A View From the Road: The Subscription Equation

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A View From the Road: The Subscription Equation

In today's economy, there's no better "bang for your buck" than an MMOG.

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or...I could spent 60 bucks on Halo or COD4...and get endless entertainment online...for free. Or at least cheaper then 15 bucks a month.

Actually my biggest issue with subscription models is that with a subscription I feel I have to play as long as I'm paying. I know, I might not be making sense here, but say for example I just purchased Metroid Prime Trilogy. I can stop playing that whenever I want and have no guilt over paying for a subscription and not playing. Or I guess the point I'm trying to make is: I don't feel like investing time in an mmo, and the subscription fee is a good excuse not to.

I have played Team Fortress 2 for 172 hours combined, and I bought the game for $20, thats about 0.12 an hour, now THATS cheap.

Call of Duty 4 has probably clocked around 80 hours, and i bought it for $30, thats around 0.38 an hour.

Burnout Paradice has clocked 80 hours, and the game was $20, thats 0.25 an hour.

You get my point, MMO's can be generaly cheap, but they seem to destroy most people's lives as well.

I'd personally like Mr. Funk to add up his total /played time. Perhaps there are some hidden costs he's not taking into account :P

The problem is variety. No matter how much extra content and additional areas your 10 dollars a month buys you, you're still playing the same game with the same people, same grind, same characters, same grind, same process, same grind and the same grind.

Then again, I'm not OCD.

Yeah this is totally not taking into account the quality of the time being spent. Otherwise you could say working at McDonalds is an even better way to spend your leisure time because they pay you to do it.

I tried WoW and didn't like it for a couple reasons, one being I found it to be really repetitive, I found myself doing the same thing over and over again, and I really didn't find it very satisfying. My second point is that it isn't worth paying a monthly fee

ila:
I can stop playing that whenever I want and have no guilt over paying for a subscription and not playing.

I enjoy COD4, L4D, GTA4. Because I can stop playing them whenever, I already payed a flat fee for them and can now rack up 400 hours (if I really wanted to and had no life). But still I enjoy all those games and I think it was well worth the money, but that's just my opinion.

The thing is, as much as you Americans love to complain about your economy, you're doing really well. $15 may not be much for you, but that translates to about $58, give or take, Argentine pesos. That's a load of money here, a country in which the economy truly is atrocious.

Supreme Unleaded:
I have played Team Fortress 2 for 172 hours combined, and I bought the game for $20, thats about 0.12 an hour, now THATS cheap.

Exactly.

Hours to months is a difficult comparison to make. I bought TF2 five months ago, and have played it quite regularly since then. If I'd paid $20, and were to stop playing today, I would have spent $4/month, much less than the MMORPG standard of $15. Furthermore, I can keep playing. After twenty months, that's $1/month, still totaling twenty, compared to the $300 that a WoW player will have spent. (I actually got the game on sale for $10 for the entire Orange Box, but that's besides the point).

What about expansion packs? Valve releases class updates and new maps at regular intervals, constantly adding to the game, and I don't have to pay a dime. A WoW player has to pay for Burning Crusade, and pay again for Wrath of the Lich King.

Now, I'm not here to criticize WoW, but to claim that you get the best bang for your buck through a subscription game, especially given that you have to buy it AND pay a fee on it, is nonsense, mathematically speaking.

P.S. Thanks

The fatal flaw in this argument is the fact that so much time spent in MMOs is grind. I'm not saying that other games are inherently better, but personally, too much of that "value" I get from an MMO is being really bored trying to get that last bit of rep I need.

ila:
Actually my biggest issue with subscription models is that with a subscription I feel I have to play as long as I'm paying.

I agree, there's some times when you feel as if you're playing just because you're paying, rather than wanting to.

Says he with over 1000 separate hours logged on CoX/Guild Wars/EQ/EQ2/Reqiuem (That's per game)

The_root_of_all_evil:

ila:
Actually my biggest issue with subscription models is that with a subscription I feel I have to play as long as I'm paying.

I agree, there's some times when you feel as if you're playing just because you're paying, rather than wanting to.

Says he with over 1000 separate hours logged on CoX/Guild Wars/EQ/EQ2/Reqiuem (That's per game)

That's what happened to me with WoW. I wanted to quit for a while, but after buying a 2 month card, I played the last month because I didn't want to feel like I'm wasting money. Hopefully, but probably not, things will start to change.

And how much grinding do MMOGs have, again?

Sorry, but I spent a big portion of my time when I had WoW thinking "Hey, I'm not playing, I'm wasting money here...."

If it was £15 for however many hours, great! Maybe a warning when I hit 6 hours or something, give me time to get to a reasonable point and bail to get some more "game credit". But if I'm getting charged when I'm not using it, count me out.

