All Hail F2P! | MMOrgue 7

All Hail F2P! | MMOrgue 7

Since the beginning of the year, nearly a dozen different subscription-driven titles have announced their intention to switch to various versions of Free-to-Play subscription models, across the MMO landscape. In today’s episode we’ll look at a few of the most recent additions to this playing field, and discuss the ins-and-outs of their particular takes on the F2P concept. How are they moving from premium subscriptions without alienating existing consumers? How will they market themselves to new gamers? Find out on this week’s MMOrgue!

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Show Notes:

Fallen Earth
Being republished by GamersFirst, who also recently resurrected APB 

Corrections about GamersFirst — Ep. 2 of MMOrgue
Response from GamersFirst

  • I incorrectly stated that they are an Asian company. This is just flat-out incorrect, and I’d like to apologize to the crew over there for getting my wires crossed during my research phase.
  • To be frank, I got their acquisition and relaunch of APB mixed up with Hanbitsoft and the relaunch of Hellgate. Embarassing!
  • GamersFirst is actually a California-based company, and entirely stationed here in the Western market. And while they have a world-wide presence, they don’t consider themselves to be marketing to an “eastern” market by any means.
  • That being said, I believe my criticisms about their “Pay To Win” cash shop still stand, including the fact that this type of F2P model is more common, and more accepted, in the East.

Now… moving on to CURRENT news, GamersFirst announced about a week ago that they were partnering up with the makers of Fallen Earth. Shortly after that announcement, the info surfaced that Fallen Earth would soon be relaunched under a new F2P subscription model.

Since I have never gotten my hands on Fallen Earth, the best thing I can say about this move is that I will soon be able to do so. Without it costing me a cent.

  • This, I think, is a very important statement to nail home, about the concept of F2P in general…
    • MMOs are seen as long-term investments, by the typical MMO gamers. We’re not generally looking for a game that will keep us entertained for a weekend, or a summer. We want longevity, community, commitment, and enough content to satisfy the cost of investing in a title.
    • This attitude was ingrained in us from the standard Premium Subscription model, where a box costs as much as a standalone game, but then you also have to pay monthly to continue to play.
      • Under a F2P model, the client is generally given away free, and a huge portion of the gameplay is available without spending one red cent.
      • By eliminating this barrier of entry, you can accomplish two separate financial goals:
        • 1) MMO gamers accustomed to monthly subscriptions are now more willing to “try out” your title without having to drink your kool-aid.
        • 2) Gamers that are unwilling to pay monthly subscription fees are introduced to a whole new style of gameplay.
        • Even if only a small % of either type of gamer stick around, it’s still an improvement.

The core Fallen Earth team of devs will be staying in their current location, and remain employed as a separate game studio under Reloaded Productions (GamersFirst’s dev wing).

According to their dev blog, they hope that an influx of new players, and possibly more funding, will allow them to follow up on features and content that they’ve had plans for, but no resources to follow up on.

Subscription Tiers:

  • Free: Unlimited free trial. No reward points. Similar restrictions on trade & crafting to current “Trial” accounts.
  • Low Premium: Costs less than current sub. No reward points.
  • Mid Premium: Same as current sub ($15/mo). Monthly reward points. XP bonus.
  • High Premium: More than current sub. Monthly reward points. Bigger XP bonus. “Premium Aura” which allows many bonuses to be shared with their teammates. This aura stacks.

All tiers enjoy unlimited content. FE devs want you to play in their world with your friends, regardless of how much money either of you decide to spend on the product.
I’ll also say this: I’m not a fan of many of the design choices made in APB, but there appear to be different minds behind Fallen Earth’s transition. If they can steer away from the money-grubbing attitude present in APB – which they SEEM to be doing, based no their dev blog and community posts – then I could definitely see this breathing new life back into this rather unique, but barely alive, title.

These changes are supposed to take place in Q4 of 2011. Vague!

LEGO Universe

My Review at Ten Ton Hammer

Raise your hand if you didn’t see this coming. *raise*

Press Release

Why didn’t I see it coming? I mean, it was already cheap, and only a moderate success in the online space. Gazillion Entertainment already sold it back to LEGO Corp a few months back. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, so why does it?

