Evolve or Die

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Doive:
I realise it might ruin the immersion in something like world of warcraft but in the old republic, for example, selling advertising space in game could be a massive money maker. Especially in central hub areas where literally millions of people will be passing through. Where can you put a billboard in the real world that will get that much exposure?
Or entire space stations sponsored by companies. It would certainly reduce their need to charge subscribers.

People get really, really pissy about in-game advertising.

I won't even pretend to understand why, it's something that brings the developer money and has a minimal effect on the player yet people just get really angry about it.

I mean, I can understand why when the advertisement doesn't make sense in context with the game or gets in the way of gameplay features but if it's a billboard which is appropriately designed for the game world it's absolutely fine by me.

Case in point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzoq441Ul6E

Check out the comments!

Firefall? What is this Firefall you speak of... GOOGLE, AWAY!

Waaaaaait; oooh you crafty marketing department you. I feel used but in a good way.

I agree with those suggesting the GW/GW2 model of buy-to-play. Most of what kept me from playing WoW was the fact that I never really owned the game, since I had to keep paying in order to have access to the game. Guild Wars enticed me with a good entry price for the trilogy and expansion pack, as well as the notion that once I had bought it, it was mine forever. That makes it feel just like any other type of game because it gives a feeling of ownership that subscription MMOs lack.

Though it's important to note that both GW and GW2 will likely sustain themselves for the long term primarily on micro-transactions, as well as new sales of the game itself. GW currently does this well, with their micro-transaction offers all being generally quite fair: costumes that have no value beyond aesthetics, extra storage or character slots beyond what you get for free, skill and pet unlocking packs to save you game time when looking for specific articles to use in PvP, or mission packs that expand on the story and content available to you as a player. None of these things make the game really "broken", and I suspect this is the style they'll use for GW2 as well.

I appreciate the article and have been excited to see if Red5 can really pull it off. I also love that the current extra credits goes right along with this article, kudos on the timing of that.

Overall I see that it is inevitable that the industry will move in this direction one way or another. With the way other industries have had paradime shifts in their distribution methods its only a matter of time before we see some sort f change.

Sean951:

BioWare really hasn't impressed me as a developer. So far, the only game I have played and enjoyed was Mass Effect, and likely Mass Effect 2. The trailers for their new MMO look more or less like a Jedi skin for WoW. The biggest draw, the voice acting, was something I really don't like in most games, especially MMO's. Blizzard does it to a small level and, except for cut scenes it just annoys me. If you don't like the way they made certain races sound, and you happen to play one of those races, it just becomes a whole new level of annoyance.

Bioware is a seasoned developer, with loads of really successful and profitable RPGs from the past 15+ years. They've been around almost as long as Blizzard has, and have pretty much come to define the RPG genre as it moves forward into the future.

I don't really wanna get into this, but I'm going to say this right now, there are similarities between WoW and SW:TOR. They both of hotbars, tanks, healers, dpsers, talent trees, pvp, and even raiding. There are also a lot of differences between the two, way more than the average person realizes. A lot of the innovation comes across in the execution of the content and the way the games combat mechanics are set up, or the way the quests are designed. There are a lot of things wrong with WoW in it's current state. It is my opinion that SW:TOR fixes a lot of the core things wrong with it, while adding it's own innovation and feel.

You may not like the voice acting but a lot of people do, it adds immersion to the questing that simply isn't there in other MMOs, and since theres a dialog system similar to Mass Effect, you are even given the option of how you complete quests. Do you kill the sith captain for him betraying you? or do you let him live so that he can help fend off the Republic assault?

EDIT: for anyone interested, here's an informative video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02a31i0zNuc

I don't mean to advertise I'm just trying to stop the spread of disinformation.

I love free to play as a model. Makes is so much easier to try out a bunch of different games before finally settling on one you really like as your main game. Just so long as publishers don't get greedy. You should never be able to buy game-changing items in a cash shop.
Publisher greed is the main reason I refuse to play WoW: It costs for the boxed game, and expansions, plus it costs a monthly subscription fee, plus there's a cash shop. Blizzard should choose one of those three and stick with it, not try to have them all.

I think this info graphic that Xfire made based on their observations speaks for the strength of the free to play model

Slightly off topic but

animehermit:

You may not like the voice acting but a lot of people do, it adds immersion to the questing that simply isn't there in other MMOs, and since theres a dialog system similar to Mass Effect, you are even given the option of how you complete quests. Do you kill the sith captain for him betraying you? or do you let him live so that he can help fend off the Republic assault?

