Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will SOE Regret EQ2's 3 Days for $5 Option?

In the midst of a relatively interesting week for out of game news, SOE has rolled out a 3-day subscription plan for EQ2 at a price of $5. Reaction is pretty cleanly split between arguing that the price is too high compared to the monthly fee and arguing that this is a good thing because it could hypothetically lead to some alternate billing model that wasn't a bad deal for 90% of potential customers (such as non-consecutive day passes or even hourly billing).

Personally, my view is that ANY new billing option, as long as it is not deceptively marketed, is a good thing for players, even if it's not a GOOD option for the vast majority. The question I'm more interested in is what SOE thinks it's going to get out of this deal. Who would potentially elect this plan?
  • Former players considering a full-time comeback? That's effectively a $5 bet that you don't think you'll be sticking around for more than three days. If you're wrong, and you resubscribe after your trial, you lost the $5. If you're right, you "win" the $10 you saved compared to paying for a full month to retrial. But why are you even bothering if you think you're not even going to like the game?

  • Multiple account holders (a demographic that's specifically mentioned in the promotional material)? My guess is that most people who are willing to go to this expense either maintain the multiple accounts or they don't. Multi-boxing is not for the faint of heart - you need to pay for multiple account keys, multiple subscriptions, possibly multiple gaming machines, AND you may need to keep your multi-alts up to speed with your main character (unless you only play them as a multi-static group). I don't see people who've put that much into it deciding they're just going to moonlight on their additional characters one weekend per month.

  • Infrequent gamers? The plan is limited to being used once a month to encourage people to stick with the traditional recurring monthly subscription, so you'd have to be a very infrequent player with a very fixed schedule. You'd also have to be relatively insensitive to the cost, since it would be higher on a per day basis than most games, but not SO insensitive to the cost that you would be paying the full monthly fee if this option weren't available.

  • People who want to cherry-pick quick access to the occasional time-sensitive event, such as in-game holidays, bonus exp weekends, or perhaps a guild birthday celebration? To be perfectly honest, there's a half decent chance that I might take this option myself at some point. The problem for SOE is that I have previously re-subscribed for the entire month if there was something sufficiently interesting going on. I.e. sometimes they'd be getting $5 that I wouldn't have given them, but sometimes they'd be missing out on $10 that I would have paid AND losing out on the chance to convince me that maybe I'd rather stick around for more than the one month.

Like I said, it's not a plan for everyone, but there is a specific niche market that could benefit from it. I'm just not sure that this particular market actually gets SOE more money in the long run.

9 comments:

Professor Beej said...

I tend to agree with you: any new sub price plan is a good one. I would never use this one, personally, as it's far too little value for the cash. But if they were to charge, say, 2.99 or 3.99, then I might consider it.

As it stands, though, I think that DDO and WAR have the best deals for "tourists." I absolutely adore the idea of the Endless Trial WAR has going on. I can play as much as I want up to level 10 on any number of characters? Don't mind if I do. And having the core game be available totally free as far as DDO goes is genius. I love the idea of paying for zones/content as I /want or need/ to access them instead of having it lumped into a $15/month sub because sometimes, I don't get my money's worth out of an MMO subscription and there's nothing I can do about it.

Crag Claweye said...

I also agree any additional option for payment is good. I do however think this particular one will have trouble finding much of an audience that it appeals to. Sure there will be some but as an trial alternate subscription it is very restrictive. Those who play casually are not as likely to be able , or willing to put in 3 consecutive days and then not do so again for a month. They are more likely to be after a day here or there throughout the month. Something with non-consecutive days would be much more attractive.

I expect the reason for the consectutive days is to minimise changes to the billing system. As it allows the system to maintain a start and end date of valid subscription each month, rather then having to keep a new count of days/units consumed. Still it would have been fairly small changes so why not go the extra yard and put in an alternative that is more likely to appeal and especially to those casual or might return players that can't justify a full monthly subscription.

nugget said...

