LotRO going Free-to-Play: Turbine should be ashamed!

A massive blow was dealt to fans of MMORPG’s today as Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online will be going Free to Play.  This is terrible news for not only fans of the game but for those fighting hard against the insidious microtransaction disease plaguing this industry.  Lord of the Rings Online was one of my favorite AAA titles of the past decade and always remained a blemish of regret on my record as a game that I wish I had never quit, but did so reluctantly after playing long enough to see all of the content.  That is enormous praise coming from me and a problem that more games can only wish to obtain.

LotRO is now destroyed by an illogical act and remarkable ignorance.  To take a game that has lasted this long, with numerous expansions, no server merges, top notch story and content, and essentially throw it into the fires of mount doom is unfathomable.

Let’s make a short list of some of the heinous acts Turbine is about to engage in:

  • Selling PREMIUM CONTENT (ie: quest packs and more)
  • Selling “Items”
  • Actually selling the right to 30 days of customer service (#’s 10 and 11 in the FAQ)
  • Selling Monster Play as a VIP Premium Feature

What a terrible mistake that you should be downright ashamed to be associated with, Turbine.  I really feel for the players who actually stuck with the game the whole time — players that I used to envy — because your game has now been turned upside down on you.  I also feel for those of you who ardently defended your LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION and are now being reduced to a monthly stipend of Turbine Points.

LotRO had one of the tightest communities we’ve seen post-SWG/EQ era, especially on servers like Landroval.  Your communities will now be inundated with the free-to-play crowd which will infiltrate and destroy you from within.  I hope this destroys the game so that Turbine, and the rest of the industry, learn a lesson that should never have been necessary.  Find yourselves a new game, LotRO fans and community.  Find one that deserves you because you really are a good lot.

It’s scary to think that one of the stronger AAA subscription models could fall victim to the F2P model.  Greed is a powerful tool among weak minded executives who know nothing about gaming or the cultivation of a successful MMO; ironically something that would make them richer if only they understood it.  Was it Warner Brothers’ doing? I don’t believe so.  I think it was in response to the DDO garbage showing them an immediate increase in revenue.  Turbine CEO Jim Crowley is making some lame excuse about how players want “quality entertainment” they can experience at their own pace, but I call bs on that one.  This has nothing to do with the true fans of MMORPG’s or of your game, Jim.

Don’t give in to this attack on our hobby.  If you’re a fan of how MMORPG’s have been for over a decade — the real MMORPG’s and not the Farmville generation — then fight back and turn your backs on them and share your disgust.  It certainly won’t stop them from taking the path of least resistance to a bigger pay check, but it will encourage those with a true passion for designing games that the REAL PLAYERS want to continue pressing forward.

  • Please tell me this post is a joke. There is no way this isn’t satire.

    I am extremely excited for this. I always lived Lotro but just never enough to stay subscribed. I plan on trying to make a weekly adventuring group with friends to play through the game at a nice slow pace.

  • wait. hasn’t turbine been selling that stuff all along? just in the form of a monthly sub?

    and holy crap this was funny: “Your communities will now be inundated with the free-to-play crowd which will infiltrate and destroy you from within.”

    i’m with the first comment. this has to be satire.


  • I dont think its necessarily bad, but I dont play LOTRO. This gives me more incentive to play, but I still may not.

    The premium classes are no different than now. You only get them if you buy Mines of Moria, same as before. Hardly something to get upset about.

    The non VIP tiers are lower access than currently available. VIP is jsut like current subs. I dont really see the problem other than the influx of F2P people. This may or may not be as bad as you make it sound. Pay to play people seem just as retarded imo.

  • Not at all satire. Ignorance is bliss. Watch how it changes the direction of the game. Compare and contrast the quality of DDO to LotRO and the way in which they are designed and run. If you can’t tell the difference, then you’re not the audience I am addressing.

    To the crowd that says this is “just how it is now”, you’re not looking at the big picture. You’re looking at these changes on paper. Look at how the application will change the game and the doors it opens for the future to a very different kind of game than the one players have enjoyed for years.

  • Nah its not a joke. Keen is still feeling the burn from that whole Allod’s debacle a few months ago I think. =)

    Turbine has shown they can handle the F2P model correctly with DDO, a game that was on the brink of death before they took the gamble in making it F2P. I’m also pretty sure Turbine is not nearly as evil and prone to price-gouging as Allod’s dev was. They should be able to go the route of having an outstanding product with optional F2P products that enhance their game and not down the path of supporting a merely ‘ok’ game that squeezes you into spending cash to progress.

    Personally I’ve always wanted to play Lotor but couldn’t justify subbing to it and WoW at the same time. I’ve tried the free trial a few times and enjoyed myself, its a good back-up game for when you want a change of pace. I’m hardly alone in this scenario so I fully expect Lotor to experience a lot of success this fall.

  • Ok so i read “hey morons, we have made our money now with LOTRO, and to be honest, we cant be bothered to finish it. So we have moved all our development teams and staff on to Harry Potter online!!. LOTRO will now charge you for things you would expect for free anyway, and all you mongs/children/gold farmers will be happy to know that you can now jump in to our free game and ruin the community for anyone silly enough to hang around!! But wait, thats not all! Stand by for announcements on our Harry Potter Online lifetime subscription deals, so you wont ever have to pay to play Harry Potter online when it launches next fall!!”

  • Wow. This is not the kind of post I’ve come to expect here. Unless you’ve suddenly invented the infallible crystal ball, you can’t say for certain anything that will happen.

    I agree that this sudden announcement has stirred some very strong feelings in the MMO community, myself included. But this is the kind of kneejerk doom-and-gloom post I expect on some forum, not here. Sorry.

  • DDO is much better now that it is free to play. There is a wrong way to do free to play but Turbine did it RIGHT. I’m glad to see that they are extending this to LotRO, and I hope other MMOs start to emulate the VIP F2P model.

  • Refusing to migrate with industry trends is a company-killing decision. While everything might have looked hunky-dory from an outsiders view Keen, it’s obvious there are business objectives that will be significantly impacted by this. Turbine are now on the cutting edge of where the industry has been heading for a LONG time, and players who insist that it’s damning and ruining their experience will just be left behind.

    You’re shouting to a tiny little niche of hardcore MMO players. I’m glad to see that your readers have a lot more sense than I thought they would. ^_^ I’m also glad to see that the MMO gaming industry is innovating and starting to see the light, bringing more and more people in to experience the wonder that is expansive large-scale online games. An industry is not made out of solely folks like you, who refuse to accept change as trends encourage businesses to seek new revenue opportunities.

  • Yes, this doesn’t look that bad to me. If you subscribe, you still have access to the same things as you did before. The game was getting kind of stagnant, so hopefully an injection of new players and revenue will breathe some life into it.

  • Ok so attempting to appeal to a wider audience is going to destroy the game, that’s an incredibly narrow-minded view. The times are changing, if this is a success, which I fully expect it will be, WOW will be the last subscription only MMO! How about that for doom-mongering. 🙂

  • Using DDO as a basis to formulate an pro-LOTRO-F2P model doesn’t make any sense. DDO was a TERRIBLE MMO when it first launched. That’s why they took it down! It was then brought back in a form that could make them money. LOTRO, on the other hand, has been successful and a fantastic example of how to make a good AAA game subscription game that lasts in a post-WoW era.

    Bad to better does not justify taking Lotro from good to bad.

    @Bri: This is exactly the type of post you should expect here. I have grown increasingly weary of F2P games. I have always hated them up until Allods, where I let my guard down and got stabbed in the face. Now my hated runs unmeasurably deep for how these games are becoming popular not by the REAL MMO players but by the farmville and “5 minute MMO” generation.

    @Lars: Again, DDO was a stinker that they revived with a F2P model. Personally, I still don’t like DDO. To take LOTRO that direction makes no sense since it stood up just fine.

    @The people who say “Now I can try Lotro!”: Yeah, you can. Congrats. You get to play the game for a couple days now before you stop. Cool beans. But a good MMO had to be destroyed for you to get your 15 minutes in.

  • And wait, really? “Fires of mount doom?” “INFILTRATE AND DESTROY YOU FROM WITHIN!?”

    Do you really take the game that seriously? That is goddamn hilarious!

  • @Cuppy: Definitions of metaphor on the Web:

    * a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity

    * A metaphor is a figure of speech concisely expressed by comparing two things, saying that one is the other. …

    I like how the same crowd shows up every so often with the usual “OMG Keen you’re so over reacting” yada yada stuff like you’ve all done with games like Age of Conan and Champions Online. Just make sure you come back this time when I’m right instead of disappearing for a six months. I may not always be right when I get excited about something like a new game (eternal optimism is a problem of mine when it comes to certain things) but I can’t find anything in the history of my written opinion where I’ve been wrong about something like this.

    Making a game like this free to play is the end of said game.

  • I strongly disagree here. LotrO going F2P will not affect the game at all, since it’s using the same model as DDO.

    Players are still able to sub and have access to 100% of the content. Players who do not sub will be able to buy items, zones, etc seperatly. This is very good for Casuals.

    But in no way, shape or form, is this going to alternate how LotrO plays nor it’s quality as a AAA MMORPG. It simply makes the game more accessible, the lower levels will be much more crowded too. That’s all there is to it.

    The main issue that players should have with this change is how the community will be affected as far as maturity goes. But if the major part of the community is mature and strict rules are enforced in the Character Name Policy, there shouldn’t be any issues.

    I think you are taking this completly out of proportion, and using 1 single bad experience with the F2P market (Allods) and put every other game in the same basket. That’s not good.

  • @Irenor: So you think DDO and LotRO are already alike? You just said you think it won’t change the game at all because it’s going to be just like DDO. The two games are not alike at all. And it’s not one bad experience with F2P games. Allods was a great experience from a gameplay perspective — it’s the lies about the F2P part not infiltrating the gameplay (which it DID) that turned me off and burned me to the idea that perhaps finally a F2P model could work. It just can’t owrk.

    F2P will change LotRO. If you like F2P then you’re not the audience I’m speaking to.

    – Because I got it for free… or wait, I paid for it by buying the expansion.

    * Selling PREMIUM CONTENT (ie: quest packs and more)
    – Again: Got it by buying the expansion.

    * Selling “Items”
    – As long as we don’t know which items they’re going to sell, this is also something I’m wary about. Although they did say that it won’t be armor and weapons!

    * Actually selling the right to 30 days of customer service (#’s 10 and 11 in the FAQ)
    – Once again: Do I get it for free now? I don’t think so…

    * Selling Monster Play as a VIP Premium Feature
    – And once more: Do I get it for free now?