Because it’s aimed at KIDS.

Cash Shops are a necessity of F2P models – it’s how you make money. LEGO U would need to make its shop easily accessible, without putting Daddy’s credit card in the hands of a spendy 10 year old with a passion for fashion.

So what is LEGO doing? NO CASH SHOP! Problem solved… kinda…

This is not a truly free-to-play version of LEGO Universe, as the headlines indicate. This free TRIAL version of LEGO U will only include 2 adventuring zones and one personal property area, whereas the full game features almost a dozen of each.

This is insidious!

The adventuring side of LEGO is not its true selling point. If you want a good LEGO-themed adventure game, you’re far better-off playing one of their standalone console or PC titles, like LEGO Star Wars, etc. The mini-games, like racing and a shooting gallery, are the only bits that stand out.

So what does that leave you with? Building things! This is the core joy of LEGO to begin with, and they’re allowing you access to it in the Free Trial version… kinda…

With only one property to build on, the canvas for your bricky masterpieces is limited. Furthermore, with only 2 adventuring zones available where you can collect bricks, the amount of models you can effectively construct will be massively limited. Anyone hoping to build a truly epic construction of their own will likely be FORCED to subscribe to the full game, simply to gain access to the full range of Brick and Model vendors available in zones that will otherwise be beyond their reach as Trial Accounts.

In summary, I’d like to say “Shame On You” to LEGO Corp for their misleading Press Release and disingenuous use of the phrase “Free to Play.” And a secondary “check your info” to every MMO news site out there that ran with the headline before reading the fine print.

The FREE TRIAL of LEGO U will become available in August of this year.

City of Heroes

http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/news_archive/announcing_city_of_heroes_free_1.html

Download Link: http://www.cityofheroes.com/account/download_game_client/download_city_of_heroes.html

Renaming the project, City of Heroes Freedom.

No colon? No apostrophe? That’s terrible grammar! ARRGH.

I don’t have much to say about this, except that this swap was simultaneously, inevitable and a surprise to me.

  • Inevitable: The superhero market is reaching saturation, between COH, CO, DCUO and the upcoming Marvel MMO. With CO being a primary player in that subcategory, and offering its content under a F2P subscription model.
  • Surprise: NCSoft has never shown itself to be a proponent of this model. 4 out of their 5 big titles are currently subscription-driven, with the remaining title still charging a box fee.

Details of subscription model: http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/freedom/player_choices.html

Current subscriptions = VIP access. Full content + 400 Paragon Points per month
Prior subscription = Premium access. Free + Anything you previously purchased or earned with Reward Points (expansion packs, etc)
No subscription = Free. Limited content. Buy Paragon Points with cash.

VIPs will also have access to an exclusive server (no F2P allowed!)

Free players will not have access to Mission Architect.
Unsurprising, but kind of a let-down. UGC is a big draw for this game. But I suppose you have to convince new players to pay for SOMEthing.

———

These three up-and-comers join a cast of dozens, including prominent titles like:
Age of Conan
Global Agenda
Ragnarok Online
APB
Champions Online
and of course, DDO and LOTRO

On a completely different topic, I’d like to drop this week’s big speculation on you: Pottermore

By the time this episode airs, we may already know the answer as JK Rowling’s YouTube page says that a big announcement will be forthcoming on June 23rd. I won’t lie – I’m a Harry Potter fan, and firmly believe that an MMO in that universe could potentially be a BLAST to play. Or could fail so hard it would make the entire island of Great Britain sink into the ocean. Either way, I’m keeping an eye on this one.

Next Week:
Player Housing
Some of the best examples, and the worst, and perhaps even get to the bottom of why this particular feature has such a spotty implementation history throughout MMOs.

  • Best current example, EQ2
  • Worst, STO
  • CO getting “Hideouts” soon
  • Gods & Heroes will have “Estate System” (releasing today)

So until then… play smart, and target their healers first!

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