Mythic Founder Thinks Most Free-to-Play MMOs Are "Crap"

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Mythic Founder Thinks Most Free-to-Play MMOs Are "Crap"

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One of the minds behind Warhammer Online envisions a future where subscription-based MMOs keep out the riffraff.

MMOs just can't get people to subscribe anymore. From Age of Empires Online to DC Universe Online to the mighty World of Warcraft, every MMO seems to be embracing a free-to-play model. At least one MMO veteran is unwilling to give up the idea of subscription fees, however. Mark Jacobs, former CEO of Mythic Entertainment, believes that the market will swing back towards subscription fees. These fees, he argues, will allow developers to produce more innovative games with fewer disruptive players.

"[The] problem with free-to-play is that a lot of the time the games are crap," says Jacobs. "I think some players are starting to get tired of it. They're willing to pay a little bit more. Are they willing to pay $5 a month? $10 a month? $20 a month? I don't know yet but I think we will see a shift from free-to-play back to a model where it isn't one size fits all."

Jacobs goes on to say that a free-to-play environment encourages players to engage in griefing behavior without penalty, and that subscription-based games will have to offer more than polished WoW clones. "Innovation is difficult and sometimes innovation doesn't work. But to come into this space now with a very high-priced WOW game would just be tough."

Jacobs believes that the subscription figures for EA's upcoming Star Wars MMO The Old Republic may prove to be either a death knell or a renaissance for subscription-based games. "If EA is right and it's successful then other publishers or developers will look at the space and go 'see, you can make money selling subscriptions,'" he explains. "And if it doesn't do well, that would be an argument for saying that free-to-play really is dominant."

Jacobs may possess the minority opinion right now, but keep in mind, this is the guy behind both Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. He's been in the MMO market for a long time, and seen both massive successes and failures. Come December and The Old Republic, Adam Smith's invisible hand will decide whether the subscription model is still viable. As Jacobs pointed out, "It will be an interesting few months."

Source: Eurogamer

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Speaking as somebody who's played a great deal of F2P MMOs I'd have to say I agree with him.

Though I still say those "Free-to-Play" MMOs will probably end up costing you more with all the micro-transactions and everything.

The model really doesn't hold any appeal to me.

Most F2P's seem to simply use a system that's making me think more about what I'm paying as opposed to the game itself. Monthly fees, I can just drop the money at the start of the month and not have to think about it.

"Free-to-play" is also an incredibly misleading name most of the time.

Aeshi:
Though I still say those "Free-to-Play" MMOs will probably end up costing you more with all the micro-transactions and everything.

Thats pretty much the idea. In theory it allows you to pay as much or as little as you want to play a game you enjoy. The problem at the moment though is that a lot of games are turning into Pay-2-Win models where you see some players sinking silly amounts of money in order to become the best.

I think it'd be nice to see a merge of the two - a simple base rate monthly amount with the ability to buy extra things that dont drastically affect gameplay (like visual customisations or similar).

Woodsey:
"Free-to-play" is also an incredibly misleading name most of the time.

Good heavens it is. Especially Lord of the Rings Online played that card incredibly well. Kinda low and vile, yes, but at the same time incredibly well. I mean sure it's free to play, but do you want to keep leveling past level 20 without grinding yourself into oblivion? Well, better fork over that cash for the questing packs then!


And it apparently works fantastic to boot. Oh Turbine, how dastardly clever you are.

I rather enjoy the Team Fortress 2 approach. Everything can be obtained for free, with enough time investment. Or you can choose to put up the cash for the things you want NOW.

Edit: Having said that, I still prefer the WoW model of a straight up subscription fee.

I dont know how many people feel the same as I do but I will not pay $60 or however much for a game that I then have to pay a monthly subscription for. I just bought the dam game piss off I am not paying you even more for absolutely nothing at all. If a game was free then I would consider a monthly subscription but not more then $5. Free-to-play games however offer exactly what I want if I am in the mood to play an mmo.

Fasckira:

I think it'd be nice to see a merge of the two - a simple base rate monthly amount with the ability to buy extra things that dont drastically affect gameplay (like visual customisations or similar).

You mean like the strategy that blizzard is using with wow? Pay $15 a month plus hey look at this great store here full of silly items you can buy for cash. Pets, mounts, faction changes, race changes, server transfers, etc.

