Sorry, subscriptions are still dead
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 August 2013, 3:05 am
Two out of two MMORPGs that recently announced their business model went for a monthly subscription. Now as I have frequently discussed on this blog, a monthly subscription model benefits a certain population of players, with those who play a lot getting effectively subsidized by those who play less. Thus these hardcore idiots are now declaring victory, "Free2Play is dead", and the like. Which of course is utter nonsense. The subscription business model is still dead, and those two announcements don't change anything.

For proof, just go to a site like with a complete list of MMORPGs, and count how many games have a subscription model, and how many have some variation of a Free2Play or Buy-box-only model. Even if you add 2 to the subscription side of the balance, the other side still wins by a large margin.

If you analyse the data further, you will find that the most successful business model for MMORPGs is in fact a different one: The bait & switch business model. If you plot something like a curve of interest for a typical MMORPG in the post-WoW era, you will find that the interest is highest before release and quickly falls off in the first three months after release. If you were an unscrupulous businessman, you'd have to be an idiot to not exploit that. Why would you go Free2Play from day one and miss out on all the potential money you can get from the pre-release hype? Far better to announce a subscription model, cash in on all the suckers who buy the box and pay for three months of subscription, and THEN go Free2Play a bit later, after 6 to 18 months, when the hype has subsided.

Somewhere in hidden drawers of Carbine and Zenimax are already plans on how to transform Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online into Free2Play games. There are simply too many games and too few hardcore players to make a subscription business model for any new game viable in the long run. The people celebrating the return of the subscription business model are in fact celebrating how they have been duped by a successful bait & switch scam. 18 months after release at the very latest these games will be either Free2Play or shut down completely.
Tobold's Blog

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