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TERA’s F2P Conversion Full of Misinformation

I’m going to rant for a few minutes.  I watched the video announcing that TERA is going free to play, and I heard Brian Knox (on behalf of En Masse Entertainment) make a statement that completely contradicts their situation and the reality of this industry.   Brian says that the reason TERA is going F2P is because the MMO industry has changed for the better.  Those two things are simply not true.

TERA is not going free to play because the MMO industry is changing.  TERA is going free to play because no one is playing, and they are not making enough money to pay their bills.  There is no reason to change things up, risk damaging the public’s perception of their product, all because the “mmo industry is changing.”  They’re going F2P because they don’t have another option to survive.

Stating that the MMO industry has changed for the better is asinine.  En Masse’s own product can’t stay above water and has to make a huge change to the game’s design philosophy in order to survive in this “better” landscape.  Instead of relying on a model designed to prosper when players are successfully enticed to keep playing, they change to a highly exploitative business model with  high burn and churn rates. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, not playing MMOs, or happen to be one of the few people who love what’s happening in the market, most games are having to do what TERA is doing, and that is usually followed by a ton of layoffs. But the industry has changed for the better, right?

Obviously they’re not going to speak poorly of their own product and they’re going to say how going F2P is only going to improve their game and not change it in any way.  Obviously they have to somehow make the best out of a situation where they change or die.  Just don’t believe for a second that they’re changing because things are going really well for them.  I can’t stand when devs spin a change to F2P in a way that misinforms people.  You can watch their ridiculous announcement trailer after the break.

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Comments

  1. Honestly, if they still can’t let people in Southeast Asia play TERA, forget them. :(

    I actually want to try this game out, but I’m region locked on all sides… annoying. :(

  2. Once enough of these mediocre games have flooded the market, and no one is making any money, maybe someone will once again design a game worth $15 a month. I only hope that they don’t misread the market and make their worthy game with the f2p model.

  3. @Jenks: We can only hope. It doesn’t take more than a basic understanding of economics and strategy to see how this course leads to disaster.

  4. Sorry Keen, try as you might subscriptions are a dieing breed. Especially considering as more and more console and first time gamers come into the market. Take a poll and ask your non MMO friends (or Graev do so since he is more of the console type of you two). Subscritions as a starting point for an MMO is a sure fire way to reduce your overall player population. This has been debated to know end and every official study shows it to be true. Ask guys like Jack Emmert and other industry big names and they will all say subscriptions are dieing.

  5. “Subscritions as a starting point for an MMO is a sure fire way to reduce your overall player population.”

    … Okay, but what does that have to do with the quality of a game?

    (Games go F2P because they’re failing, and as I think Keen wrote about the other day giant audiences and giant developer budgets are not the key to the future of MMOs.)

  6. @Zederok: McMMOs are a dying breed. Me-too MMOs are a dying breed. MMOs with giant publishers who do not really understand the market wants good games, not attempts to generate massive revenue, are a dying breed. You see, subscriptions are fine. Good MMOs are fine. Always have been, always will be. Competing on differentiation, not price, is the future.

    Show me one “official study” which proves otherwise. For now, I’ll go with what I see and experience first hand.

  7. Darkstryke says:

    I’ve said it more then once, any MMO-RPG making a F2P switch is a failure, and any MMO-RPG that has started as F2P hasn’t been worth playing in the first place (like Allods). This is basically why EQ3 is going to be stillborn, Smed will whore it out for every last penny, it’s going to suck because of that business model.

    F2P belongs in moba, FPS and other pickup and play genres, NOT in the MMO-RPG genre. It will eventually have to go back to its roots in terms of game design to be a hobby first and foremost.

    This is a big reason why I was so disappointed with what Pathfinder has decided to do, and won’t follow them any further. EVE is still the only example of what a sane alternative revenue model should look like (PLEX).

  8. FreeQuest says:

    I stopped playing Tera about a month after i got it you know why.

    Amonth after the game went live they canceled my subscription for no reason what so ever after I asked there support why they just kept sending me a canned responce saying to resubscribe and all will be well.

