this is relevant to how subscriptions are not justified by MMO companies anymore (meaning sub + cash shop + box cost + expansion costs):

From :

NCSOFT Investor Relations:

By: poster 4thVariety

"We do not have to invent arguments as to why companies "need" to charge monthly fees. NCsoft is a publicly traded stock company, they have to publicly announce how they spend their money.  

Let's see then, this is how NCsoft spends its money

You notice that there is a distinct lack of giant server and bandwidth costs. But look closely, they are hidden in a footnote. Right, an afterthought, something almost not worth mentioning. In a three month period, NCsoft spends $2.3 Million on bandwidth. That is for ALL games, ALL websites, ALL downloads they have, EVERYTHING. Next to it is "rent", which is "server rent" (dig up older reports, you'll see), another $1.8 Million. So in order to power all servers for Aion, GW, Lineage, Lineage 2, and City of Heroes, while also maintaining all official websites, NCsoft has to spend $1.3 Million per month.

If you take a look at NCsofts revenue, you notice that the quarterly earnings from Guild Wars alone are be sufficient to pay for all that. Still, NCsoft has high costs, because they have a lot of staff to pay. That's where the money goes. This is where your subscriptions end up, staff and earnings paid to investors. Running the servers has nothing to do with it. MMOs requiring $15 per user and month to keep the server running is nothing but a myth created by the players. No company will challenge this belief though, capitalism, you know. Why educate the user? What's to gain from that?

Just because you pay $15 a month does not mean you will get anything. No, the content the developers will crank out, will most likely be sold to you as an expansion. $40 please, and those $40 will pay for the development of the expansion, then $15 afterwards are just sugar topping, clearest of clear bottom line profit. That's why everybody wants to create an MMO. Why slave away for three years, struggle to make your money back on a market full of piracy, rentals and used sales, when you can charge monthly and basically have smooth sailing? 

Guild Wars is a normal game in every respect. The developer ArenaNet found a publisher who gave them money to do a game. ArenaNet made the game and the publisher tries to get the development money back by selling it. Then the publisher fronts them some more money to do a new game and that is the cycle of life, cue Elton John.

The advantage of GW is that it cannot be pirated, it cannot be resold by an organized reseller such as Gamestop and it cannot be rented by the likes of Blockbuster. Sprinkle some microtransactions across for added revenue and you have a winner. You do not need to charge monthly at all for that business to remain viable.

But as long as people think that an MMO server costs trillions of Dollars to maintain, people will pay and companies will charge them for something that could be free."

Krage again :)


I understand the subs contribute to better products since a small portion of that monthly cost per user is somehow rolled back into the product, but the majority is not and used on other products, executive bonuses and frivolous expenses . Meaning the continued cost you are paying for WoW is carrying their other products which you very likely do not play.

Thats like paying your local gym 40 a month for membership (Subscription) , 160 to join (Box cost) , 160 every year when they rennovate the place (Expansion cost annually), and then charge you to use their weight scales, mirrors, or sauna even though they told you all that stuff is included in the gym membership (Cash shop) .

Again I have to mention, subs CAN be justified, but currently they are not. Even though it is very cheap for us as entertainment to pay a measly 15 a month I dont like the idea of being price gouged...and I cant imagine why anyone else would willingly agree to being taken for a wallet ride no matter the trivial costs. 

It be great if our sub gave us the value we pay for...meaning the box sales should stay but cash shop items need to go into the game and not cost us a dime, and we should not have to pay for an expansion at full retail price or any price since the 15 a month should go to bug fixes and content development.



-NCSOFT shows how trivial server costs are, which was the main reason for subscriptions

-Operation expenses, including new product development can be covered by box prices

-If subscription then there should be no CS, or expansion cost since it defeats the purpose of subs

-I like the idea of subs, I do not like how they are currently implemented

-Read the rest for more details and good explanation from a separate poster who brought in actual figures and not speculation of costs.

-Those figures are also in South Korean Won (So in a 3 month period thats 10k USD a month for ALL NCSOFT Online games) imagine 10k or so a month for Blizzard to run the servers it owns (Not including employee costs) justifying a 15 dollar fee across 10,000,000 people at $150000000 a month + Box sales + "Additional services" + expansion sales + licensing! These are rough approximations based on figures usually mentioned for WoW subscribers as the champion of subscription MMOs.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/26/08
Posts: 927

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”- Henry Ford

11/03/12 4:22:40 AM#165

I think the cost of running a server must not be that much. I am a RuneScaper of 11 years....and I feel that is relevent here because of how they are doing business.


Currently runescape has 139 servers that can hold a little over 250k people on at any one time (though usually there are anywhere from 50k-150k people on). It has 200mil registered accounts 6 mil of which are considered active, and only 1mil of these are paying subscribers (don't know if it means anything as well...but your not locked into a server either, if it's laggy, or you want to go to a world that speaks your native language or is more likely to have people at the distraction and diversion thing you wish to just switch worlds, takes 20 seconds).


