Recently, Albion Online announced that they’d be dropping the F2P (free to play) payment model in favor of the buy to play (B2P) model used by games like Elder Scrolls Online and Black Desert Online. We sat down with Game Director Robin Henkys to discuss this change, and more about the ongoing plans for launch and beyond.
MMORPG: So players have been talking a lot about the changes to the Albion Online payment model can you give us a short history about this topic?
Robin Henkys: When we first came up with the idea for Albion Online, it was quite clear to us that we wanted to create a game that caters to a group of very dedicated MMO players that were looking for a game to play for many years.
Unfortunately, the pay to play / subscription model has been dead for a long time and even large studios with multi-million dollar budgets and a main-stream player base have failed to make it work for their newer games.
With that in mind, going for a subscription model was out of the question. As Albion Online is a very skill-based game with a player driven economy, we needed to come up with a model that is not pay to win but still powerful enough to keep the game running without us having to spend too much of our development time on monetization.
The model we came up with is based around vanity items and a premium status. Premium status does not make you more powerful, but makes the game less grindy by allowing you to progress faster than non-premium players. The cool thing is: you can get premium with in-game currency, without having to pay for it.
Our vanity items and perks will work exactly as in other games, and most importantly, they will not give you an in-game advantage.
Based on the above model, in principle, it would be possible to make the game free to play at launch. However, over the course of our various alpha tests and the current beta, based on the feedback received from our 70.000 backers, making the game free to play would present us with a huge challenge at the moment which would drain away a lot of development resources from simply making a better game: the size of our game world – even though it consists of more than 200 regions – is too small. On top of that, even though we are in a paid beta, we already encounter some issues with spammers and gold sellers. Within a buy to play setting, we can easily keep these incheck, and can also make sure that our game world is always large enough to handle the population. If we went free to play, there is a chance that all hell would break lose, which is not a risk that we want to take right now.
MMORPG: What do your players think about free to play games?
Robin: In general, there always have been two groups of players when it came to the free-to-play model.
The first group consist of players who are interested in Albion Online, but cannot afford to pay for the game. These players were eagerly waiting for the game to become free to play and are now disappointed.
The second group consist of those that are naturally skeptical about free to play games, as they often have the tendency to become pay to win. As most of us are hardcore gamers ourselves, we share that concern and are absolutely making sure that this does not happen in Albion Online.
Another concern of players skeptical about free to play games is that these games often suffer from botting, spamming and a very toxic community. This is a concern that we share very much, and on top of that, as our game happens in one single large game world there is the danger of having an over-crowded game world, too.
Robin: We absolutely want to avoid that our 70.000 backers – who are making Albion Online possible in the first place – would have a bad playing experience because issues caused by a free to play launch, namely: over-crowding of the game world, spamming, botting and a toxic community.
Getting our game ready for free to play would require us to work on a lot of features and safeguards in order to handle the issues mentioned above – valuable development time that could instead be spent on improving and expanding the game.
Our core goal for Albion Online is for it to be a long term game, ideally being around for 10 years. We simply refuse to rush the release of the game and we certainly do not want the game to crash and burn. Due to that, it was the right decision for us to extend the beta and bury our free to play plans for the time being.