    So, in other words, they’re offering some things for free. Others will stay the same (that is, you have to pay for it in a monthly fee). Plus 2 extra character slots (for those with the Adventurer’s Pack and Mines or Moria) but if I’m correct, you can already create one of each class. So it’s really a bonus more than anything else.

    I’m not really concerned about it right now. As long as they don’t make it so you can actually buy “power” and a stronger character with real money, it’s fine with me. I have a lifetime subscription anyway. So instead of “not having to pay a monthly fee”, I’ll also get 500 points every month for spending on stuff in the store (like an extra character slot) or saving those points for when they release an expansion as those will be sold through their store, as well. In other words, depending on how many points they want for the expansion, I’d get that for free as a lifetime subscriber… while I certainly did have to pay for Siege of Mirkwood (plus the Adventurer’s pack. Codemasters didn’t give us both for the price of one, unfortunately).

  • Is this fallout from Warner Bros. acquiring Turbine?

    I have a lifetime sub to LotRO, altho have not been active recently due to time constraints and having more friends active in WoW. LotRO always seemed to have the best community … I’m apprehensive that now when folks on the RP servers gather to play some music and enjoy themselves that the griefers will be out in force disrupting the activities. 🙁

  • @Alamia: And now they get to introduce those things on top of expansions. You get these things right now for a subscription. Granted, you’ll be given a monthly stipend that does not carry over month to month to spend on things if you continue to be a “VIP”. However, now they can introduce a new class for $15 or a new race for $15. They can start adding content for money. Yes, on paper it’s the same. I’ve already addressed that. Look at the application of this model and how it changes the game.

    I know I’m not the only one out there who sees it this way, nor do I consider myself able to see the future. I’m able to see the past. I’m able to see right here, right now, the difference between a microtransaction game and a subscription game.

  • “I know I’m not the only one out there who sees it this way.”

    But you’re the only one in your own comment section. Obviously you’re in a minority. I’ve had a LOTRO sub for about 2 years, but haven’t played much in the last 3 months. Most of the problem is that any zone under 50th level is completely barren. I’ve played for hours during primetime when there were fewer than 10 players in the Trollshaws. Before they revamped the Epic quests to make them soloable I had completely given up on finishing them.

    If F2P doubles the number of players, it’s already a huge win.

  • Even $10 was previously a barrier to entry to me, but with a free to play model? I’m so totally in. I got a good month out of DDO once it went F2P and enjoyed it a good bit, and Turbine has proven that they can do this stuff well.

    It’s understandable that people like Keen are attracted to the pure subscription model, as those who play more have a better value proposition in a flat-rate system. But you have to consider the other side of that particular coin, where the casual player – who pays exactly as much as the super hardcore player – gets much less play time for the same investment. He essentially subsidizes the guys who play 8 hours a day.

    With F2P, that issue goes away, since everybody pays as much as they want to. This opens the floodgates for thousands (if not millions) of players to start paying something, who would have been paying exactly nothing before due to the pricing barrier.

    It’s a great time to be a gamer. Turbine’s stuff is quality, and the bar has been raised. As competition in the F2P space heats up, things will just get better for the consumer.

  • I agree with Keen and I am worried the game will be flooded with trolls that will turn general chat into “LOTRO vs. WOW”. Not even Rivendell will be safe from the murloc joke.

  • @sidereal: I’m aware that I am the vocal minority. I’m also aware that Free-to-play = more players. However, I stand firm in my belief that a Free-to-play game differs from a subscription game. I also stand firm that it -will- change LotRO from the game it was to the style of F2P games. If you like them, then fine; you win. If you do not like them (like me) then I strongly feel there is something to shout about.

    Additionally, aside from the above, I feel that free to play games in general are inferior. I have yet to find one that matches the subscription model in quality. Opinion? Yes.

    I’m speaking perhaps to the veterans out there who played the 1994-2003 era (or earlier) and recognize a major shift. I’m prepared to fight a losing battle because I strongly believe in developers making games that are better games, not better bottom lines.

    @JeremyT: I can see your point — it’s not lost on me. I want you to see mine though. You played DDO for a month. This goes back to what I’m saying. LOTRO will no longer be the same game but will become one that attracts a LOT more people — people who play for a month and people who may stay longer — but it’s going to be changed in order to accommodate those 1 monthers. That’s a change not worth making in terms of quality.

    $10 a month for a subscription to LotRO is going to end up being cheaper than the microtransactions though. The core who stayed and will stay with the game are losing on this one.

  • Keen, people don’t want to see your point because your points are the ramblings of a drama queen. Seriously reread your post. This move is a great move. Worked well for DDO, will work well for LOTRO.

    Besides, you want to know what Turbine’s #1 mistake was? Lifetime subscriptions. I’m pretty sure a big motivator for this was the # of people who did lifetime subs, which drained Turbine of income they could be making now.

  • DDO was not terrible at launch, I played it from beta and forward for about 2 years. I always thought DDO has the best PvE content (level design, puzzles, etc …) than any MMO I’ve played. This is all a matter of taste, but getting more people plugged into the game by lowering the barrier of entry is just good business. I’m happy that DDO is enjoying all the new attention lately.

    This news about LoTR is forward thinking in motion. I think you’ve got an Allod’s flavored gPotato in your soup and it’s altered your taste of F2P titles.

  • LOL! Someone got burnt by a crappy F2P game!

    But seriously, I do not think this will make the experience worse for subscribing users. Subscribers will have everything they used to have, plus access to buy extra unnecessary crap through a cash shop with cash shop credits alloted monthly. I can think of at least two elephant-sized MMOs right now with a subscription+cash shop model that are not F2P, but noone says it will RUIN the game, or THE DEVS SHOULD BE ASHAMED!$(*&@! etc (EQ2, WoW).

    Saying DDO’s F2P success can’t be emulated in LOTRO because it is already successful is pretty ridiculous. DDO’s VIP pass is literally all you need if you like paying a flat fee monthly, and this should be about the same. If anything, this will make them more money, boost population, and continue to provide subscribing users with the full experience. Sure, a point could be made about attracting a “less mature F2P audience”, but I don’t think the community on DDO is suffering at all, or immature.

    If you say you are only talking to our P2P players, then they will be more than happy to pay for VIP to play this game, which makes a lot of the points you tried to knock Turbine on moot. Here’s what it looks like from a P2P/VIP perspective:

    So far, this only includes classes from the expansion packs. If you have the expansions, you have these already. VIP would have these anyway.

    •Selling PREMIUM CONTENT (ie: quest packs and more)
    VIP has all content.

    •Selling “Items”
    None of this crap is necessary to play, or even play well, and 500 points a month is more than enough to expand bank space, or buy xp pots or whatever.

    •Actually selling the right to 30 days of customer service (#’s 10 and 11 in the FAQ)
    VIP’s have this included, this point is moot.

    •Selling Monster Play as a VIP Premium Feature
    This was addressed on their forums as implemented this way in order to limit overcrowding of the creep side in the moors. I am not really fond of this, but their explanation may make sense as creeps outnumber freeps already. VIP will have this, so it doesn’t matter to a VIP.

    So, where is the downside for your P2P player other than a possible dip in community quality?

  • Keen, I’ve been playing both P2Ps and F2Ps for so many years already…..I know how the F2Ps work.

    Your experience with Allods is something else. Despite all the posts regarding how bad the Cash Shop was, you kept playing until it hit you, it’s not like you didn’t get “warned”, especially with the whole controversy surrounding it when the Cash Shop first launched during Beta. Most F2P games does not require you to buy your way to the top, nor pay to reach the end-game. They usually ease the progression but that’s it. Hell,games like Allods are a minority.

    Here, let me give you an exemple of F2P MMO, perhaps you could try it out, who knows. Dungeon Fighter Online. You don’t need to buy your way to the top in both PvE or PvP. That said Avatars do offer bonuses and affect the gameplay a little but these items can be traded with other players through in-game currency. As such, even non Cash Shop users can gain access to such items. And since DFO is skill-based, it’s possible for a level 15 to defeat a level 50 so….yep. This is just an exemple.

    Back to LotrO. What the cash shop will offer is the same thing a Sub offers. Except that rather than paying Monthly Subs, users can buy these items or options seperatly. This does NOT affect the gameplay at all. Cash Shop users will not have any bonuses or anything. So again, the Cash Shop will NOT change LotrO, the community will.

    Finally, what’s wrong with liking F2Ps? And since you are indeed talking about F2Ps and LotrO (an MMO that I used to play), I do believe I am part of the audience you’re speaking to. Unless the audience “MUST” hate F2Ps, but that’s a little ridiculous, considering how small your experience with F2Ps are.

  • I agree with Keen. DDO is a different game with a different culture: you cannot make it a one-size fits all example that will fit all games. It also was given a pass because people realized it was either this or the game dies. Heck, most people argued that F2P made it more attractive because it was such a bad game that it wasn’t worth a full sub fee.

    I don’t really see why the need to do so for LOTRO. It’s a minefield in any game: what if they sell consumables to “fix” radiance requirements? What if the f2p swell in population leads to a resurgence of RMT and shout/whisper/spam bots, or mucks up the economy? It’s just a lot of risk for no real reason imo.

    If you have to because the game is unprofitable i understand, although I wonder how many people will convert to subs. This just seems to me to be a cash run.

  • Other than the potential hosing of the lifetime membership buyers, I can’t seee the outrage here.

    Is Turbine not to be allowed to run the business to make money?

  • As if anybody escapes the WoW comparisons these days, especially with all the free trials that are around.

    I understand the concern, but I think JeremyT hits it on the mark. I’ve played tons of microtransaction games and several subscription ones. Most microtransaction games are indeed like Allods, where you have to fork over the money regularly just in order to play successfully at all, and the money equates to or goes above the regular subscription cost and is for a one use item, or at best it’s an item that lasts 30 days. This new system for LOTRO has me interested (though I agree with your concern over the customer service point)because I’ll be able to play as I like doing content as I like. If I want to pay to get a class (one of the classes that didn’t come with the original game anyways) I can drop the cash and have that class permanently and it’ll cost me 20$ to have that class and the basic game and I won’t have to pay a single dime more if I don’t want to, since I jump around from game to game very often, this is a good thing for me. Even if I pay more than a monthly fee for a few months I won’t feel cheated if I don’t play so many hours a day every week, and when I want to I can come back, not have to pay a dime more, and have access to everything I bought from the game store. I won’t lose the ability to access what I’ve paid for because I’ve stopped dropping 15$ a month.

    As far as the community concerns, that could happen to be disintegrated, but it could also attract mature players who simply did not want to take a gamble on yet another subscription based MMO.

