Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 MMO Expenditures and Accomplishments

I'm never quite sure how to handle my New Year's/Canada Day resolution wrap-up for the year - realistically most of them are blown by July in any case, and the discussion invariably bleeds into what I'm planning for next year.  This year I'm going to try something different and focus solely on the past; what I spent on each title I played, and what I got for my money.  

For the sake of my sanity, I have chosen to bill content/currency purchases (expansions or free to play content packs) in the year that I actually paid for them (even though I may continue to consume it in future years), and to track subscription time in the year it was actually used (rather than paid for).  Games are listed in the order in which the accomplishments appeared in my twitter feed.  

WoW: $54.40
  • Completed a tour of the newbie zones post-Cataclysm
  • Advanced my mage the last level to 85, completed all Heroic dungeons (both Cataclysm launch and patch additions) at least once, still working on rep and gear but qualified for the looking for raid finder.
  • Advanced warrior from level 82 to level 85, completed all of the holidays through mid-summer to obtain my second violet protodrake
  • Actually healed some PUG 5-mans on a mid-level priest alt.
With Cataclysm launching in December 2010, I had just paid for the expansion and was on the tail end of a 90 day subscription at the beginning of January (approx $8.40 for 18 days).  I paid $30 for two months of time (around world events in late April and late June).

I signed up for the annual pass in late October - I'm choosing to account this as $16 for two months this year, with $60 for DIII and $80 for 10 months both applied to next year's budget.  This will either be a bargain or a budget buster depending on how much use I get out of it.  So far, I'm not spending nearly as much time per month under the discounted annual plan as I was when it was costing me $15, but I'm enjoying that time more because I don't feel that I have to force myself to grind day in and day out to maximize the value of the $15 one-month subscription. 

Rift: $48
  • Playtested a bunch of alts during the paid beta phases
  • Settled on Cleric, leveled from 1 to 48 (and 3/4).  
  • Leveled alts to the 10-19 range on the other three callings.
  • Actually healed some PUG's using the dungeon finder
I paid $48 for a digital collector's edition back in January, and have not paid since.  Note that this included access to the paid portions of the "closed" beta, as well as three extended retrial weekends.  

LOTRO: $20 in cash and $10 in gift card (which I value less than cash)
  • Comleted solo-ified Volume II
  • Currently working on Enedwaith and associated book of Volume III
I paid $20 for the Black Friday sale Isengard bundle, which came with 1000 TP's.   I wouldn't have paid $10 for 1000 TP's and a cosmetic outfit, but the half off sale made this a $5 upgrade.  I also turned a $10 gift card at a brick and mortar store into a 750 TP card (which is a terrible exchange rate, but the store had nothing else I wanted for $10).  I've used some of the TP for the Enedwaith quest pack, a second milestone destination, and the 30 minute milestone cooldown reduction for my main, which are collectively definitely worth the price of the points I paid for them.    

My remaining LOTRO playtime was in content that I paid to unlock via expansion purchases in 2009.

EQ2: $85
  • Completed Lyriana's enervated mythical
  • Advanced from 191 AA's to 267
  • Beat first seven dungeons in the Velious progression, obtained about half of my T2 armor   
I paid $45 for three months of game time, and $40 for the DOV expansion.  I also received 45 days of compensation time for the hacking debacle (cost: my identify, dun dun dun).  Up until December, I occasionally used a silver EQ2X account (purchased last year with promotional Station Cash balances that I didn't pay for) that I occasionally used for world events or limited-time quests.

I was expecting to spend about $20+ to unlock my character after the free to play switchover, but SOE's decision to grandfather in existing characters meant that I only had to pay to unlock my current gear, which I was able to do out of my remaining promotional SC balance.  That said, I did decline to purchase the year's second expansion box, along with the $20 paid add-on race that arrived with Velious.  This game would have been exceptionally expensive for someone who actually stayed with it the full time and paid full price for stuff as it was released, were it not for all the freebies for being hacked and for changing the business model.. 
Runes of Magic: $15
  • Advanced from 30 Druid/30 Rogue to 57 Druid/53 Warden/50 Rogue
  • Test drove a bunch of alts into the 20/20/20 range
I spent $15 on diamond currency.  I purchased a mount and some daily quest tickets, and I have just over $5 left. 

Vanguard: $5
  • Escaped the generic Isle of Dawn
  • Leveled character to 11 Disciple/10 crafter/12 Diplomat
Spent $5 to upgrade my EQ2 subscription to Station Access for one month so I could extend my Vanguard free trial by a bit. 

