Auran Announces Evolutionary MMOG Business Plan
Australian studio Auran announced today that players will be able to access all of the game content from its upcoming PvP MMOG, Fury, for free. Rather than restrict non-paying customer, or "Heroes," to free areas and lesser equipment, Auran will restrict them to a slightly lesser game experience.
Paying players, "Immortals," will gain the following extras: quick travel in the "sanctuaries and schools," VoIP talk privileges, one additional "item roll slot," extended "rested gold bonus," selling privileges at the auction house, priority log-in queuing, entry into weekly and seasonal ladder matches, personal player battle statistics, in-game customer service access, and elite access to the test server to preview new content.
Auren CEO Tony Hilliam said, "Fury is a game that blends elements from different genres; the pace and adrenaline rush from FPS games; the depth of character customization from RPGs; and the social and virtual economy aspects from [MMOGs]. Therefore we wanted to make sure that our business model took into account the different expectations of various player types."
Fury is currently in closed beta. The game will cost $49.99 and includes one month of "Immortal" status. Subscription fees will be $9.99 if players wish to continue receiving the perks of immortality. More information about Fury and Auran can be found on the company's official site.
I applaud their attempt to build a new business model. It's not clear to me that a "premium" versus "free" account status is the best model for FURY - I'd have expected free play plus premium items, not accounts - but it's certainly better than a straight-up subscription.
If they can offer the right set of premium perks, it could be a winning strategy.
The idea is that subscribers and non-subscribers are on an even competitive footing. The advantages of subscription are convenience and ranking in the various ladders. Premium items would unbalance this PVP only game, which is based on skill, not gear or real world money.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, why is it that no MMOG developer seems to want to combine, like chocolate and peanut butter, a novel and broadly-appealing business model with a novel and broadly-appealing game?
novel and broadly-appealing
I think these two rarely go hand in hand. People hate change, which is why franchises and sequels sell so well. The risk of failure in gaming by trying something novel is very high, so to double that risk (or more) by trying novel things in both game and business model is very daring. Games like Rez, Ico, Beyond Good and Evil were novel to certain degrees, but never appealed broadly (i.e. not many people bought them). For novel and broadly-appealing at once, I generally look to Nintendo or Apple. The DS, Nintendogs, the Wii and the iAnything seem to be able to bridge this divide.
Back on topic (of Fury), I think the the even playing field for subscribers and non-subscribers is to be applauded, as is the option to spend money per month for convenience. I'd happily have paid Blizzard money to give me a character at the level cap, rather than have to grind through bits of game repeatedly just to have a few class choices at endgame. The game design of having two very separate gametypes (three if you count the limited and time /played skewed PvP options) of leveling and endgame is as much to blame as the business model here. In Fury, there is no grind, just pure PvP, and if you really want to have lots of Gold to buy armor and pretty up your character, you can do so. Limiting ladders to subscribers makes sense, as Auran need to make money somehow, and this means the hardcore competitive players fund the servers and further content development, whilst more casual gamers can still play for just the cost of the retail box.
Except that in the case of MMOGs, anything broadly-appealing is novel by definition, since nothing with broad appeal has been made yet (except WoW, and you can't beat WoW by imitating it), as plainly evidenced by the relatively small number of players they've had.