In the past few weeks a number of bloggers have been dicussing the topic of MMO price models and looking for alternatives to the regular 13 Euro/15 USD type of monthly subscription fees as the only payment option. Of course there are all the “free-to-play” MMOs and there is also the Guild Wars model (pay once per content package).
I do not quite like the “free-to-play” terminology, because those games are not really free to play, but rather free of charge for access to the game. In the end the point is that at least a large portion of the players should pay for their game time, because the companies must make money on the games.I also do not like when game talk about “free updates/expansions”. It is certainly not free, just hidden somewhere else like in a subscription fee.
I also do not think that there should be any reason to separate “free-to-play” games from subscription-based games when comparing them. A game is a game is a game. It might be a bit trickier to figure out the costs, but in the end they are all MMO:ish games.
What I would like to see is a more unified price list for MMOs. Perhaps in some way to help a bit with comparisions, but mainly open up for more diversified payment models.
I am thinking that prices are in five major areas:
- Start fee
Start fee is any initial cost you may pay once to get started at all.
Access is of course to be able to access the game and play. This is most likely a recurring fee.
Content is of course new experiences in the game. That could be new areas, missions/quests, classes/professions or other things that expand the experience (housing, costumes, decorations etc).
Gameplay are things that affect the game without actually bringing in new content/experiences. This could be xp boosters, potions, new skills.
Extras are things that are related to the game, but not affecting playing the actual game. This could be character transfers, extra character slots etc.
Some games will combine items under content and gameplay; it is quite typical for subscription-based games to do that – look at pretty much any expansion released.
Applying this on some games, it could look like this. I do not claim the data here to be complete or entirely accurate, since I do not have game access at the time of writing.
City of Heroes/Villains:
- 1.99 Euro, 14 days limited access
- 14.99 Euro, includes 1 month full access
- 24.99 Euro, includes 1 mohth full access plus bonus content and items
- 12.99 Euro/month
- General content updates bundled in access fee
- Wedding pack: 8.99 Euro
- Super Booster 1 – Cyborg: 8.99 Euro
- 30 day jetpack: 4.99 Euro
- Character transfer/rename: 9.95 Euro (?)
- Extra character slots: X Euro
- 19.99 Euro, includes one content package, PvP and PvE
- 17.99 Euro, includes PvP content and 60 skill unlocks
- No access fee, 0 Euro/month
- Content package (areas, zones, skills, professions) – choose from Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, Eye of the North: 19.99 Euro
- Bonus mission pack: 8.99 Euro
- Guilds Wars 2008 update (Fire Imp): 4.49 Euro
- Guild Wars xxxx update (bonus weapons): X Euro
- Skill unlock: X Euro
Adding games like World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online etc would have starting fees in perhaps 10-40 Euro range, access fees around 13 Euro/month and content/gameplay packages in 20-40 Euro range. I have no clue what extras might be there and how much they cost – I would assume character transfers are available at least.
I think splitting up price data into different areas like this helps to show that there is room for various pricing models and that it may be more clear to see what you are paying for if fees are split up more. I would certainly prefer to see explicitly the content and gameplay elements that may be provided with a game as listed explictly, e.g.
- 3 Euros/month
- updates 10 Euro/month (120 Euro/year)
- content packages 30 Euro (1 per year)
Of course, this will cause people to perhaps think more what they pay for and companies to be more upfront with what things may cost. Which is precisely the point. By splitting up prices it opens up opportunities for different price choices and addressing different target audiences.
Not all games will be able to support splitting this up to the extent one might want, since that will generally need to be a consideration when designing the game.