Thursday, November 19, 2009

MMO commitment issues

It's not you, it's me... I think...

Problem no 1: MMOs require a considerable time commitment in order to get to the higher echelons of the game. If you're not 100% happy with an MMO when you first buy it, it seems like a smart move to pull out early before you commit too much time to the grind.

This happened with me and Warhammer Online. There were some issues with the game I wasn't happy with, so I quit at the one month mark. The same happened with Aion. Issues, quit. Both games were not horribly bad, but because they used subscription models, I didn't feel like I should keep paying when I wasn't 100% happy. Why waste $90 US and 6 months of time, when you can be playing something else more enjoyable.

Some people like to refer to this type of behavior as MMO tourism. Well, I honestly don't like to tour anything, I just want to be certain that I'm getting a good source of entertainment for my time and money investment. You could think of it as an MMO shareholder really. If the entertainment value is potentially high, then I'm happy to invest.

Problem no 2: All the 'good' content in an MMO these days is at the endgame. When a new MMO is released, nobody knows what the end game is like. Should I take a risk and invest my time/money or should I move to something with a proven entertaining endgame (i.e an older MMO)?

To me it seems smarter to hang back and wait for the MMO to prove itself before making a commitment. This can be a little difficult when you see shiny new graphics and your friends are telling you how cool the battle animations are etc. There is also the fact that you don't want your character to be 6 months behind everyone else's.

Problem no 3: MMOs always release full of bugs and design issues. This does nothing to bolster confidence when determining whether to make a commitment.

Problem no 4: MMO companies love to slap you with that $15 US credit card fee right off the bat, before you've barely tested the water.

This always pisses me off, especially when I've just paid $50+ US for the game. A reward would be nice, since I just choose to buy their game over many others out there... but nope... more money please.

Problem no 5: When the meter is ticking, it feels like you need to get your money's worth. This sux if you're a casual gamer or even if you want to play multiple MMOs at the same time.

What happens if I want to play a new MMO casually? Is such a thing sacrilege these days? I don't like the feeling that my money is draining away when I'm not playing...

Solution no 1: Don't charge a subscription fee.

Solution no 2: If you are going to charge a subscription fee, don't start doing it until players have made a considerable time commitment to the game, or at least felt like they've had their initial money's worth (like 3 months). It's harder to leave when you've invested more...

In summary, the MMO companies need to lose the subscription fee or their MMO will struggle greatly to get off the ground. I'm sure I'm not the only one having commitment issues.


mbp said...

I think this is why the free to play model is having such success at the moment. Free to play usually costs more in the long run when you add up all the item shop stuff you need to play the game but the fact that you can choose the pace of your own commitment and expenditure is a huge bonus.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! All good, true points, and I can only hope that as more and more quality F2P games hit the market, other companies start to feel the heat and back off on the subs (not charging both subs and microtransactions!). Global Agenda seems to have the right idea, and I wish them much success - may others follow suit.

Thallian said...

Yeah I think mbp is right, freedom of choice trumps well thought out planning. Though I'd be in favor of at least 3 months of evaluation before paying subscription fees also.

Crimson Starfire said...

Exactly, yet it seems MMOs keep launching with the subscription fee business model?!? In the end it's their loss I guess...

Guild Wars has had it right from the beginning. I don't understand why companies with less resources and game content put themselves in direct competition with WoW. It's like they want to fail.

Three month evaluations are good, but they will never launch with one. Companies get most of their launch money from the 'tourists'. If they provided a free trial at launch, hardly anyone would buy the game outright.

Tesh said...

Mmm... Guild Wars.

Other successes are Puzzle Pirates (you can play free forever, even on subscription servers, but subbing or buying microtransaction "doubloons" unlock more options), Wizard 101, DDO, and even the upcoming Allods Online looks interesting.

I'm all for choice, and yes, the subscription model is all about commitment without really offering the necessary information to make a good choice.

A thought question, though: Speaking of the endgame, what if you could buy the game and immediately play at the level cap? Say, six months or so after release, when the population bulge is at the level cap, let new players *start* where everyone else is. (Or if six months isn't the right timing, what is? What if you could always just start at the same level as the population bulge?)

Fortuente said...

I approve of this post. I'm not sure I could have said it better.

I also quit WAR at the one-month mark for the same reason. It was a pretty good game, but the lagginess in battles, poorly-running client and been-there-done-that issues outshone the stuff I liked like the Tome and PVP lakes.

Saylah @ Mystic Worlds said...

Just found your site via Open Edge and loved this post. I agree 100%. I'm lenient in what is required for me to purchase the game at the box price. I'm willing to give it a try and see if the game meets expectation. However, the barrier you must cross to get a subscription from me is higher, and to hold me past 30 days, considerably higher, where the burden of proof is on the game and not me.

The whole WOW Tourist thing has been blown completely out of proportion. NO ONE buys a game hoping not to like it. Not sure how he can go on with that argument with a straight face.

Crimson Starfire said...

Thankyou. Yeah the WoW tourist thing is just a dumb argument that some bloggers love to mention every time a new MMO launches. I just laugh whenever I read about it now.

Good to see you back btw, and I look forward to reading some more of your posts.