I find this kind of true, and why I don't mind subbing MMOs myself. Sure, there are other games, but not everyone is really into the FPS department, which has its own values as others here have said. In terms of games you play less, such as RPG games, a game like WoW will go a lot further on the money. Just pick it up, do something new, quit, and repeat later if you want. Without a new game.

hehe, all the people bawking about the quality of the game.. that's a matter of taste. maybe MMOs aren't your cup of tea, and that's fine. The point of this article is people saying that 15 dollars a month is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for hours and hours and hours of gameplay that you'd otherwise want to play, is just silly.

And of course there are some exceptions to the "not getting your 96 hours out of your 60 dollar game" There are lots of games with a ridiculous amount of replay value - people are still playing starcraft and counterstrike religiously that they got years and years ago. But for the most part, most new games are made with 30-40 hours in mind. Much more then that and stuff starts to feel stale.

MMOs are designed with playing for years in mind.

wordsmith:
Sorry, but I spent a big portion of my time when I had WoW thinking "Hey, I'm not playing, I'm wasting money here...."

If it was £15 for however many hours, great! Maybe a warning when I hit 6 hours or something, give me time to get to a reasonable point and bail to get some more "game credit". But if I'm getting charged when I'm not using it, count me out.

paying 15 dollars for 30 days, is about 2 cents an hour. That just seems silly to nitpick about.

Is your TV on 24 hours a day? If you have Xbox Live, do you play CoD4 24 hours a day with the latest episode of House MD running in Picture in a Picture? Are you also online on your computer every hour of every day? Can't waste any of that time you paid for with your internet bill.

Altorin:

MMOs are designed with playing for years in mind.

That is why I don't buy them. I want to play my game once or twice if its good and move onto the next thing. My favorite right now is L4D on Steam. I will move onto L4D 2 when it comes out this November.

I like to play the games while they are new because you are part of the learning curve with everyone else. When you join a game late, you get noob stomped repeatedly and quit playing because its no fun for you. Before L4D came out I had been abstaining from online gaming since the the HL1 mod era. when Counter strike was beta, and the Natural Selection mod was new.

Its all about Single player immersion for me. I like my Metroid Prime Trilogy(Wii), Fallout 3(PC), HL2 Episodes(PC), STALKER(PC), Resident Evil 5(PS3), Infamous (PS3), Assassin's Creed(PC), and soon to be released Batman Arkham Asylum(PC) on Steam.

that is so true, ever since i stopped playing wow i have used about 10 times as much on games pr month, but since im temporarily unemployed im betting on Aion online to fulfill my gaming needs until i get a steady income again.

edit: by the way john, your an open white shirt away from being a true hunk.

edit edit: those of you who say mmo's ruin peoples lives, they dont ruin lives any more than any other game.

This article is quite packed with logical fallacies, which is quite unusual in your articles Funk.

First: A monthly fee, even if it was only 5 dollars, means you have to fork over your money every single month you may want to play, as the game is only available to you when you feel like forking over for the whole month. In a system like this, the added overtime cost of the game can't be anything short of "infinite" (well, less than that cause you'll die at some point). But considering 15$ a month, every month, that means that I either play the same MMO every month, or buy a brand new game every 3-4 months (depending). That does not mean I can only play 1 game every 3-4 months, that means I can also play a NEW game, along with the old one, every 3-4 months. At the end of the year, I've either spent 180 bucks to play the same game throughout, or I've bought and experienced 3 - 4 games (at 60$ price, which computer games rarely meet, specially if you enjoy the ever so awesome "weekend deals" steam loves to throw around). On the other hand, I shelled out a whooping 35€ at the time I bought it for my orange box. It contains 5 games and Team Fortress 2 alone has clocked over 100 hours in-game, and fuck knows how many modding in hammer. I'll most likely still be playing tf2 next year, at which point I will have still spent 35€ (it's something absurd like 20$s now) on the whole thing.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong but, you payed money not only for the subscription, every month you've played but ALSO for the copy of the game and every subsequent "expansion". That's an extra game each you could have bought. Meanwhile, a sandbox game like, say, Prototype, would have cost you one game... That's it. You're right, you don't get two years worth of gameplay out of Prototype, but I'd argue every minute you do get is a far more intense and interesting experience than WoW (or assorted MMO-junk)... But since I dislike MMOs, let's not argue the actual quality of the experience (which is crucial mind you) and instead only argue it's length.

Fallout 3 looks like a good candidate. You payed for your game and every other DLC you wanted to have. That's it. I clocked over 100 hours in Fallout 3 without any DLCs, for the whole cost of 1 game. If I wanted, I could go back to it today, right now, turn off this browser and turn it back on, and I would still have payed the exact same 50-something bucks. Meanwhile in WoW you have payed for your game, every subsequent "DLC" and every single month you wanted to just drop in and check on your character.