DCUO: $10
  • Reached level 30 on a hero, completed solo campaign
  • Experimented with some alts on both factions, platforms 
I spent $10 in the December's triple Station Cash sale for 3000 SC and immediately spent 999 SC on the Lightning Strikes DLC pack, which unlocked the new powerset and upgraded my account to Premium.  I'd been considering paying the full $10 for the pack anyway, so it became an absolute no-brainer with an extra 2000 SC.

Note that some of this balance may eventually get spent on EQ2 instead of DCUO, such is the perk of SOE's unified account system.  I will also tip my hat to SOE for allowing players to purchase currency in any increment of $5, without getting hit with funky/punitive exchange rates. 

DDO: $0
No additional expenditures this year.  I spent $100 in 2010, and spent about $70 of that on unlocking the content and character options I continue to use sporadically.
Kingdom of Loathing: $0
No additional money spent, I did sink something like $20-30 in this game back in 2007-2008 or so.

  • Beat Portal 2 ($35)
  • Beat Infamous 1 (PSN hacking debacle freebie)
  • Beat Uncharted 1 (Christmas present in 2010)
  • Currently working on Assassin's Creed 2 ($10)
  • Currently working on Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP, Christmas 2011 present)
These obviously really MMO purchases, and aren't included in the totals below, I just record them for the sake of perspective. 

Grand Total

All told, I spent basically $240, not counting the $10 gift card, the PS3 games or the $140 committed to Blizzard products next year.  (Nor, I suppose, do I count the amount of patience and attention it takes to await and grab some of the more substantial deals I got this year.)  When you consider that a single subscription MMO with a $40 expansion box and $15 in monthly fees will run you $220 annually, that's really not bad for what I'm getting for my money.

Speaking more generally, 2011 was the year when I actually learned to take advantage of non-subscription gaming models.  I spent a fair amount of time in non-subscription games in 2010, but I continued to play them the way I would approach a subscription game - focusing on one game at a time, playing it until I had completed everything I was aiming for and moving on.  As increasing numbers of games that I wanted to play anyway are offering more flexible options, I'm routinely logging into 3-5 games per week, and on rare occasions even per day.

Ironically, this hasn't blown my costs through the roof the way I wondered that it might when I started tracking what I was spending this year.  The "all-inclusive" subscription model has never included either the initial account nor the paid expansion boxes.  I'm definitely spending more on content than I was - and sometimes I'm putting up with irritating restrictions because I don't feel like paying to remove them - but I'm not then turning around and paying again to continue accessing the content I have paid to unlock.  I may or may not be paying more, but I'm certainly getting a lot more.

Looking ahead to next year, my totals will almost certainly be higher - if you budget the payments to Blizzard and likely boxes for both SWTOR and Pandaria, I already have about as much in total MMO expenses for next year as I did for this year.  Several of the non-subscription games I paid into this year may not require additional funds next year (in particular, EQ2 should be way down), but the fact that I'm already down for $60 on DIII - more than I spent on all but one MMO I played this year - is already looming as the potential difference between the budgets.  Guess we'll find out how this goes next year.


Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

I know you've been favorable to the free-to-play business model in the past, but with the totals tallied up like this, any new thoughts about free-to-play compared to subscriptions?

Green Armadillo said...

I personally have never viewed so-called "free to play" as a way to save money. I view non-subscription payment models as a way for me to pay $30 each to six non-subscription games that I can then log into for the full year, as compared to spending the same $180 on monthly fees and having one game at a time (whether it's the same one or different ones) each month.

From that perspective, non-subscription models are a good deal. For someone who faithfully sticks to the one game, moving to a model where what you pay is tied to what you consume is unlikely to be a positive. Likewise, I can see where someone who says that they only want to do free to play if they personally never pay for anything because otherwise they'd rather go back to WoW is setting themselves up for disappointment.

(I do wish I had my figures for 2008-2009 for comparison. During that timeframe, I had a minimum of one active subscription year-round, and I purchased boxes for WoW, LOTRO, EQ2, and Warhammer. The grand totals for both years are likely to look very similar to what I paid this year.)

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Huh, interesting. So, you see it as you having spent about the same amount of money on free-to-play games as you did on subscriptions. But, you were able to play a wider variety of games.

I see the opposite, though, regarding one vs. many MMOs. I mostly only play DDO as my MMO of choice. I take advantage of the free-to-play nature to keep playing the game for cheap. Since Turbine lets you "earn" points, I find that I've been able to keep playing and buying expansion content just by playing twice a week in a regular group. For me, it's more economical to do the free-to-play thing, even if I have to be a bit stingy with my points.

Thanks for sharing your info, though. Great to see someone break it down like that and offer some insight.