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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: Pay by Day?

Posted by MikeB Sunday November 27 2011 at 7:26PM
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This week's Community Spotlight goes to the thread "Pay by Day?" by iicogigen. In the thread, iicogigen wonders if a pay-by-day model would be a good idea:

The basic idea is as it is stated in the title of the thread, you pay by the day.

Basically, the average sub is $15, so we'd make it $.50 for every day that you log in.

I understand the idea would have problems, but every idea does.

As a whole, what do you think? Would you accept this model?

So, what does the community think fo this? Read on to find out!

Scot notes that concepts such as pay by day, hour, etc, were all tried before we ever ultimately settled on the monthly subscription many of us are used to today:

The concept of pay by day is not dissimilar to Pay by Hour or Pay by Month. Arcade games were close to pay by hour and some early online games used Pay by Hour. Those online games were seen as something of a con though and the monthly fee came to reign supreme. In this new era of Pay to Win (F2P), Pay by Day could be a variable payment method it depends on the overall strategy.
Look at SW, first we hear there will be a cash shop then that there will be Goggle in game. So it is the overall price plan and any advertising that players need to look at before making any decisions.

fivoroth isn't fond of any pay by x concepts, even the monthly subscription:

I think that games should only charge you for the box and expansions/dlcs. MMOs charge monthly which I think is the wrong way of doing it. A subscription fee of any kind be it daily, monthly, quarterly or annualy is wrong because it ruins the game with excessive time sinks. Online games do not need a subscription fee. And no my sub fee does not go towards the development of new content.

No sub = no unnecessary time sinks. The MMO crap we are fed these day about server costs and developing of new content (ROFL this one always makes me laugh) is just ridiculous.

Mendel doesn't feel new pay-by-x initiatives would get any traction as MMO publishers are gravitating towards F2P due to the vastly increased revenues:

A potential issue with a Per Month subscription and/or a Per Day (or Per Hour) subscription is that neither of these models work as well as the newer microtransaction models.  Companies are moving to F2P with Cash Shops, not because the players are demanding it (quite the opposite on these forums) or it is benefitial for the players, but because the microtransaction model generates more revenue for the gaming company.

Without knowing specific earnings of games that have been converted from subscription to micro transaction models, it may be necessary to have $25-30 as a subscription charge to make the equivilent revenue as the micro-transaction model.  Since none of us have the specific financial details, why can't we assume that the companies that have the specific data are making the change to micro-transactions for very sound business reasons.

Subdividing a subscription model into smaller and smaller increments only creates another, finer grained subscription model, not something new.  And the subscription model is currently believed to create less income than the micro-transaction model.

And a subscription model with smaller increments (daily, hourly) has much more administrative overhead.  Now the company would need to interact with the credit card issuer on the same increments (for a pay-as-you-go system), and record accurate session times for a billing-model.  A pay-as-you-go payment system would be very dependent on establishing connections with the credit card company, and many, if not most, credit card companies charge a fee for transaction processing.  Can anyone really see gaming companies agreeing to pay a transaction fee and plan to generate a transaction every minute someone is online?  No matter how this transaction fee is set (percentage or fixed) or the actual rate (from $.001 upwards), this just comes straight off the top of the company's revenue stream.

I've been around long enough to remember the pay-by-hour days of a variety of online games (Gemstone III, anyone?) and I was honestly never fond of the idea. I like the monthly subscription because it's predictable and easy for me to fit into my budget every month. Living in NYC, it's easy for me to drop $70 just going out to dinner and a movie with my girlfriend. $15/month is a hot deal to me considering what I get out of my money!

WSIMike writes:

I'm particularly interested in fivoroth's response to the idea of subs paying for servers and the development of new content... 

He scoffs at it - a clear appeal to incredulity - but (at least per the quote provided) gives no explanation as to why he feels that way. 

I would like for fivoroth to explain how, without subscriptions coming in monthly, how he expects the developer to pay for ongoing bandwidth, server space, paying the support staff, the programmers, the designers, the artists, the QA testers and all the rest of the staff who works to keep the business going day by day. Without subscription fees, where does the money to continue to develop further content, be it for live content updates , patches or full retail expansions? 

Does he believe the box sale alone is enough to cover those expenses indefinitely?

It's all well and good to scoff and laugh and say "pah! That's ridiculous!"... however, you then have to explain *why* you feel such incredulity. 

Incredulity about something is not an argument against it.