See, the issue is that the "p2p" is only cheaper on a very specific circumstance: You can't play too much, or too little. If you play too little then you're just paying for idle time with the p2p plan, but the longer you play the more expensive and cost-inefficient it becomes, the exact opposite of "retail games". Then there's also "quality"... And I'd sooner fork over 20 bucks again to play through those 3 hours (1-2 for me at this point) of Portal for the 20th time than I would for an entire month of all MMOs put together.

So no, cost efficient they are not. You can argue that you spend a lot of time in your one game, but I'd say that's a matter of preference more than "efficiency". I like making maps for TF2, ergo I'll most likely spend as much, or more, time on TF2 than you do in WoW. Equally, some people have played Counter Strike Source for something like, 5 hours a day, every day, for 5 years... At the end of the day, the better a game is, and the more you play it, the worse for the costumer the "pay to play" model becomes.

Altorin:
hehe, all the people bawking about the quality of the game.. that's a matter of taste.[...]

But for the most part, most new games are made with 30-40 hours in mind. Much more then that and stuff starts to feel stale.

MMOs are designed with playing for years in mind.

Can you see the contradiction here?

You start by "bawking" that quality is a matter of taste, but then proceed to use quality as a point in favor of p2p mmos...

I dunno about you but quality is the sole reason I keep playing/replaying a game. Personally I wouldn't spend more than 2 hours clicking around on monsters before I got bored shitless of WoW, but for the sake of comparison I have to assume I'd spend as long playing wow as I do playing tf2. If you want to make a fair comparison you have to assume that if someone spends 90 hours a month in WoW, then are equally capable of spending 90 hours a month in Fallout, or TF2, or Grand Turismo...

or ya can get LOTRO for like $200 or so and have an mmo permanent subscription... never hafta pay a monthly fee ever...

I personally haven't done that. but I've been too absorbed in all my other games to bother...

EVE is one of those mmos I find to have a relatively minimal grind factor to them... I play it rather casually only loggin on a few hours a week, helping out with my corporation's wars and whatnot with scheduled attacks and such... I run some missions if we aren't at war... I let skills train in my time offline... not so much of a hurried game really...

CantFaketheFunk:
Now, on its own, $15 isn't all that much - that's what, three morning coffees?

Just how much coffee do you buy at once? A 20 oz. cup is about two dollars wjere I live and I'm not buying from any kind of crazy local place, either.


I was going to yell at everyone about the cost-to-playtime not being the only thing that maters, but you got to it first, so instead of repeating you I just decided to yell at Funk about drinking too much coffee.

All of the games I own are either RPGs or Metroid and most of them were purchased secondhand. I don't even know what my total playtime is because I have reset those games a million times for various things, usually death. I have about 300+ hours on Pokemon Red, and that's the second playthrough. I have probably clocked more than 750 hours on that game and only stopped playing it because new versions came out. I like these games because most of them are on the GBA or DS and I can take them with me to various places, which is also the main reason I don't play that many MMORPGs, because I don't always have acess to a computer. The expected value for a game is more than just the time/cost ratio, so if WoW isn't fun for you, then the cost is more than that $15 a month.

Hours of game per hour do not equal "value". Most people value their time very highly and want to cram the maximum amount of good stuff in it. Consider the difference of:

- play a terrible MMO (let's assume it's one of the free ones) for 30 hours during a month
- work for one hour, buy a better MMO subscription, play that game 29 hours during a month

And if, like many people, you figure grinding in a MMO isn't all that much fun, then it's a no brainer to work for *two* hours and play something you actually like for 28 hours (and will stay on your shelf afterwards, too). Or work for one hour and visit the bargain bin.

Your article seems to be forgetting online play, which is important because most mmo's can't be played single player off-line like standard games. For me, I picked up CoD4 at $60 bucks and have spent 12-odd days in the online multiplayer alone, not counting the rather short single player.

I'm that person who won't pay subscriptions...

In his article he ignores the re-playability of single player games and one purchase or free MMOs. When I buy something I want to have it in-defiantly, but the issue isn't paying for the subscription as much as I have to buy the game too. It's like me selling you a car for full price, but you still have to rent it from me. By the way, anyone need a car?

I love the article and can't disagree with the statistics, but I still won't pay for subscription fees nonetheless. It's just ingrained into my system; I inherited the 'frugal' gene from my father.

Maybe it's cheaper but it's not more fun. How many more rabbits must die at my hands so I can have a two by name instead of a one? But I guess some find it entertaining so more power to them.

Wakefield:
or...I could spent 60 bucks on Halo or COD4...and get endless entertainment online...for free. Or at least cheaper then 15 bucks a month.