And the base cost of subscription is less then $8.00 USD many of these must be paying for months in advance as you see a lot of monthly  special runescape card items and long payout membership loyalty shop items equiped on paying the effective monthly cost for about half these people is probably actually closer to $5.00 (you pay for more at once and the monthly broken down cost goes down).


There is also a cash shop that sells cosmetic only items. and maybe 1-3 players I see on members worlds have obviously purchased at least 1 item (very often the cheaper stuff) from it. with a few (maybe 1-50?) obvious heavy spender exeptions.


All this says to me that Jagex (Runescapes parent company) is likely making about $5.00 USD less then what a lot of subscription MMO's before you consider initial buy in costs, expansion costs, and cash shops that thesee MMO's have.


...That is to say....they are likely making that off runescape (they have a healthy amount of other more minor projects and only one true major additional project in association with hasbro on the horizon - Transformers Universe -). But runescape is it's own division and has to live offf it's own profits.


All this makes Jagex employees, starving artists compaired to what a lot of these other Gam,ing companies are raking in off of their MMO's, imo...But they manage to run nearly 150 servers 24/7 and the game is over all incrediably smooth playing with none of that getting physically trapped on a rock, or stuck in the air over useless jumping, or caught between the terrain and the map barrier, or lag running out of the map, or any of that other unstable nastiness associated with most MMO's.


While this all says to me that it can't be that hard or costly to run servers for an also makes me wonder what the treasure room in the penthouse of allot of these other MMO companies must look like.



It does feel like compaired to the modest monthly subscriptions of runescape, that some MMO's are simpley raking it in with gold plated impliments.


Especially if you spend any amount of time talking to any capped +11 cored person on Aika Online. Hell I am mid level on there and have spent $1200 USD in the last 3 years (I don't play it much...but I damn sure enjoy it when I do).


I really think that people will pay more for simplistic fun that gets old quick, then they will for truly dynamic and challenging content that they would be hard pressed to ever burn through all of.


I also have to wonder how many of these games have a heavy gambling element with rl money (such as item reinforcement in aika... you don't have to spend 50-100 bucks on not even maxing a set out... but you can, and it isn't hard if you have it spare to spend to do so just to 'win' at it).



Novice Member

Joined: 4/15/06
Posts: 1238

hatred is a prison, death a release.

11/03/12 4:34:16 AM#166

a few years ago, a typical asian style MMO that required a server for each game world map (these are small maps mind you to todays standards)  would typically pay out around 500usd a month for a small time company. 

blizzard posted that their entire WoW bandwith was extremely minor with their billions income from sales and subs  they had like a couple million cost in server IT work. so honestly  the sub price is just profit greed mostly. 

blizzard has pathetic expenses for server upkeep a 711 has a larger bill for their ATM usage lol

from 15bucks a month maybe 2 bucks goes to server usage/staff wages the rest goes to the CEO's bank lolol and paying for the next big game 

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Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/22/11
Posts: 423

11/03/12 6:57:21 AM#167

Yeah, the only way I can willingly submit myself to pay 15 a month for a "service" like this is if I got service for my money such as:

  1. live GM events (More like dungeon masters, even if it is one live event builder for all servers this would suffice)
  2. special and GM enforced server rulesets (Perma death, RP servers, PVP servers, PVE only servers)
  3. consistent & frequent content updates (Not in the form of annual expansions with recycled content at higher levels)
  4. consistent & frequent bug fixes (Not only the game breaking ones asap, but they should actively respond for the price we pay)
  5. balancing fixes (PVP is difficult to balance, but this should be attempted more, their swollen subscription revenue can afford dedicated balancing efforts)
  6. No expansion costs (This one is a blatant money grab, the sub even now should pay for expansion content much like Eve Online)
  7. No cash shop (I figure subs = all content in someone can bash F2P or B2P but abide any form of for profit virtual good/cash shop in a subscription game really blows my mind)

^^^ are unfortunately not industry standard for subs ^^^

so therefore all the extra money grabbing they are doing (Box cost + Expansion cost + Cash shop + additional services aka face/name/server/race/sec changes) is just preying on consumer ignorance, with us assuming they will charge us a profitable but responsible sum for products and services.

Instead what I see from my fellow gamers and consumers as a trend for current subscription business model acceptance is:

  1. 15 or so a month is Trivial (It is I agree)
  2. Valuable in relation to other entertainment expenses (It is I agree)
  3. Necessary to manage game servers and IT (I strongly disagree)
  4. Only subscription based games are quality (I do not completely agree)
I am for subscriptions IF they increase the standards for the subscriptions, and I hope you fellow gamers do as well. We should all push for our dollars as tools to vote for more quality and consistent content and not simply resign them to companies who abuse our monetary trust.
If we dont vote for innovation with our wallets games will keep circling the drain while staying the same price if not more, its in businesses nature to extract our money at the smallest cost for them :D
Subscriptions can do so much more for us!