I think there's definitely some truth to what he's saying. Expansive, good MMOs just cost so much to make and to maintain compared to even big-budget games that a subscription model really does offer the best chance at a winning game. Being able to be relatively sure of the game's income for a while means being able to comfortably invest more in the game's future. I think he also makes a very good point about TOR - it really is feeling like the one big chance to prove that this business model can still work. If it fails, I imagine it'll be a while before we see anything like it attempted again.

Gating the community also reminds me a lot of that talk Gabe Newell gave, discussing how he thinks it would be better if people with a bad reputation online had to pay more to play games online or have voice chat, while people who are known to be fun to play with might get free games or discounts. It's a very nice system and I really wish more gamers would recognize what an immense difference cost makes in keeping out griefers. Even a tiny nominal cost goes a long way: very few legitimate players are going to avoid a game because it costs a few bucks, but a lot more griefers are going to avoid it.

On the other hand, I think the F2P models that exist right now are, for the most part, still pretty primitive. I don't think we've figured out the best ways to do it and I definitely think these games will get better and the model will become more viable as people start hitting on better systems. Compare the "buy special overpowered weapons" item shops to that of a game like LoL for instance. We're definitely moving in the right direction and it's only a matter of time before these become more viable, possibly even for funding something like an MMO.

Aeshi:
Speaking as somebody who's played a great deal of F2P MMOs I'd have to say I agree with him.

Though I still say those "Free-to-Play" MMOs will probably end up costing you more with all the micro-transactions and everything.

Yup you most likely have to spend around $200+ to really be a badass in most F2P MMO's. hell most of the money goes into buying storage and the GOOD healing items which is dick move.

ive had good fun on the F2P mmos. so...i disagree. and i never forked over any money what so ever.

Pretty much this. If I felt a subscription MMO wasn't giving me value for my money, I'd stop paying. The subscription model produces objectively better games and works off competition rather than exploitation.

There's a reason free to play is the business model of choice for failed MMOs - they operate that way because they straight up aren't good enough to compete on the same level as WoW. This is why SWOTR being subscription based makes me very optimistic about the game: it shows a confidence that the game will be able to stand up on its own merits.

Big words from someone who doesn't have a company anymore.

I've never been interested in MMO's precisely because I refuse to pay a monthly fee. Guild Wars was a great game that managed the Free-2-Play model just fine (Guild Wars 2 looks to continue this trend), way before those real cash stores started showing up.

I've always said there is no justification for subscriptions. They're charging me to play a game I've already bought, and threatening to take it away from me if I don't. That's extortion.

Granted, free-to-play outright isn't much better. They get nothing up-front, so they have to make money and cover expenses through microtransactions, which means they have to make some mandatory for gameplay. Giving away an essentially broken item and then charging fees to make it useable? Outright thievery if you ask me. Or worse, they have to cut costs and minimize expenses to the point of ridiculousness, ending up with shoddy product not really worth paying for in the first place.

I like the hybrid buy-to-play model best, when handled correctly. They get purchase price up front, which means they don't need to force microtransactions on us. That gives them the freedom to make MT's completely optional. It's... still pretty much extortion, but in a good way, like PBS... or The Escapist. (heh.) They're not going to take my toys away or break them because I didn't give them more money. You know... exactly how console games work...

I'll take pay to play over free to play anytime, as long as it means a level playing field. And the game is good, naturally.

The Dungeons and Dragons Online F2P model is the best I've seen. You can either pay a sub and "rent" content, classes, races, packs and character slots, or you can make a one time payment and "own" a portion of it and never pay again. To "own" the whole game costs around 150 but if you play for at least a year that is still cheaper than 15 a month sub fees.

I don't mind paying a sub at all as long as i'm enjoying the game.

I avoid F2P games. Seen too many of them become "pay to win".

Hammeroj:
I'll take pay to play over free to play anytime, as long as it means a level playing field. And the game is good, naturally.

There have been some really huge pay to play bombs that were horrible. P2P does not mean good game.

Free to play means you can play it for free, and if it's crap, quit and uninstall. Free to play games make no money if the game sucks because nobody sticks around to play them and pay for stuff.

Vindictus does free to play quite well. most of the premium items are cosmetic, and they have a high-polish source engine so the game looks good enough to enjoy those cosmetic items.

Ralen-Sharr:

Hammeroj:
I'll take pay to play over free to play anytime, as long as it means a level playing field. And the game is good, naturally.

There have been some really huge pay to play bombs that were horrible. P2P does not mean good game.