Ummm since when is XBL free?
If you want free endless online either PC or PS3 is a good choice.
On another note:
Did you cut out the time in WoW spent mindlessly grinding, flying from place to place, and searching for groups? Cause that might cut out a third of your total gametime, which might shift those numbers.

Hours as a measure of game value has always been a poor measure. MMOs are designed to maximize the hours spent ingame or between while keeping them enjoyable enough to keep the person playing (EVE would be one exception.) Comparing MMOs to New Retail Game X gives them an unfair advantage, relatively speaking -- the design philosophies are different, so in general the expectations should be different. I don't expect a great deal of grinding in most FPSes offline but I do for MMOs: it's part of the genre. There's also a huge amount of time spent interacting with other players in MMOs, which if you're fairly judging the value of the game... well, I'm not quite sure how to account for it.

There's also free/older/cheaper games, for when tossing down $60 for the latest new game isn't attractive (which I usually find to be the case, and the price is a small part of that.) On the hours/dollar spent evaluation scale, free flash games or more hardcore ones like Dwarf Fortress, Spelunky or Nethack are infinitely valuable. Even if you toss those out the window, not everyone's still spending $20 for Diablo 2 (an decent not-quite-MMO-MMO game) or the x amount of cash that Guild Wars costs with no subscription.

Ultimately, I think that the whole evaluation method is flawed enough to render the article's point irrelevant.

Jordan Deam:
I'd personally like Mr. Funk to add up his total /played time. Perhaps there are some hidden costs he's not taking into account :P

I cannot imagine the sheer immensity of time played on that game. As a recent WoW quitter, that'd send me over the edge.

Not as bad as Scanners, but you get the drift.

civver:
And how much grinding do MMOGs have, again?

If you're doing it right? None.

It's something even World of Warcraft has now adressed (and, as usual, Warcraft is actually the last horse to cross the post...) - EVERYTHING you do gets you experience and cash now, so you can officially do whatever the hell you want and level up from it. It's a choice to go into the woods and level up by killing millions of boars, and there are people who do that, but there are faster, more efficient and more FUN ways of doing pretty much everything.

You must have known when you wrote this that comments wouldn't be so nice :)
Anyway, I had my share of WoW time until 3 year ago.

One of my main reason to quit and keep playing other games. Is exactly the opposite of what you're saying:

I rather pay 50 € of 15+- € (Braid, World of Goo) for any title that gives me a compact but great experience. If it's packed with free good multiplayer (Half-Life 2) it's an great extra.
The problem with WoW is like playing 4 or 8 hours on a nice weekend day (back then) and realizing you didn't achieve a thing. When you play about 4h of World of Goo, Portal, Left4Dead and if you liked the game.

You probably had a great time which gives a great feeling, about 1) a good experience and 2) Gaming time well spent. Everytime I play a bit of WoW again, it proves that you don't get 1+2.
You can have some fun with WoW but it's completely diluted by all the time idling, grinding, waiting for party members, starting a dungeon and people running off,...

Anyway, since I quit I played a huge amount of non-mmorpg games and I don't regret any of the special experiences (Indie games) or just great good looking gameplay (MAss Effect, Bioshock, L4D,....)

bue519:

Wakefield:
or...I could spent 60 bucks on Halo or COD4...and get endless entertainment online...for free. Or at least cheaper then 15 bucks a month.

Ummm since when is XBL free?

Since when is roughly $4 a month too much?

And heck, going by logic presented here, if one were to calculate the cost of Xbox Live on a per-hour basis, used or not:

1 year for $50.

$50/365 days/24 hours = six-tenths of a cent an hour.

Oh man, so expensive. Whatever shall I do.

It is true $15 is a fairly decent rate for subscriptions for MMO's, but with the single players we have coming out these days with more emphasis on replayability: Fallout 3, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty, Mass Effect, etc etc, it's a tough sell to try to say that the investment you make into WoW might be better than into one of those others, especially with the multiplayer one gets from a lot of the non-MMO's that one doesn't have to pay for(with the exception of XBox Live perhaps).
One might argue that you get more a community in MMO's, with guilds, clans or whatever. Try telling that to the groups that are all about Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, or Call of Duty 4, WaW, or MW2 soon to come, and others. I think that is one thing that Steam and LIVE helps provide, though they don't hold sole credit for. ICQ and IRC are still alive.
I enjoy playing some WoW, and some Eve online(which the expansions for have been free since day one and has been more dependable; take that, Blizzard!) But when I have to pinch my pennies, I am more than happy spending time on a TF2 server or L4D server, without any withdrawal symptoms, or impending sense of been there done that. I like to think I've paid for the Orange Box several times over now, and it still isn't collecting dust. Heck, just started another run through HL2 the other day. Maybe by the time I finish Episode 2 there will be actual news on 3. Maybe. One can dream.

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