    Keen, as much as you praise the subscription based model, from what I’ve read of your blog, most modern mmo’s that have a subscription based model do little to impress you. Heck, before the Allods Game Shop stupidity you were impressed by the core content of the game. Around the MMO community people are feeling cheated by subscription based MMO’s, and there are people like myself who sometimes feel “It’s a good game, but will I play it enough to warrant subscribing?” I suspect, assuming they don’t screw up horribly, that LotRO will continue turbine’s success with the F2P model.

    LotRO and DDO are not the same games, but in my times playing LotRO’s trial the world was clearly pretty and well crafted but it also felt desolate and empty because there were hardly any players in the starting areas. MMO’s are social games, and if LotRO cannot keep the lowbie areas busy, there won’t be many new subscriptions. And like with DDO, turbine will still develop content for the game, much of it will be for a fee yes, but it will guarantee continued content growth and if it isn’t worth it people won’t buy it and turbine won’t make the profit they’re trying to get.

    In the end we’ll have to wait and see the final outcome I guess, but I’m optimistic on what this’ll do for LotRO and the MMO industry in general.

  • @sgamer: “So, where is the downside for your P2P player other than a possible dip in community quality?”
    I think that’s a little more than a “other than”. That’s a big one for me. Still, I’ll bite and echo what I already said about the game having to change too much from something that 100% worked to fit this model. There -will- be something lost in translation and it’s going to be that ‘something’ that kept the game afloat. Think about it… it’s one of the few that have launched and remained successful post-WoW in their original form.

  • it’s just a philosophical difference about what an mmorpg should be. it’s fine that the difference exists, but it sucks to be on the losing side of it. and we are on the losing side.

    it’s the citizen vs consumer concept. the citizen wants a world to live in, to contribute to, to work in, build relationships, to mirror life. the consumer wants a game to play, whenever they want for however long or short they choose. it’s not like one is more “right” than the other but they have yet to feasibly coexist in the same game.

    the f2p model obviously is for the consumer. that’s fine. the frustration sets in, however, as the citizen runs out of options.

  • I dunno, this post is classic “knee-jerk” reaction. The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world! …and yet there’s absolutely -zero- evidence of any of this happening.

    Seriously show me which A-class MMO turned F2P and became all this evil that you’re describing up there. Come on.

    I understand Allods burned you, but LOTRO was not designed from the get-go to be F2P , so just the game AS IT IS offers amazing value for gamers.

    PS: Don’t forget who bought Turbine recently*….it’s not like they don’t have cash…they CAN do this and pull it off.

    *Warner Brothers for those that forgot…

  • Show me a F2P that has been AAA quality then. Again, that’s a challenge I have issued twice now over the years and no one has ever been able to deliver on it.

    The point? Dblade stated already. DDO is a different game with a different culture. LotRO worked. LotRO is now being changed to fit this different culture. This change will be significant enough to bring it in line with other F2P games. Turbine will do what all other F2P game companies have, and that’s create a game that is profitable to the consumer (as filch worded so eloquently).

  • I don’t want to say too much on the specifics of this whole issue or state my personal opinions considering I, too, was burned by Allods (but the Allods community page led me to find this blog), but there is a point of debate I want to address, and a question I want to ask:

    Question: Keen, you say, “Look at the application of this model and how it changes the game.” But you never blatantly give your opinion on what that is, exactly. That feels like saying, “If you think about it you’ll see the truth,” but then never stating what the truth happens to be. It feels like more of a hollow feint than an actual point of thought. I don’t mean this to be belittling. So I ask, how do you see the big-picture of the game changing because of the microtransaction model from DDO? (Yes, from DDO, because that is also a Turbine game and they’ve basically said, via outlining the fine points, that LotRO will be using DDO’s microtrans model.) I’m interested in hearing what you mean when you say that, because you said it in your blog and in a couple comments here.

    My point of debate is more of a commentary on something you’ve said and reiterated. It doesn’t quite seem fair, infact it does seem narrow-minded of you, to say, “If you’re not agreeing with me, then you’re not the audience I’m addressing.” Which is essentially what you’ve said in a few comments. That feels like a cop-out. Instead of trying to address their points and poke holes in their arguments to further the validity of your own you’re brushing them off as, “not the people you’re addressing.” That completely side-steps any sort of dialogue on the issue on the grounds that they don’t see LotRO exploding in the next 6 months. This just seems like an intellectual faux-pas, and a poor form of discussion. I’ve only been reading this blog for the past 6 months, but I know you’re more intelligent than that.

    I’d recommend you read one of these comments (preferrably one that don’t include childish flaming), step back, breathe, and try to formulate a calm, rational response free of emotion, buzz-wordery or, as people here put it, “doom-and-gloom”. Though I personally would define “doom-and-gloom” to be opinions full of emphatic, negative adjectives. Your argument can paint a negative picture without the figurative soap-box. 🙂 In any case, I’d try to limit them a smidge to give your responses an air of impartiality. Even though we know what your opinion is. 😉

    That is all.

  • Wow, nice knee-jerk response there. Stop stating an opinion as a god-given fact. Going F2P might ruin LotRO, or it might not. You have no basis on which to make an authoritative declaration. In fact, the only evidence we have points to the contrary — DDO is better than it ever was, and contenr generation has actually increased compared to the sub model.

    I got burned by Allods too, but really this F2P hate of yours is irrational.

    Not to mention, if LotRO in its current form is so perfect, why aren’t you playing?

  • Just saying…

    The fact remains that you will be wrong. LOTRO will succeed just like DDO has, Free Realms has.

    This is the best thing they could have done. The game was not doing THAT well. If anyone can point me to data that shows otherwise, I will believe it.

    For now…best move Turbine.

  • @Wren: Partially my fault. I often consider this blog one big flowing thread of my ideas and I often merge commentary from one to the other without thinking about those who have not been following along.

    The application of the free to play model is quite different in practice than in theory. In particular, with this example I am talking about how one pays $10 a month right now for a subscription to play LotRO and how some people seem to think it will be no different after if they still pay $10.

    Saying “I pay $10 a month right now, how will that be any different?” forget that in order to create a game that functions on micro transactions, the game’s design and future development must be bent to meet that. You played Allods, right? Take World of Warcraft and let’s compare. You pay $14.99 a month to play WoW and you could pay $14.99 in microtransactiosn to play Allods. One could argue “I pay the same!” but the application of the free to play model has created quite a different picture than the one being painted on paper.

    In regards to the audience I’m speaking to comments, it’s more about the fact that I’m not trying to change your mind. If you love F2P games then I really can’t speak to you. If you’re someone who just loves DDO, Allods, etc, then we have nothing in common and I can’t possibly expect you to think I’m anything but totally insane. However, if you’re one of those people who is in the middle or one of the people who doesn’t like F2P games then I think what I have to say is far more relevant. I would point out to the middle of the road people that there is a clear difference between F2P games and P2P and that they need to decide which they like more. I would also point out to them that LotRO was just fine w/o a P2P model, and to look at Turbine’s reasons for doing so.

    When it comes to F2P games, they are a doom and gloom subject for mw. I’m on the losing end of a battle here that’s being waged between the people who grew up playing the MMO’s one way and is now being crowded out by the bazillions of other people who are being told they enjoy MMO’s when really these are not MMO’s. (yes, that’s a discussion about what a MMO REALLY is which I won’t get into). Knee-jerk reactions were years ago when people said the industry would go this way. I was saying it wouldn’t… I’m starting to lose on that one. However, I still firmly believe someone will continue to make games for those really interested in MMORPG’s… or at least continue making quality w/o the F2P nonsense (Blizzard, perhaps).

    @PeterD & Justsaying: DDO was bad enough to be taken down when it launched and then was re-released in order to make money. LotRO made money and was just fine but they’re changing it to make even more money. Just because something makes more money doesn’t mean it is better. If that were true then, by your logic, everyone should have absolutely no argument against stating that WoW is the best game ever made because it makes the most money. McDonalds then would be the best food out there because clearly it makes more money than even the top rated restaurants in the world.

    I’m arguing from a more philosophical point of view that better games are made when they are not free to play. That is an opinion, but one I feel happy to proclaim authoritatively given my experience as a MMORPG player for this long and as someone who has made it a masochistic hobby to follow these things agonizingly close.

  • It’s funny how a game being FTP changes your feelings about things like RoM’s cheesy graphics, or LoTRO’s aweful running animation, because who cares – it costs me nothing to log in! I will now play LOTRO casually and maybe pitch them $5 here and there, which is more then they are getting from me now.

  • That makes a lot of sense. (Perhaps I should say more sense?)

    I do understand the technical and design differences required by a F2P game, considering they won’t get money if people don’t need to buy their items, and if everything’s a one-time purchase you’re either constantly adding new items or you’re not making much money past the first big burst.

    And I much appreciate your second point (or explanation). It’s one thing to simply shout out, “You’re not who I’m addressing,” and another to stop and explain exactly what you mean by it. When you explain it, it does make a lot of sense, and sounds more rational and less defensive. After I wrote my above post, I noticed the comment about differences in philosophy and I must also agree that I like that explanation very much. It succinctly describes the hectic and heated debate (or public flogging, haha) that was going on.

    “However, I still firmly believe someone will continue to make games for those really interested in MMORPG’s…” I hope you’re right. Your frustration at the “fall of LotRO,” as you see it, is understandable. Though I must admit that reading your last comment was far more agreeable to me than most of what’s come before in this list of comments.

    Call me boring (like some people might), overly-analytical (like my girlfriend does), or just an ass, haha. But your provided explanations shed a lot of light, for me at least, on just exactly what you were trying to say. It accomplishes this goal without being nearly as abrasive, too. Kudos, and thanks. 😀

  • I agree Wren and Keen. I took me until getting to the end of these comments to realize “I don’t get it.” because I’m not one that should. I’m not the “target market” of this post. I have a family/job (so limited time) etc, WoW was my first “MMO” and I only play that honestly for the PvP and treat it like MMO counterstrike. So I don’t understand exactly what your concerns are.

    But I do think I understand what you are trying to say and I respect that. It’s just not for me.

  • I think others need to realize there is some real passion here also. I never flame someone with passion, even I don’t agree. I also don’t see why someone would.

  • @Wren: Np. I don’t mean to come across abrasive. I know that I do often and there is no excuse for it other than being passionate to a fault about this stuff. I’m always happy to try and explain myself. I often just skip the explanation because I’ve been writing now for almost four years and I make silly assumptions that people have been following me that long to have read my background reasoning.

    @Howdy Doody: I think that’s fine too. I think people who want to play their MMO’s for free should have these options. I just totally disagree that all MMO’s should go this route, especially ones that were originally subscription based. There is an overwhelming support for what I consider to be an inferior model and I just don’t want what I enjoy to be swept under the rug because it doesn’t generate as much revenue.