Free to play means you can play it for free, and if it's crap, quit and uninstall. Free to play games make no money if the game sucks because nobody sticks around to play them and pay for stuff.

Vindictus does free to play quite well. most of the premium items are cosmetic, and they have a high-polish source engine so the game looks good enough to enjoy those cosmetic items.

I did say something about the game being good. Ain't gonna pay for some piece of crap.

Sounds like a bit of an elitist dick to me. Also he's in the position of being directly benefiting from monthly the subscription model.

Am I missing something but ain't paying microtransactions stuff is a option? (I'm reading the above comments.) I mean it's there but at the end of the day it's you who decided to pay a little extra or not.
Ok sure the microtransactions can be unfair like when half of my character clothings from Champion Online were no longer free (I made him during the first free-to-play weekend).
Still I rather have the f2p option than the subscription (I guess he doesn't seen to know how bad the recession are).

Oh my, someone's having an amazing idea!, charging your customers $60 for the game and then $15 for a month for their rest of their lives (or until the game dies) and call poo poo the other unpopular guys who are already giving way more content for much less (not completely free, mind you), without the stigma of having to pay a monthly fee for a game you probably won't play for more than 2 or 3 months.

Its not the subscription model, or the free to play model, that's killing the the genre. It's the industries reluctance to break free of a mold that was designed over a decade ago.

The problem is that subscription based MMO's keep releasing unfinished, unpolished and ridden with bugs.

A subscription based MMO needs tme to ferment like a good brew. You can't rush these things on to the market and expect people to commit to paying for them if the initial product impression is poor.

There's a reason F2P MMOs are F2P, including WoW now, sadly. It didn't have to be that way Blizzard--if you'd handled your expansions better WoW could have been a timeless classic. Anyway, I'd rather play something worth paying for, plus I agree with keeping the riffraff out.

TL;DR: Basically, my personal problem with subscription based MMOs is that, even if I only play less than a week one month, I still have to pay for the next month. OR even shorter, I dont think the time I would put into a MMO is worth the amount of money I have to pay to play each month.

With F2P MMOs, I dont have to buy shit (thus far, I havent baught any F2P MMOs, even though some I could technically buy some of them). I can download for free and play as long as I like... which usually isnt long as the Micro-transaction crap than annoys me. Really, I dont care for MMOs of either system right now, there is nothing that truly interests me and doesnt have some stupid shit going on with subscriptions or Micro-transactions.

As I see it, there is an obvious advantage with Subscription based MMOs, but the monthly subscription is a deal breaker for most. I personally would like to see a subscription system where, instead of paying a monthly few to play for that month, you instead buy hours that you use up while playing. With this system, you could buy in one month say, 80 hours of play time, and if you dont play more than 10 hours in that month, you can still play the rest of the 70 hours the next month. So instead of having to have to pay per month, and can pay for a number of hours and noth have to worry should I not pick the game up for a week or more at a time.

I only know of APB (before it died shortly after it started) that had it where you could buy actual time instead of just paying for a month. Are there any others that did this?

personally I disagree I've gotten many hours of fun out of F2P games without spending a cent while sub MMOs have never appealed to me at all first of they all seem to have at least a passing similarity to WOW's gameplay which is one of the most boring games I have ever played and second I refuse to pay 60 bucks for a game and then turn around and pay 15 more every month basically making it so I can only play that game and nothing else or i'm paying for nothing and even if I do abandon all other games 15 a month adds up fast
EDIT; forgot to mention the guy who said this either doesn't know about guild wars or is ignoring it because it throws a wrench into his elitist rant

I'll be the Guild Wars Fanboy in this thread, then :)
Guild Wars 2 has no subscription fee, and didn't have one six years ago. A company doesn't need the monthly fee to make a profit if the game is good enough, apparently. I wonder what P2P games are buying with their monthly profit, then...

I definitely hate the Pay to Win games. There was this game in which you had to do a really hard searching quest, and I had found all items except for two. I had searched for two hours, really. Then I just looked it up on the internet and found those items were in an area for subscribers only. Maddening.

Cowabungaa:

Good heavens it is. Especially Lord of the Rings Online played that card incredibly well. Kinda low and vile, yes, but at the same time incredibly well. I mean sure it's free to play, but do you want to keep leveling past level 20 without grinding yourself into oblivion? Well, better fork over that cash for the questing packs then!