Do you have any idea how much quality studio time costs. How much it will slow down the production cycles?

100% voice acting is the reason why I know TOR will not be good. No matter how good MMOs are and no matter how fast content is released, players will outpace the developers in any MMO. They say 100% voice acted content, I hear 6 months+ between every content patch at best. Without new content constantly coming in, it won't succeed as an MMO.

bob1052:
I think this info graphic that Xfire made based on their observations speaks for the strength of the free to play model

Incidentally this is how "piracy" works too, the best selling games are the most downloaded. This isn't poof that downloads generate more sales, but that this business model works so well seems to confirm there can be a causation link here...

TheGreatCoolEnergy:
My only problem with a F2P system is that, in my experience, it always feels like those who don't pay are essentially treated as second class citizens. Take Runescape for example; the game takes every opportunity it has to try and talk you into paying.

That's the "old F2P" or "korean F2P". Try League of Legends or LotrO.

In LoL, you don't get any power from buying Riot Points. You can't buy runes with it and except for skins (which are the company's main source of income), you can buy everything without paying a dime.

As for other F2Ps - tried to play Vindictus, love the gameplay...videos. I can't play it because it's not out in Europe after OVER A YEAR and it won't be here as a BETA till Q4. Mythos is pretty fun, too. WoW's free trial till level 20 is decent, though there are limitations, probably to avoid obnoxious gold sellers and so on.

Hellgate London went F2P, but... that game is just too bad compared to other MMOs to be P2P.

Abedeus:

Hellgate London went F2P, but... that game is just too bad compared to other MMOs to be P2P.

The only model I can see working with Hellgate London is one where they pay YOU to play...

Ickorus:

Doive:
I realise it might ruin the immersion in something like world of warcraft but in the old republic, for example, selling advertising space in game could be a massive money maker. Especially in central hub areas where literally millions of people will be passing through. Where can you put a billboard in the real world that will get that much exposure?
Or entire space stations sponsored by companies. It would certainly reduce their need to charge subscribers.

People get really, really pissy about in-game advertising.

I won't even pretend to understand why, it's something that brings the developer money and has a minimal effect on the player yet people just get really angry about it.

I mean, I can understand why when the adertisement doesn't make sense in context with the game or gets in the way of gameplay features but if it's a billboard which is appropriately designed for the game world it's absolutely fine by me.

Case in point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzoq441Ul6E

Check out the comments!

That wasn't remotely close to bad as some F2P games I've seen. Played 9 Dragons for a while, there were banner ads but they'd cause the game to lag when they changed and while maps for loading they'd show laggy ads. In game ads would be nothing compared to that crap.

I've felt for awhile now that subscription-based models often alienate people who are interested in trying the game but wary of paying monthly, while trapping people who are playing the game by making them feel like they need to get their money's worth, and then that they need to keep paying, lest they fall behind. I've always felt that subscription-based models should center their fees around time actively spent playing the game, so that when you log off, the timer stops, and when you're online, even if just afk, the timer ticks down. Or that the subscription should be paid on a daily basis, not monthly. Or both. A daily, time/$ system would be the way to go for subscription.

Upfront-then-completely-free business models have the stigma of paying upfront at all. How about play for free for a certain amount of days (a week? A month?) with--and this is the important part--no restrictions on content other than the arbitrary time period before you have to pay and possibly your ability to give items to others (but not necessarily to receive them) then, charge the player, and if they have decided they want to keep playing, they pay, and continue on for free? Simple, gives the game exposure and enough time for the consumer to pass judgment. See, if a game has an upfront cost and sucks early on, then the player feels they got robbed. The appeal of free-to-play games is that you get to sample the game to satisfactory length before deciding if it's worth being one of your various money sinks. Upfront models reek of wanting to be free-to-play but being afraid to let go of subscription models due to the stigma associated with F2P that this article pointed out ("If it's free, it can't be good"). They also lack the potential revenue of subscription OR free-to-play games because they half-ass their approach by abandoning both. Lower revenue = higher chance of content issues.

