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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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Tateru Nino

Does the change in numbers represent an item of importance to people other than Activision-Blizzard?

As you say, they could chug along being very profitable on the current model until the wheels fall off from age.

Arcadia Codesmith

Best estimates for FTP games are that about 97% of players never invest a cent. That leaves 3% to carry the game on the basis of subscriptions or cash shop purchases.

That leaves you in a state similar to SL's current tier model -- your entire revenue stream is coming from a tiny fraction of your player base. And if you can't hold their interest, well...

Subscription models have their own drawbacks, but you're equally answerable to every player, not just the monied elite, providing a better experience for the vast majority of players.

A few struggling second-tier games have bought some time by going FTP, but it's a little early to declare any of them an unqualified success. The best you can say is that early revenues look good so far.

If you really want to keep a game going for the long haul (ftp or sub), the three things to focus on are community, community and community. If you've got a solid base of loyal players, short term fluctuations won't phase you. You can refresh the churn with the next retail box.

The only thing you've got to absolutely remember is don't take a dump on your dinner plate. Your long-term players are part of the team. Respect them and they'll love you.

Ciaran Laval

I think with 11 million subscribers they'd be mad to go free to play, I don't know how their other titles are coming along, Starcraft for example, they might be more ripe to test the free to play model, but now WoW.

Let's not forget that WoW also had the cataclysm bump, I know people who went through that and have now gone to try Eve-Online for a while.

Yes LOTRO went free to play, they push their store and have certain classes or races you can't play on the free model and it has worked out for them.

Wizard Gynoid

I for one am going on record against this idea. I would be lost - a total addict. No one in SL would ever see me again. I would be lost deep in the forests of Azeroth.

Adeon Writer

Not even FTP could get me in Azeroth. :P

I vowed never to touch another MMORPG, at least not any that involve anything related to grinding. Really got burned by level grinding. Never going back to anything that uses it. :/

Hamlet Au

Arcadia, Turbine told me their monetization rate for their FTP games (DDO and LOTRO) is actually close to 30%. Other free-to-play MMO developers have given me figures around 12-15%. I've consistently heard that latter figure as an industry rule of thumb. I think 3% monetization rate is more typical for non-hardcore social games, the really lame spammy type.

Ann Otoole InSL

People are moving to Rift. Try it. Might like it.

Arwyn Quandry

I might actually consider playing WoW if it was FTP. It's always seemed interesting to me, but I don't like subscription based games and have yet to ever buy one. Paying a subscription is a waste to me because it pressures me to play a game constantly. I like moving between game environments, not being under pressure to constantly use one because I'm paying by the month for it.

Chenin Anabuki

Maybe the 600k migrated over to StarCraft 2...like me. Then it's still all Blizzard.

Ananda

I don't really see the point here... in the same way that an immersive 3D virtual world can't expect to compete on the same terms as a phone-based gambling game, you wouldn't necessarily expect the top-of-the-pack premium game to immediately start acting like one of its smaller, struggling quasi-competitors.

I mean, seriously, you could say HBO is running an obsolete payment model too, but they consider themselves the best. Do you really think they would just ditch the premium fees and start running half programs and half commercials like broadcast tv? There is a perception of quality issue at stake here.

Arcadia Codesmith

Hamlet, you may be right. But an 85/15 split isn't much more auspicious for long-term stability than a 97/3.

Predictions of the imminent demise of the subscription model have been floating for years, and yet it doesn't seem to be in any hurry to die.

And while Turbine goosed DDO and LOTRO by transitioning to mixed sub/ftp, Champions Online seems to have had more modest results, and SOE is tight-lipped about the state of EQ2 (which doesn't necessarily mean anything since, well, it's SOE).

I think WoW should wait and see. As the industry leader, with no real challengers in sight, it's got the luxury to survey the landscape and consider its next move carefully.

On the other hand, I'd like to see EVE Online go FTP, just for the sheer perverse joy of watching the mushroom cloud from the resulting culture clash.

Ciaran Laval

I think long term subscription models will change from being a per game to a per channel option and people will have a choice of games to select from.

The free to play model will evolve too with people finding a good mixture between the two.

Arcadia Codesmith

The SOE Station Access Pass is a "channel" of sort.

I think most games could benefit from a thin-client guest mode that allows visitors to easily explore a limited guest area, interact with players, and get a feel for the game before committing.

I'm not completely opposed to FTP. I think it's fine for kiddie titles, independents with low maintenance and margins, and subscription titles facing cancellation.

But I think it's a terrible risk for a property like WoW, and one that's not justified by an slight sag in-between retail releases.

T_S_Kimball

@ Arcadia - Eve already has something akin to a FTP model. If you are successful you can buy time cards (PLEX) within the game, much like a Basic user inSL can fund tier through L$ earned in sales.

There have been many discussions, both on and off their official form, about FTP. Its generally been rejected by everyone, including staff, because their economy model in the game would break. And their station-based expansion (Incarna) is likely to extend how the PLEX is used - for better or worse.

(Yes, I know their economy in general is broken. :p Does not matter for this discussion, much.)

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