  • Aren’t we being a little melodramatic, here? Things *could* go bad, sure, and the community will almost certainly degrade, but this will also mean an increase in the amount of content they put out, which has noticeably dropped.

    I also agree than it will fundamentally change the game and that lifers are getting a bit of a raw deal (I’m one of them), but let’s not call it destroyed until we actually see how it’s received. By these standards, the cash shop must have destroyed DDO, too, and look how well it’s doing.

  • Ok, I think most of you here are not seeing the big picture…

    This is a growing trend in the industry. The problem isnt simply the fact that the games are free to play, its the baggage that comes with it. Namely ultra casual players that have no real investment in the game. Some of them are fine upstanding people, but the community suffers all the same because, as the poster above said ” I played it for a month, it was great”. A month and gone, happens a lot in a f2p model. You cant build a solid community when there isnt a stable player base.

    The second aspect that f2p brings is lack of development. Sadly, I feel this blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the players. Prime example, Blizzards latest mount that they sold for I think $25.00 a pop. People lined up to buy it. What did you as players teach Blizzard? You taught them to not waste time and resources developing content to sell as an ex-pack when you can make almost as much money by having an intern reskin an existing piece of art in a few hours. And you can sure bet that the next one, and believe me there will be many more to come after that cash cow, will be more expensive than the last one, because stupid players will pay more money… again. Game companys will not stop doing this until you stop paying them.

    Call me what you want, but I dont want the Farmville/”I play an mmo for 1 hour a week” crowd in the games I play. To be blunt, I hate what you instant gratification ADD players have turned the mmo genre into.

  • I understand what Keen means I think.

    A lot of advocates of F2P do so like coppertopper. Essentially its this “Well, the game sucks, and it isn’t worth a sub fee, but if they let me play it for free I’m okay with it and may spend money.”

    But if you are hardcore on a game F2P is a nightmare. When I played Mabinogi it got to the point where to be competitive in PvP you could easily spend 50 bucks a month on rebirths and other things, and you had to because others have been spending that over months to years. I’ve rarely seen a hardcore person okay with the F2P business model because of total cost over time.

    The irony is that the F2P guys make their money not on coppertoppers, because its impossible to get a decent volume of them to match a sub rate over time, but on the hardcore by convincing them to spend a lot more than a standard sub fee by addicting them. That was what Allods tried to do, but they were so expensive people rebelled.

    That’s my take on Keen’s people not seeing it, because f2p advocates do so based more on a casual, grazing style of approach. If you are like that you wont understand why people are against it, because you aren’t really seeing the dark sides as much.

  • @Keen: I appreciate the explanation, and I’m sure further understanding will come the longer I read. But, looking back to the first few comments, “This must be satire, amirite?” Even I knew, as soon as I saw you were talking about LotRO (I read earlier today that it was going F2P on a gaming mag site) that you would be critical of it, because you vehemently hate the F2P model. Seeing those comments made me laugh, because it obviously wasn’t satirical.

    That might have been a hint, for you, that explicit explanation of your stance and opinions would be warranted considering you were debating with people who seemed to have little-to-no prior knowledge of your prior experiences or opinions.

    I’m a firm believer that, when debating an issue, nothing should be implied or left said without explicit explanation because having to read between the lines can lead to assumptions, which can lead to misunderstanding or miscommunication. (Sound like Yoda yet? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, etc. haha) At that point you’ll be arguing yourselves in circles (It’s happened to me before).

    So while I, as a (hopefully) rational individual, appreciate the explanation for my personal benefit; it seems like a lot of the issues could have been avoided or at least mitigated by a firm explanation of what you meant. As Howdy said, passions run high, and its understandable to just leap off and forget in the heat of things. Regardless, I always try to get my feet back on the ground and stop to explain in any discussion so people don’t attribute unintended values to my words. (ie, while all there was here was a philosophical difference of opinion, people assumed you were stating hard facts and thus were, “just plain wrong.”)

    Anyway, I eagerly await your MMORPG Mechanics Part 2. 🙂

  • @Sentry: “The second aspect that f2p brings is lack of development” In a lot of cases, yes, but I’m banking on Turbine’s development history with DDO. It’s gotten lots of new content, since the changeover.

  • Sentry,

    “Call me what you want, but I dont want the Farmville/”I play an mmo for 1 hour a week” crowd in the games I play. To be blunt, I hate what you instant gratification ADD players have turned the mmo genre into.”

    Ok this statement real interests me since I’m kinda one of those persons (except I’m maybe ~10-15 hours a week). Can you give me some examples of what you mean? Like say the dungeon finder in WoW. Do you feel that takes away from the “real world” feel? Or am I missing something?


  • @Keen “Saying “I pay $10 a month right now, how will that be any different?” forget that in order to create a game that functions on micro transactions, the game’s design and future development must be bent to meet that. ”

    Just like it happened with DDO, Subscribers have not experienced any changes to their gameplay experience, other than a noticeable increase in players. Turbine made sure not to alienate their playerbase as much as possible when they added the F2P alternative. Hell, the amount of expansions have greatly increased.

    It also worked with Wizard101. (Though I believe Wizard101 wasn’t a P2P to begin with). The Cash Shop offers Zones, etc for a small price OR players can pay a Sub and have access to 100% of the game.

    The thing is, rather than alienating their current playerbase by making changes to the core gameplay, Turbine wants to bring an alternative without taking anything away from the subscribers. That’s how the Cash Shop works.

    This type of Cash Shop is geared toward the Casual crowd, who, instead of paying a monthly sub to play only a very small part of the world, they can simply buy a Zone/Area and play for as long as they want. Since Casuals are unable to play for longer period of time, meaning that the amount of content they see in a month is considerably less, this basically gives them an excellent alternative. This doesn’t take away from the game at all.

    The Free To Play Area will also allows many more players to join. Thus populating the lower levels areas, which are pretty empty at times. It will also bring many more customers who are likely to subscribed too.

    I’d like you to re-read one of your blog post : https://www.keenandgraev.com/?p=3724
    The Micro-Transaction (or Cash Shop) sort of work the same way. They don’t take away from the current players. Except that in the case of LotrO, they added an Alternative to the way you can pay instead of selling Fluff.

  • DDO’s instanced nature flowed well with the f2p model. Buying additional dungeons was kind of like buying a new adventure book for paper Dungeons and Dragons. There is no similarity with Lotro.

    If you really do not think that this will influence the way the game is developed then you are just naive. The number 1 goal will not be continuing the storyline of Lord of the Rings but will be, “how can we get people to spend more money in the cash shop.” Filch’s citizen vs consumer argument is a great way of expressing how depressing this is to older players.

    @Keen: I was thrilled by your response to this, but I do not understand why you hate f2p but loved the Sparkly Pony.

  • @Howdy Doody

    It absolutley does take away from the game, specificly the community. WoW has become more of a online lobby than a rich full world to explore. Most people just hang out in Dalaran waiting for their dungeon to pop. They run their dungeon and then poof, back to Dalaran. Or worse, they log in get their frosts then log right back out. I could go on, but thats one example.

  • @filch Almost forgot to comment on how great your summary was. That really helped me understand both sides.


  • I like your posts, but this just has overreaction all over it. Sure DDO was not doing well to begin with, but now it is doing awesome, better than LotRO in fact. Turbine sees that these changes have improved the game for most players and the company. I dont blame them for trying out the model on LotRO. Heck I may even start playing it again.

    The fact of the matter is you are making assumptions based off your experience within F2P mmos that you dont like. The game play will not be much different, just the payment model. Its more flexible and gives players more freedom to pay for what they use.

    Turbine made the game that you praise as one of your favorite MMOs. That isnt changing. Its not like they are turning into some half ass cash shop toting bundle of nasty pixels. You wont wake up tomorrow and find your hobbit weilding 8-bit graphics. Its LotRO with more flexibility. Dont buy it? Look at the factual changes that Turbine made to DDO. As someone who played before the changes and after, the game play is the same, except now I get to pay for the features I want when I want instead of being stuck in the rut of a subscription, paying for content that will take me months to see.

    You cant just call a game bad because it now has F2P in its description. That is just ignorant.

  • So… it’s time for a PvP/PvE divorce. Set up the “fair level playing field” PvP games (level-free and gearless, since those are antithetical to a level playing field) and charge a sub, and see how long it lasts. Maybe for a good long while, but it won’t be the mainstream, and you lose the “progression” track that some proclaim must be part of a “real” MMO.

    The notion of PvE progress fits “grazing” casual players far better than hardcore players who are content to ravage (or pay to bypass) the leveling grind then binge on treadmills at the endgame.

    Subs have the casuals subsidizing the hardcore players, and item shops have the hardcore subsidizing the casual players. Mix the two, and you might just have a gestalt monetization scheme that is healthier in the long run.

  • @Tesh

    I cant believe someone correctly used Gestalt on a gaming blog. Maybe there is hope for humanity.

  • The times they are indeed a changing. You can cling to your $14.95 a month subscription ideal as long as you want but pretty soon that will be going the way of the dodo.

    BTW, I suspected the furor over the Allods cash shop was blown way out of proportion and leveling a character to max in that game proved me right. It was much ado over nothing.

  • The way we pay for our MMOs does not define their quality. This obsessive side-taking is plain silly.

    For me, LotRO was an okay MMO. I did the free trial, subbed for two or three months, got into the 40s, decided it wasn’t really going anywhere and unsubscribed. I go back and visit every time they do a free weekend or week, which is pretty often.

    If LotRO had suited me better, I’d have stayed subbed longer. As it was, they got a box sale and one quarter’s subs from me and that would have been all. Now I will keep it on my HD, log in like I do to other F2P games I like, play some LotRO when I’m not playing my current sub MMO of choice and just maybe I will spend sme money that I otherwise wouldn’t have spent.

    It’s much the same model Wizard 101 uses and I prefer it. If you want to sub, you can sub. If not, you can play anyway, within limitations. Really, what’s the problem? It’s good for players, it’s good for the company.

  • Could someone correct me here but is LotRO not a P2P/F2P hybrid model whereas 90% of the “bad games” are just F2P? Seeing as how DDO functions under the former model, that provides incentive to the developers to create content in order to have that guaranteed income. Allods was 100% F2P. The amount of people (Keen included) that would have shelled 15$ a month to get around the cash stop hurdles would have made the game quite a success. Pure F2P models are designed around the idea of forcing people to buy tiny increments and not about package deals and is all about consuming, not playing. Having a monthly model allows both to co-exist.

