There’s a lot of talk about payment models lately. Syncaine clearly has a disdain for the model. Tobold is taking a development perspective. Rohan sees a systematic divide. Syp just wants to play without paying.
At the fundamental level, it takes money to run a service. The actual cost of that is dependent on the technology, people and process and therefore varies greatly from game to game. We can assume that it costs less to run Rift than it does EvE – for various reasons. When a game company offers a “free” service, they still have to charge people for something.
Rohan’s breakdown of payment methods strikes a cord with me. Not all F2P (or sub games) are set up the same way. Each has a different gating model and revenue generating possibilities. While WoW is a sub model, the sparkle-pony sale generated somewhere in the region of 30 million dollars. In such a fashion, you can break down the service offerings for each game.
The debate is less about the payment models and more about the perceived cost/benefit of spending money. Is 15$ spent on WoW worth more than 15$ spent on Rift? What would 15$ get me in F2P-TOR? As I’ve mentioned a few times now, TOR is offering KOTOR3 for free. Anything to do with the MMO portion is set up behind a pay wall. This makes sense as the economy is at risk if all of a sudden the barrier to entry is nil. Someone mentioned that Slicing is a net positive in cash flow. Imagine setting up 100 accounts to bot slicing. It would cost you the PC power (minimal) and you’d have a cash generating machine with nothing to stop it. D3 has this problem, in another sort, but the devs actually take a cut of the cash sales, so they secretly endorse it.
Let’s add a bit of contrast here. I spend 15$ after a hockey game with the guys having a beer. I play hockey 2-3 times a week. I get a cup of coffee every day, well over 15$ a month. There are plenty of activities that I do that cost way more than 15$ per month and in actual fact, other than my internet access fee, I don’t have a better deal available to me.
From a business perspective, piecing out content makes sense. You can easily point out where the best bang for the buck is. People buy a lot of monocles? Build more. No one is buying dungeons? Build less. What should be free and what should cost money?
From a dev perspective, this segregation of systems adds overall complexity. You can longer integrate systems as you can’t assume that the player has access. The XBOX360 launched with an optional hard drive, meaning devs couldn’t assume players could save content. You need to have a solid understanding of your foundation material. Anything built on that cannot be dependent on another built component.
From a player perspective, we’re in an age of options. Being able to pay for the options you want and not for the others is simply the way things will work from now on. This adds complexities, depending on the division. What if your friends don’t have the same content you do? What if the content is packaged in such a way that it isn’t attractive (pay per use model, gambling model)?
This is far from a simple issue, as most bloggers can attest to. As long as the dev is making money to sustain operations and make some profit for improvements and the players are content, then you can have success. In the end though, it’s the player’s money and they get to decide where to put it.