- Game time for specific two subscription titles - WoW and SWTOR (well, it was) - represents about half of my total ($125, counting the first $15 of the SWTOR box cost as payment for the first 30 days). This number is higher than it could have been due to the annual pass. Even so, my spending on these two games EACH nearly doubles the next highest item on my ledger.
- Setting aside those two subscription payments (WoW's was technically discounted), I did not pay full price for anything that I purchased this year - I'd estimate that I paid about half of the asking price overall. Some of these savings come from retailers looking to dump stock, but many of them were provided directly from the publishers. It's not accurate to look at all of this as lost revenue for the studios - some of the lower priority titles would not have made the cut at full price. Even so, sales are a reality of the business, and are going to be a factor for anyone looking to base their business model primarily on one-time buy-to-play transactions. As the number of games I play increases, it is easier and easier to wait for the sale before pulling the trigger, especially if there is any reason to be concerned about quality/polish.
And now for the full ledger. My accounting practice is to bill purchases of content and cash store currency in the year they were paid for, but to bill game time in the year in which it is actually used. Titles are listed in chronological order.
I wrote an annual pass post-mortem when the year of game time I purchased through that promotion lapsed. The short form is that I don't regret the approximately $80 for ten months of game time that I used in 2012, but the $60 Diablo III purchase (which I'm not counting against my MMO budget because it isn't an MMO) that I made in order to get that deal was a bit of a fail.
One big difference between this and past expansion cycles was the early availability of holiday discounts on the brand new expansion. Through holiday sales and promos, I was able to snag the Pandaria box and a 6o day time card with which to play it for $35. (I have yet to use these things, so I'm counting them for next year.)
As a brief recap, I had paid for the box at launch last year, ended the included month at level 36 or so, and leveled the rest of the way to the game's cap using Trion's frequent free retrial weekends. Just when I was thinking of coming back for a month, I ran into a firesale on game time cards - 90 days for less than a single month. Perhaps they were afraid they'd be stuck with unsold inventory if the game went free to play? In principle, I still have some time left, though I'd have to purchase the expansion - even if I did want to re-roll, I'd probably want access to the new souls.
Star Trek Online: $11.40
I went foraging for an old retail box of this game to snag one month's subscription time. This is useful because you get to keep any additional storage granted by being a subscriber at each rank (10 levels) tier. I also spent $5 on the smallest quantity of Cryptic points so I could purchase an early increase to my duty officer cap.
I waited until patch 1.2, which was widely viewed as the patch that was going to finish all of the odds and ends that didn't get done in time for release. As a reward for my patience, I got the account key direct from EA for $40 instead of the list price of $60. (I also somehow qualified for the "loyalty" bonus minipet that was granted to current subscribers for sticking with the game during the early months, despite having shown up that week.) I subbed up for an additional month to get my first character to the level cap, and subbed up again just prior to the free to play relaunch in order to take advantage of some of the grandfathered perks former subscribers get.
EQ2 AND DCUO: $20
I don't remember exactly why I chose to throw $20 at a station cash sale sometime around April/May. Through a series of sales so aggressive that they forced all content and game time out of SOE's in-game stores for good, I ended up turning that $20 into the $40 Age of Discovery expansion and 6 months of subscription time in EQ2 (I forget the exact discount you get for six month subs, probably $75ish).
(I also snagged the three DCUO DLC packs I did not already own at the time of the "we are taking DLC out of the cash store because our marketing people have broken the payment model" final sale in August, but I think that was from the Station Cash leftover from last year.)
Setting aside the absurdity of how long it took SOE to notice this was going on, I'll be the first to admit that the status quo could not continue. EQ2 may also have finally tweaked its payment model to the point where paying on a non-subscription basis is worthwhile. That said, some of EQ2's recent expansions have been so thin that there really wasn't much more than a month's worth of entertainment that a solo player could carve out of them. It's hard to justify $50-60 for an expansion box plus either subscription time or unlocks if I'm going to get so little time out of them compared to all the other titles on this list - no wonder Smedley wants to get out of the content creation business.
I paid $8 for a small Turbine Point bundle to snag the barter wallet upgrade. It is irritating that Turbine is so heavily focused on charging for fixes to longstanding design issues (in this case, their addiction to non-stacking character-bound token rewards), and I probably could have earned the Turbine points in game, but I decided solving this problem was worth the $8.
Then Turbine decided that the first expansion to player inventory since 2007 would be exclusive to the $70 Rohan expansion bundle for several months. Fortunately, Turbine can be counted on to discount expansions aggressively, so I just waited a few weeks and got the bags and whistles edition for 50% off, i.e. less than what people paid for the regular edition at launch. This bundle also included a fair number of Turbine points, which I will no doubt need to spend on unlocking basic UI improvements over the next year.
Speaking of Turbine expansion discounts, I also snagged the DDO expansion for 50% off through a Steam sale. Apparently I was lacking in patience, as Turbine slashed the price further down to 75% off for Black Friday. I hadn't spent any real world money on this game since mid-2010 (albeit only playing the game sporadically during that window), I suppose a few extra bucks isn't the end of the world.
One could argue whether I actually needed this expansion in the first place, as I do not have any high level characters. The one thing that I have gotten a fair amount of use out of is one of the bonus throw-ins: a greater tome of learning. I generally don't favor paying for experience boosts, but this particular bonus actually changes the way that you play the game by adding a hefty bonus to each quest the first time you complete it (reset if you true reincarnate). This effectively removes the requirement to repeat midlevel content for exp. I'm happy to repeat DDO's content eventually, but I'd rather not do it immediately, and now I don't have to.
The Secret World: $15
I was poised to skip every single MMO that launched in 2012 until a last minute switch in payment model, followed by an Amazon sale offering the newly buy-to-play title for $15, made TSW too intriguing to pass up. I had initially passed on this title as much due to my crowded schedule and a few rough edges during my very brief visit to the beta as to anything on the game's merits (such as its subscription model).
The game-changer with the buy-to-play switch is not the amount of money, but rather the amount of time I would need to invest immediately to determine whether the product is worth future subscription payments. I've spent a few hours with the game so far and it does show some promise, especially as a secondary title. I can't see how my one-time payment suddenly props up the game's finances, but I suppose it couldn't hurt?
Grand Total: $275 (not counting DIII)
Subtotal for Content/Currency Purchases: $123 (includes $25 of the $40 SWTOR box price)
Subtotal for Game Time: $152