    But no I re-subbed and nothing happened my i was still unsubscribed it made me feel like i was at fault and its my problem in reality who ever handled the subscription payment option was at fault. So i cancelled it fully hoping never to hear from them again. Problem was i did genuinely love playing that game but I was forced off it.

    about 3 months later I get billed by there billing people for my non existent subscription i think to myself Weeee they finally sorted it out by themselves full of hope i try and log back into the game ( subscription still cancelled) :(

    So i contacted there billing department and asked them to remove my CC details and get a refund which they did.

    So beautiful game i loved to play and horrible billing experience made me vow never to try it again. and if it goes F2P not going to touch it either I don’t trust there billing enough for that.

    Hopefully this does not appear like a rant but just to describe my experience with TERA and why I will never touch it again.

  9. The problem is not the money of course. The huge problem for players is time management. I usually have 1 subscription active not because I cannot afford a second one or a third one and not because I feel another game does not worth my subscription, but because I do not have time to play more than one MMOs..So unless you make the Best MMO in the market to win the player subscription over the other MMOs, then you have a problem…

    So companies that go for F2P doesn’t mean their game is awfull but simple their game is not in the top 2-3(max) games…I usually play 2-3 MMOs per year and ussually I am subbed to the top(my opinion) MMO for 6-7 months and then I am subbed to the rest 2 for 2-3 months each. Even if the other MMOs are f2p I play them with a subscription.

    So Developers know this. They know that I will sub for 2 months per year to play the game and they decided that is better for them to let me login the rest 6-7 months to stay on touch with the game, rather than don’t allow me to do it and lose me as a customer..

  10. I looked at some gameplay footage of tera. I like the way the world is very colorful and maybe even the main characters.

    But what I wonder is.. how heavy of a grind is this game? Asian looking games have quite the reputation. (and from my experience of similar games that reputation is well earned.)

  11. F2P is fne. Subscriptions are fine. Tera isn’t.

    Good, really good, MMOs will do well under a variety of payment models. Mediocre and poor ones will struggle under any.

  12. @John: What you say about not being in the top 3, thus having to result to some alternative way of attracting players, is reasonable. The problem I have with that model is that F2P is still plan B. They still proved already that they weren’t -good enough-.

    I wrote a few days back how games shouldn’t need to huge blockbuster numbers to sustain themselves. Can TERA get 200,000 subs? 100,000? What’s the number they need, and why aren’t they getting it? There are enough people playing MMOs that a game good enough will attract them to play. This shouldn’t be a trickle-down industry where we all pile at one magical game at the top. We should be picking the game that offers what we want and no other game offers.

  13. I’m surprised no one has mentioned GW2. While it’s not my main game anymore there is the rare time I’ll log in and play around a little bit. That wouldn’t be possible if i had to maintain a sub which of course I wouldn’t do for a game I can’t even consider as my secondary game.

  14. GW2 isn’t F2P, though. It was designed from the very start as Buy-to-play (B2P). B2P as a business model is quite different from F2P.

    Free to play brings a design philosophy. I alluded to its burn and churn exploitative nature in the post. Even going hybrid while retaining any major reliance upon F2P will bring a design philosophy that hijacks and supersedes all else.

  15. Any daily look into a MMO forum site will show that my statements are true. Massively released an article today: TSW profits gone up 30% since it went F2P.

    Agai nvisit any non-MMO gaming site and ask around about why players dont play MMO’s and you always get the same response: Pay to play LOL. Elder Scrolls and Neverwinter are an example of loyal players of the single player franchise who think makign their games into an MMO is stupid and doesnt make sense and its almost always because of a subscription. Go read any of the blurbs on announcements in other gaming sites that discuss those games.

  16. @Zederok: There are several things wrong with what you’re saying. Actually, you make no sense at all.

    TSW was failing so it went some buy to play hybrid. Sales are up 30%, not profits. For all we know they’re still losing money. TSW ‘moved’ 70,000 units in 4 weeks giving them an increase of 30% (an increase over what period of time I do not know — but that’s important). Given they are still restructuring and closing doors after the 30% increase in sales, it seems they’re at least failing upward.

