Our game sucks!
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 November 2012, 2:53 am
Syp isn't happy about Bioware claiming that the subscription business model caused people to leave SWTOR. He says: "Of course, I don’t have access to any of BioWare’s feedback or research, but this seems to be an awfully convenient statement to be flinging about. Convenient in that it places the blame for subscriber loss on the business model and not the product or ongoing service." Funnily I didn't read Bioware's statements like that. I mean, what did Syp expect? Bioware saying "Our game sucks!"?

To me, saying "our game cannot hold subscribers" is a rather frank admission of defeat. It is equivalent to saying that the game on offer just isn't worth $15 a month to most people. And as long as there are games out there that *can* run on a subscription model, you are basically saying that your game isn't quite as good as this competition. Not just "our game isn't quite as good as World of Warcraft", but also "our game isn't even as good as Rift or EVE".

A decline in player numbers alone is not sufficient reason for a game to go Free2Play. As long as a subscription model is likely to bring in more money for the same game as a Free2Play model, the game will stay subscription. If you think that WoW is going Free2Play anytime soon, think again. I think it would need to drop under 1 million US+European subscribers before Free2Play would be the more profitable option for Blizzard, and by the time that happens they might actually not bother any more.

But apart from possibly Titan, I don't see any game on the horizon which can be reasonably sure to be able to support a subscription business model. Maybe we will still have a few attempts that will fail, maybe we are already at the dawn of an era where companies develop their games to be Free2Play off the bat. Which probably would make sense and produce better games than something which was designed with one business model in mind and then transformed into another.

I've been peddling the idea of a MMORPG using trading cards since 2004. Not only do I think that this concept would bring some fresh wind into the staid MMORPG combat and gameplay; but today I also think that a business model based on selling boosters of cards might work better than a subscription model. Right now switching to Free2Play is an admission of defeat. Once games are designed from scratch around other business models, that perception will cede.
Tobold's Blog

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