I will be honest with everyone today when I say that I had six days advance notice for a revenue model shift for The Secret World. I did not get to read any details regarding the revenue shift till perhaps 12 or so hours before this piece went live (In fact, my editor is probably rewording this to fit the time distortion between my writing this and the actual posting of the column).
What I can say is this: TSW's revenue model shift (I'm trying to refrain from using "free-to-play" as a term for general use in my writings moving forward) is interesting, primarily because everyone understood from the design of the game that it would happen.
I just didn't expect the shift to happen at this particular point in time and in this sort of manner.
The Unexpected Shift
A handful of people got extremely close to the actual reveal of 12-12-12's significance on Facebook, but used F2P as their catch-all answer rather than having some twisted conspiracy theory.
My personal leaning was to tell people this was an elaborate attempt to destabilize the world's economy through an infusion of madness by allowing people to sell their future potential as currency in the present. Or a revival of the Charmed television series as an MMO. Yeah, I'm crazy like that.
Beginning December 12, 2012, the revenue model will change from a subscription-and-cash-shop revenue model to their "Pay Once, Play Forever" model.
The basic mechanics are simple: Buy the game. Get the full experience, including all existing content, features, and storylines. Get free updates periodically, and pay for Funcom currency to buy new story content, cool stuff, and convenience items. If you want to get more perks, you can "subscribe" for a stipend of points and an overall discount on the store, among other things.
For the most part, the questions I sent in to Funcom were answered rather well in my opinion. When I thought up the questions I wanted to send to them regarding this new development, I wanted to know the basics and then get into the gritty questions of why.
While I can understand that they won't be completely forthcoming with everything, they've provided enough information without adding a ton of PR speak into the proceedings.
Three important takeaways from the questions I sent in:
- They're not monetizing in a way that incentivizes inconvenience removal. As Bylos explains, "we will not be making any changes to the core game to encourage people to purchase the convenience items (like decreasing XP rate in the game)."
- Funcom's rewarding loyalty. Those who bought lifetime subs basically get enough bonus points to pay for all future content in the game, with extra left over to buy other goods. From Bylos: "In addition the bonus points they receive every month more than covers the future DLCs, so lifetimers are left with “free” additional cash to spend in the in-game store whilst unlocking all the content along the way. So a happy day indeed for those who are lifetimers."
- They're adapting to how people perceive the game. I originally worded my question as there being a stigma against the free-to-play conventions and (somewhat ambiguously) against a conversion below a year mark. Bylos turns this around in my mind by recognizing TSW wasn't working with the subscription model they had implemented.
His explanation is pretty spot-on, if you've been a staunch advocate of the game changing its revenue model:
"We tried the subscription route and we tried to be *responsible* about it, by delivering content to our player base every single month. In the end, I don’t think our players will be too upset with us for saying that we tried and we appreciate your support through this, but now we will have to try something else."
The Bottom Line
The end of the old revenue model of TSW appears to bring out the best in Funcom. As Bylos mentions in his parting words in the interview, he invites everyone - new and old - to give the game a spin.
Bylos writes, "For those who haven’t tried the game at all – I humbly submit that The Secret World fills a place in this genre that no other game can; deep storytelling, modern day setting, unprecedented skill and ability customization and amazing graphics and all for the client price of $30."
If you're seeking a friend for the end of the world, this seems like an excellent deal. If your friends have already despaired due to the impending doom, then I welcome everyone who wants to make new comrades as armageddon draws near. Cheers!
FYI folks, the announcement is live on various news outlets including ours, and there's an FAQ on the forums.
Some points for consideration that you may want to discuss below now that the updated info is available:
- Why are there time-limited Bonus points instead of permanent bonus points? I'm inclined to think this is a clever move to get people to revisit the game periodically to consume their bonuses and try the game and any changes. Also: keeps people from stockpiling oodles of points for future sales, I suppose, like what happened in SOE's case where they had to disable buying subs with Station Cash. Moreover, assuming that bonus points get eaten up before regular Funcom points, are there any checks and balances towards ensuring that Bonus points are consumed ahead of the Funcom ones or that proper restitution occurs if there's an error in the points consumption ?
- I'm intrigued by the idea that the lifetimers can afford all future story content through their points. Hopefully story content will not be too costly for those who want to experience new things.
- How many of you are intrigued or enthused by the new price point for entry? I originally paid in Euros for mine, which made it very costly... but I did enjoy the game, so I'm not complaining.