Carefully avoiding the words “jumping” and “on the” and “bandwagon” here, is it true that the “freemium” business model can save the ENTIRE MMO INDUSTRY? Aside from WoW, the only MMO that doesn’t need saving?
A couple of years back, you had your free to play MMOs (AKA “cheap Asian games”) and your subscription MMOs (AKA “Western games we like”). Then Wizard101 comes out with their two tier free/subscription plan, and then Turbine saves Dungeons & Dragons Online by making their game free-ish. DDO, a game most people had written off as a good try, suddenly became the belle of the ball and the industry Took Notice. It was only a matter of time before other marginal MMOs tried something similar.
And in this modern era, the only NON-marginal MMOs are WoW and EVE Online. I’d have thought Lord of the Rings Online would have been above this fray… until Turbine announced their flagship MMO would also be going “freemium”.
Someone at Sony made a call to John Smedley, I’m sure, asking why SOE wasn’t getting with the freemium program and making those megabucks for which they’ve been waiting. (SOE’s Free Realms already has this plan).
Yesterday, it happened. News of EverQuest II Extended spread through Twitter and the blogerati like ebola in a monkey convention.
There’s a twist. Where the other freemium games let subscribers and freeloaders mingle, EQ2 will be setting up a walled garden with the subscribers in their vast playgrounds, and the freeloaders in their ghetto. To even the odds up somewhat, players new to EQ2 will be encouraged to choose the EQ2 Extended option by virtue of the subscription game no longer having a free trial.
Aside from refer-a-friends or opting for the subscription version of EQ2 up front, people new to EQ2 will find themselves in the ghetto, and it’s not at all clear if they will be able to take their character to the subscription servers.
There will be four levels of players — the truly free players won’t be able to equip the best items, won’t have much inventory space, won’t be able to have much coin, won’t be able to have the best skills or spells, etc. They will be hitting the limits VERY quickly. As a fairly experienced EQ2 player, I imagine life for the free players will be… challenging. Hey, that’s not necessarily bad, if they know what they’re getting into.
Silver level loosens but does not remove some of those restrictions. Gold is a $15/month subscription which is more or less equivalent to the standard subscription and is the lowest tier with broker access. Platinum is a $200/year subscription which lets you access Sentinel’s Fate content and levels without having to buy the box (the other levels only give you up to The Shadow Odyssey for free, but you can buy Sentinel’s Fate separately).
To be honest, I don’t have a problem with this, EXCEPT…. for the separation between the standard subscription game and the freemium version. I don’t understand why new players aren’t encouraged to be in the vibrant servers that so desperately need fresh
meat players ALL THE TIME. Make all the current subscribers Gold-level members, and just add in the other three tiers — free, silver and platinum.
Sure, we can copy our characters (at $35) to the freemium servers, but that wall is still there. In the end, SOMEONE’S going to be in the ghetto, and I just can’t help thinking it’s the people who have been faithfully paying their $15 every month for these past six years.