As everyone seems to be reporting, The Secret World is going Buy to Play (pretty much the same business model as Guild Wars 2) and Trion has let some people go. The former is somewhat expected, though most thought Free to Play was the way to go. The latter is a bit more complicated due to Rise of Nations and doesn’t speak directly to Rift’s future but could be a sign.
So what’s left in the subscription realm? EvE and WoW as the two benchmarks for sandbox and themeparks. They can afford to charge due to their size and business models. Rift is a sort-of-straggler here in that the product is arguably better than WoW yet needs more mass to really justify the subscription.
Any game that comes out from now on in either realm needs to be as good or better than EvE/WoW in order to justify any subscription price. As much as I think Wildstar looks cool, there is zero way it can compete in a sub-model with WoW. The Elder Scrolls Online is doomed for failure on that model. The problem with that model is that you can’t easily take it apart and change to another after launch (SWTOR is a prime example), it needs to be core to the design phase.
As Tobold alludes, the traditional single player games are converging to the model of buy the base game, pay for DLC. We’re well past the days of Horse Armor but DLC is here to stay and a very valid way to extend the life of a game. The argument of “on-disk dlc” is going to be a fun one, or rather the difference between true DLC and game unlocks (a-la Street Fighter). I would think though, that the market itself will decide on the correct path as there appears to be nothing worse than an angry gamer. BioWare has learned this the hard way – see Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3 and TOR – where I’m certain the cost to fight the bad press has been in the hundreds of millions.
So single player games are coming to be more like MMOs in both financial and play models while MMOs are dropping the idea of a subscription for a more a-la carte model in order to pick apart pieces of the pie. The danger here is that the concept of an MMO community is gone. The odds of a game keeping any given player’s attention for more than 3 months (as is the case with single player games) is low. If you were going to play something for longer, you probably already are.
Makes you wonder where the in-roads are for any new game.