The Old Republic Will Be the Last Subscription MMO

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The Old Republic Will Be the Last Subscription MMO

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Rival designer John Smedley thinks all major MMOs will be free to play after The Old Republic.

In 2004, World of Warcraft blew the pants off everyone's sales expectations after it quickly grew to more than 12 million subscribers in just a few years, breaking the previous record set by EverQuest who once boasted a paying audience of almost 1 million. Sony Online Entertainment's library of MMOs now includes EQ and EQ2 that charge a monthly subscription, but CEO John Smedley is busy converting all his games to a free to play model. He firmly believes that charging up front or a monthly fee is a barrier to entry that most people will not penetrate, and he has the market research of Lord of the Rings Online, many Asian MMOS, and his own Free Realms to back up that claim. In fact, Smedley thinks that BioWare's The Old Republic will be the last major MMO to use the subscription model because the Star Wars license will carry at least 2 million customers.

"There's another large juggernaut coming out soon in Star Wars: The Old Republic from EA/Bioware," Smedley wrote in an op-ed piece for Games Industry.biz. "That's a game that I think has a legitimate shot at a 2 million subscription user base and I believe they will stick with the subscription method. In my opinion, this is going to be the last large scale MMO to use the traditional subscription business model."

Well, it's at least nice to see that Smedley isn't bitter for LucasArts pulling the Star Wars license from Galaxies, which will close its servers in December.

After carefully observing the Asian market in Korea, China and the emerging audience in Japan, as well as seeing the successful transformations of LOTRO and Champions Online, Smedley can read the writing on the wall. "The world is moving on from this model and over time people aren't going to accept this method," he said. "I'm sure I'm going to hear a lot about this statement. But I am positive I'm right."

Smedley is putting his money where his mouth is by converting an EQ2 server to free to play, and recently announcing that Planetside 2 and the PS3/PC action MMO DC Universe Online would now also follow that model.

Even World of Warcraft seems to be inching towards a free to play model, with microtransations like mounts and minipets making up a large portion of Blizzard's profits and an unlimited trial period until level 20. With Firefall's Mark Kern vehemently fighting for free to play for his shooter MMO, and it looks like Smedley might be right.

TOR will likely be the last subscription-based MMO.

Source: Gamesindustry.biz

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I agree wholeheartedly. I've played the three P2P MMO's (WoW, EVE, Runescape) and think they're all great, but they are all starting to move towards F2P. I've played tons of different F2P MMO's, most pretty mediocre (meaning I started and stopped playing within three or four hours), but lately they've been getting really good (some of which I still play today). However, The Old Republic is on my list. I will be playing it and I fully believe it's going to be extrememly successful, but yes, the P2P MMO era is disappearing, which is a good thing, in my opinion.

Guild Wars offered excellent value for money without a subscription and could suck you in for hours and hours if you liked that sort of thing. Guild Wars 2 is looking like it could be even better.

I think the subscription model will lose out to competition if the GW2 experiment and others like it are successful enough; while WoW has the advantage of having millions committed to a huge and established game and TOR has the whole Bioware and Star Wars/KOTOR thing going for it to give it a boost, it'll be tremendously difficult for a subscription-based MMO to launch without completely redefining the genre (I'm thinking Matrix or Gamer-style projection).

We can only hope our new machine overlords will be kind and diligent in their game-balancing while they use our bodies for fuel.

As long as companies still offer subs alongside F2P I'm happy.

There's still some of us who like to have an upfront cost - hence why I still sub to LOTRO.

I'm always worried with F2P games that I'm going to end up spending more than I would with a sub - it's very easy for microtransactions to add up considerably without extreme care - I'd rather not have to be keeping an eye on such things and just get on with playing the game, which a sub model allows.

The current crop of western F2P MMOs are hardly F2P. I like Everquest 2's free model but honestly if you want to be "serious" about playing it, a subscription is the best choice. Asian imports don't give you the option to subscribe but in western games that do, the F2P option is really just there to say "please subscribe".

Smedley is a fool. If he's right on this account, it'll be purely by chance.

Almost every design decision he's been involved in has doomed something to failure - and with F2P games being the ONLY form of MMO - you've just re-locked the market into stasis - which is what killed it last time.

Do you remember, Smedley, what happened when you took Vanguard off EQ? Do you remember shattering the playerbase? NGE? Frogloks? How many times you had to patch every last update? How you shattered the crafting system? How DCUO is already going FTP? How NCSoft/Cryptic are still beating you, despite far less resources?

How about designing games with players in mind instead of profits, and then when you've got a good base, they won't mind paying a little extra? Makes a lot more sense than locking content permanently away from people because they would rather buy something from one shop over another.

Aerowaves:
Guild Wars offered excellent value for money without a subscription and could suck you in for hours and hours if you liked that sort of thing. Guild Wars 2 is looking like it could be even better.