Sun Nov 27 2011 7:43PM Report
WhySoShort writes:


He assume that people could figure out his argument themselves. His "ROFL" aimed at new content should be very obvious: almost no MMO includes regular content updates. At best, an MMO will include an update every three months. As for "server costs," those run at about... $3 a month.  Per player. Which means you're paying at best $36 per content update. Some full blown expansions are cheaper. 

As for all of those other people working on the game, how do normal games pay them? With the box sales. See Guild Wars. Box sales can cover those costs indefinitely. 

Sun Nov 27 2011 9:11PM Report
NortonGB writes:

Paying by day or for a block of on-line time is a good idea for many casual gamers who only want to play occassionally on P2P mmorpg's.

The problem is that greedy publishers might also implement a lottery or cash shop to try to extract the last cent from gamers pockets.

Mon Nov 28 2011 1:13AM Report
DarkPony writes:

Nice idea, I'd have no qualms with it as long as paying per day is convenient (automated after clicking an "agree" button at start up, for instance), and safe.


Mon Nov 28 2011 3:11AM Report
thamighty213 writes:

Asia has worked on a hourly rate for years.


Ive always been a great fan of the model.


Why should x who plays a total 2 days a month using far less rescources and less whining than Y who plays a total of 18 days a month using almost as much in rescources as his sub costs.


For years the casual player has took the brunt of the cost for the hardcore no lifes to play + some if you factor that a lot of these hardcore players live off benefits paid for by the casual players taxes.


Its about time the industry balanced things.

Mon Nov 28 2011 3:58AM Report
WSIMike writes:



First, "expecting people to just understand their argument" is still not an argument. Yout don't get to just point your finger at someone and laugh, make a snarky remark and call it a valid argument because "people should be able to figure out what you mean by it". That's a weak justification for it.

This statement of yours:

"As for all of those other people working on the game, how do normal games pay them? With the box sales. See Guild Wars. Box sales can cover those costs indefinitely."

1. A typical MMORPG can take take up to 5 years to complete. They are far larger than most all single player games in terms of scope, content, scale, etc.

2. While a single player game is completed, released and pushed out the door, requiring only bug fixes and patches to come out as needed, MMORPGs require that *plus* an entire live support system to be designed and implemented.

3. MMORPGs require the presence of live GMs in-game to deal with issues, help players, etc. Single player games don't require this.

4. MMORPGs require an entire network infrastructure to be designed, developed, implemented, tested and maintained continuously to support the game and allow people to connect smoothly and access the service they're paying for. Single player games don't require this.

5. MMORPGs must continuously expand with regular content updates - however minor they may be to some - or the game stagnates as people complete the content and find nothing more to do, get bored and leave.

6. MMORPGs must be continuously balanced, tweaked and have exploits plugged up, bugs fixed, classes balanced, etc. etc. over the entire span of time the game is online... which could be years. A single player game don't require this on nearly as ongoing a basis, nor over so long a period of time.

The examples go on... MMORPGs are very different beasts from single player games. At the point a single player game is pushed out the door, it's considered "finished" with the exception of obligatory patches to address hardware issues, etc. When a MMORPG is pushed out the door, the initial development is completed... the game's live service and ongoing new development is only just getting started.

To try and place single player games in the same category as MMORPGs as you did is like saying maintaining a VW Bug is just as expensive as maintaining a fleet of 18 wheelers. 

As for the GW argument about them getting by on box sales alone..

Wrong again.

GW has a cash shop with some very compelling stuff for sale in it. If you think people aren't spending copious amounts of money in it, you're naive. 

They are not getting along on box sales alone.

Mon Nov 28 2011 6:17AM Report
chbautist writes:

I want a MMO that costs 50$ per month... only the rich and hardcore will play. no need for casuals or alternat revenu sources.

Mon Nov 28 2011 9:21AM Report
Classicstar writes:

After 12 years of gaming online i came to conclusing to even when you have slightest change of winning in games these days you eather come across cheaters or players who buy there way to top. So i don't play mulitplayer games anymore or mmo's for that matter. Only from time to time some freebee mmo's for week and quit. I stick to solo games dont have to deal with all the dramaqueens and cheaters. And i love it solo games:)

Make a game thats 100%cheat free and zero item/cash shop and im your man again but that won't happen in next 100 years or so:P

I dont believe in payment or freebee anymore where multi is involved.

I realy don't care if companys wanne earn cash constantly i want a honest cheat free game, but these days thats something imposible, so solo games for me only option.

To each his own i gues.

Mon Nov 28 2011 12:56PM Report
pmiles writes:

The issue with subscriptions is that you pay a flat fee for 30 days (or longer).  The clock starts ticking the moment you enter your account information.  If you end up being deployed for a year, kiss that money goodbye.  

