Friday, February 26, 2010

The Conundrum of Free To Play

An announcement today made me think on the subject of Free To Play.

"Dungeons & Dragons Online Reaches One Million Players"

(EDIT: Seems the correct wording should be "NEW" players...surpassing 1 million actually. Check the press release here...SOURCE)

Since switching to the Free play model, DDO has had a major increase in the number of players who log in, and are playing. But, how many actually shell out cash for either a sub or the various pay items? According to this news...the money sounds good.

"Dungeons & Dragons Online Revenues Up 500 Percent"

Most of all though; does it matter?

Think on this. Each person logged in is a potential customer; is that not true? When advertisers choose to show a promo for a product on certain TV shows, are they not just basing their theory on getting the most eyes to see the product in the hopes to sell more?

Same here for DDO. More eyes in the game equals more potential customers.

Now, lets look at some of the failing games (or games with smaller sub rates than I assume the company would like to see...) and how would they look with this model?
How about Warhammer Online, Age of Conan.. Would they have more subs or at least players with a potential to sell more? What about Hellgate: London or Tabula Rasa. Would they have survived under this setup.

Overall, could certain games benefit from this model?

Funcom is no newb to this type of setup for an MMO with Anarchy Online being a free to play...but with adverts (a little more bizarre, but still in that realm). Look how long they have been running now? Age of Conan is draining the revenues and finances of Funcom like a sieve.  So, maybe for Funcom to succeed they may have to walk that fine line again and figure out a new way to make cash.

A lot of Free to play's are not looked upon very well. Games like Runes of Magic or Perfect World, etc, all have quality issues. The games are not as well made as the financial powerhouses like AoC or WAR. Thus, could these commercial flops pull away from those lower quality games by going free? Maybe even pull players from those games. Last I heard, a million people have logged in to Perfect World at some point.

Could you imagine one million eyes in Warhammer...and how that could change the overall structure of that game?

I think we need to see how other "commercial" style MMO's that are not doing well in the sub arena would fare under a Cash Shop matter how much people hate it. I personally feel that if a game starts to flounder, then it is time to see how you can change your model to the free to play scheme, and see if you succeed.

Guild Wars 2 is set to be a buy once, free for life with special "purchases" later deal to pad costs. Even Star Wars The Old Republic has mentioned this method (though the audience is pushing for the monthly deal, which I still think is a detriment. SWToR poll on payment).

This much I can say. DDO has proven it can work, and quite well.


Anonymous said...

Guild Wars, DDO, W101, Puzzle Pirates... they all work. Subs have a lot of inertia behind them, but they are no more the One True Path than DIKU is the only way to design the game itself.

SWTOR, designed as it is, as a set of KOTORish self-contained storylines, will benefit most from a GW-like business model. The design goals do not line up with subs.

Beyond that, though, the market isn't nice to multiple sub games. It gets expensive to maintain more than one (or even one, sometimes), and there's a bit of an economic crunch out there. That means players pick one sub game and stick with it. WoW has a headlock on that market. It's stupid to tackle them head-on, no matter who you are.

Ardwulf said...

Note that the announcement said "one million new players" which has a rather different connotation than the way you wrote it.

Also, your link be busted.

Openedge1 said...


Thanks for the link info. Fixed.

As to the connotation, I just "quoted" verbatim.
It even says "Reaches One Million". Can you show me the announcement where it says "New"?


Ardwulf said...

The actual Turbine announcement is at:

Anonymous said...

That is quite cool. Hopefully this is looked at by some other MMO developers as a good example on how handle payment models for games.