Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Universal Gaming Subscription Initiative

"I had a dream. The value of all video gaming entertainment was made equal."

My idea is that you pay for one subscription fee (e.g. $20 a month) and you can choose whatever MMO game you want to play. You don't need to have purchased the game before hand (i.e. no upfront fee), you just pick your game and download it if necessary, then play. The download client would work very similar to how Steam works at the moment (including DRM). You would have one account and all games would be included. At the end of the month your subscription fee would be divided between the different gaming companies depending on the percentage time you played their game for that month. For example: If you play WoW for 15 hours and Guild Wars for 40 hours in the month, 27% of your $20 would go to Blizzard and 73% would go to ArenaNet.

I think this type of pricing model would be very appealing for the casual gamer. They wouldn't feel locked into having to play the same MMO all the time. They could check out new games without having to flip a large upfront fee.

The ease of game swapping would cause increased competitiveness between MMO companies. They would be forced to provide incentives like new content and special events in order to hold onto their gamers. The general MMO gaming experience would ultimately be improved.

Game companies would also benefit from this pricing model. There would be no need for demos anymore. The costs for distribution and marketing of their game would be greatly reduced. Gamers would be encouraged not to do illegal in-game things which would lead to an account banning, as an account ban would mean being locked out of all games for at least a month (all longer depending on the severity). It would also open the doors for smaller game companies, allowing them to compete with market giants.

The difficulty I foresee, would be getting such an initiative off the ground. The industry fat cats would definitely not want to share their subscription fees with the smaller independent companies. It would also be difficult getting a bunch of competing companies to join forces under the one pricing model :(

Oh well, I guess I can always dream...


Anonymous said...

I would love this! (which is a guarantee that it will never happen ;/).

You could maybe imagine it if you bought your gaming time via some kind of online aggregator/game rental place and they effectively became distributors and passed on your monthly fees proportionately (eg. similar model to the way telephone exchanges work -- you pay your ISP, they pay the carriers)

Melf_Himself said...

You never know, it might not be that far off. With more and more non-MMO games being available via Steam, if Steam becomes a bit more mainstream I could see a lot of companies dispensing their MMO's through it. Not Blizzard of course since they already have their cash cow, but a lot of the others could eventually unite and come on board.

Anonymous said...

This should happen. I agree it wont, but should. MMO's don't sell themselves as "commodities" anymore, they are "services".

Make it like television. You pay one rate for cable, but choose which channels you want to watch.

Thallian said...

Eventually this may happen, I just don't see it happening right away is all. Great idea though.

Elementalistly said...

Looks like we all are discussing this in some manner..


Lars said...

Yeah, I've been wanting something similar as well. I would love for a third party to manage payment and access to MMOs from multiple companies and let me have a stable of games that I can swap out like the e-Books online service Safari. Or like the cable company where you get access to a few MMOs and can pick various premium channels to fill out your own bundle deal.

Crimson Starfire said...

Hey Spinks, I was hoping you would keep blogging. Now I know where to find you :)

Yeah an ISP/Telco implementation would definitely be the way to go. We just need a company to act as the ISP but for MMO subscriptions.

I seriously can't see Blizzard working with any other company unless it involved a merger of some kind. If they bring out another MMO, they may decide to have some kind of Blizzard subscription that covers all their games. I'm sure it would be popular, but not quite what I was after.

Spot on. Cable is a good example of how services can be sold as bundles. It would be great if the MMO subscriptions could follow existing electronic industry examples.

Cheers mate, I hope it happens one day as well.

@Openedge and Lars
Apologies guys, I'm always late to the party. I really need to check my feed reader before posting. Glad I wasn't the only one thinking down this path though.

Lars said...

@Crimson - Great minds think alike. I'm glad to see so many people discussing their dissatisfaction with current pay models, maybe some day a game developer or two will listen.

Crimson Starfire said...

If only I knew someone from Steam, I would definitely recommend our ideas to them. It probably wouldn't happen for quite some time, but at least it would get the ball rolling. Just imagine:

Cox, Eve, WAR, WoW and LotRO all under the same subscription...


Tesh said...

I've been writing about alternate monetization for a while now. Of course, I come down in a different direction, looking to buy content rather than time.

Still, the "cable TV" analogy is a fair one. Notably, I buy DVDs, and will never have cable. :)

Anonymous said...

This almost sounds like what Sony is doing with the Station pass. The difference, of course, is that you still have to buy the game and it is only SOE titles.

This is a good idea, though. I would like to see a business like Steam pulling together some various titles from different studios and offering an all-access plan. Like you mentioned it seems like the perfect distribution channel for smaller outfits like Vendetta Online or Blockland or even bigger ones like Puzzle Pirates or Dofus.