    As for community…people are actively comparing F2P with P2P saying the former is worse? Has anyone set foot into WoW lately? Sure the existing community in LotRO is on average more mature and knowledgeable of the content and the average will drop. People who play for a month at a time won’t reach Mirkwood, let alone Moria so does it really matter in the long run for existing players? The ones who have always wanted to play but couldn’t fit it into the time/cost budget will now have a chance (I am in that boat).

  • On the one hand, LotRO could REALLY use some more players. Servers like Brandywine are fine, but the majority of the servers are slipping into that low population cycle where it becomes tedious to do group content, thus causing even more population decline. Granted, some of this could be rectified just by putting in a real LFG tool, instead of the joke of one they have now.

    On the other hand, a lot of the population increase will not be for the better. You’ll get the tourists, who stay for a few days, then move on and add nothing. And you’ll get the folks who balk at a $10 subscription fee, so basically the teens who are too lazy to even work at McDonald’s. That’s not going to mix well with the LotRO core audience of Tolkien fans, and not really going to improve the game.

    I think one thing to keep in mind though is that LotRO has been circling the drain for a while now. Even before this, there has been a clear pattern of decreased content over time going back to well before they could have been diverting effort to this F2P initiative, suggesting that development resources have been lost and not replaced. Maybe this new model will actually get them producing content again.

  • I understand your fear on this especially after the allods failure we all went through, but your basing your judgement off the allods model of free to play and fortunately for turbine they are a lot smarter about the free to play model.

    First and foremost the game will still have a monthly sub option that gives access to everything the same as it currently is and therefore the lifetime subbers aren’t losing anything (infact they will be gaining turbine point rewards and increased community activity). The rest of the store stuff is mostly there for the free to play crowd who will be limited on some content but have access to the game, and will have to buy turbine points to spend to permanently unlock other things they may be interested in if they don’t want to pay a subscription fee. Obviously there will be some items (mostly fluff and buff kinda stuff) in the store to give incentive for people to spend pooled turbine points on. Subscribing will always be an option if a person chooses to not want to play for free or buy turbine points to unlock things.

    This system is an awesome..i repeat AWESOME free to play system that should be followed on more games, giving people the ability to play and experiment in a game as well as stay in contact with friends without the pressure of having to constantly maintain a subscription just to pop in once in awhile to say hi or check out recent changes. It offers a lot and takes away almost nothing.

    I’m sad to see you bash it without having experienced turbines previous amazing f2p conversion in DDO.

  • Ok, I think further responses have cleared things up about the focus of the argument. It seems that the primary reason most people have to oppose the F2P with cash shop model is fear that it will ruin the community because casual players are just that, casual, casual players won’t be there every day like your next door neighbor or your family or that guy at the bar or whatever.

    I would argue, however, that Pay to play has done nothing to fix this, in my experience, at least not on its own. The biggest hurdle for community building and ensuring a good lasting community is content, content that’s varied enough and keeps people interested. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the king of P2P games, WoW, and had guilds die of inactivity. I’ve been in Guild Wars guilds and Freelancer servers (essentially Space sandbox mmo lite) that have had more persistent and effective communities than many of the ones I’ve been in on a P2P MMO. The exception to this is probably EVE Online, which I’m currently playing and may continue playing for precisely this reason. In a Sandbox game community building is essential and almost always profitable for everyone involved, and you aren’t running a specific raid 10 times over in the process.

    In fact, I would argue that “theme park” MMO’s have trouble holding communities together as it is because even at its best I can raid with this guild as well as I can raid with that guild. Your Happy Fun Guys can stay together but your games have changed multiple times, I’ve got groups that have done that too. In this case you’re all going through multiple theme parks together, the individual MMO’s can’t retain the communities in these instances because they’ve got a limit on content, whereas the freeform sandboxes allow you and your friends to participate in an ever changing world, which is like the real world. Theme Parks and lasting communities are like oil and water, they will constantly separate unless something consistently mixes them up. Blizzard and Turbine both do a fair amount of mixing in WoW, LotRO, and DDO by the way of regularly producing content, which is why good communities can do well even in some theme parks. The lasting capacity of an online theme park is limited by content, and in order to keep the community stable in between releases of content there needs to be a lower bar of entry. I won’t pay 15$ for another month of WoW until Cataclysm starts taking effect and new content comes, but I will be going back to guild wars even though there is very little new happening because there is usually at least a few people I know somewhere and I don’t need to pay 15$ to get in for a limited time. In an odd way Guild Wars’ lack of monthly fee allows for a community that while perhaps less invested at any given time, is rather more stable than some other MMO’s.

    It doesn’t matter, in my opinion, which way the theme park MMO produces its content, be it F2P or P2P, But because there’s a lot of content to go through, there will be communities that develop to complete it all, and casual players will just be a sideline. They won’t get as involved in the game if they don’t want to and won’t actively thwart the community, if they’re a problem for the more dedicated members they’re casual so even as new ones come in others will leave.

  • I have been a subscriber to LoTRO for years. At first I was like most and thought what the heck was going on, but now that I read what is actually in store I think this is a great idea for LoTRO.

    As one that is playing the end game this change will not affect me one iota and if anything now will enhance my playing with the monthly stipend of TPs to buy fluff stuff!

    There is not one thing you can mention that would affect my playing in a negative way. (and please don’t say the community will go to shit as anyone running around in moria and beyond will be a paying customer like today and those buffoons that migrate to beginning areas will be non existent)

    And like DDO with more incoming revenue more content, and how is that bad?

  • I don’t agree with what you say (in fact, I basically think the opposite of what you say these days), but I respect your viewpoint. 🙂

    I’m hoping it does well no matter what pricing scheme they decide to use, whether it be turbine points, or bartering the souls of the damned.

  • I had it down to 2 MMO’s to go to, LOTRO which has great PVE, and Warhammer Online which has great PvP and has gotten considerably better than last I played it….Warhammer it is

  • @Sentry You opinion of the auto-dungeon finder is identical to mine. I think it’s had a damaging affect on both the server community and RPG aspects of the game. But then, Blizz seems to want to make the game into an ‘e-sport’ type thing, instead of a role playing game.

    I like several F2P games, but it’s true that it seems harder to get a stable community in those games. I play them causally because it’s easier, frankly.

    But I would also like to find a MMORPG that actually tries to be an RPG…

  • @Pai and Sentry,

    I see yalls point of view on the Dungeon finder. But I also think it’s impact is huge. Before the finder you would have a ton of time traveling (and if pug’n) it often went bad. With the finder I have gotten to go into every single dungeon that before I couldn’t. It just wasn’t feasable. (not enough people, no lock, 90% of time waiting for someone, etc) Not to mention tensions were always high and folks raged much harder.

    Things were much better in a guild and I agree more epic. And some of the best momories are of 40 man raids.

    I guess I’m somewhat in the middle. I personally love the Dungeon finder, but I honestly do wish there were more to do to let the server factions battle it out and explore their massive world. Examples: add random spawning treasure chest, random spawning Huge boss mobs, Hell anything with the goal to get folks out across the world, team up, achieve goals, and kick the other factions ass.

    Another example where i’m in the middle is the Flight paths. When I first started I always beotched about how long it took to fly anywhere and that it should be instant. Then I played WAR and found out how small the world felt when traveling. Instantly spawning from castle to castle was lame. Came back to WoW and love every flight I have to take now.

    Hell this discussion has me more consfused about what I like/dislike…. I don’t even know anymore! ahhahaha.

  • If this means development can pick up the pace on getting us to Mordor, I’m all for it.

    Honestly, I’m more disappointed that my new 500 turbine points a month for being lifetime aren’t useable in DDO too.

    Would’ve loved to have my Lotro lifetime allow me to unlock all the adventure packs in DDO 🙂

    This will be a good change for Lotro. It’s going to push the subscriber base back up to full servers. Maybe even have to open new servers.

    No doubt about it, Lotro is already one of the better subscription games… it instantly becomes the best f2p game. Folks will flock to it in droves.

  • @Howdy Doody

    Basicaly I feel like there are two types of mmo players in this post WoW era, and they can not coexist peacefully. Unfortunatly I am on the losing side, and we are losing bad, like really really bad. Filch had the best analogy Ive ever seen to describe it.

    If it were just up to the players I would say to the other side “Fine you dont like my game the way it is, I get it, but why do you expect my game which I love to change to suit your wants? Go play a differant game thats already like that and leave mine alone.”

    But its not up to the players,its the gaming companys, and they see me and my group, and then they see you and your group, which is ten times mine, and they say “yeah, screw you guys Sentry, we can make a lot more money by pleasing Howdys group.”

    The most pure examlpe of this is probably SWG. Lucas arts saw the sub numbers WoW was putting up(which launched after SWG did), and they got their pantys in a bunch because they precious IP was getting trounced. So they gutted one of the best, most innovative sandbox mmos to make it a WoW clone, willingly sacrificing their current player base in the hopes attracting the WoW crowd.

  • @Sentry

    But that’s not a matter of F2P versus P2P that’s a matter of the core design of the world itself.

  • @Parenon

    But it is…f2p is the evolution of the increasingly casual,accessible,easymode trend that every mmo game company is following. Its where the cash is.

  • The unwashed masses will devour the LOTRO community whole, and all that will be left will be trolls trolling trolls.

  • @sentry

    “But it is…f2p is the evolution of the increasingly casual,accessible,easymode trend that every mmo game company is following. Its where the cash is.”

    I agree with every part of that except f2p. f2p has nothing to do with the trend of pushing towards casual. That is all p2p. That is all Blizzard.

  • I for one am glad to see LOTRO finally coming around. For years now I have said that microtransactions and RMT are the future and now another AAA title has jumped on the train. I had quit LOTRO simply because I didn’t want to continue paying for a game I was only casually playing. Now I can go back as I please and pay when I feel like I need to.

    I can’t help but think two things about Keens reaction. The first is that he is practically fresh off his betrayal in Allods where the brain-dead people running the game came out with there strategy.

    The second is that over the time I have been reading his blog I have seen Keen slowly become more and more jaded to the MMO market as I myself had been much earlier. I think this post may be his last desperate scream for sanity and hope before he comes to acceptance of the fact that the glory days are over.

    Sorry Keen I love your blog and I respect many of your opinions but I just see too many parallels in your blog posts to my own personal experiences. Sometimes I almost think you are me writing my thoughts and experiences 5 years ago.

  • Even as a consumer who “just wants a game to play”, I still passionately dislike F2P item shop and RMT models. In my opinion, they just do not make for fun games to play.

    The main problem I see is that they encourage developers to push item shop purchases; and many do so by fist filling their games with deliberately annoying elements and then selling their players a way to bypass them for cash. You have to have a lot of faith in your favorite game developer to believe that they are going to act purely in the best interest of their players under these circumstances.