    Visiting non-MMO gaming sites to hear what irrelevant people have to think about a topic they know nothing about? No thanks.

    Making Non-MMO franchises into MMOs has nothing to do with this topic — at all.

    I’m still waiting for your official studies. Perhaps they will make a bit more sense.

  17. It all comes down to quality of the product. If core mechanics and themes don’t work right in an mmo it WILL fail, period. You can’t fire on half your cylinders and expect to keep your engine running. I can’t name a single mmo since WOW that fulfilled pretty much all aspects from the get go and kept going, can you? Every, and I mean every, mmo since has failed at some key aspect. A good 90% failed at one of the most basic concepts of the genre, good dungeon design/mechanics and an end game that was actually fleshed out from the launch. It’s failing at simple concepts like this that has plagued the mmo market the most in my opinion. And with every fail comes another FTP candidate for the pile. You wonder why games like EQ and WOW still exist? Because they are fully fleshed out games, what a concept right?

  18. Howdy Doody says:

    This kind of spin doesn’t really upset me at all. They probably really do feel like their game is fantastic. And with the FTP model there really isn’t any risk to try it.

    It will always come down to “Do you enjoy playing it?”. If this system attracts more folks then that’s perfectly fine in my eyes, because folks won’t play it if it sucks.

    The payment model has NEVER been an issue with me on whether I want to try/enjoy a game. It still all boils down to enjoyment. And all the talk of payment models does is allow shops to try different ways to advertise their game, and I don’t have any issue with that.

    It doesn’t matter how you spin it…

    game good == I’ll spend money
    game suxs != no cash for you!

  19. Howdy Doody says:

    Whahahah. I should have debugged my comment! LOL.

  20. @Howdy Doody & Sikk: This is definitely an issue of quality. If it’s worth the money — 10, 15, 20, 50 a month — people will play. There’s a reason why these games go free to play. They’re not good enough. 3 words: Not good enough. And I agree completely with Sikk’s statement that a game like WoW or EQ succeed because they are fully fleshed out games; I’ll take it a step further and say they are fully fleshed out -differentiated- games.

    @Howdy: Regarding no risk to try it, for sure. You’re absolutely right. But “trying it out” isn’t a sustainable model. No one is going to design their game to make it appeal only to those wanting to “try it out” or appeal to the “i’ll give it a try” market. They’re going to shoot for the people they can retain, or at least exploit enough money out of before they burn and churn.

  21. Games go F2P because they cant pull in any more customers because the vast majority of potential customers look at a subscription as a bad thing.

    In order to get new players you need to hook them in other ways. Watch the following video to understand what I mean, Jack Emmert can explain it a million times better then I can:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5QFqtpWO1s&feature=player_detailpage

  22. @Zederok: Your first sentence simply isn’t true. They go F2P because they can’t pull in any more customers because their game isn’t good enough, not because a subscription is a bad thing.

    I would think twice before using Jack Emmert as your source for anything. All of Cryptic’s MMOs are abysmal except for City of Heroes.

    There is -nothing- wrong with the subscription business model; the problem is the horrible games that try to succeed in that market.

  23. “The problem I have with that model is that F2P is still plan B.” is true as it stands for failing MMO’s.

    What does not follow is that quality MMO’s cannot be designed from inception based on B2P or F2P business models.

    Some of the disagreement may be due to people addressing these superficially similar different arguments.

    As I have stated previously the Asian F2P model is evolving to better suit a Western game play style. The previous emphasis on parasitic P2Win mechanics will eventually convert to a symbiotic P2Please model.

    GW2 is a great example of how a B2P cash shop can please Western mindsets, and represents a successful adaption from the virulent Allods cash shop model.