I think the subscription model will lose out to competition if the GW2 experiment and others like it are successful enough; while WoW has the advantage of having millions committed to a huge and established game and TOR has the whole Bioware and Star Wars/KOTOR thing going for it to give it a boost, it'll be tremendously difficult for a subscription-based MMO to launch without completely redefining the genre (I'm thinking Matrix or Gamer-style projection).

Agreed. I think GW2 will be the defining moment that begins to usher in a lot more of the single-payment model, with an emphasis on micro-transactions. Subscriptions have, in a sense, become somewhat of an archaic concept in that they tend to yield less money on the whole. People are less likely to spend money on a monthly basis if they know they have to....than if the payments come as a surprise to them.

Or to illustrate that with an example: Paying monthly creates a mental barrier in many people's minds that tells them not to spend money on the game at all. By comparison, designing the game to be free and then offering attractive micro-transaction options for the right price will, more often than not, convince people that the price is worth it and will secure their purchase. Many people have been known to spend more on micro-transactions per month than they would spend on a monthly subscription game, and this is generally because they feel that the price of what they're buying is fair and that the company is trying to be fair in its dealings with customers.

I think the fact that TOR intends to push the subscription model is actually going to pose a hindrance to its sales figures, considering that just buying the game itself right now is roughly the same price as buying a brand new console game. Worse, the subscription fees haven't even been announced yet, most likely because they aren't the ideal figure that EA wanted, so they're trying to keep from revealing it until people feel invested enough not to pull their pre-orders in advance.

If you're going to be subscription-based in this generation of MMOs, you have to do something truly spectacular, considering that GW2 continues to have praises lavished onto it and it will not have such a pricing model. And if GW2 does deliver on its promises, then it's safe to say that standards will have been raised considerably for future MMOs, regardless of your pricing model.

This guy is wrong. TERA online is coming out next year, after SWTOR, and is going to be p2p.

"Like other MMORPG titles, TERA will use a monthly subscription model with a retail box. Cost, fee structure, and payment methods are not yet finalized."

http://www.tera-online.com/content/faq

There will probably be others too.

so long as i don't start to see Pepsi ads in the in-game cities (loading screens are still ok) ill be happy. F2P has become quite the successful model nowadays, monthly fees are simple starting to become obsolete.

Subscriptions eh? There went any interest I had in checking out this game. I mean, it's an MMO, so I was sketchy at first. But now I just don't care anymore. Maybe the next Star Wars game will be worth paying attention to. :D

Wait, do we even have confirmation that TOR will be pay to play?
But yeah, pay to play is going away and that's probably a good thing. Is it good if it disappears? Hell no. Is is good if it's only for the games that truly deserve it? Hell yes!

Project Titan will be subscription based, so that assessment is already false. F2P games often lack a lot of stuff and to even be compared to subscription games, a player would have to pay more to be on par. So in the long run this will only hurt gamers.

Hasnt LoL already overtaken WoW in terms of sheer playerbase? They should be topping WoW by know, both on the accounts and active accounts charts.

I know its not an MMO but its just a fitting example of F2P done right. The game is well balanced and they are still raking in the money. For PC MMOs, F2P seems to be the way to go.

The West needs to get rid of the monthly subscription rip off and instead switch focus to the time based subscription that is still strong in the East. Would you rather pay to play over a calendar month where you might have internet outages, work, school family, and other distractions or would you rather pay for the time you spend in the game? Or even offer the chance for both options. Monthly subscriptions are just as much a rip-off as micro-transactions. Lets face it F2P offers casual MMO players a chance to get their money's worth while only playing a couple of hours a week, if publishers only go after the "hardcore" market they are cutting themselves off from a very profitable income stream. I myself have never gotten into MMO's apart from dabbling in the F2P ones because I have a life and don't have much time to game. Monthly subscriptions are just a waste of my money.

Actually, The Secret World will be the last subscription MMO, since you know it comes out just as everyone is getting sick of this Sci-Fi WoW version and will be subscription based. TERA comes out a few months later than that again, but that game sucks so much balls it will be broke by new year's.

generousX:
This guy is wrong. TERA online is coming out next year, after SWTOR, and is going to be p2p.

"Like other MMORPG titles, TERA will use a monthly subscription model with a retail box. Cost, fee structure, and payment methods are not yet finalized."

http://www.tera-online.com/content/faq

There will probably be others too.

Take a look at the above paragraph.

I hate Smedley, and I feel sick saying it, but....

The man is right.

The era of the subscription-based MMO is winding down. "the last subscription MMO" is obviously hyperbole, but I agree with the sentiment behind it.

I don't think SWTOR will even be a subscription based MMO for long. Maybe first 2 years at most.

I stopped reading at John Smedley.

why couldn't this have happened one MMO ago? i really want this game, but balls to paying monthly for it.