30 days = 720 hours.  You should be docked for time actually played, not merely for calendar days.  Then, if the players are clocking x number of days played, they are actually playing the game and not just popping in to see if someone is online every once in a blue moon.

I've always been skeptical about using subscriptions as a means to determine playerbase.  You may have paid your subscription but may not actually be in game for any moderate amount of time.  You pay for 30 days, you should get 30 days of actual game time... not just merely calendar time.

Mon Nov 28 2011 4:45PM Report
Kelvrek writes: I love pmiles' idea of paying for in game time instead of real life time. As a casual player who might log on just a few hours a week, this would benefit me greatly. Unfortunately, the hard core 40+ hour per week players would scream bloody murder. They would no longer be getting subsidized by us. A game might try to offer more payment options including buying in game time, but you saw how the hard core players responded to the freemium games. I don't mind the monthly fee games being around, but for my play style, they are not a very good value. Mon Nov 28 2011 5:07PM Report
Cyberdeck7 writes:

Would you agree then that all of the hardcore Showtime watchers are being subsidized by all of the casual partial Showtime watchers? 

If you subscribe to a pay channel like Showtime you're given access to content for a month. The Channel could care less if you had to work overtime or were deployed. You signed up to pay a set amount in exchange for access to content for a month.

If you don't feel you're given a fair value, you cancel. You don't go on about whining and carrying on until someone changes something for you. You don't ask for the whole channel to only broadcast cheesy shows because what you feel you should pay can only support low budget action flicks.

The $15 amount was arrived at as a happy medium. There isn't really anything else you can do for even 2 hours per month that will only set you back $15 or even $30. I think 2 hours playing per month is pretty low even by casual standards, correct me if I'm wrong.

Please try to stay with me here, it's hard for me to explain this in writing-

There's a casual player above who is upset and saying that they have always been getting screwed by having to "subsidize" the hardcore players. THEY would like to just pay for how much THEY play. Fine - let's say that the casual play pays $5 per month.

Then there's the "hardcore" player. They play all the time and since we're "un-subsidizing" they would have to pay their $15 sub plus the $10 remaining from the casual's sub - $25.

Let's make the total playerbase an easy 1 million. The breakdown of casual vs hardcore players is difficult. First of all the terms are subjective - they mean something different to everyone. A recent study (1) shows that the average player of MMOs plays 29.11 hours per week. That sounds pretty hardcore to me - playing a game for 2/3 the number of hours in an average work week, but let's really slant this in favor of the casual player anyways to highlight my point. Let's say a full 50% of the players are "casual"

So - we have 1,000,000 players all paying for the time that ONLY THEY play. 500,000 Casuals paying $5 and 500,000 "Hardcores" paying $25.

Now let's build their games... The casuals have a budget of $2.5 million, but it's shakey - sometimes they play, sometimes they don't so the dev doesn't really have anything to count on here. However the "Hardcores" have a solid budget of $12.5 million per month, paid up front even! Now let's build a world....

What? you say... but we all play the same game.!!??...

I say hell no!  If I'm paying $25 per month for my $12.5M game, you're certianly not getting to see our content for $5 per month. I could care less if you're only there for 2 hours - I'm sick of subsidizing you people QUALITY when all you want to do is come dip your toe in once in a while and pay a one-off bargain basement price - go see what you can come up with for your shakey $2.5M... How would the game worlds compare? Which would you rather play?

LotRO? LoTRO, DDO, Conan... these are games that were built with the hardcore players $$, and then handed to the casual players after being injected with grind and P2W BS

I swear - MMO forums are the only place I've seen people become uppity standing on a platform of "I put less time in to my hobby" and "I pay less" and expect to somehow count more because of it.


or search for yourself for time played references - they're all roughly the same. I'd have gone with Daedalus, but the figures are from 97 - I wanted 2011.

The average MMO player is hardcore by default and getting a hell of a lot of hours of play for $15/month. Even casuals are getting a hell of a deal, so why bitch because someone else is taking better advantage of a good deal than you? With what you WANT to pay, you don't get games like these... at all. You get Farmville.


Tue Nov 29 2011 1:21AM Report
maplestone writes:

Going from a subscription model to pay-by-day is actually giving customers a 50-cent refund for every day they don't play.  So in essence, you are creating the financial incentive on *not* playing which I suspect would create problems down the road even if you manage to hook a few extra people at the start.

Tue Nov 29 2011 9:08AM Report writes:
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