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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,

RE: The P2P 'Hipster Bandwagon'

Posted by MikeB Thursday August 22 2013 at 5:12PM
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This blog is in response to Torvaldr's post in Garrett Fuller's Elder Scrolls Online: Risky Business column. Given the length of the response and my desire not to derail Garrett's comment thread, I am posting it here. :)
Originally posted by Torvaldr
Originally posted by MikeB
Originally posted by Torvaldr

Garrett, I'm sorry but this is just a really one-dimensional pandering article you wrote.  It almost feels like you guys, I read Mike Bs article as well, are hopping on the hipster bandwagon.

What "hipster bandwagon" are you referring to? I must say, I'm quite curious!

Geez Mike, do you have a pearl script running in the background that detects your name and any bait words? :p

The P2P "resurgence" is the new hipster thing.  I'm poking at you a little, because it's only sensible that you would cover the news story of the business model announcement, but they all read like we've stumbled back on the realization that this could be the right thing and we all really like that model down deep and hate the sub-free model.  I felt that it really sort of pandered to what the pro-p2p crowd want to hear.

Although you touched on the risk, no one is looking deeply at why the subscription model has foundered and how it has evolved into a double-dip gouge.  There has been no critical investigation into the flaws of the payment model and how that could affect these releases.  And I felt Garrett highlighted a couple of the worst f2p models without actually looking at good ones or scrutinizing bad p2p models.

As TESO, WS, and FFXIV all tout that they're offering a better experience due to the payment model, no one is looking at how they could be misusing it like so many others have.  No one is asking really hard questions and putting these people to task.

There is a lot more to question other than the risks involved in competing with sub-free game offerings.  So hopefully no offense is taken because none is intended.

No. I just read our forums, you know, that whole community manager thing. ;)

I've written many, many columns discussing F2P and stating my preference for subscriptions. This isn't new for me. I prefer subscriptions, but I'm not ideologically opposed to F2P. If done well, it's a fine alternative, and it seems to be doing well for many developers which is why we've seen it start to become the predominant business model in the West as well.

I've weighed in on the reason behind P2P's failure in the past and even (briefly) as recently in my last column. It's just always been a losing proposition. A certain subset of gamers are willing to go for it (and its hard to grow outside of that group of players) and then you have to deal with the attrition which all sub-based MMOs (outside of WoW, up until recently) experience.

F2P simply lowers the barrier to entry and even non-paying players play a role in contributing to the feeling that server populations are lively. The developers make money and players have options. It's a pretty good deal -- when done right. It's not always done right, of course, and that's where you guys come in to vote with your wallets and let them know. I still prefer just paying my subscription and not thinking about it. $15 is a drop in the bucket compared to what I could spend on other entertainment activities, so it's a non-issue for me.

Still, MMO developers want to reach more players and there are a whole bunch of gamers out there who just won't go for a monthly payment. Period. With development costs only going up, the pressure to expand the pool is definitely higher. It's also way easier to get people to try your game and come back to check out updates with F2P.  MMOs grow over time and judging them forever based on a snapshot in time because you (understandably) refuse to resub and find out if it's really as improved as your friend says sort of runs counter to what makes MMOs cool. Being able to come and go as you please is beneficial to the player as well as the developer.

Can subscriptions work for some games? Maybe? It seems that's what Zenimax, Carbine, and Square Enix are betting on at the moment. The odds aren't really in their favor, but we're also in a different era where F2P is ubiquitous and P2P is the "underdog", so maybe subscriptions can thrive when there aren't as many other subscription games around to compete with.

On the other hand, and I argued this in my last column (and in the past), it makes it even harder to justify a subscription cost to a customer when they can easily cancel and find other MMO entertainment for basically free. In the past, canceling one sub usually meant starting up another one for another game (and perhaps buying a box), so you may have been able to keep unhappy players for longer or keep players who are temporarily unhappy or bored due to some recent change (or lack thereof).

My last column reflected my bewilderment at my realization that the majority of AAA MMOs coming out in the next year or two are now subscription based in light of all of the above. I'm certainly not jumping on any bandwagons. I'm trying, probably like the rest of you, to wrap my head around whats going on here. What I can say is this: if I have the chance to ask any of these folks -- I certainly will! I do know one thing: they are much more business savvy than I am and they wouldn't make this sort of decision lightly.