Free-to-play games are incredibly successful from a business standpoint, and depending on how they sustain themselves, can be successful from the playerbase's standpoint. The MOST important thing to consider is that the microtransactions remain as unintrusive to the core game as possible. Convenience in moderation and aesthetics are some of the best ways to do this. What makes free-to-play games shine where subscription can go wrong is that they take into account that not everyone has the same income. Subscription and upfront games set everyone equally, much like sales tax, where as free-to-play games allow richer players to pick up the financial slack of poorer or hesitant-to-pay players. Free-to-play also has the advantage that even someone who does not wish to invest a lot of money in a game may eventually cave in and buy something, while someone who has nothing but money to burn on such a pastime can do just that. The things available should always make the player feel like they WANT to buy them but could also live without them, not like they HAVE to. It is also important that there should always be things that people are tempted to buy, not enough that they feel manipulated by the offer, but enough that there's always the possibility of that moment where they go "Hmm, I kinda feel like spoiling myself today." If you play a F2P and eventually quit it, but feel like you did not regret spending any amount of money on that game (even if you're just lamenting on the amount you spent), then THAT is a successful F2P system. "It took my money, but I never thought it wasn't worth it."

A game like Trickster Online fails at F2P. A game like Mabinogi (in spite of all the whining) or Vindictus actually succeeds at it.

Edit: To add on, subscription and upfront models have the advantage that everyone is equal, because everyone is paying. Upfront, however, unlike subscription, sets everyone equal at the moment of payment. Subscription only sets people to equal as long as people KEEP paying. F2P has the hurdle that people should be rewarded for paying more but that the perks are arbitrary and not game-breaking.

Another thing people seem concerned about are douchebags. There seems to be some misconception that douchebags don't pay for games. This is untrue. There's an equal ratio of them in every game, regardless of business model Who's the bigger douchebag? The one who feels entitled because they have money, or the one who plays a game for free? They're still going to be douchey to you. At least with the free ones, they don't feel like they've paid for the right to be douches.

But really, I find this whole US aversion to the F2P model up until this point to be very much akin to our aversion to the metric system. And we're still avoiding THAT for some reason.

fieryshadowcard:

LotRO originally indeed operated on a $/time system, where one bought a set amount of play time. Apparently the whole microtransaction thing worked out better for them anyway.

"trying the game for free for a set amount of time" is pretty much what is done by demo's nowaday. How exactly would your idea be different from them? (serious question, no sarcasm)

With escapism being such a large reason for the enjoyment of video games I think you're pretty much spot-on with the thing about avoiding that people feel they "need" something. They "need" to buy stuff all day already, and it's going to take the fun out of their spare time when they've got to worry about money then too. Worrying as opposed to spoiling themselves, as you so aptly worded it.

When playing WoW I always felt that subscription was ignored as an equalizing factor, as the game demanded an arguably even more valuable commodity in such copious amounts: time.
In order to remain at a competitive level you have to continuously put in large amounts of your time. Pecking order isn't established by how much you've paid for it, but how much time you've spent on it. This is pretty much the same across most MMO's out there.
Those douchebags you talk about are indeed feeling entitled because they've paid more, but their valuta is time.

As developer you don't want to eliminate those douche bags, you want to have people pay you for the right to be a douche. And that's where those conveniences mentioned in the original article come in: they're essentially a discount on the right to be and feel superior.

And as soon as F2P as a genre can get the point across that being successful at their game really is an achievement to be proud of then they'll be rid of that stigma.

bob1052:

Do you have any idea how much quality studio time costs. How much it will slow down the production cycles?

100% voice acting is the reason why I know TOR will not be good. No matter how good MMOs are and no matter how fast content is released, players will outpace the developers in any MMO. They say 100% voice acted content, I hear 6 months+ between every content patch at best. Without new content constantly coming in, it won't succeed as an MMO.

Do you? unless your professionally voice act or direct you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Also additional content probably will have a lot of story content, with that comes VO. The extent of this VO has yet to be determined. So saying it's going to delay the release of content is completely ridiculous. The devs have stated that they don't plan on doing big group based conversations, so I doubt you'll actually need the same amount of VO as the majority of the questing.

WoW already takes 6+ months for patches to hit for sub-par content, even if the TOR takes that long, at least we'll have some good story out of it(or at least I hope so). If not, I'll be leveling alts to experience the unique story line of each class.

Kargathia:

LotRO originally indeed operated on a $/time system, where one bought a set amount of play time. Apparently the whole microtransaction thing worked out better for them anyway.

"trying the game for free for a set amount of time" is pretty much what is done by demo's nowaday. How exactly would your idea be different from them? (serious question, no sarcasm)

With escapism being such a large reason for the enjoyment of video games I think you're pretty much spot-on with the thing about avoiding that people feel they "need" something. They "need" to buy stuff all day already, and it's going to take the fun out of their spare time when they've got to worry about money then too. Worrying as opposed to spoiling themselves, as you so aptly worded it.

