Tuesday, December 13, 2011

EQ2 Subscription Strategy

Edit: The All-Access pass may or may not grant grant SC to its multi-game subscribers and there are also some potentially complicated questions regarding multi-month subscriptions.

This post is a companion to my full rundown of the new EQ2 model.  That post was already way too long without discussion of the surprisingly complicated question of whether, how, and why to subscribe to the newly free to play game.  Apologies to those of you who don't care, tl;dr this post and I promise I'll post about something else later this week.

Why Subscribe
There are a few reasons why someone who generally intends to play as a non-subscriber (see the previous post) might want to subscribe occasionally.  You can stash massive amounts of stuff for longterm storage in subscriber-only storage space.  You can also post as many items as you want to the broker, and should be able to claim at least two free Master spell upgrades per character from the research tab during that time.  If you're looking to test drive some races/classes for alts, rental access to all the options, plus temporary access to three extra character slots, may be worth your while.

(I'm not sure how Legends of Norrath currently works.  At one point, subscribers got five free booster packs per month, with a chance of getting loot cards.  I had a bunch of these sitting in my LON tab even though I wasn't paying for a subscription during that time, and I don't know whether these are now free for everyone.)

This vendor wants over 15 plat to trade in dungeon drops for loot.
That said, the other big one is the currency cap.  While there are workarounds, there are definitely places where the game assumes that the player is carrying more than 18 plat on their person.  I played for about 30 minutes last night and was not allowed to loot approximately 2 plat because I was capped.  It's hard to overstate exactly how unexcited I am at the concept of paying $15 to be allowed to replenish my coffers, but this may be the only option.  Depending on your spending habits, it might be possible to subscribe once or maybe twice a year, cash in every last bit of vendor trash and broker listings, and then spend the rest of the time trying not to think of all the money you're not being allowed to loot. 
Payment Methods
One of the less well documented changes in the F2P rollout was a pair of changes to the payment system.  Subscriptions that are paid for with a credit card now grant 500 Station Cash per month.  This may not sound especially unusual for a non-subscription game with an optional subscription, but SOE will now take Station Cash as a non-recurring form of payment for your EQ2 subscription.

This means that EQ2 subscriptions - even if you pay one month at a time and allow them to lapse - are now effectively buy three months, get one free.  Lots of games, EQ2 included, offer discounts for multi-month subscriptions, typically in the $13-14/month range for 90 day subscriptions.  With this plan, you can have four months for an effective rate of $11.25/month and you do not need to take the four months consecutively to qualify.

Alternately, you can apply the Station Cash towards other things, like expansions or other premium features (e.g. the $20 Freeblood race).  Unlike some other companies (e.g. Turbine, where Turbine points are not shared between LOTRO and DDO), you can even take the 500 SC to other SOE games, like DCUO.

The All-Access Pass
Speaking of other games, the All-Access/Station Passes may or may not get the 500 SC. supposedly qualify for the 500 SC, because these are paid with a credit card.  It's not possible to pay for these passes with SC, though, so you won't be able to do the trick where you cancel every three months to pay for a month with your earnings.

If you for some reason are an All-Access Pass-holder who has never played EQ2, I'd make a point of logging in once just to make sure that the EQ2 sub gets credited to your account.  (The same also goes for DCUO - if you ever log in while you have a valid All-Access Pass, you will be permanently flagged as having spent enough money to upgrade your account in that game to Premium Status.)  This deal is also attractive if you play EQ1, Vanguard, and/or Planetside, since these are all still subscription-only. 

The Sale Factor
There's one big X-Factor - the sale.  Historically, SOE has offered double and even triple Station Cash sales a couple times per year.  Sometimes these only include game cards from stores (note that Walmart gets a preferential bonus compared to all other retailers) and sometimes credit card purchases are allowed.  Now that EQ2 takes SC for subscriptions, such a promotion would effectively be half off the subscription, even after you account for not getting the 500 SC because your subscription was not recurring. 

It remains to be seen whether SOE will - or can afford to - offer these deals again.  It's one thing to offer half off cosmetic items or to allow players to pay now for a discount on an expansion that might be months away.  A double SC sale would likely bring in a ton of money that weekend, but it could be a longterm loss if the majority of subscribers switch to this model.


Victor Stillwater said...

Thank you for the analysis.

I'm thinking of subbing just to unlock AA sliding, but that wouldn't be a great use of my limited funds at present. :)

Anyway, at least, I have the bigger picture in mind if I sub using a credit card. :D

Stabs said...

You may want to add that buying a guild is a good investment. It's a lot of extra storage, it's shared and it stores unlimited coin. Also if you're not in a proper guild it's quite fun seeing it level as you craft.

In my case without ever having invited another person in I'm within striking distance of getting the automatic harvesting bot (level 30 I think, my guild is 22).

Mike said...

Intrigued by your, and Bhagpuss's, articles on EQ2. I've created an acoount and I'm thinking about subscribing. Since I won't be playing SWTOR over the holidays that will probably be a yes.

One question I have though is that if I create a character of a locked race (eg Ratonga) and my sub lapses do I then have to unlock access to that char?

One thing that struck me was how different the starting areas are. The fae area was just too twee for words and I almost uninstalled right there. The lizard guy area was much better.

Bhagpuss said...

I'm guessing the "lizard guy" starting area was Timorous Deep, home of the Sarnak. That's the only startign area I've never completed and my level 17 Sarnak that I made when the race was first added remains the highest level character I have ever deleted.

Greater Faydark is a horrible starting zone in many ways, the twee factor possibly the least of them. Frostfang Sea is solid and fun but has some annoying bits.

For my money the best starting area by far is Darklight Woods, which is both the easiest to navigate and the most coherently planned. I just took my new Beastlord through it, first time I've done it for a couple of years, and I thought it held up extremely well.

Green Armadillo said...

@Stillwater: Ooops, I forgot about that part because I've been max level for a while, yes, if you're still leveling and you want to move the AA slider, you need to subscribe. Personally, I think 50/50 isn't a bad place to leave it - my EQ2X character still used to outlevel content - but that's another thing on the table.

@Stabs: Good point on the guild storage. This can work-around many of the issues, though you still can't have more than the limit on your person for NPC's.

@Mike: If you make a new character using a restricted race and your subscription lapses, you will need to pay for the race (or resubscribe) to access that character. Lifting this restriction was a one-time deal for returning EQ2 players (which is why I made such a big deal of it when it happened).

@Bhagpuss: Timorous Deep (note that these guys will give quests to good characters, but you will need to travel there) and DLW (evil only) are definitely my two favorites of the four current choices. New Halas is just too cramped for my taste, there are too many times where you get sent back to the same camp 4 times because they need to give you 4 quest complete exp awards. Faydark is the oldest of the four and it shows, even with the tuneup it got (last year-ish).