    Even sub + item shop model is not completely immune. Look at Blizzard. It’s clear that vanity-only just isn’t cutting it anymore. Cute pet #25 isn’t as special as cute pet #1. So they quickly went from purely cosmetic pets to sparkly ponies to selling premium Auction House access; and now their CMs are busy re-defining what constitutes an “in-game advantage” on the official forums. It’s a real pity too. I like playing well-developed, relatively bug-free games that do not reach for my wallet the second I log in. It looks like soon I won’t have that option.

  • I read a post somewhere… I think it may have been a comment on Massively.. that really hit home. I think that the MMO industry is going to crash soon from being oversatured with terrible games. It’s going to take a crash in order for things to turn around. It almost has to get worse before it can get better.

  • Agreed there, Keen.

    @msp, any developer that expects to survive as a developer is not going to act in the best interests of their players (else there wouldn’t be cash in sports games every single year, some sell purely because of their sport and do just fine), for better or worse, they act in the best interests of their paychecks. And the best way to for players’ best interest and developer’s best interest to be united is in the model that DDO has successfully used. DDO is NOT the cash shop of your average cash in F2P game. DDO’s team actively develops new things for the game in order to earn the money of the player. Turbine employees have called this the “Democratization” of an MMO, I think that fits and offers bodes better for MMO’s than most other directions the genre seems to be going in. Allods took the typical route and the primary money maker was what allowed people to quickly remove their death penalty, other “F2P” games make grinding so horrible that if you want to get far you practically HAVE to get their XP boost potion buffs or what have you.. Honestly, I think Allods Would’ve been better as a subscription based game, even if a WoW clone, because what they were doing for their cash was heavy handed blocking of game content and demanding an outrageous fee that punishes the more hard core players for wanting to play their game. DDO offers a system where neither the “casual” nor the “hard Core” will be punished, as while the hard core may pay more they will also largely be getting more in terms of places to explore and and classes to play at a much less heinous price than Allods where they get nothing new.

    DDO does not and has not done that, Turbine has proven capable of handling F2P in such a way as not to turn the product into an Allods incident which attempts outright thievery from its customers. The Argument that “LotRO is a different game” is rubbish because the way in which Turbine is approaching F2P is the same and it prevents the game from falling into the traps of games like Allods, assuming of course that warner brothers doesn’t force turbine to do something stupid.

    Blizzard is cashing in on micro-transactions in a more crude way than turbine is. Pay 25$ for a sparkly pony and then keep paying 15$ a month for subscriptions or you can’t use it. If you bought a sparkly pony in DDO, you could keep using it without the 15# a month fee.

  • Hmmm….This is one time I have to agree with the majority here and say that LOTRO will continue to be a great game and excel especially at the higher levels and new upcoming regions. This is not Allods Online. That experience was horrid.
    Ok, yes, Bree will now be full of F2P players and all sorts of people trying to climb or jump on to buildings they can’t, but most of us who have played for 2-3 years are far beyond that.
    I welcome more players and believe the true players (who will now get a chance to play) will trickle to the top.

  • Imagine two supermarkets. In one, you roam around at your leisure, browsing through the store. The store is full of people like you, all wandering around doing their own thing. Nobody bothers you, you get what you want, you leave.

    The other store is full of kids, you cannot hear yourself think. Store assistants continually wander up to you to try and sell you things. You were thinking of buying those things anyway but to have them shoved in your face is frankly, quite irritating. Every time you try and talk to somebody, 10 random nearby people shout at you about “Buying cash from their website!”.

    The old world will become a cesspit of arrogant kiddies and F2P hippies proclaiming their love for the F2P movement as they drift aimlessly from game to game, not actually playing any for long enough to care about them. Add in the inevitable goldspammers, who no longer need to buy accounts via fake credit cards and you have a ruined old world. Groups will be easier to find though…..yay?

    Sadly though, F2P probably is the future. Companies go where the money is and theres money to be had in exploiting the addictive nature of people. The addicted minority paying for the freeloading majority isnt a payment model that appeals to me *shrug*

    Meh, single player games are the future for me most likely. I hate the F2P model and I cant stomach any more warcraft quest hub clones.

  • Graham, what about WoW’s community? It’s a P2P though….your theory is flawed.

  • 2 weeks ago my freinds and i were discussing if we wanted to try out lotro man im glad we didnt buy it.

    f2p just takes away so much from a game but maybe it was the only way to generate an income on lotro.

  • You know, just yesterday I was wishing that I could try lotro out off and on when I had time without feeling rushed about using my months payment wisely. Guess they read my mind.

  • @Parenon – Sure, any developer wants to take care of their paychecks first and foremost. I’m not accusing them of running a “for players, by players” charity :). I simply feel that in P2P situation their interests better align with mine. To keep subscriptions going, P2P developers need to make their games engaging and fun to play. I like that. They also have vested interest in shipping high-quality products and maintaining them. F2P games often launch buggy, full of deliberately annoying mechanics and with a shop full of overpowered items in case players need an extra-large carrot to go with the stick. End result: even if you do pony up for a demigod status monthly, you’re still playing a semi-broken game.

    That said, I’m glad to hear that Turbine is doing a better take on F2P. Perhaps I’ll try LotRO when the changes go live. I’ve been meaning to for a while now. Oh, and don’t get me started on Blizzard’s cash shop. It won’t be pretty.

  • Keen: “Show me a F2P that has been AAA quality then. Again, that’s a challenge I have issued twice now over the years and no one has ever been able to deliver on it.”

    You issue this challenge but are upset when it happens? LOTRO is the answer to that challenge. The AAA quality is a -given- and you suddenly don’t want to see how this turns out?

    Maybe you’re scared you’re proven wrong and that you can in fact have a solid community WITHIN a much larger casual community.

    At least be glad we’ll see the result within a year, and not after years and years of development and teasers of some random MMO that eventually flops at launch…

  • that sounds like the worst implementation of microtransactions ive ever heard of.. well its just more proof of how much turbine sux.

    League of legends is the only game i know of where the micro transactiosn is done well.

  • Well i never played, but have always wanted to give it a go, so for me this is good

  • Personally I hate microtransactions, but trying to be objective here. LOTRO will in all likelihood remain a good game after this change, a good game that I will not play because of the character models and animations. It might be developed a little differently from now on. Not necessarily bad if at least a portion of its new found revenue is used towards development.

    In all honestly there is no f2p vs. p2p fight anymore. Making games is a business and business always gravitates towards the highest profit, there is no fighting against that. So in that sense maybe this is a good thing, maybe Turbine can create a standard here that other MMO’s will adopt. Certainly an improvement compared to most of the f2p models out there.

  • This in way is hypocritical of you Keen,You supported the worse micro-transaction in history of gaming


    25 dollars for virtual horses,Bare in mind you where one complaining about Allods and nothing in Allods cash shop came in close to costing 25 dollars.I have played tons of F2P games no game has ever had nerve to charge 25 dollars for one singular item.The biggest mmo in world the least needing of cash has set the highest virtual item price point.You make a blog and praise it.Now other companies have taken notice of blizzard success now that is set price for high end virtual items.Something that is going to bite gamers in butt in the future.

    Lotro restructure itself so it can have a F2P model and Pay to model.Lotro didn’t turn itself into F2P game,it restructured itself so it could take advantage mmo tourist or people who play other mmo.I play Aoc and WoW i can’t afford to play Lotro too.The new model lets me be able to play great game.

    You can’t compete with WoW they have more than half of mmo market lock up.Gamers don’t have 15 dollars to spend on every mmo game for example ToR,Tera and Earthrise look appealing to me.Turbine is developing the hybrid that the industry needs.It is not going to come over night eventually somebody will figure out model that does not nickel and dime players.

    Lotro does not need to nickel and dime because they will have steady stream of income from the vip players and basically charging the F2P players for the expansions.Pure cash shops have to try to price gouge you because that only source income when buy from a cash shop.

  • Personally, I’m not your intended audience, since I’m not a current LOTRO subscription player. I can’t financially afford any subscription games, which is why DDO is the only MMO I’m playing right now. LOTRO is the MMO I’ve *wanted* to play ever since it was announced, so this is a great thing for me.

    I will say, regarding weapons and gear, in DDO they don’t sell high level weapons and gear or the parts to make them. What they do sell in the shop is basic weapons from +1 to +3. At exorbitant prices. Which means you can buy a small hit/damage advantage for about your first 5 levels or so. Very few players seem to bother buying them, since they’re rather expensive considering it’s not that hard to get better weapons in-game.

    The top sellers in the store seem to always be adventure packs, healing potions, and experience boost items.

    I actually expect LOTRO to be a little more limited in the shop, simply because you’ve got a more narrow theme base to work off of with Tolkein. D&D is filled with massive quantities of overpowered things to play with, and DDO seems to have shown a fair amount of restraint in what they put in the store.

  • I totally agree with you Keen. And imagine this:

    LOTR CASH SHOP > J.R.R. Tolkien

    Do you hear Pink Floyd? “Money….”

    This is why I support what Star Vault and Aventurine are trying to do, in spite of how flawed you might think their games are. It’s better than what Turbine is doing. And it’s only a short while till Blizzard gets in on this, too.

  • I will say that I can see one area of concern in this, which I wonder if it isn’t closer to the exactness of the community argument.

    Community is entirely what you make of it. If you and 5 or 20 or 30 of your friends stick together and keep playing routinely, you can mostly ignore the other people. It will only break up the community if the people who are your community start leaving, to that extent.

    However, I think there is an underlying concern there that the flavor of the game will change if casual players who aren’t Tolkeinites come in and begin behaving in ways that aren’t in keeping with Tolkein theme. A potential disruption of your immersion into the Tolkein world, if you will. You have a potential point in that. But hopefully that will be ameliorated by the comments that the casual players will never invest enough to get into the zones mostly occupied by the longterm hardcore players.

    My real background, before MMOs even existed, was MU*, mostly MUSHes. Even before that, I was on IRC-based RP games. Personally I think text-based games will always be better RPGs than graphical games. 😉 But that’s because text-based games aren’t limited by the scope of interactions that developers have coded. They’re really interactive novels. And there are still thriving Tolkein MUSHes out there for just that reason. Most of them are totally F2P, no subscriptions involved at all. Players come and go, but it only matters if those key to your character leave. But they are another different genre, really, which is why the graphical MMOs have attracted a lot of MU* players but not killed off the MU*s.

    One last comment, which is that there is an art to learning to ignore idiots. The only times I’ve really had trouble with idiots in DDO was when I ended up in a party with one and their antics got us killed. But that’s going to be a case with any game, anywhere. Learning how to laugh at the absurdity till you can leave the party, instead of getting mad, is a vital skill for any game player.

