Before we start, a quick disclaimer, I am not an MMO gamer, while I have dabbled in the genre through games like WoW, SWTOR, and ESO, most of the information you see here is from research I’ve done and not through personal experience or knowledge. If one of you MMO gamers notice I got something wrong please feel free to let me know in the comments and it will be corrected.
Now on with the show, and why not start with the biggest of the bunch World of Warcraft itself. One of the few MMOs to still rely on a subscription-based model, despite the fact it really doesn’t need to. Between the DLC, merchandise, in-game microtransactions, and the original purchase of the game Blizzard makes more than enough money to sustain a Free-to-Play model. So why hasn’t Blizzard converted WoW to Free-to-Play? Simple, people are still paying the $15usd per month without much complaint. And no one wants to downgrade to a starter account just to prove a point. With around 10 Million subscribers still paying out every month why would they want that revenue to stop?
WoW’s biggest competitor, I’d say, Is Guild Wars 2. With their pay once play forever model all you have to do is buy the disk and the game is yours to play. Still going for $50 new on Gamestop it’s cheaper in the long run but if you only end up playing for a month you may regret your purchase. Guild Wars 2 also makes money from merchandise though probably not as much as WoW as their selection is more limited, and the one character they do have as merch isn’t very well known. I mean if I say Orc or Dwarf you’ll know right away what I’m talking about, but how many of you know what a Charr is? Not too many I’d wager. I’m not saying Guild Wars 2 having it’s own fantasy world is a bad thing, I praise Skyrim for doing the same thing. I just think it gives them a disadvantage.
Now let’s move on to our last payment model “freemium”. We’ll use DC Universe Online as the example for this one. DCUO originally launched with a standard subscription based model similar to World of Warcraft, but quickly switched to having three separate tiers of payment, one of which is the “freemium” model we’re discussing. This model is usually paired with a free-to-play alternative where you will receive additional benefits [faster que time, more inventory, etc] for purchasing any one item of a certain price or more from the game’s online store. In DCUO’s case it’s a minimum purchase of $5, however DCUO does offer another level, legendary, or in other words a subscription model. $15 per month will get you even more inventory, near instant queue time, and the ability to create Leagues, DCUO’s equivalent to guilds.
So these are the payment models most popular in the MMO scene today. Which is my favourite? I’m personally a fan of what DCUO does. It gives you a chance to play the game with no financial investment, and if you end up loving the game you can support it by starting a subscription or just by making a purchase on the store and either way they reward you for your loyalty. Over the past few years we’ve seen a decline in subscription-based MMOs and I’m thinking this will be the way of the future in MMOs or they may go down the route of Guild Wars with just a single payment and no arbitrary paywalls. Either way I think all of us can be excited to see what waits for the future of MMOs and the future of gaming as a whole.
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