I think LOTRO did a good job to be honest, you can either fork over the cash and get what you want now, or pay real cash and get it faster. Oh, and you can get up to about 32 F2P actually, since they made the Lone Lands free a few months ago.

See, that's what I think is a good F2P model, dedicated people who can tough it out and grind it can play completely for free, impatient people can just use cash if they want. I played a Captain with a friend, and by the time we were about level 50, I had amassed about 1000 Turbine Points, which is enough to one quest pack, might be able to snag two of the cheaper ones, can't remember. They also have sales, I picked up the Angmar quest pack when it was 50% off.

It does get a little frustrating on how much you'd have to spend on trait slots, but then you realize you can basically unlock most of the caps on your characters with just 1 month of subbing, and get 500 TP back.

Satsuki666:
I dont know how many people feel the same as I do but I will not pay $60 or however much for a game that I then have to pay a monthly subscription for. I just bought the dam game piss off I am not paying you even more for absolutely nothing at all. If a game was free then I would consider a monthly subscription but not more then $5. Free-to-play games however offer exactly what I want if I am in the mood to play an mmo.

Fasckira:

I think it'd be nice to see a merge of the two - a simple base rate monthly amount with the ability to buy extra things that dont drastically affect gameplay (like visual customisations or similar).

You mean like the strategy that blizzard is using with wow? Pay $15 a month plus hey look at this great store here full of silly items you can buy for cash. Pets, mounts, faction changes, race changes, server transfers, etc.

If you think that subscription fee is paying for "Nothing at all" then you're a bit dense, it's paying for server upkeep, (those things aint cheap you know) and a succession of content, which Blizzard does provide for wow, the stuff in their shop is purely cosmetic, you don't have to buy it and it effects nothing if you don't, as it's just skins and useless in any way that matters.

Games that have a subscription fee tend to be higher quality than F2P; granted F2P games are getting better, but at the time WoW was released until it just after its peak started to decline they were all pretty shit, because instead P2P games have a steady income from subscription fees, rather that people just paying for micro transactions every now and then if at all.

You personally may get what you want from F2P games and that's fair enough, but don't just make shit up like "subs pay for nothing at all!1!11!!!1!!11"

I felt that there was a glut of games and that was the problem. After seeing WoW a ton of money every other developer decided to try and cash in on it, not realising that to get the subscribers they would have to make a better game than WoW. Due to the amount of content this requires it was too expensive and many made cheap attempted cash ins which no one wanted to play.
Personally I rather subscription to f2p as you feel like your only getting half the content if you don't pay for stuff but it ends up costing a lot more than you otherwise would if you do pay.

In a subscription model, you are able to expect a certain level of quality that is given by those who do not have to come up with new stupid and money grabbing products every week. However, this also means that they are free to leave in stupid, minor issues that should have been fixed ages ago because they know that as long as you are not disappointed enough, you will keep paying them out of habit.

In a f2p model, you are able to play sporadically without needing to resubscribe, and since you can try any number of them before sticking with one, it allows a more natural process in the selection of these games to occur. However, most of the people who make these games tend to load the majority of the quality into the paid content, and leave the normal game stark and dry except for hints here and there that passively pressure you into thinking that you'd rather be paying, instead of making it a choice you come to based on your own opinions. Worse yet, they will actually build flaws into their games and charge you for the solutions.

Here's the two main issues. They both involve "power creep", which is when game changing items show up, and future content is modeled after the belief that players must have them in order to proceed without undue frustration:

- Subscription models largely rely on rare items to keep the playerbase going rather than actual indepth gameplay. Every month you spend trying to get something, and then failing, is another month that you do not unsubscribe, as long as you feel like you've actually accomplished something each month, even though the rewards being given to you are well enough disguised so that you don't realize that you are only getting the stuff because you show up, not because of any personal growth on your part after the first week or so.

- F2P models take these items and place them in the shop instead, meaning that once you've gone a certain distance, you are either forced to quit their game and give up all of your prior stored effort, or pay for these items so that you do not become obsolete. It's like a monkey trap, in which you are unable to remove the banana from the box but refuse to let go, which then lets the company approach you from behind and forcibly....take your money.

- Better yet, a combination of the two tactics: make you pay for the CHANCE to get one of these rare items, so that you are forced to continue paying them each time you try, rather than just once a month, or one time to get the item.