  • I fully agree with you Keen. This entire movement is inspired by greed, and ignores what is really good for the game. Its so sad to see such a great company ruin such a good game with their greed. They had a taste of success with DDO, and now they want more.

    If only their actions weren’t driver by money, but for the good of the game. Anything that is based on greed will harm the game, to a veteran MMO player. To new players, its better. But the real fans of the game are the ones who will be hurting. And I wonder why Turbine would pull such a move to its most loyal customers (VIP).

    I always liked you Turbine, why do you gotta go and do this?

  • Remember even Allods was a fun game to play; it was poor implementation of the F2P model that killed it, a marketing problem, as opposed to an intrinsic flaw in the model. The F2P mechanic is in a state of evolution, so don’t be surprised that a few games will fail until it adopts a form suitable for a western market. A virus that quickly kills its host is not as successful as one that adapts to coexist; the F2P model is in that state of transition, with surviving developers borrowing from the lessons of the dead, learning how to best extract money long-term from their hosts.

  • Keen, I don’t think you’re properly acquainted with the DDO F2P model they’re using. Yes, they sell potions and other such convenience items, but they’re explicitly convenience items and the game isn’t designed around having them. The primary function of the system is to sell lifetime subscriptions piecemeal. It’s managed not by requiring microtransactions to get through the game, but by delivering so little content beyond starting areas to F2P players that they’re railroaded into buying it.

  • Subscriptions for MMOs have been $15 for as long as I can remember. Is this shift in the pricing model a way to get more money out of people without raising the monthly sub? WoWs sub is still $15 but they are charging $25 for a sparkly pony. LOTRO sub has not changed but now new players can play for free but also have options to buy stuff which a lot will do. DDO players play for free but have options to buy stuff. Is this a way to get more money without raising sub prices which would likely cause an uproar? Imagine EQ2 saying our monthly subscription was now $20 a month rather that $15. Tons of people will be ticked off. But keep the sub the same, allow players to play for free but have to buy premium items and there is still complaints but from the hardcore gamer minority.

  • @Kirabi: There is a massive difference between WoW’s Celestial Steed and a Free to Play game. Microtransactions are not synonymous with F2P. Some microtransactions are relevant to the discussion of a problem F2P games have, but in general the two can not be lumped together entirely. So no, I’m not hypocritical; you just do not have a strong enough grasp of the subject yet.

    @Silvertemplar: When it happens we’ll talk. Until then, you’re doing nothing but theorizing without any sort of foundation. I’m at least theorizing with a plethora of examples of how F2P is inferior to P2P — examples and discussions you’re welcome to search for here using the search feature.

    @Jezebeau: That may be so. Microtransactions of the pure convenience model are at least something to cope with (and I would have in Allods, for example). The problem that I’m having is that the quality of the game diminishes when it is adapted to meet a model that requires users to buy things in order to play the game to its fullest.

  • Spidubic – Lotro has actually had a 10$ per month subscription cost for a few years now. Pretty much since the first Christmas, it’s been pretty easy to get it at 10$ forever.

    The F2P move doesn’t worry me. This means we’ll get more content faster. They significantly increased the development rate for DDO, and the same should happen with Lotro.

    Since the biggest sales will be coming from quest packs and expansion unlocks, I can see where the incentive to churn out the rest of the content to Moria will be very high. There’ll also be incentive to add the areas of Middle Earth that are more off the beaten path of the primary story.

    Also, getting more folks playing the game will be a good thing. Nobody reads general chat in Lotro anyhow. It’s all kin chat or the private chats like glff channel or such. Seeing Bree populated again the way that 21st Hall and Emyn Lum is now can only be a good thing for the game.

  • I think we should also focus on a different point of view (not sure anyone has covered it yet, there are so many replies already I could not read them all):

    The problem is NOT if FTP will change the game for a lifetime subscriber… the problem is “Would I have paied the lifetime if I had known it was going to become free?”

    Well, I have two account with lifetime. My wife just started few months ago, and in may, when there was that offer with a discounted lifetime subscription, I made her account lifetime too. She does not play much. So if I had know Lotro was going FtP I would have never ever paied for the lifetime!!

  • I (like Keen) am more of an old-school virtual world MMO player and do not like what is happening to LOTRO. My biggest concerns are:

    1) The community will suffer- LOTRO has a great general community with lots of mature players, lore fans, and a decent amount of RP. This is very hard to find in the MMO world these days. And every F2P game I’ve tried had an atrocious, shallow community.

    2) The lore-heavy aspect of LOTRO will not blend well with the inevitable constant cash shop marketing. “Gandalf says, there’s nothing like a Hope Potion to fight Nazgul! On sale right now in Rivendell!”

    I think that the players who approach MMOs as virtual worlds and meaningful communities have a very different outlook than players who want to dabble in games ‘for free’ in a serial fashion. You can see that in the comments on this thread.

    I’d be glad to be wrong about this, by the way. We will see, but I’m not hopeful.

  • Morreion, you do not understand the F2P model that Turbine uses. I suggest you take a look at D&DO when you can. No changes was brought to the gameplay, lore, or anything else.

    What has changed is that a player has no access to CONTENT unless he buys it (or pay a monthly sub to have 100% access to the whole game). That’s how Turbine’s Hybrid model works. It will not affect the game in any way, shape or form.

  • Irenor, I tried DDO, and I was bombarded with cash shop offers. A lot. And I’d be pleasantly surprised to find that LOTRO’s community will stay the same under the F2P model- I’d be amazed, frankly.

    I agree that DDO’s cash shop model is not as bad as other F2P games. I’m mainly thinking about the community and the lore focus of LOTRO, which I fear for.

    I’m a lifetime LOTRO subscriber by the way.

  • @Morreion: What games are you playing these days? Still in LotRO or have you been playing something else?

  • I have to agree that it’s quite possible that the community change. But it’s not F2P exclusive, WoW’s community isn’t the best community ever (to stay polite) yet it’s a P2P. But still, I agree with you.

    I only had to clear up the “Too much advertising to buy Cash Shop because it’s F2P” aspect of your post.

  • Hey Keen!

    Just cut short my return visit to AoC to go back to LOTRO ironically, to play with a full group of other people there from the Nimue server on DAoC. Dabbled in a return visit to Vanguard before that- alas it didn’t release in the shape it’s in now (but we remember that all too well!). And before that it was a 2-month doomed run in Aion :p

    I enjoy your blog. Am hoping Earthrise or (eventually) Dawntide may be worth a try in the future.

  • Irenor, you are correct that subscription models don’t automatically make a good community, and WoW is as you describe. That’s why I think LOTRO’s (IMHO) fairly solid general community, something that I haven’t quite seen in other games for years now, is at risk from this move.

  • LOTRO’s change to free to play is already a great success. Every MMO blogger on the net has an opinion on it. And like they say there is no such thing as bad press.

  • @Morreion: I tried Vanguard again a few months ago and I actually liked it more at launch. Weird feeling that was.

  • I resubbed to LOTRO when they did a 3-month discount deal and loved it though it was readily apparent that the game was very low population and possibly sliding into decline. About the same time I heard that Turbine was pulling most of their staff off the game and I knew what was coming: the game was essentially going to be left to tickover and slowly die.
    The £75 lifetime offer just appeared but I resisted – seemingly my suspicions are now confirmed and had I paid out that cash I’d be very upset to see the game “Going Free” literally weeks later.
    Ah well, at least I will get to play it for free now and by that I mean free: I won’t spend a penny on items / packs etc.
    Selling items in LOTRO is despicable.

  • The drama runs deep in this post. 🙂
    I just want to add the following thought to the conversation:

    Why the hell does the free to play model has to follow the idiotic cash shop model?
    Why aren’t there more MMOs following the Guild Wars model where you buy the box but play for free?

    There could be an evolution for that model: sell new content online every two/three months instead of releasing boxed expansions. And there you have a decent model.

  • Pedro, that’s a great idea, I wish more games followed the GW model which is a great one.

    Keen- Vanguard was great, agreed! That huge world looked fantastic…too bad there weren’t many there to enjoy it. *sighs*

  • @Pedro: Because they can make phat loot profitz with the cash shop model.

    @Morreion: I actually think Vanguard was a top notch game until you reached level 25. From there it just went downhill. It really was just a case of not finishing the game.

  • Keen i know that. Unfortunately this Facebook generation (teens growing up used to social networks) don’t mind paying 25 bucks for sparkle ponies. Coincidentally you support that kind of macrotransactions that legitimize cash shops.
    I just wonder where the heck are the parents of these kids to forbid them of using their credit cards.

    The Guild Wars model is extremely successfull as well if you count the enormous amount of boxes sold (of the original game plus expansions). If the same model is followed but based on easily accessible digital distribution then the success can be even greater. Create an in-game shop where you sell the “expansion” content or DLC as you prefer to call it.
    Add a couple of fluff items to the people that buy the content online and there you go.

  • I think this is a smart move on Turbines behalf. The MMO market is changing and there is increasing competition not just from other MMO’s but from all other pc and console games.

    Ive noticed that myself and all the guys i used to play GW and WoW with arent interested in forking out the cash anymore on a monthly basis because we cant play a wide range of games and get the full value from the subscription model at the same time.

  • @Pedro: The WoW microtransaction model is fine as is. They charge you for -nothing- more than cosmetic things. It’s not actually in the game either since you must go to their website. Want to pay $25 for a horse that sparkles? Fine by me since it gives you zero advantage and supports the company. I can get a horse in-game for 5 minutes of work that I like the look of just as much or more.

    It’s not the act of selling things to players that bothers me. It’s how a Free to Play game is designed around their cash shop, and how this brings baggage with it that ends up lowering the quality and diminishing the actual gameplay.

  • Sorry but IMO that’s pure contradiction and the fact that the sparkle horse sold so well just directed MMO’s even more torward a macro-transaction model.

    And for me it is much more obscene to have a game offering micro/macro transactions when it’s already charging their players a subscription, even if the item is just cosmetic.
    And judging by your reaction to the Cryptic store: https://www.keenandgraev.com/?p=3470 I would guess you defended the same. Except you have a double standard because it is Blizzard.

    And in case you haven’t noticed the Turbine cash shop model is actually a lot different from the Allods cash shop model. By selling content and not required items in the cash shop they actually have to focus on putting out content.

    Don’t want to be bothered to play it free? Just subscribe and you have access to everything with your VIP status plus you can buy stuff with your 500 TP per month.

