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The Price of Progress

Victor Barreiro Jr. Posted:
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For a PC gamer living in a ubiquitous, MMO-saturated, sale-addled gaming world, the question of fair pricing isn't as much about paying more for added perks. Instead, it's about finding the highest possible price people are willing to pay for your game, and making them want to keep paying that price for a longer period of time when it comes to MMOs.

Now, I'm writing this with a confession to make. For the past two months or so, I've been writing The Secret World columns from an outsider's point of view, analyzing reports and information to provide insightful commentary without formally playing the game.

This isn't to say that I don't want to play TSW; I want to join my friends online, who seem to put a dedicated effort into tackling group content and shooting things with rocket launchers. My issue is economic more than anything else. With my current income, I simply can't afford a subscription game that costs more than 15 dollars a month as a result of being placed into a 15-Euro subscription model when I'm in the Philippines.

The Pricing Issue

As I've mentioned above, were I to continue playing TSW, I'd have to pay around 19 dollars for a monthly subscription to the game. I've mentioned this to Funcom, and I can accept the fact that it's a regional issue coupled with the logistics of switching an account's pricing currency (this might set a precedent that would result in a ton of petitions, legitimate and otherwise).

At the same time, it also means I have to make hard choices regarding the allocation of my available funds for entertainment. When other valid options are available to people that cost less (or nothing at all in the case of F2P with restrictions and beta versions of games), there's a certain allure there, even if the game you want to play is right in front of you.

I'm certain that my case is not isolated. When you think about how people in Europe essentially have to pay more for their entertainment (TSW or otherwise), it's a little disconcerting. With the polarizing nature of having a subscription model and a cash shop in your game, you'd be safe to assume that not everyone is pleased with having to pay more compared to other people.

The Remedy?

There are possible remedies to this that can be game changers for subscriber retention: either they make having a higher subscription for a subset of the playerbase worthwhile, or they lower the subscription and make Euro subscriptions equal in value to dollar subs.

Justifying higher subscription prices for a subset of your game populace is rather difficult. You'd need to give a good incentive for doing that by offering them something that makes gameplay more fun without being overpowering. Even a monthly stipend of Funcom points as a sort of return credit system  to offset higher prices might be worthwhile in this case.

On the other hand, and I'm sure most of you are probably thinking this is the better option, lowering subscription costs to be competitive with other games that have more content (such as WoW and RIFT at present) and adjusting the value of the Euro subscriptions to be in line with dollar subscriptions seems a lot smarter. Timing it with a sale on the actual game, for example, could increase the subscriber base. At the same time, adjusting the prices earns a lot of good will from players of the game and from people interested in trying it out.

Chances are, Funcom's already got some data in their hands as to the viability of such a move. If they do, and are considering it, they might want to poll us too or ask for our ideas. As such, feel free to chime in with comments regarding what you think might be optimal pricing or perks for a subscription plan below.

More than anything else though, I'm hoping more people experience “Gun”Gnam style at the very least. The dead may walk the earth, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun experiencing it.

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.