When playing WoW I always felt that subscription was ignored as an equalizing factor, as the game demanded an arguably even more valuable commodity in such copious amounts: time.
In order to remain at a competitive level you have to continuously put in large amounts of your time. Pecking order isn't established by how much you've paid for it, but how much time you've spent on it. This is pretty much the same across most MMO's out there.
Those douchebags you talk about are indeed feeling entitled because they've paid more, but their valuta is time.

As developer you don't want to eliminate those douche bags, you want to have people pay you for the right to be a douche. And that's where those conveniences mentioned in the original article come in: they're essentially a discount on the right to be and feel superior.

And as soon as F2P as a genre can get the point across that being successful at their game really is an achievement to be proud of then they'll be rid of that stigma.

For upfront/one-time-payment games, what I meant by playing the game first and paying later is that, rather than a demo or a trial period, you are actually allowed to push as far as you can in the allotted time frame before your one-time payment is due. No restrictions on the content you can access, except that for trades, you can receive items but not give them (to prevent creating tons of alts to trade your main money or items). NO makeshift level ceilings--your only real limitation before the payment is time itself. So... a week or two of unhindered playing. Long enough to get pretty far if you're really invested in the game, but short enough that the question of whether or not you will pay for their product is greeted with a proper yes or no. When the payment comes up, you cannot access your in-game characters until you pay. It's basically the upfront payment, but after the player knows exactly what they're buying and if the game is for them, rather than before.

I didn't know that LotRO started out to something similar to what I suggested for subscription games evolving their model. But if microtransactions worked out better for them, that only refortifies my belief that decent F2P microtransactions are the best business model of the three types of games. Especially if the fans loved their take on the microtransactions, which posts in this thread suggest.

My point about the douchebags wasn't so much that they should be alienated. I believe I was pointing out that just like the article says about American companies thinking "if the game has to be free it must not be good," a lot of MMO players seem to think "games you pay for weed out the worst douches," and how untrue that is. It was more so that a douche is a douche is a douche, full wallet or no. :P

All MMO games are time sinks that reward time with results. What I was saying about P2P subscription and upfront games is that time is ideally their only determinant of success (some subscription games have also opened cash shops but retained their subscriptions, which is usually a bad idea), that it's trickier for F2P games to come up with profitable items that do not shift success to being dependent on money. Even aesthetic items in cash shops can have an impact on the game (in that particular case, the in-game economy), not just items for convenience or in the worst case scenario, for power.

Though obvious, this man speaks so much smart it makes my brain all tingly. There's a reason I quit LotRO - a F2P game, and thank god there's a developer out there that knows why.

It was only after WOW hit the market that companies really started to wake up and realize that they could start charging monthly fees for their titles. The realization probably sounded something like this:

"Hey! WOW is getting all this cash every month from every player! That means WE can start screwing over our fanbase as well - if they're forking out monthly cash for games that they Already Own, then they'll be stupid enough to keep doing it for everyone if we can just make it the norm....."

Thus began the policy of charging monthly fees for virtually nothing. Attempts to justify this by saying it costs money to run & maintain the servers almost beggar belief - you can do it on a shoestring these days. And paying for programmers to update to the game on the fly? Didn't you already pay for a finished product at the store?

Now, with the success of free-to-play games & titles like Guild Wars 2 looming over the horizon, gamers are starting to wake up & smell the rip-off. All that remains is to see how long the big game companies try to drag out the rental fees to maximize their profits. It's probably pointless to hope for any kind of backlash from gamers - we can just watch as market forces grind the old-world rental whores into nothingness.

fieryshadowcard:

Your "demo" idea sounds like it indeed could work for players, but there's a problem with it: goldfarmers. Of course there'd have to be a market for the accounts, but as soon as there is you'll see them starting one of these accounts, power leveling it as far as they can before the payment wall kicks in, and selling it on.
The difference in efficiency between a new player, and a professional farmer or a bot tends to be huge.
Ironically it's just another microtransaction, but this time the developer isn't catching any of the cash, and actually spending it trying to keep the bots of the server.

A douche certainly is a douche, is a douche, but it's also your target audience. So you'll want to be catering to the douches who are most willing to cough up money, but simultaneously you'll want to avoid the "cheap" stigma that surrounds F2P.

