First, let’s look at the games on the market that are subscription based:
- World of Warcraft (7 years)
- EvE (5 years)
- Rift (1 year)
- Star Wars Old Republic (1 month)
Let’s look at the games that swapped to Free to Play, from subscription, in recent years.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Lord of the Rings
- Everquest 2
- Star Trek Online
- Age of Conan
- DC Online
- Champions Online
- Fallen Earth
I think it’s fair to say that the subscription model is simply dated and saturated. There are only so many people willing to pay a fixed fee for MMOs when there’s viable competition with no fixed fee. This in turn makes you wonder if/when WoW will swap to F2P as well. The pokemon expansion sure does sound like it would work well for F2P or at least microtransactions. There are plenty of F2P games that offer the exact same experience with no monthly cost.
I think the major difference between the first 4 games is perceived value for the price. WoW updates at a snail’s pace, 3 content patches per expansion, every 18-24 months. EvE is even slower but the content is player driven and if you play the game “right” you can play for free. Rift has had 7 content patches and it’s not even a year old yet. SW had it’s first patch after a month. If I was to compare them all, it sure would make you wonder why I would sub to WoW instead of the other three – at least in terms of value.
So my guess is that before WoW’s next expansion there will be a new business model. That will include more microtransactions, which will push another 25% of the player base to other games. WoW will go F2P within 2 years.