Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Curious $10 Multi-Month Deal

I learned from the latest episode of the DCUO-Unlimited podcast that the game is currently offering a discount subscription plan that comes out to something like $30/month.  While it's possibly telling that I didn't hear about this promo for a week after it rolled out (it's supposedly good through the end of the month), this type of rate is now increasingly standard.

Back in 2007, LOTRO launched with $10 monthly pre-order pricing.  (The game has offered $30/3 month plans nigh continuously since then.)  In the last few years, we're seeing this type of deal more and more frequently, including on brand new releases - I don't remember what STO did, but Cryptic's CO launched with a $60/6 month package, and Trion is offering that price for Rift. 

On one hand, the buyer should beware of some of the lengthier commitments - despite what MMO marketing departments tell you, these rates can work out to significantly more than $10/month if you don't end up playing full-time for that entire half-year.  (My guess is that publishers approve these sales because they like their odds.)  On the other, this trend has now carried over to too many big budget, high priority titles from too many studios to be purely driven by cynicism that the product isn't actually worth full price.

My guess has always been that development costs have been going up, while prices and subscriber numbers for successful MMO's have hovered in about the same range.  That would suggest that studios are feeling pressure to make more money through their subscription fees, especially if they're not offering a cash shop to supplement their income.  Instead, they're seemingly lowering their prices.    Maybe even us cynics underestimate how likely the player is to lose in the long run when they sign up for a six month subscription, or maybe there's something else going on here. 

I suppose I should be worried - the old saying goes that if you can't figure out who the sucker in the deal is, it's probably you. 


  1. I suspect this is echoes of the Steam deep discount sales model where selling a lot more at 33% off gives you more money than selling many less at "full price". Basically, companies realize they can't compete dollar-for-dollar with WoW, so they are trying to go cheaper to tempt people to subscribe.

    My experience is that price differentiation doesn't work. Maybe the economy has people pinching pennies more, but when I ran M59 people said our $10.95/month sub (without multi-month commitment) was "almost the same price" as other games' $14.95/month. We'll see if people use different logic this time around.

  2. STO had lifetime and 12 month special offers at launch. I picked up the 12 month offer, it was $119.99 I believe.

    Looking at the times I have played it would have been better with shorter time periods; at least if I would have known for sure when I would be playing it and when I would not.

    If I am a bit so-and-so about a subscription-based game, I choose the 1 month offering. If I like it, I usually go for a 3 month period. And if I _really_ like it, I go for a longer period.

    Sometimes it pays off, sometimes now. But the actual price differences between those offerings are not a significant factor really for me. It is more of a vote of confidence for the game/company.

  3. I have to say that if Rift had offered a lifetime sub, comparable to Lord of the Rings, that I would have bought it in a heartbeat. But I'm not likely to commit to founder's pricing, as it is not going to lure me away from EQ2 as my primary game. /shrug It's hard to get pricing right!


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