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

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

Community Spotlight: Fifteen Bucks

Posted by MikeB Thursday February 11 2010 at 4:44PM
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This weeks Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “The 15 bucks…” by Pelu. In the thread, Pelu takes a look at the history of the $15/month model that is now an industry standard in the MMOG genre, and why we shouldn’t be complaining as much as we sometimes do about it:

“Sup all.. I was reading some thread about the bussiness model of Cryptic... and the only thing i notice was tons of complains and other fans praising the cryptic model of sub and cash shop...
There is a bunch of people who find it unpleasant to pay for stuff in games, but let me tell you something if u are the one that start making faces when someone say: U need to pay for this...
When u get Free Servers, Development Teams, Net Bandwidth, and so on, for FREE!!!!! then ask for that stuff for free, or little cost...

There is a rumor around that some mmos, are going to sell the content update patches..... but here is where my 33mhz brains gets in...
Ultima online = almost 15 bucks (13) ----- 1997
Lineage = 15 bucks ----- 1998
Everquest = 15 bucks (14.99) ----- 1999
Anarchy Online = bucks ----- 2001
Galaxies = 15 bucks ----- 2003
WoW = 15 bucks ----- 2004
War = 15 bucks ----- 2008
AION = 15 bucks ----- 2009
STO = 15 bucks ----- 2010

there is more mmos around, but i can remember at least 13 years of mmos... and the price of subscription have been 15 dollars for years!!!!...

Now go and check the inflation rate since 1997... I dont think it have been stuck...
My point is... with all the inflation and raising costs, the 15 bucks per month is falling short.. way short.. one day there is going to be one developer that will charge a 20 bucks or 25 bucks (24.99) sub per month, and everyone else will follow... but since raising the sub cost will cause too much scandal, they are adding cash shops...

Lets face it people, 15 bucks per month is not enough for what u do with the game services... bandwidth usage, database, and so on...”

Community Spotlight alumnus Goronian responds to Pelu with his own thoughts on the matter:

“Actually, for the longest time, people have been complaining, that 15 bucks/months is overdoing it and that the price needs to be lowered. They've stopped just recently, in the face of inflation. Maybe it's because the true value has caught up with it only recently, and the pricing was "with a reserve"?
Or maybe it's because devs expect much higher numbers, which would cover the expenses.
And in reality, bandwidth and server maintenance doesn't cost THAT much.”

Malcanis adds a short but sweet response:

“MMOs are a hilariously cheap hobby.”

I have to totally agree with this. I apologize, I know we are in a recession, I know times are tough, but even before the recession I always found the whole $15/month bit being too much a bit ludicrous. There are plenty other hobbies out there that require way much more of an investment. Warhammer table top anyone? Photography? I can spend $50+ easy just going out to dinner and a movie. 15 bucks for a whole months worth of playtime isn’t a big deal to me.

However, my absolute favorite response in the thread would have to go to another Community Spotlight alumnus, Ihmotepp, who likes to use the cost of Big Macs to equate how much $15 is in other countries:

“You can measure in Big Macs.

A Big Mac in the US cost 3.57.

That means an MMORPG in the US costs 4.2 Big Macs per month.

How many Big Macs per month does an MMORPG cost in your country? If ti's roughly 4.2 Big MAcs it's the same. “

So, basically, if we cut down to 4.2 Big Macs a month, we should be able to afford our MMOG hobby, at least here in the US!

Magnum2103 takes some issue with Pelu’s research numbers, and offers his own take on the situation:

“OP you should do a bit more research before posting. Everquest was not $15 in 1999. I believe it was $10. It was raised a few years later and a few years after that had it's price raised once again to the current norm of $15.

Same with UO. I'm pretty sure it started out at or around $10 a month and had it's price raised eventually.

Still, it's unusual that after I'm guessing closer to 8-9 years than the OP's 15+ year estimate that we haven't seen an increase in MMO's pricing. I think a lot of this is due to the competition never nearing the success of WoW (and they wouldn't want to raise their price higher than the competition's, since players aren't likely to pay more when their primary competitor offers it for less) and WoW making comfortable profit that they wouldn't risk raising the price of their monthly fee.

One other thing of note is the actual retail price of video games has increased by about $10 over the last few years. I believe it mostly was a push by EA and it effects console games more than PC. The average price of video games use to be about $40-50 for a new triple A game, now it can cost $50-60.

Cryptic is getting a lot of backlash over their lifetime sub and cash shop business model. Most players aren't fooled, and when your top competitor (WoW) is offering $15 a month for a superior (in my opinion) quality game then why pay the same subscription fee and have to purchase items/content from the cash shop on top of that? That's just bad business.

The only way you'll see a change in subscription rates is if Blizzard raises their subscription rate. If they do every other MMO will likely follow suit (unless they want to try to offer a competitive rate). The same happened years ago when Everquest was the top MMO and they raised their subscription rate. “

So what do you think of the state of subscription prices today? Do you think they are too much? Would you take issue with an increase in subscription rates? Let us know in the comments below!