Once again I think it might be worth taking a look at how Blizzard is running shop. When they started to introduce raiding you could say they were asking quite a bit from people. Other games probably asked more, but there's a difference: perception.
Because raids were hard, they also were a mark of skill. Something to be respected. That whole stigma isn't about how many idiots are at the lower levels, it's the perception as to how impressive the high end is.
Essentially what they did is that they gave the douchebags a challenge, and made them feel proud about their achievements. That pride wears off on the newer players, who look up to the old ones. And that wears off on the game itself.
It's a bit like the reputation the US had throughout the 19th century: you can get rich. You'll probably die trying, but who cares about those losers? After all: there are people going from nothing to millionaire, and so can you!

As soon as you can bring that sense of achievement and awe for the achievers into your F2P game you're golden.

After that it just becomes a point of having your bought items subtly nudging people to stardom, without tarnishing the stardom.
A bit like selling silicone implants to wannabe hollywood starlets.

FTP should work on 2 levels 1 where you grind longer making the lower levels a unlimited demo of sorts and buying stuff to customize your character with, it would help if they didn't have stuff over 5$ as well...I look at 10-20$ clothing for my virtual character and I get sick.....
To optimize your character it should cost not more than 60$ or 30 hours of crafting per character.

The perception, in America at least, is that if you are giving your game away for free, then it must not be very good.

That's the perception, but I find myself fishing for F2P games when I run out of WoW money (Which is often, and will happen next month)... And I've found plenty of titles that hold my attention.

evolve? rather learn from the past. the oldest 3d mmoprog ever made - Tibia is was and is runing a free-to-play model. well, 2,5d, still a mmo. paying gives advantages, but its possible to play for free for years (though lately content been updated mostly for paid version of the game so the gig is sort of faded away, but lets not go there).
And yes, it is older than ultima online, infact, 2 months older. it worked. and yes, the game is still running though the amount of players are decreasing due to lack of interest from developers into basically any part of the game.

People get really, really pissy about in-game advertising.

I won't even pretend to understand why, it's something that brings the developer money and has a minimal effect on the player yet people just get really angry about it.

your exampel isnt bad, ive seen worse. however people tend to fight any advertisement. we have way too many advertisement in our world as it is. its only that we already lost the radio adn tv battles and the video game one is the last frontier for big companies to take over our entertainment and turn it into something like we have on tv. a 2 hour movie consists of: 50 minutes of movie, 70 minutes of advertisement. what did not fit in 50 minutes of movie, got cut.

Apparently, even City of Heroes is going this route in the future, calling it City of Heroes: Freedom. Isn't that catchy? I was concerned they'd never buckle, but I guess that since WoW has an unlimited demo, that they should follow suit.

Wow, no Korean MMO's were ever, ever mentioned in the article. Not a single mention of games like S4League, GunZ: The Duel, or even BandMaster. While I'm not Korean, I still think that it's a shame that the author sees the entirety of the MMO-playing community as only the American players. Also, the quality of Korean MMO's just seems to get better and better with each coming year. They're also more diverse, as seen in the form of PangYa (a golf MMO), FreeStyle Online (basketball), Audition Online (rhythm/music), and KOS (FPS). Some of these titles have been around for almost 10 years, and are still doing very well in the Asian market, particularly in Southeast Asia. The lack of budget-sponsored flair on these titles is made up for three times over by the sheer originality of their concepts, something that Western devs have only recently caught on to with knockoff titles like Jam Legend.

While I do like the way Champs Online has worked its F2P model, suddenly saying 'sure you can keep playing for free, but not with the character you have been levelling for ages' was kinda a dickmove and a total turnoff for me.

Zeetchmen:
I must be old, I perfer a set payment to get everything rather than having half a game with a pay-to-win store

You don't like playing games that cost ten to a hundred times more to experience at the same level each month?

Guild Wars 2 is great, probably the best F2P model ever devised.

But otherwise its "Free 2 Try", acting like the games are "Free" in most cases is silly since they cost far more than 15 dollars a month just to do most of what you could be doing in wow for 15 dollars a month.

Ickorus:

Case in point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzoq441Ul6E

Check out the comments!

You should never read comments on the internet. The comments section of the internet is designed to make you feel like the world is doomed.

Forums are the way to go, they still suck (I mean look, I'm here) but they are a thousand times better than the scum that trolls around simple comment tools.

Honestly ever since I turned off visible comments on youtube I've been a much happier person. Goes back to that article about trolls ruining everything.

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