  24. I’m not sure that quility is allways the answer. There’s just so many MMOs now, it can be hard to compete. I played (and payed for) The secret world. I liked it, it was a good game, I played it for two month’s, which is pretty average for me, when its an MMO. Then I got bored, because there’s so many other games around. But i’m not sure that only bad/medicore games go FPS. I think its more a question that there’s so many games around

  25. I get so irritated when I hear people laughing at or bitching about a subscription based Game. At an average of $15 per month, please, do tell me, just where in the hell am I going to get that kind of possible bang for my buck with *any* other hobby other than perhaps jigsaw puzzles??

    Have you seen the cost of simply going to a movie these days? I could easily drop $80 for me, my better half, and my son for a few hours of a crap-shoot when it comes to being entertained with some shitty snacks at about a 500% increase over what I would pay for those same shitty snacks in a Wal-Mart.

    For the cost of an MMO subscription I can get hours and hours and hours of entertainment with friends from the comfort of my own home whenever I choose. That’s a damned good deal, but only if the game is worth it.

    TSW had a great concept and I’ve paid their subscription fee since the day I bought it. The only problem with it is that it is so far from being “multi-player” as far as grouping goes that it ended up feeling more like a single player game with some other random people wandering about.

    There needs to be more group-derived content and the game needs to force the issue of building a community and making friends by getting rid of the LFG tools in my opinion. But in doing so, it also needs to give the players some hefty guild control features and overall community rewards for achievements. Community is what will eventually draw people in and keep them there long after the shine has worn off of the content.

    But I digress. The Subscription model is only *dead* for teenagers blowing too much of their cash from their part-time jobs at McDonald’s, or for games that just aren’t worth a subscription fee due to piss poor content or implementation. Nobody who has a regular hobby that they truly enjoy balks at spending a paltry $15 per month to enjoy that hobby with the exception of MMO players it seems.

  26. “…teenagers blowing too much of their cash from their part-time jobs at McDonald’s”

    Ad hominem over-simplification only serves to detract from potentially valid arguments.

  27. RE: Price: There is irrefutable evidence that paying $15 / month is not the issue keeping games from being a success. $15 isn’t too much — a subscription isn’t asking too much — the games simply aren’t worth it.

  28. well let’s see…..some game does bad with a sub – goes subless and manages to do better and survive. years of labor and whoever its fanbase is, manage to be preserved. maybe the game makes proper use of the extra time granted.

    you have a very hard stand defending subs when retaining a sub kills a game and its community. a different person than yourself might say the sub is the real issue and that F2P is the answer. they would be equally right or equally wrong as you are.

    the payment model is not the primary concern about MMOs. I am surprised we’re still debating this. or well, you.

  29. “F2P is fne. Subscriptions are fine. Tera isn’t.

    Good, really good, MMOs will do well under a variety of payment models. Mediocre and poor ones will struggle under any.”

    (trust bhagpuss to point out the obvious.)

  30. Ad hominem – fair enough. It may detract from, but it does not invalidate, the overall point which still stands.

    If you cannot afford $15.00 per month for a hobby that you enjoy, then reason dictates that there is a good chance that the issue may not lie within the game, but instead lies with some personal financial inability or instability to pay for the game.

    If you will not afford $15.00 per month for a hobby that you enjoy, then reason dictates that it is because you don’t enjoy or find enough value in the hobby to validate paying even a nominal $15.00 monthly fee.

    I still state that an MMO, even with a monthly subscription fee, is one of the best entertainment values around as far as a gaming hobby goes.

    Over-simplification it isn’t.

    Either you enjoy the game enough to pay a small monthly stipend for it’s support, maintenance, and continued development or you don’t.

    I have yet to witness someone having a fantastic time for as long as their schedule permitted them to within a 30 day period, and at the end that month, complain about paying $15.00 for said great time.

    I have however, witnessed people who do not have a great time regardless of the length of time spent, complain about the cost no matter how small.

    F2P is not “the next great thing”. It is the death rattle of a poorly executed MMO.

  31. @Syl: Retaining a sub does not kill a game. The sub is not the cause. Not being good enough kills a game when your value proposition is upside down. The comments made in the video are wrong to the point of deception. TERA is not changing because the industry has changed for the better — they’re changing because they’ll shut down if they don’t.

    Think really, really, really hard about Causation vs. Correlation.

    The one area where you are correct is that the payment model is not the primary concern for MMOs… yet funny enough whenever an issue arises **SHOCKER!** the issue they try to focus on -IS- the payment model! That’s what this entire post is about: Deflection!

    TERA isn’t good enough for a subscription. That’s the bottom line. So they’re trying a model that will be much more exploitable.

    @Amber: I agree.

  32. @Keen

    I know the difference between causation and correlation. there happen to be some very enjoyable F2P games out there in the world, so what I’m saying is (not particularly to you but many commenters) stop focusing on what it’s not about. I read nonsense along the lines of ‘its f2p and therefore must be bad’ or ‘subs have better communities’ all the time and then I go and attend some utterly awesome player created event in LOTRO.

    not only is the F2P spitting inane, it is basically saying whoever is playing and enjoying F2Ps must be clueless or worse. it’s also condemning niche and indie titles that are simply not developed with subs in mind or big audiences. F2P can save a game – and it allows for a variety we otherwise may never see. because as another commenter already pointed out here, the mutual exclusivity of the market is of such nature that players will only ever pay for the ‘top 1-3′ games (that they consider such) anyway. do you really only want 2-3 MMOs to choose from? ….

    “The sub is not the cause.”
    exactly. neither is F2P a cause. I know you didn’t precisely say this, but am pointing it out, anyway. TERA is going downwards because TERA is frankly not a great MMO and doesn’t meet western tastes. that’s all. the fact that they try their luck with F2P now because it worked for some others – who cares? if a much smaller community of fans can keep playing the game, I’m all for it. I don’t want MMOs to die just because they can’t win the sub race against companies like Blizzard.

  33. I have nothing against F2P “saving” a game (although that glorifies the transition). I take issue when people blame a subscription for the failure when it is entirely the game’s fault. Instead of improving the game, they go F2P. Then instead of owning up to their issues, they blame subscriptions and say F2P is this new direction that the industry is moving because it is “better”. So who is focusing on payment model? If you said the companies blaming subs you’re correct.

    This entire post is not about F2P being bad, or subscriptions being better. Don’t strawman (or Aunt sally) me. I wouldn’t have even made this blog post if they kept their mouths shut and simply made the transition. They made some claims, however, which are simply false. I have no desire to bash on games. I’ll do my best to shred anyone thinking for a second that they can blame their failure on a payment model when it is entirely a design issue.

    There’s also no such thing as a sub race. That mentality is one of the biggest fallacies leading our industry to its destruction.

  34. It is a race mentality that got the industry to a state where they thought a game must cost up to 100mio and then win 10mio subs. WoW did it and since then the copy-mania has cost a great many people a lot of money and disappointment. if we went back to a time where it’s okay for games to be ‘small but fun’ again and be feasible at 100k subs for example, then I agree with you. but right now there’s only one extreme – and then free-to-play

    anyway, I am not trying to erm sally you. I have no disagreement with your last comment. I disagree however that F2P are somehow indicative of ‘death rattles’ in general. besides that it’s easy to glorify the olden days when today’s market reality is so completely different. you may say it’s not a race – but in a time when players can choose between 10-15 MMOs or a time where it was 2-3, well…with choice and experience comes an increased critical eye. and being overly satisfied with repeating concepts. how much ‘better’ were the old, mystified games really and how much was us?

  35. Darkstryke says:

    Again… The sub cost is not the problem, as Keen has said numerous times.

    The problem is studios and publishers expecting 1-2, 3+ million subscribers when their game flat out sucks. Why are there so many sub failures the last few years? They’ve all been developed as WoW clones, killers etc, but they’ve all been mediocre at it.

    Why would someone play a crappy wanna-be, when they could just play WoW (and by the way, millions still do, paying up to $15 a month.)?

    This argument just goes in circles with the same people missing the point entirely. F2P is an excuse to publish MMO-RPG mediocrity, more then not done as a last desperate chance to cash out before your game turns into a ghost town.

  36. swarmofseals says:

    I really hate to be a jerk, but I, uhh, die a little inside when people spell “dying” as “dieing.”

  37. @Swarmofseals: Are you dieing a little inside every time you see it?

  38. “RE: Price: There is irrefutable evidence that paying $15 / month is not the issue keeping games from being a success. $15 isn’t too much — a subscription isn’t asking too much — the games simply aren’t worth it.”

    Agree and disagree.

    I agree that $15 a month to play an mmo is not an issue, where I disagree is with paying $15 each to play 5-6 MMO’s. I like, TSW, Tera, GW2, SWTOR, WoW, Rift, AOC and LOTRO all to an extent but not enough to pay $15 a month for all of them at once. So I pick one or two that I am going to play and rotate through them. By games going F2P it is a win for them and a win for me, I can log in a few times a month and enjoy the game and they get more people playing there game in general and the opportunity is there for me to spend $5 or so in the cash shop. So I think the monthly sub fee is absolutely a barrier if people are interested in playing multiple games at a time.

  39. Gentle Nova says:

    Keen & Amber: I agree with your perspectives and follow up rebuttals.

    Changing to F2P will not save a dying game. You’ll just get a small boost over the short term and once people see the systematic issues with the game, they’ll leave like the people before them. Why? Because the quality of the game experience is the determining factor and not the money, as people value their time more and are willing to pay for a game that gives them an enjoyable experience over a game that is cheap but sucks.

    In terms of the video, I thought it was ok but companies seriously need to start being more authentic and honest. They sunk a huge amount of time and money into the game and didn’t want to shut it down, so they had to look at alternatives. Based upon what they indicated about the F2P changes, it’s nice to hear that the store will be tied to vanity items only (at least so they say now). What was left hanging in the air though, was as I mentioned above. The experience of the game was obviously was why people left, yet it sounds like they haven’t changed the mechanics or functionality of it, other than to make adjustments for the cash shop. Again why will people stick around and invest money if the gameplay experience hasn’t been changed? This is isn’t rocket science, yet so many of these developers can’t seem to see the obvious.

  40. Gentle Nova says:

    Imem: You said you like them “all to an extent but not enough to pay $15 a month”. That’s the whole issue here, developers aren’t making the quality of games good enough to warrant someone sinking all their time into one game. Which is why people like Keen and yourself expensively hop around from game to game to try to find that one that does have a level of quality and staying power to it that does make you want to spend all your time in it and it alone.

    People aren’t being engaged by their individual game experiences, so they instead resort to slumming from game to game to cumulatively try to get a decent experience collectively from all of them. Again this only emphasizes the sad state of affairs in the MMO gaming industry. Everything has great surface style and flash but no deep quality and staying power.

  41. @Imem: It’s no different than any other product. I can’t own one of every new cell phone. Heck, I can’t even afford to buy every video game that releases. I have to weight out the option, pick the ones that look the best. In the case of more costly goods I have to pick the single one that I want. Consider MMOs in a relative light. You may want to play them all, but if you can afford one then choose the best.

  42. titegtnodI says:

    The MMO Industry is changing which is why they’re hemorrhaging money, which is why they’re switching … The writer is a complete idiot … It’s not an excuse it’s a fact, less and less people will pay to play. WoW is one of the few left standing.

    They say it’s for the better because this allows people who would normally spend less money, to play enjoyable games like Tera. This new f2p model allows for more players to play, some will spend less money, some will spend more. Financially speaking, they make more money …

    You’re not just ranting, you’re mindlessly bashing a concept you don’t understand …

  43. Dreadnaught says:

    I own the game and also still have an active subscription. I just got my second character an archer to lvl60 and just did the crossing the streams story quest. You used to get a shadow steed (black horse, speed 280) as part of the reward but it has been removed. Why would they give you a good mount for a story quest when they can revamp it with flames whatever coming out of it arse and sell it in their cash shop?

    f2p my arse. >.<