03 April 2012

A Secret Leap of Faith

Today Funcom finally threw open the doors on the pre-order for their upcoming MMO, The Secret World.  This is something I had been waiting for for quite a while now as I have known for months that I am going to play this game, so pre-ordering was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  However in looking at the pre-order packages, I came to a conclusion that I had not anticipated, and one that is likely going to land me in a bit of hot water with my significant other.  Among the pre-order options was a lifetime subscription

Lifetime subs are not a phenomenon that I have commented on much in this blog.  None of the games that I have played (with the exception of Star Trek: Online) have offered it as an option, so the issue has never come up in the context of the games I have been playing.  Suffice to say that I am pretty negative on lifetime subs and view games that offer it somewhat warily.  To me, it expresses a lack of confidence in your product that you can encourage people to continue to pay per month to continue to access it.  Now that I think about it, Star Wars: The Old Republic would have been the perfect candidate for a lifetime sub.  There is a total lack of repeatable content to encourage one to stay subscribed over a period of time, but the storylines are compelling and every time they add new story content, you could hop back in and continue it.

But that point aside, I have always been suspicious of lifetime subs.  So why was it that when I saw that option presented for TSW that I immediately jumped on it?  Well, as I have commented on before, if we as gamers and MMO enthusiasts want to truly see change in the genre, we have to be willing to embrace and support something different when we see it.  So long as we talk about how we want change, yet continue to mindlessly pay our monthly subs to World of Warcraft, nothing will change.  Developers and publishers go where the money is.  So we need to change where the money is going.  That is part of the reason I am doing this.  I want to support what TSW is trying to do.  I want to support classless character systems.  I want to support a game setting other than the usual fantasy world full of elves and half-naked women.  So I am putting my money where my mouth is on the issue.

Another reason is admittedly a leap of faith.  I am intrigued by the concept of being able to play an MMO over the long term without having to worry about the monthly fee.  It is paid for, done, and finished.  Of course this requires the game to be successful enough to continue to operate over the long term and return the investment I have already made in it.  As a former player of Tabula Rasa, I know there are no guarantees on this score.  A game here today could very easily be gone tomorrow.  But Funcom is already running two other MMO's, and while the launches of both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan were among the worst in MMO history, since I did not personally experience either of those games, I am willing to give Funcom the benefit of the doubt and hope that they learned valuable lessons from those games, lessons that they will now incorporate into the launch and continued support of TSW.  So yes, admittedly a leap of faith, but one I have chosen to make.

One final point is that this somewhat "frees" me up to potentially dabble in other MMO's as they come down the line without having to carry multiple subscriptions.  So if I feel the "itch" to putz in RIFT again, or give TERA a try, I can do so without doubling down on my expenses.  This is admittedly a minor point as I don't really have the spare time to play multiple MMO's, but it is a small benefit.  I am the kind of person that always wants to get the most for my money.  Carrying multiple subs just feels wasteful, and would probably pressure me to spend more time online than I actually can afford to in order to "get my money's worth" from all the sub fees that I am playing.  The lifetime sub won't put that kind of pressure on me. 

So now my sights are even more firmly set on June 19th and the launch of TSW.  I will continue to enjoy my time in RIFT during the meantime.  My cleric just hit the level cap today and it felt good to slap on all that gear I have been stockpiling.  I have a long ways to go towards my goal of multiple raid capable gear sets, but I am enjoying the challenge.  Look for another update on that towards the end of the week.

3 comments:

  1. Lord of the Rings Online also launched with a lifetime subscription. I was one of the people who disagreed with the model on the forums but went ahead and bought the lifetime anyway. The game was terrific, until the Moria release.

    There is much room for argument on the decisions made in that expansion - Moria should have been left as post-Mordor heroic content, the legendary system was a terrible combination of grind and random, the Wizard (sorry, Rune Keeper) had no place as a playable character, etc. I played through it and tried to provide feedback on redirecting things into more of a fun and lore-embracing model. At least I did until the inevitable move to a freemium model. Once that was announced I uninstalled and haven't looked back.

    The economics make this almost inevitable. If you have a lifetime subscription you either need a continuous influx of new subscriptions (unlikely), a model that is somehow revenue-neutral and still keeps you in business (unlikely), constant release of paid expansion content (possible, Rift could have charged $5 or so for each major patch under this model), or you go freemium and make money off the cash store.

    This is hugely unfortunate on a personal level. I've been looking forward to this game and the ideas the developers were promulgating for years. Now that they've announced this model I have to seriously consider if I want to go down the path of LotRO again.

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  2. I was also extremely excited about the preorder opening, but all the "added value" packs left a bad taste in my mouth. Experience potions, a full set of talismans, and a full set of weapons all give an actual gameplay advantage to players who pay more. I'm totally on-board with an in-game cosmetic item cash shop, but this is just a little too far for me.

    The lifetime subscription also scared the hell out of me. At $14.99/mo, $199 lifetime is just over one year's worth of subscription fees. Funcom would be making more money off people from monthy subscription fees, unless they're already assuming people won't be playing for more than a few months.

    The third thing that worries me is the fact that they seem to be leaning heavily towards the in-game cash shop for customizable cosmetic gear, while still having a monthly subscription fee. Unless their monthly fee is lower than the standard $14.99/mo, or the monthly sub also includes some in-game cash for the shop, I think they're being too greedy and are turning off both the F2P players who drop tons of money into a cash shop as well as the subscription people who want to get everything for a flat monthly fee.

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  3. I'm also not a fan of lifetime subscriptions. To me they seem to be a classic example of thinking short-term, not long-term. The people who buy lifetime subs are the people who should be your best customers in the years ahead. And yet you are voluntarily capping the amount of money they will give you.

    I think that it is inevitable that any game with a lifetime sub will go Free2Play. There is no other way to extract money from your best customers otherwise.

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