My experience with Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games(MMORPGs) began very early on testing a game called Ragnarok Online. As a beta tester for the game it was free. I was there to offer feedback, point out bugs (which could be exploited!), and offer suggestions I feel would better the game. I had a great time! For the first time outside of the bug infested Battle.net realm I was able to play a game with multiple friends at the same time. We would group up, kill lots of stuff, and collect cigars! Damn Orcs. Once Ragnarok went live to the world as a Pay to Play game, I quit. I don’t recall the exact cost to continue playing, but at the time I found this outrageous and I know many others feel the same way. Why would I pay a fee to play a game after I already purchased it?
As time went on I quickly realized that Pay to Play was going to be the business model of all Western MMORPGs for a long time. I eventually succumbed to this monthly payment plan with the release of Star Wars Galaxies, then Final Fantasy XI, then World of Warcraft, then Lord of the Rings Online, and several others here and there for a few months at a time. Somewhere in there Guild Wars was released, and I think that opened a lot of people’s minds to a different type of business plan in the MMO market. In Guild Wars a player would buy the boxed game, and then owe nothing. Westerners started questioning why they were throwing $15 a month at a game they already “owned” once again.
Now, for the past couple years the Free to Play and micro-transaction model has been growing in popularity. Free to Play is nothing new to Eastern countries, especially Korea. Their business model is much different and in my eyes, much more desirable. The game is often free to download, and free to play, but certain things are unattainable without purchasing them through paypal or through their own online store buy converting $$$ to their arbitrary currency. The existence of these things are showcased in front of you, taunting you, and demanding a small micro-transaction. These things could be character slots, character customizations, in game items (often for aesthetic improvements), and items for convenience. These items often don’t give their barer any definitive advantages, but save them time, and give their avatar a more unique identity. Within these games the developer may still offer a subscription, so people get access to this stuff by paying to play.
Thank you Korea! I really enjoy this business model. I feel like I have more control over my entertainment, and maybe the control is an illusion, but in that case it’s a welcomed one. I now have the ability to play the game with no cost to me. If I WANT some of the extraneous stuff that’s offered, like a snail shell helmet or ass-less chaps, I can buy them for 1$ or whatever a piece. This business model has been working great for a lot of companies. So well in fact that other companies are implementing micro transactions into their subscription based MMOs. Even the Juggernaut WoW is planning to add micro-transactions.
A lot of Japanese based MMOs have a business model that falls somewhere in the middle. You buy hours of play time. If you’re not playing, you’re not paying. Works a lot like a trac phone or something.
I see a lot of MMO developers adopting the Eastern business model. It probably isn’t for everybody. People that can pour hours and hours a day into an MMO likely get more for their money with the pay to play model. Especially if they rush through, see everything, and then get out. I can’t do this. I put maybe 10 hours a week into an MMO in a good week. Paying the $50 for the game, and then another $15 for maybe 40 hours of play time, just doesn’t seem logical to me. I often enjoy the game at the beginning, with all the hype, and new players running around and learning the mechanics together. Getting a group is easy, because everyone is at the same level. I inevitably fall behind, and all my new friends are weeks ahead of me. I eventually just end up soloing. I’ll give this a week or so then I’m out. This could be why I enjoy the exploration of MMOs so much. I’m usually on my own, so I just run around and check shit out.
Anyways! That was a bit off topic! Free to Play games rock. I can play for free, but I have to option to buy extra stuff. Pay to play just isn’t for me. Unless you have a fair amount of time to dedicate to it, it’s not worth the money.