Experienced Points

Experienced Points
The Subscription Psychology

Shamus Young | 18 Sep 2009 21:00
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I'm a flat rate kind of guy. I part with the money, and the money is gone and I forget about it and focus on the game. If I paid for an MMO by the minute or hour it would drive me crazy, even if it was cheaper overall. I'd have this nagging irritation during every minute spent waiting for a respawn or waiting on other members of the group to show up. Quick! The meter is running! Let's get moving! Find some entertainment!

For the other sort of person, knowing you're going to be charged regardless of how much you play creates a feeling that they are "wasting money" by not playing. They would rather just pay for what they use. If you want a beer, you pay for a beer. But what if you paid for the right to drink beer for five minutes? You'd feel obligated to chug. You couldn't just sit and enjoy.

If you were to quit your job and play World of Warcraft for twelve hours a day, every day, then it will cost you four cents an hour. If you're busy that month and only log in for a few hours, then the game suddenly costs one hundred times as much. Playing in moderation makes it feel like you ordered the buffet and then all you ate was a handful of croutons. It creates this pressure that makes the game into an obligation, and you're playing videogames to escape your obligations, not invent new ones.

Lord of the Rings Online offered a lifetime subscription for $200. I've never seen any numbers on how many people took them up on the offer, but in any case doing so is an interesting gamble. Assuming the going monthly rate is $15, then it will take thirteen months of membership for the subscription to break even. Anyone considering putting down that much money at launch needs to ask themselves some hard questions: Will the MMO still be around then? Will you still care about this game just four months from now, much less thirteen? But by the time you know the answer to these questions, you've probably already paid for a few months, and the questions would need to be re-evaluated.

It's worth noting that so far all major MMOs have gone for pleasing people like me. If a pay-by-the-hour MMO exists in the West, I've never heard of it. I wonder if such a system would round up all those people who might enjoy an MMO, but who hate the flat-rate pricing. I also wonder if it might help lure in gamers on a tight budget.

Shamus Young is the guy behind this movie, this website, this book, these two webcomics, and this program. He's currently in the depths of a Champions Online Addiction. He needs help.

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