Back in the mid-2000s I was pretty anti-subscription. It kept me from trying games like Everquest, World of Warcraft, EVE Online and more when they first launched back in the day. It wasn't until I could explore Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings Online that I felt something had come along that was worth plunking down the $15 a month.
Nowadays, with so many games having an optional sub, it's become less a barrier of entry and more of a way to entice players to get more value out of their game. Titles such as The Elder Scrolls Online don't require a sub to play, but in doing so you'll get in-game currency each month, the outrageously convenient crafting bag, and more. Omega time in EVE Online will see you able to earn skill points faster, fly better and more advanced ships, and access more advanced weapons and modules to fit them.
For these games that don't require a subscription to play, when you sign up for one, does it do enough to justify the added cost? This is a question that I consider every time I pull out the credit card. And it's something that developers are keenly aware of as well.
When The Lord of the Rings Online's developers at Standing Stone Games released the "mini-expansion" War of Three Peaks, there was an outcry because it was, for all intents and purposes, just a regular content update. These were supposed to be part of the VIP subscription as value: you pay the sub and you get content updates without having to spend LotRO points or real money for them in addition. However, because SSG attached the "expansion" title to the content, they justified themselves for not including it in the regular VIP package.
As a result, the developers had to do damage control and assuage fan anger in an effort to convince players that their subs had value. Since then, this hasn't happened, and with the most recent anniversary event, we saw subscribers get even more content added to their account than the swathes of content given away for free to the rest of LotRO's players.
Recently as well, EVE Online's developer CCP Games increased the price of their subscription fee for the first time since 2004. Fans and current Omega players questioned whether or not there was enough value in the current Omega offers to justify this increase.
As a result, at the recent Fanfest in Iceland, CCP Games announced initiatives to show players that they were determined to add more value to their subscription, namely in the form of a new in-game currency called Interbus Credits.
This currency cannot be bought, sold, or traded in-game, nor can it be bought for RMT outside of EVE Online. These credits can be used for items such as the upcoming Heraldry system that EVE Online will be getting later this year, and Omega players will earn these credits at a higher clip if they are a subscriber to the MMO. This is, in effect, a way to try to inject more value into the increased cost of the Omega time.
Whether or not this actually provides value to the end user is purely subjective. It's up to players to decide whether they are getting value out of their hard-earned money. So the question I have is just that: for your favorite MMO where you willingly pay a sub, whether it's required to access or even just an optional one, do you feel you are getting good value out of your investment? Why or why not? What could the developer be doing to increase that value?