While alternative methods are tough to come by, the current models do need to be addressed...

elvor0:
If you think that subscription fee is paying for "Nothing at all" then you're a bit dense, it's paying for server upkeep, (those things aint cheap you know) and a succession of content, which Blizzard does provide for wow, the stuff in their shop is purely cosmetic, you don't have to buy it and it effects nothing if you don't, as it's just skins and useless in any way that matters.

Games that have a subscription fee tend to be higher quality than F2P; granted F2P games are getting better, but at the time WoW was released until it just after its peak started to decline they were all pretty shit, because instead P2P games have a steady income from subscription fees, rather that people just paying for micro transactions every now and then if at all.

You personally may get what you want from F2P games and that's fair enough, but don't just make shit up like "subs pay for nothing at all!1!11!!!1!!11"

Thank you for not understanding a single thing that I wrote.

Strong sales on release don't matter much, what matters in MMO's is continue player growth. I think everyone remembers Champions online. Strong out of the gate but quickly collapsed in two months to terrible subscriber rate.

Personally, I think Subscription only games are dead. Yes there is allot of crap out there but things have gotten allot better as they compete for business. after all Free games are not REALLY free. the ruse is to get you into the fun carnival and spend all your money on the rides and games. in fact a free game is pretty much a game that lets you spend as much money as you want instead of capping how much money they can take from you within a certain time, that is the real reason FTP games are popular. developers love coming out with content or a stupid item and then having people blow 20 bucks to get it, then more money to supplement their game play later.

It doesn't make much sense in the regard to just say, pay 15 dollars a month if you can instead entice someone to pay 200 dollars a month.

Of course you have to let free loaders play too so the paying customers have someone to play with.

It doesn't matter if star wars does well, FTP games are doing better.

For that matter, I am a little sick of putting up 60 bucks for the box then paying a fee after that for what may be a terrible game.
Free to play means I get in with no investment, I see how the game is, then I find out just how good the developers are and if its worth investing my time and money into.

If you don't think thats the wave of the future, you have too much money. Or the shining.

Playing a lot of free-to-play games, I will admit, they feel small, and often like they have less content. Its not a bad thing, and it does make some games crap, but not all of them. Vindicus is still well-made and incredibly fun.

And to his other point, I encounter douchebags no matter what the game. They were in World of Warcraft and they were in Global Agenda. Paying a fee does not magically kill all the jerks.

Mouse_Crouse:
I rather enjoy the Team Fortress 2 approach. Everything can be obtained for free, with enough time investment. Or you can choose to put up the cash for the things you want NOW.

Edit: Having said that, I still prefer the WoW model of a straight up subscription fee.

Agree, it seems like only shooters / action MMOs actually get the model right.
Guild Wars 1 / 2 get this right too, you get the game, play as LONG as you want, and all content that you bought is free for everyone, but there are some little things like special costume armor you COULD buy, or extra character slots ETC.

Subscription MMOs are still shit though, their just special shit that the fans shine them up to be the BEZT TAHNG EVEAR! When really their only saying that because they have to pay annually for it. Thus why I don't like any Subscription Based MMO is because once your in, YOUR IN! I don't like WoW because of grind, and many other subscription based ones are awful for their bullshit player base. F2P may be shit, but its honest about being shit.

Honestly, support F2P games that actually do the model like Guild Wars, TF2 and others instead of ones where the only way to win is to cash shop it.

MajorDolphin:
Its not the subscription model, or the free to play model, that's killing the the genre. It's the industries reluctance to break free of a mold that was designed over a decade ago.

Thing I have to say to this. Subscription fees is the old way of MMO's, back in a time to where there were nothing like them. Yes, I could play WoW or I could just, you know, play the thousands upon thousands of better games designed for modern audiences. Whats killing MMOs in general is grind, play any fantasy MMO, tell me how long it takes before leveling becomes a chore... I'll wait..... Yeah, about level 5, is it not? Oh, and now you have to pay to do that for a couple of months so you can experience brand new content. I think you got your comment bakwards, I have one problem with WoW, I bought the bloody game, OH, YOU WANT THAT NEW CLASS YOU BOUGHT THE EXPANSION PACK FFFOOORRR WELL THEN, GET TO X LEVEL TO PLAY, AND THAT TAKES 12 MONTHS, EEEENNNJJOYYY!

Free 2 Play is more of a investment, because if you don't like the game, then un-install it, but if you do like it, keep playing, but want some brand new coustume, fork over 3 bucks and get it. What killing MMOs in general is grind or cash shops, do the Guild Wars or TF2 thing, not the other way around.

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