Just read the report on the GDCO 2010 conference for Turbines report. You can catch the news here.
Turbine GDCO Report
"At GDCO, the studio [Turbine] announced that revenues from Lord of the Rings Online have doubled in the past month since switching to a free-to-play hybrid model."
Everyone knows how I feel about LOTRO, as I have stated in the past...the game is just not that good. Period. I could sit and point out the many flaws in gameplay and style, and most would even agree.
But, when it came to them changing to Free 2 Play, I was on onboard, and had even stated I could see their business doubling thanks to this change. Looks like I was spot on for that.
If Turbine has one thing right, it is how to treat their customers and how to make a game profitable. They pulled a rabbit out of their hat with DDO, and took a chance with a grade A (according to many) MMO and converting it to a less popular style of monetary arrangement in many MMO circles.
Most associate Free 2 Play with low quality. But, LOTRO is not too low quality wise (just in the aspect of character models and UI...which I understand has been tweaked some, but still needs work) , and Turbine took a big chance. Especially with the type of community that LOTRO exhibits, the belief was going F2P would be it's downfall. If anything, I applaud their move and am glad they have made headway. I hope they use this money wisely and apply it to a better animation engine and model designers, along with UI creators who understand DPI.
This leaves the window open now. Can this model succeed if done right? Want an example of NOT doing it right? Head on over to EQ2X and take a look.
You can't inundate your customer base with charges left and right. Also, there has to be a way to earn the same goods that can be bought in your store. Do this or alienate a large audience.
SOE's move to place the new "free" audience on other servers was genius...until they saw that their core audience wanted more people to play with, and saw an emptying of their pay servers...ouch. In so many words, don't separate your audience if you don't have a large audience to begin with.
So, is Free 2 Play the way to go all the time? I still feel some games cannot work like this.
Take Warhammer Online. So many think it needs to go Free due to it's low populations. I disagree. The niche it inhabits does not bode well for a cash shop. Buying into a PvP oriented game is a big no-no to me.
But, the game could do with some price "tweaking". Changes to pricing structures for their "Tiers" is a start. Then charge for aspects that can be earned. Horses and Mounts could be one piece. New addons like their upcoming RvR packs is another.
The fact that PvE is taking a back seat to their PvP also means F2P would be disastrous. To top it off, their PvE is so broken to begin with...more work would have to be done in that arena before a F2P model could even look WAR in the eye.
PvE gameplay is 100% congruent to Free 2 Play in my opinion. People will be willing to buy what they need or want. But, you must offer some way to have the player gain these same items...just make sure it takes them a long time.
I welcome our new pricing models and hope it leads to more innovative ways to pay and play.