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MMOSide Chat: Do You Sub To Free-To-Play MMORPGs, And When Do You Decide If It's Worth It?

A fireside chat about subscriptions

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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I'll admit: I probably sub to too many game services (and entertainment services for that matter). EVE OnlineFinal Fantasy XIVLord of the Rings Online, Xbox GamePass Ultimate, PlayStation Plus - it all adds up. So when subbing to a game that should be, in theory and by its own business model's name, free, there has to be a reason.

Free-to-play MMORPGs for me are a massive misnomer, something I'm sure many of you reading this can agree with. Sure, it's free to download, you can hop in and do basic things, but the minute you get invested time-wise, the game starts showing you all the ways you can get invested with your money. 

Games like Star Wars: The Old Republic lock expansions behind a subscription, forcing players who want to experience the next great Bioware story in the Star Wars universe to fork over the fee for a short while, hopefully with the idea that they'll stick with it long after the flashpoint ends. Other games such as Lost Ark might not have a recurring subscription, instead selling the feeling of FOMO as players flocked to Founder's Packs to get just a few days of a headstart on the rest of us.

For the free-to-play MMORPGs that offer a sub, though, I find it hard to determine whether it's ultimately worth the money, especially with my time being so stretched between work, single parenting and life in general. For a free-to-play title to get me to spend the $15 or so a month for the extras, I have to really enjoy the world.

Two F2P titles have done that for me: EVE Online and The Lord of the Rings Online

Full disclosure, one of my EVE accounts has game time provided by CCP for coverage purposes. Note I said "one of my EVE accounts." As it stands, I typically run about three or four separate accounts as well, all with Omega time running at one time or another, or all at once depending on what I'm doing, in order to get the most out of my experience in New Eden. 

Sometimes it's to fleet up and run combat sites, other times it's to help maximize mining operations. For the amount of time I play EVE, the money I spend on Omega time is worth it, especially if it means I'm making more ISK thanks to access to more powerful and efficient ships and modules. I can run an Orca with Procurers and Retrievers makes mining a breeze - and having a few extra accounts in combat fits to protect the fleet doesn't hurt either. 

The Lord of the Rings Online seems like a no-brainer, but it's actually one I'm more conflicted about.

Throughout the years I've bounced between VIP and Premium account status (though I do have a lifetime account, but my main character isn't on it. Yea, I know.). At times I've been a Premium player and just bought the quest packs I wanted to play. Other times I found myself subbing to the MMO for one reason or another, either the boost in experience and the monthly dump of LotRO points. Plus it doesn't hurt having access to the regions I haven't bought yet. 

However, unlike SWTORLotRO doesn't simply give you expansion content for being a VIP member. You still need to spend real money on that stuff, which is one reason why the "mini-expansion" from a few years back was such a hotly debated item. Was Standing Stone Games deliberately releasing the content as a "mini-expansion" to get around the VIP benefits, and if that was the case, what is the point of subscribing then?

Since I own so much of the content through sales and LotRO point buys in the almost 15 years the MMO has been live, it also makes me wonder just how much value there is in having a VIP account at this point. That's an extra $15 I could spend on a movie with my daughter, or even put into another MMO I might need to play for work, like, say World of Warcraft's 9.2 release?

Thinking about this makes me wonder about the whole trend of subscriptions for free-to-play titles overall. We sitll see these crop up, though more often than not now it seems games are going with the microtransaction stores heavily supported with a battle pass (though even Lord of the Rings Online is getting into the battle pass realm now). 

There is an argument to be had, and has been waged for ages as to which is the best business model for MMORPGs, but when it comes to free-to-play titles, the subscription that can often come with them has value for many, myself included. That isn't to say that they don't feel predatory - as is the case with the "mini-expansion" again. Figuring out whether or not a sub has value, though, is up to the individual. 

So I'm interested in your thoughts: what do you think about free-to-play subs, do you sub to any and when do you decide if it's a good enough value to plop down the money? Let us know in the comments.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore