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Allods Online: Going… Subscription!

Allods Online Gibberlings

My Gibberling from Allods Online Closed Beta.

So, apparently Allods Online is releasing a Russian subscription only server.  No cash shop, no pay to win, no ridiculous design choices to force you into paying inordinate amounts of money for basic features — just the game and a nice subscription.

You may remember that Allods was a game I spoke quite highly about for several months back in 2010.  I really fell in love with the Astral Ships, the Gibberlings, and honestly enjoyed the PvP and the world.  It was a quaint little themepark with some neat features.  I was all set to play until gPotato dropped their ridiculous cash shop on us without warning, and proceeded to flip the bird at their supporting community.  I’m still bitter.

Anyway, quite an odd turn of events that a notorious F2P game has decided to go 100% in the opposite direction (even if only on one server), emphasizing that players are all on equal footing.  I won’t hold my breath for this to be the start of any trend.  A server in Russia for a game not well-received in the West isn’t going to make waves, but I sure hope it does well.

I really do think we will see more games revert in the near future with a subscription offering. What do they have to lose that they already haven’t lost going free to play?  The end of the F2P era is coming.  Mark my words that it won’t last as long as the subscription reign.  Competing on price works for some industries, but not for MMOs.

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. [Read more…]

2012 in Review

Another year has come and gone.  As I reflect on a year of blogging, gaming, and industry events, I’m full of mixed emotions.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog in 2012

We had more traffic this year than ever before!  We started blogging in February 2007 meaning we’re almost six years old.  I’m extremely proud that last year we grew our daily readership by 53%.  That’s insane!  I can’t believe so many more people now visit us daily compared to the start of 2011.  We didn’t hype any major MMO releases, come up with any new phrases adopted by the industry, or receive any magical exclusives to drive traffic.   I think the biggest increases came from two blog posts that were done simply to help people:

Each of the above brought in hundreds of thousands of people.  Maybe this means we should go into tech support instead of musing about games all day?

I’m always fascinated by how I wrote during the year.  Some years I’m hyped up, others I’m negative.  Some years I feel full of ideas and inspired to share my thoughts on how games should be made, and others I just analyze what’s happening.  This year was really ‘matter of fact’.  I commented a lot on the state of things.  Although this isn’t my favorite style (I prefer sharing ideas I have for how games can be made) it was needed, and fit the events of 2012.

‘Sandbox vs. Themepark’ and ‘Old school vs. A New Trope’ were extremely hot topics that came up in some form every month.  I didn’t debate F2P as much as I did in 2011 because that topic took a back seat to analyzing why games are 3 monthers, or why MMOs die.   I think we really dug into what MMOs are doing to deserve their classification, and discovered together what makes them fail and succeed.  I’ve had a wonderful time learning from what you have to say in the comments.  Keep it up!

Check out more of my 2012 in review including my year-end thoughts on specific MMO’s after the break. [Read more…]

What justifies a subscription?

Shut up and take my moneyBuy to play is becoming more popular in the MMO space.  The Secret World adapted their business model today to be more in-line with something like Guild Wars, requiring expansion content to be purchased.  They’ve also kept their cash shop, and even allowed people to opt-into a sub to receive cash shop benefits — but not the content.

Guild Wars 2 uses a buy to play option, and will likely sell content like they did with the original; However, ArenaNet is still providing event content for the holidays free of charge and may continue to provide content updates for free.

World of Warcraft remains a subscription game, having no trouble at all topping the industry, along with several other titles still holding on to their ability to keep players paying for access.

Despite the proven and irrefutable success of the subscription model, the MMO landscape is changing and along with it expectations.  This leads into what I want to discuss today.

Ahm' Keepin' Me MoneyWhat justifies a subscription for you?  When are you willing to pay $15 a month for access to a game?  Do you require regular, free content updates?  Must the game meet a certain caliber of quality?  Personally, I look at it as a total package deal.  If what is being offered  is unavailable anywhere else, then I’ll gladly pay to get in.  If what I find when I get in is fun, well worth my time, and something I want to continue to do then I’ll continue to pay. I see subs as a way to reward a company for creating a game that keeps me wanting to play, and a way to show developers when they’re not.

I’m curious to hear what you would require from an MMO to justify paying a subscription.  I’m not asking which is better or wanting to debate their merits — I’m asking what is it about a MMO that keeps you paying a subscription or what would entice you to pay for one if you’re not.  I hope we can uncover some interesting points, shed some light on what is lacking in today’s games, and figure out what we want enough to pay money for in future MMO’s to come.

Planetside 2: What a MMOFPS Should Be

I’m finally getting around to giving you guys my thoughts on Planetside 2.  Aside from being extremely busy the past two weeks, I had an issue with Planetside.  Every single time I would play my computer would completely lock up after about 10-20 minutes. I finally identified the problem: STEAM.  Uninstalling from STEAM and reinstalling via SoE’s standalone client solved my crashing,a nd I am finally able to enjoy the game.

I want to touch on just a few points that I feel make Planetside 2 a game worth playing.

Exciting Combat

Tonight we were defending a research station close to Vanu’s WarpGate when suddenly the entire sky was filled with aircraft.  It was one of those mind-blowing moments that are so awesome they make you slam your hands onto the keyboard desperately trying to hit Print Screen.  Although it felt like hundreds of fighters, bombers, and galaxies, in reality it was likely closer to 40.  Still, 40 aircraft suddenly flying over is insane.

Those 40 aircraft proceeded to wipe out most of our defense, then a handful of galaxies deployed several dozen ground troops.  While I was watching the enemy rain from the sky down upon us, a Sunderer burst over a wall and smashed into position, deployed its spawn beacon, and proceeded to flood our base with dozens of more enemy soldiers.

The entire experience was glorious, horrifying, and exactly why I play Planetside 2.

More after the break. [Read more…]