The only reason I think this might be true is because there isn't that many P2P mmo's being release anymore. TERA might be P2P, but I'm not sure if it is or not.

octafish:
The West needs to get rid of the monthly subscription rip off and instead switch focus to the time based subscription that is still strong in the East. Would you rather pay to play over a calendar month where you might have internet outages, work, school family, and other distractions or would you rather pay for the time you spend in the game?

That actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Now that I think about it, I'm surprised this idea hasn't popped up Stateside already.

Lets ignore EA is working on a back burner subscription MMO. Titan will no doubt have a subscription even if Blizzard realizes all its good MMO staff left for greener pastures ages ago; it will end up F2P if activision lets them after its face plant.

Adam Jensen:
I don't think SWTOR will even be a subscription based MMO for long. Maybe first 2 years at most.

EA featuring brains? HERETIC! BURN HIM! STONE HIM! PURGE THE HERETIC!

For the record Blizzard is not going to free to play IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM! Its milking more money.

Wow they finally figured it out.
I wouldn't pay a monthly fee for any single game.

I LIKE monthly fees. It puts everyone on equal ground and they don't force time-syncs and grindfests to "encourage" people to engage in microtransactions.

I don't play F2P games for that reason. When I try out an F2P, I might like it, but then get frustrated with the amount of grinding I have to do when they expect me to buy something and then I go on to something else

I can't see this happening until a F2P MMO comes out with the same caliber as WoW, which won't happen. There's a reason that WoW has a subscription, the customer service. Seriously, getting your account hacked and your items sold can be solved in under a day. No F2P MMO will ever have the money to pull that. That Rusty Hearts game just came out and is in maintenance almost every day. That and it also has server issues where the server will go down for periods of time. Smedley's got no idea.

Adam Jensen:
I don't think SWTOR will even be a subscription based MMO for long. Maybe first 2 years at most.

I don't know about that. F2P games just do not rake in the money. Microtransactions can stack up, and then it turns into whoever spent the most money is the best player. Plus you can see your fees at work with WoW. Can't say the same for a lot of F2Ps with the exception of Guild Wars.

Scars Unseen:
I stopped reading at John Smedley.

Yeah, the guy behind the first failed attempt at a Star Wars MMO has no bearing speaking about the future of MMOs.

hopefully hes wrong id hate for the 40K mmo to be paytowin.

Darks63:
hopefully hes wrong id hate for the 40K mmo to be paytowin.

Free to play is not pay to win.

Yes, the free to play model has been abused in the past. But we're learning.

"No really, the introduction of missiles onto jet aircraft will totally make dogfighting obsolete!"

They always say things like this, but how often does it ACTUALLY work out that way? Honestly, microtransactions aren't likely to dominate the market because there are still people out there that want to pay full price for quality material.

The industry could have gone two ways, the way they did, which I think was a mistake, but that's just my humble opinion, and giving us the client for free. I've said it before, several times. If I didn't have to pay $40, etc. for the client I would have tried alot more MMOs than I have after CoH, WoW hit. Honestly, after that there were too many to keep up with. But if I had been able to download a client, pay my $15 for a month worth of the game, I would have at least tried out several more than I did. In the long run, I think, again IMHO, F2P is going to hurt us. If anything, Battlefield Heroes showed us how bad F2P can be and I actually enjoyed that game til EA lost their minds.

But I'm old and have a long memory. Smeds talking like he's an authority on anything besides how to ruin a franchise, to me, is laughable.

Once I heard that SWTOR is going to be subscription based, that game went right off the list of games I plan on buying. Really, if you are going to charge me 15 a month, don't make me buy the game in the first place. I refuse to buy a game that is going to also charge me 15 a month.

With reputation being as it is, I am finding myself not believing anything quoted around here as anything to hold a candle to. I realize everyone has their say, but it is becoming too obvious that too many at the less intellectual end have been given more page time here than anyone else. I wouldn't place any bets or make any choices based on what this guy says.
Subscriptions are starting to become a thing of the past. That was obvious a year ago. Next he will tell us there will be a drought in Texas.

The problem with "free-to-play" MMOs these days is that they're only partly free-to-play. If it's not two thirds of the character types unavailable until you spend $20, it's certain parts of the game being locked off, or certain levels being unattainable. Don't get me wrong, the sooner MMOs start progressing toward free-to-play the better, but as it stands they're still not worth it for the average gamer. And if not the average or casual gamer, it's the gamer that doesn't want to commit to a single game.

generousX:
This guy is wrong. TERA online is coming out next year, after SWTOR, and is going to be p2p.

"Like other MMORPG titles, TERA will use a monthly subscription model with a retail box. Cost, fee structure, and payment methods are not yet finalized."

http://www.tera-online.com/content/faq

There will probably be others too.

The Old Republic doesn't even have a release date, yet. And It's probably not going to be out until at least late 2013.

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