Thursday, November 4, 2010

F2P Success Vs Price Drops

The LOTRO and EQ2X teams will both tell you that their products are doing very well two months into their respective free to play launches.  However, recent price drops in both games undermine these public votes of confidence; at a minimum, both studios appear to be concerned about sweetening the pot in an attempt to get more free players to actually pay money. 

The Perpetual Lone Lands Sale
Turbine tells Ars Technica that over half of LOTRO players use the store, but they're much quieter about what portion of players actually pay for Turbine Points. 

TP can be earned in game (Ardwulf's got a good write-up of one of the tricks to get some easy free points), and are handed out to subscribers as part of the monthly subscription - indeed, the biggest selling items in the store's first month were shared storage upgrades, which sound much more like something veterans spend their loyalty reward points on than something a new player would open up their wallet for the first time to obtain. 

Meanwhile, we have the curious case of the Lone Lands, the game's first paid zone of content.  When the beta first rolled out, the LL price was balanced around players who were going to grind out points for free.  This price was slashed dramatically before the free to play launch, allowing a player who clears out all the deeds in one starter zone (give or take) to buy the Lone Lands.  Then there was a one-day 75% off sale. Turbine apparently liked what they saw in that test run, because the zone has been "on sale" for a total of 50 TP (86% off) for about a week now.

It's not clear whether the price drop is permanent, but it's starting to look like Turbine wants to make sure that players don't need to pay real money to get the points to extend their LOTRO "trial" into the mid 20's. 

EQ2X Hops On The Sale Train, Offers Free Upgrade To Silver Accounts
Meanwhile, SOE has apparently decided that they like what they see on Turbine's side of the fence, as they've abruptly rolled out a 50% off station cash sale, accompanied by a 50% off item of the day for the week.  (No word on whether they noticed how DDO had to raise its base prices to cope with its sale habit.) 

On top of that, SOE quietly gave the $10 silver-status account some free upgrades.  Many players, myself included, might have paid Station Cash for the additional bag slot.  Many players are paying SOE $10 a pop for additional character slots.  Even so, SOE apparently feels that making the silver upgrade more attractive to people who have been holding out will net them more money in the long run. 

Responsiveness Or Weakness?
Both studios are spinning these changes as responsiveness to what their customers want, and I'm sure that this is a factor in the decision process.  That said, making MMO's is still a for-profit activity, and that means keeping prices as high as possible for as long as possible.  World of Warcraft will continue to charge a separate fee for the four-year-old TBC expansion - making new players buy a total of four boxes before they can play their first Goblin or Worgen - because people are still paying for it.  Meanwhile, every other game I'm aware of that has more than one boxed expansion is offering "all-in-one" deals because they're having a hard enough time getting new players period.

If you are going to cut prices, the way that SOE and Turbine have done it is smart; encourage players to invest more time in the game, and make that very first purchase offer significant returns, in the hopes that players will pay more or even subscribe once they've been around for a while.  Even so, the pendulum is swinging pretty heavily towards price cuts for games that are supposedly raking free to play windfall cash.


Stabs said...

You're assuming these are responses, they might not be.

I suspected from the off that EQ2E in particular wanted to start with a particularly mean basic deal because SOE have a history of caving in to their players.

I think this is a key marketing ploy - tbh until the sale I was beginning to think that EQ2E had probably peaked and it was unlikely anyone who hadn't try it would from here on. They need to keep that newbie fawcet dripping.

I suspect what we're actually seeing here is the result of a pre-planned strategy monitored by the hour and debated hotly as they anxiously await their latest results. Tense times in both camps, even more so when Cryptic enters the fray.

Thallian said...

The lone lands price drop makes sense, it takes longer than a start zone to get "into" the game if you ask me.

Yeebo said...

My take on the Lonelands is that it's likely intended to be a "gateway" purchase. Anyone is going to have enough points to buy it just from leveling to that point. It gets players into the store, and it also offers a clear demonstration of how much better a zone can be if you buy a quest pack.

As far as EQ2X, more character slots means more potential races and class pack purchases. Giving silvers another one of those makes good sense in my opinion. The I'm not sure what the reasoning behind the extra bag slot is, save maybe to entice more players to go silver. I can't imagine bags are selling all that well in the item shop (at ten dollars a pop).

Saylah said...

I don't get them thinking $10 for a bag is going to be a good selling item. That said, I'm thinking of buying one on my gold account just for the asthetic. We need more cosmetic items in there if you as me because I find EQ2 gear models quite dull. I'm liking the look of the new back with all the things hanging off of it. I'm trying to make a carpenter looking outfit but not having much luck.