Subscriptions - MMO's and Cable TV
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 April 2012, 10:32 pm
A bit of travel and an impromptu spring cleaning weekend have added up to keep me out of town and away from my new gaming rig over the last week.  My old laptop will kind of play SWTOR, but I've definitely been spending less time in game than I otherwise might have as a result.  I knew this was a possibility when I picked up the game and started my 30 day subscription (which did qualify me for the "loyalty" minipet), but I find the contrast striking.
  • In LOTRO, I own access to the current expansion and all the high level content to consume at my leisure.
  • After a triple station cash sale in EQ2, I now have the balance needed to pick up the "optional" expansion (required for the current AA cap increase) and pay for either gear unlocks or even a brief subscription while exploring the new content in the new patch (which most likely would have been part of the expansion, had it been ready in time for the launch window).
  • In STO - which has been offering 50% bonus duty officer cxp this weekend - again, I can play at my leisure.
  • In SWTOR, I had to pay for this stretch when I knew I wouldn't be in game much, because it sat on days 10-20 of my 30 day subscription.
Bioware's people swear up and down that their model - effectively the 2004 model with few changes - is the only way to finance development on the scale of their game.  But is it really the subscription that's propping the game up, or rather the sales of more than two million boxes at $40-60 each in a market where most non-subscription customers never pay a dime?  Judging from their aggressive promotional efforts, Bioware's problem with SWTOR appears to be less about getting people to try the game and more about getting them to stay.

I recognize that there are still arguments in favor of the subscription.  Even so, I can't help but notice the parallels between my recent SWTOR experience and the reasons why we got rid of our cable TV subscription.  Much like the MMO subscription, we found that we were paying a flat rate for a large bundle of stuff that we don't care about packed in with the handful of shows we do watch.  Like the MMO subscription, we were forced to pay for many days when we did not want or use the service in order to have access when we did want to do so.  Much like the SWTOR story experience, there is some content that we lose out on because its owners have not seen fit to provide it through any other channel.

Like the MMO subscription or hate it, it's starting to feel like it's on the wrong side of history.



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