Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SOE on "Free to Play, Your Way"

"We've introduce[d?] non-recurring passes into EverQuest II, which have been really popular for some of the newer players that aren't quite as committed yet. It's a great on-boarding tool so that people can feel like they can buy a one-time pass using virtual currency, see if they like it, and then see if they can move on to a recurring fee"

- Laura Naviaux, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at Sony Online Entertainment, in an interview with ZAM
In the early days of the EQ2X beta, devs expressed concerns that existing subscribers would cancel if allowed to buy their way out of all the restrictions on non-subscribing accounts.  They are not wrong to fear this - I would suggest that SOE's competitors, such as DDO and LOTRO, have ended up with models in which almost all players will pay less in the long run by paying for unlocks rather than subscribing. 

However, the results have consistently left me feeling that SOE never intended for the non-subscription model to be a viable and attractive alternative to the subscription.  For all the studio's talk about how they want to give the consumer flexibility, both EQ2 and DCUO intentionally retain restrictions that non-subscribers cannot lift in any way other than subscribing.  Their model has always felt like players were expected - as close to required as the studio could get away with - to "move on" to the old monthly fee if they wanted to continue playing. 

I just was not expecting to have my impression confirmed by their marketing chief. 


Xaxziminrax II said...

You underestimate the power of the dark side.

Stabs said...

When he says you can buy these passes using virtual currency does he mean Plat or Station Cash?

Wilhelm Arcturus said...

I thought we already had a "push them to a subscription" quote from Smedley early on in the life of EQ2 Extended.

Anyway, we have another confirmation.

Bhagpuss said...

It's a good model, I think. The uncommitted can play as long as their interest lasts at no cost while those who find it's to their taste will be glad to subscribe.

The huge upside form my point of view as a subscriber is that I can relax completely about losing access to my characters should I decide I don't want to or can no longer afford to pay a sub. Access to my characters at will is the single most important aspect of MMOs for me.

Yeebo said...

Of all the modern FtP MMOs, the one with the most egregious restrictions to me is COH. The free form character development system is one of the best things it has going for it, and it's forever locked behind a sub.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Yeah, as a cheap bastard I like DDO's "buy once and have it forever" setup. But, as far as making money, the EQ2 system is likely to be better. The downside is that "free" really doesn't appear viable, as Green Armadillo wrote. The upside is as Bhagpuss says, you never lose access to your characters; you can still pop in and see how your old friends are doing.