Scott Hartsman, who happens to be running one of the last handful of subscription MMO's standing, appeals to populism in his defense of the subscription model. He calls the free to play model "going whaling", stating that "you have to be willing to create a game that has the ability to make huge sums of money from relatively small numbers of people". It is a thinly veiled threat - those other publishers don't care about the non-paying majority, and only care about the paying minority to the extent that they can extract more money.
Fishy Business Models
I fully agree that taking an existing game free to play, when it was never designed for this change, is likely to be problematic. None of the free to play conversions we have seen to date has been especially voluntary, and many of them have arrived at models that are likely ill-advised as a result. Even so, Mr. Hartsman's argument sounds like a fishmonger telling passers by that the fishing instructor down the street is not looking out for their best interests. He might be correct, but he's really worried about the effect on his sales if too many of his customers learn to fish.
(Yes, I believe I did just call Scott Hartsman a fishmonger. Oh snap?)
The subscription model is no paragon of virtue itself. Time and time again, we have seen incentives used to try and extend the repetition of content far beyond the point at which it is fun, because the developer gets paid or does not based on whether or not the player is still playing 30 days later. Meanwhile, the fish analogy continues, albeit at a smaller scale. Less frequent players are forced to pay the same price as the big fish or quit, because the publisher cannot offer a payment model that is more equitable based on usage. More frequent users might quit in protest, or, worse, they might reduce their own consumption to reduce their expenses.
There is a middle ground between the subscription model and the free-for-all of "going whaling", and it's a space that developers are reluctant to compete in - ditching the recurring fee but still charging for content. Guild Wars has done this since its launch, DDO has done it since its re-launch, and others are going to attempt it, albeit with the disadvantage of having started with a different model.
Paying the bills
The problem is the widely reported $100 million in venture capital it took to create Trion Worlds and allow them to keep Rift in development until it was ready before launching it. Now that the game is done, the investors can rest assured that players will keep re-purchasing the same content each and every month, or be cut off from their friends. A model where a lackluster monthly rift invasion event means that Trion doesn't get paid this month is terrifying, and perhaps with good reason.
A studio like SOE putting out DCUO is at a disadvantage when competing dollar for dollar in the same space as the single player Batman Arkham Asylum, whose developers don't have to worry about server infrastructure or databases. Then again, this is exactly where DCUO has ended up, because their product was not attractive when it delivered comparable amounts of content as their competitor at significantly higher recurring prices. Ironically, SOE has fallen into the whaling trap - their single minded focus on catching the great white whale (i.e. retaining the subscriptions of the few who were still paying) has caused them to ignore the smaller fish who might have paid for a model that is not designed to force a subscription at the higher end.
I would like to think there is a better approach than hoping to hit the subscription jackpot and retrofitting a non-subscription model only as a last-ditch effort to recoup your investment if the subscription fails. What we need are fishermen willing to look for a new method, instead of fighting to preserve their out of date approach.