Novice Member

Joined: 4/10/04
Posts: 103

11/03/12 11:53:05 AM#168

Here my problem with Subscription fees. It use to be that you pay a subscription fee and you get new content monthly. Some times it was stuff you didn't care about and it maybe simple stuff like extra bag space or new abilities. Now days players might get Two or Three big updates a year. All other updates are nothing more then Fixes to the game.


So this means that the average player is spending $15 dollars a month for nothing more then fixes to the game. Now I'm sorry but fixing bugs and making alterations to the game should be free. So why am I spending my hard earn money to pay for two or three big updates a year. Years ago I would agree but those days have long sense gone. We seen MMO that have gone free to play do quite nicely (Guild Wars 2 is one at least for now).

Players shouldn't have to play for fixes to a game they should be getting for free. Most regular games come with patch updates that fix there game with out charging people money. I think players should only pay for actual new game updates. The whole idea that where paying for servers. Guild Wars 2 has been running for serveral months with out a subscription fee with high population of players and not charging a subscription. They counter balance the cost with the market place that allows players to use real life money to buy gems and thus translate it to gold. I have no problem with players being able to use real life money to buy in game money because of the exchange rate. Unlike FPS I don't feel it upsets the balance of the game to badly. 

I think the days of Subscriptions are almost over to be honest with you. So many MMO have come out over the years and didn't become hits and either closed up shop or were forced to become F2P, LOTR, Conan, DC Online, and now Star Wars. Developers I think are going to stop wasting there time with subscription fees and build there game with F2P in mind. While yes a subscription will net you a profit but only if it's a smash hit, but lets face it have we seen an MMO come out and have been able to be a smash hit like say WoW, no. Even WoW is starting to slow down and it's population will continue to decress over the course of time and eventually it will subcome to old age and either close up shop or go to F2P (which is far more likely). 

The bottom line is that Guild Wars so far has proven with out a shadow of a doubt that one can be F2P and be popular. I think developers are now realizing this. That is just my opinion.



Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/23/12
Posts: 417

11/03/12 12:07:05 PM#169

I agree that paying subs for a themeparks, or any mmo, that only as couple of months of content is just plain wrong.

However, the way i see it is:

Sub- pay for game time

Cash Shop- pay for items, content and, honestly, anything the devs want.

I consider CS's the real rip-off because it's the only model that can actually do it. In a sub game, i choose between playing or not playing the game for x amount of time (month). I do wish there where more ways to pay than a flat 15 fee, but regardless, i have yet to find an mmorpg (MOBA'S and lobby games like LOL don't count), expect maybe Aion, that don't try to find a way to milk extra money out of you.

Just look at what Anet did with GW2 during Act 1 of Halloween. See, companies experiment with different cash shop tricks and if it flies, they'll keep in. And this considering GW2's CS is actually quite good IMHO.

Also, the worst part is that, while CS's let you choose, you can't ever know how much you'll end up speding by the end of the year. And that's counting the stuff at launch. Who knows what  they'll put i it after release. 


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/29/08
Posts: 2615

11/03/12 12:36:49 PM#170

Ah.. another thread from a kid that hates the fact he has to wash dishes for his mom in order to pay a subscription fee.

Here is the fact of the matter... some of us value our time more than $15.   The $15 is rather meaningless to be honest.  The fact is I only have a limited amount of hours to play games, so I want the most enjoyable experience possible.   Yes, probably if it was $50 or $100 per month, then the money would come into the picture.. but really, for most people with jobs the difference between $0 and $15 is pretty insignificant.

DDO is a pretty solid game, and it is easy to play it for free... but I have significantly more fun in WOW.   So the question is.. where do I want to spend my valuable time?

You can go in your backyard, and paint eyes onto rocks and pretend they are dragons.. for free...  but that doesn´t mean it is a better entertainment value.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/29/08
Posts: 2615

11/03/12 12:55:48 PM#171
Originally posted by eyelolled
Originally posted by pauly6478
I for one would take sub. over free to play anyday. Gotta love those who failed math class and don't realize how much money they shell out on "free to play" games.

I for one would take F2P with cash shop any day. Gotta love those who failed math class and don't realize how much money they shell out on subscriptions.

or those of us that are fully aware that $15 per month is less than a half-hours work for most people.

there are people who pay $10 for a coffee at starbucks, and there are people who re-use grounds for an entire week in their coffee makers.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/21/06
Posts: 349

11/03/12 7:26:38 PM#172

Simple, by giving me a more fun game than a f2p one and by not forcing me to buy things from a cash shop to fully enjoy the game.At least in a subscription game i can ask a rogue to open a chest for me or get a buff from another player for better stats ,no need to buy those in a cash shop and the money drops will not be kept to a minimum just so you have to buy cash to have enough money to afford a mount or a good looking armor without grinding for hours.

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