I tried the EQ trial for a while, and while it was quite engaging, it didn't grab me enough for me to continue (even to the end of the trial period).

However, I think part of the problem is that it *was* a trial account. Options were not available in some ways, etc etc.

I'd really like to see this $5 option from more places, and as a way to open up possibilities to people who weren't *quite* convinced by the trial accounts, because they had too many restrictions, but wouldn't mind ponying up $5 for a really full-featured account - for 3 days of tryout.

I can't be the only one who'd be interested in such a thing... can I? O.o

nugget said...

It also occurs to me that for seasoned MMO players trying to tug friends from one game to another, an option like this to 'gift' to friends is much cheaper than buying them the entire game... only to find they don't like it. :(

(Yus, I speak from personal eggsperience on that example.)

Green Armadillo said...

@Crag: Good catch on the bill date, I hadn't thought of that, but the billing system is almost certainly the reason for the lack of flexibility.

@nugget: It would be nice to have a gift option, but I can see the reluctance to put brand new players on such a short leash (3 days). That's really not a lot of time, especially since newbies may not be logging on for multiple hours every day on day one. Also, not all games still retail for MSRP. EQ2 had a "complete collection" starter kit (basically a repackaged version of the last expansion all-in-one) that had an MSRP of $20 and came with 60 days sub when used by new accounts. $20 is more than $5, but I'd imagine you can get that box for $10 if you look hard enough these days. If you're not even willing to go that high, then maybe your friend will be equally hesitant to eventually pony up $15/month to play with you?

nugget said...

@Armadillo

Err... well actually...

I bought Guild Wars for my friends, here where I live, in the stores. And it was approximately USD$30 per box. Because I live in SouthEast Asia, and my friends live in Australia, buying for them via Amazon would have been even more expensive, because of shipping, because I was already going to visit.

Remember - pricing differs in different parts of the world.

Every WoW box retails here for at least US$40.

So this... $5 option? For me, it would be great. Of course if you come at it from a 'You can get it for US$10 so why would they pay $15 to play with you if you're so skint you won't even pay that?' then there's really nothing I can say except - I haven't got the option, because of my region.

Just some food for thought.

Green Armadillo said...

Ouch. Yeah, MMORPG's are strangely non-international when it comes to sales practices for an online-only product. Even so, I still question the value of gifting a new player with a three-day subscription. The only way you're going to spend enough time in a game to make a firm decision on it that quickly is if you've already decided that you want to play and want to double check whether it's worth it.

DDO may be the winner here - you can set up a Turbine account on a dummy email address and pay for some starter points via Paypal (DO NOT use your own credit card, as Turbine refuses to delete the only card on an account) and hand both over to your friend for trialing purposes at their leisure.

nugget said...

Hrm. I dunno. I think 3 days *with* friends, is usually enough to decide if you want to play the MMO or not.

At least, for me, with WoW, back when these same friends got me started, it was! XD

3 days without friends? Maybe someone who already tried the trial but still wasn't quite sure.

But yeah. :( Subscription MMOs have really weird pricing internationally, all things considered.

I think that's part of the attraction of Free-to-Download (since you always pay in some way... always... aaaaa they're out to EAT YOUR EYES! erm right where was I) games - that you don't have to pay the fat box price upfront before having a nice, detailed look.

Of course, that model (like all models) has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses. But it definitely makes 'Try this game! C'mon! You'll like eet!' a lot easier. =)

Sente said...

I am also a bit curious what SOE think they get out of the deal. I would assume they have done some kind of research/data mining first to find some plausible target audiences - but I find it difficult to believe that they detected a sweet spot with this 3-day-per-month deal.

Perhaps it is just a first step to try out alternative pricing models by introducing something that requires minimal changes to billing systems etc and do some measurements based on that? If the results are in line or better than expected for this kind of deal they might then make a larger effort into making it work for other types of deals as well.