Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cryptic And Additional Fee Brinkmanship

Two weeks ago, Cryptic announced plans to charge for Champions Online patch content that sounded suspiciously like "sorely needed content that wasn't finished in time for retail launch" (September 2009). Yesterday, they reversed this decision.

As Syp points out that we've seen this kind of reversal of unpopular decisions in the past. The example that stands out in my mind was a pre-release interview in which EA suggested that Warhammer might be worthy of a monthly fee higher than $15. The market apparently wasn't prepared to tolerate a game that appeared so similar to WoW coming in at a higher monthly fee than WoW. Likewise, Cryptic seems to have learned that the market is not yet prepared to tolerate paying for missing content so soon after a game launch.

Though I get Syp's point about giving companies the benefit of the doubt as they try to change for the better, I don't see that much cause for celebration here. Imagine that you went to the movies and, 2/3 of the way through the film, the theater manager comes out and says that the ending of the film wasn't included in your ticket price. Is anyone really supposed to feel better about going back to that theater if they later decide that they are going to show the ending of the movie anyway because they care about their customers? Cryptic announced plans to charge more because it intended to charge more, and there should be no doubt that it will make the attempt again in the coming months.

More to the point, it appears that there is no reason for companies who are considering higher and/or additional fees NOT to engage in this sort of brinkmanship in the future. People who choose not to forgive Cryptic for even making the threat would not have paid the additional fees in any case. In short, we can expect many more of this type of incident until someone finally succeeds in moving market expectations to the point where they can get away with it.


  1. Boil that frog, eh?

    I'm not surprised by this, and I think your prediction is accurate. I also suspect it will have negative repercussions for the sale of lifetime subs, as if those weren't already in trouble thanks to Cryptic's efforts so far.

  2. Cryptic definitely seems intent on pushing the envelope in a number of ways. But that shouldn't be too surprising, MMOs are not charity organizations. They will erode the value of a $15 sub as much as the market will allow them to (or further monetize users...however you prefer to say it).

    What did surprise me is how bumbling their PR and CR efforts have been. They could have avoided a ton of community backlash since CO launched just by communicating better. For example, giant nerfs across the boards with 0 warning on launch day? Not the way to do things . . .

  3. Yet we know that it will get to that point (of charging for zones). Question is, will Champions have this AND a standard expansion model, or IS this their expansion model? Either way, it's too soon to be charging extra for it.

    @Tesh, I'd imagine more games could go with a lifetime sub over a F2P, doesn't mean you stop charging for added content. It means you charge by the content as opposed to by the month.

    @Yeebo, anyone who wasn't in BETA wouldn't of "felt" the nerfs. 2nd, people were complaining about the game being too easy before the nerfs. Currently the game has become stable, and I feel just powerful enough.

  4. @Pangora: A large proportion of the players on the ground on launch day likely were in open beta. Even if they only ticked off 20-40% of the playerbase on launch day, that's still too many.

    My point wasn't about whether the nerf was justified or not. I certainly agree that the current game plays quite well. My point was about how poorly Cryptic has managed player expectations. They have done a very poor job to date, let's hope this marks a turnaround.

  5. No one should be shocked at any of this, with Bill Roper in the mix, any atrocity is apparently possible.


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