  • I have to agree with the majority that this is a good change for lotro. I subscribed for a few months, but it wasn’t worth the $15 to continue subscribing. Now as with DDO, I can play one day a week (or month) with my mates and we don’t have to worry about paying anything. When the time comes that we want to try some of the premium content, we can spend a little cash for it.

    It is obvious that the game was not making money or they wouldn’t have made this change. To argue about the “purity” of the gaming model is kind of stupid IMO. Would you prefer that the game maintain its “purity” and shut down or go f2p? Which is better for lifetime subscribers? If f2p turns out for the worse, are the lifetimers any worse off than if it shutdown?

    If Turbine treat lotro as they have ddo, this will be awesome. If they go the allods route then yes it will be bad. However I do think the burning that Keen got with allods has altered his perceptions, just like the good experience so many have had with ddo (I am one of them) have altered theirs.

    At this stage, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Any links for critical information on the current state of Allods? I am not interested in getting back into it, but I do have a morbid curiosity…

  • @Pedro: Why aren’t there more MMOs following the Guild Wars model where you buy the box but play for free? Well, because running an online game costs money. Running an online game and letting people play it for free forever, once they’ve bought a box, is a gamble – the whole thing could easily end up being a money-loser for you as you have to support all these players despite no fresh revenue coming in.

    Obviously it can be made to work, and Guild Wars demonstrates this, but most developers want some sort of ongoing revenue stream if they’re going to fund ongoing support and maintenance and development.

    Anyway, I think there’s a big difference between the traditional “item shop” model of free-to-play, and the “content shop” model that Turbine have used with DDO and appear to be using with LOTRO.

    Supplementing the $15 monthly subscription with $5 (or whatever) adventure packs that might entertain a hardcore player for a few days or a casual player for a month – to me, that’s just providing options. The hardcore player will stick to the subscription if he’s sensible. The casual player will buy piecemeal. As long as you get new casual players that wouldn’t have played previously, it’s a winner.

    Replacing the monthly subscription with an item shop, now that’s a massive change in model, and while I have played a number of item shop games, enjoyed some of them, and am enjoying one right now, every single one of them has made me feel “this game would be better if it was on a subscription model”.

  • @Carson: If you have followed Guild Wars as closely as I have, you’d know that Guild Wars’s business model is not good if you expect a game with constant content additions. They failed to create an expansion in the six-month time they intended to do. Support for the game is pretty much non-existent because the game has no monthly-fee (this is the reason given by ArenaNET themselves). The game lacks so many features most other MMO (or non-MMO) games have, f2p or otherwise, to the point that the company decided to move on and create Guild Wars 2 which will be pretty much a clone of other fantasy MMOs, but with the same business model.

    We’ll probably have to wait and see how that goes. I suspect that it may come with a cash shop similar to what we see in other games; after all, if the business model is exactly the same as GW1, there’s no reason to create GW2 whatsoever.

  • I suppose I’m not the target audience for this, since it seems to me like screaming foul after the horses have left the barn, settled a new continent and are returning to tell you what an uncivilized barbarian you are.

  • I’m sorry, Keen, but I also agree with many of the rest that you’re way off base on this. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog but it’s pretty obvious that you’re making a snap judgement here without giving it much thought. I’m assuming that you’re basing your “F2P” disdain on your misadventures in Allods Online, but if you spent a little time getting re-aquainted with LOTRO, you’d realize that this is a good change and will bring some fresh blood to the game without “ruining” it.

    It’s no different than WAR’s “unlimited trial” in that it incentivized F2P folks to switch to subs to experience the full game, without detracting from subscrivers’ experience. A little research would have quickly shown that if you’re already a subscriber, not much will change for you other than a few extra perks and some cosmetic stuff, not far off from WOW’s sparkly pony shop – which I don’t see you complaining about here.

    These knee-jerk “sky is falling” tirades you’ve been posting lately are getting pretty old. It’d be nice to see an unbiased discussion on here for once instead of these polarized, uninformed rants. I miss the old Keen. :/

  • First of Nickb, starting a comment with “I’m sorry, but..” is the pinnacle of commenting failure.

    And then, to my real comment on this matter! Having a subscription model, is like writing a proper contract in any other business. You know what you pay and get for it, and the devs know what they get, and can plan their investments in the game according to their relatively steady subscription numbers. As many already noted, having committed to a subscription, you are more likely to want to take part in the community and invest socially in the game. People who don’t really care for the game will usually not play it due to the entrance fee.

    Free to play has no entrance fee, and will attract a lot more people. That is the good thing about F2P. A large percentage of the players will not spend much or any money at all, and this will lead to a divide between the people who do, and those who don’t. If you can buy advantages or content, it cheapens the effort of those who choose to work for it, and the value of work in general.

    aaa, i’m not in the mood for this 😮 But what i’m trying to say is that this is economics and politics in a small way. Imagine a society where the rich buy their way to the top, and the poor don’t even get to live in the same part of town. That’s how i think it feels. And I’m not talking about real life poor or rich, i’m talking about differences in in-game “worth”, created by out-of-game factors. it’s just not fair 🙂

    peace on earth kk xD

  • I’m not really sure it’s correct to classify this as LOTRO becoming a F2P game, even if that’s what Turbine themselves are claiming.

    I’d actually liken this to Wizard101 and say it’s really a non-expiring Free Trial with additional content available to paying customers.

  • @Capn John: Such a model is fine, and I would actually be fine with that if it were the case. WAR has taken a similar approach with the idea that you can play T1 all you want but if you want to get past level 11 then you need to buy the game.

    Where I think this differs is in the item shop and the changing of the model of the game from a subscription to a cashshop-driven profit model. With the cashshop-driven model comes many other changes to mechanics which allow the cashshop to be profitable.

    Anyone who believes a cash shop driven profit model works without players having to buy from the cash shop is fooling themselves.

    In other news
    LotRO has a new Exec producer as the old one moves on to a new project. It feels more and more like this is an effort to put LotRO out to pasture where they can still make money on autopilot. I really do not see this as a move for LotRO to expand and grow to new heights at all.

  • @Keen

    Or maybe the old executive producer as moved to produce a Harry Potter MMO? He wasn’t fired nor did he resigned. He was reassigned!

    And you really need to learn some differences between the freemium and free-to-play/cash shop model. While the first one usually sells content in the cash shop besides some minor cosmetiv items the second one usually sells items that are necessary for the gameplay. In the first type you have games like Wizard 101, DDO and a couple of others, in the second one you have Allods, RoM and a shitload of Korean grinders.

    IMO, the first model is more adapted to the Western market and the success of Wizard 101 and DDO proves this.
    Before you flame this change try to understand the differences in the free to play revenue models.

    @ Carson

    If you read my post you could see that i suggested improvements. I am almost sure that Guild Wars 2 will follow a revenue model very similar to DDO and LoTRO. It’s a logical evolution of their model. They usually sold boxed expansions every now and then. I can see them selling the content in a in-game cash shop alongside a load of cosmetic options.

  • I can definitely see how more people enjoying a game, and compensating the company that makes said game, is bad.

    Honestly, the whole ‘cranky grognard’ thing is wearing thin.

  • To follow suit, “aaa, i’m not in the mood for this” isn’t a particularly articulate way to start a comment either; it makes it seem like you are apologizing in advance for not being invested enough in the comment to follow. I wouldn’t normally make such a point, but hypocrisy is a pet peeve of mine…

    Peace in the galaxy!

  • The announcement of Free to Play for LOTRO has driven me back to playing a game that I previously enjoyed, but didn’t feel was worth a monthly sub. I played a few months after release (and multiple months of closed/open beta) and quickly grew bored of the game.

    More recently I tried to return and play, but every server I rolled on was almost completely empty of lower level characters and it didn’t feel at all like an MMO. With an influx of new players that the Free to Play model will create I’m looking forward to more populated servers.

    I’ll likely end up keeping a paid subscription if it’s implemented in a responsible way, which Turbine seems to be interested in doing.

  • Monsieur I really think you need to check out DDO (the other Turbine game with this model) before making the claim that you can buy your way to the top.

    In DDO, you can buy convenience items, loot bonuses, xp bonuses and access to classes, races etc that you would normally have to grind for.

    You can’t buy anything even resembling decent gear. There is no way to buy your way to the top. You can buy your way to the end game slightly faster (25% faster), but that is about it.

  • It’s all about options which a standard $14.95 a month sub will not give you. Sure, if you’re married to a game and plan to play it in perpetuity a sub is a great deal but, really, how many of us play MMO’s like that any more?

    Case in point: I was tempted into coming back to Wizard 101 recently by the $60 yearly sub offer. I always seemed to miss these deals when they came out and was not going to miss out on it this time around. While mulling over whether to pull the trigger, I started playing again rolling a fresh character through zones I had already purchased over a year ago through Crowns.

    I decided not to get the sub as I couldn’t see myself playing this game straight through for a year especially with WoW Cataclysm on the horizon. KingsIsle then came out with another similar offer for Crown buyers which I jumped on. Using these Crowns I will be able to gain access to the rest of the zones as well as any new areas coming up with the expansion. These zones will be available to me until their servers shuts downs without having to pay a monthly fee. This also means I can take extended absences without feeling like I am wasting money.

  • Before F2P came to DDO there was one thing in common with the communities on both DDO and LOTRO – both complained about a lack of content and a lack of players.

    DDO is now getting a steady stream of new updates based on the success of F2P.

    LOTRO has servers that are ghost-towns except a few endgame areas and the PVP area. Either you need more players or all of the content would have to become soloable (which I don’t want at all!) so IMHO LOTRO needs F2P now to save it. Look at the LOTRO forums pre the F2P announcement and you will see the complaints of repeated delays to updates and the widespread disappointment at the quantity and quality of content post SoA (the original game).

    LOTRO may have started out well but it’s lost it’s way and needs a serious injection of players and money to get back on track. I’m playing now as a relatively new subscriber but before the announcement I was worried about the future of the game, now I’m not.

  • Keen… I have to agree with mostly all of the comments here. Your article and point about LotRO going F2P sounds like closed-minded elitist whining. Okay, so the community is great. I agree. I sub to the game now. However, it’s small. Very small. I leveled through the Shire and barely saw another soul. That is NOT good. But guess what? That doesn’t mean the idiots and trolls aren’t there. There are just fewer of them, same as there are fewer really good players. Think of the standard bell curve. It’ll apply the same way.

    The more people, yes, I agree, the more trolls and idiots, but then you’ll also have more great players. You don’t notice the great players as much because the idiots and trolls are the loudest, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

    And you say the game is doing good as is? Really? I’m a newb to the game. I just bought it a month or two ago. How? A deal that gave me Shadows of Angmar, Mines of Moria, and Siege of Mirkwood plus a month’s play for $9.99. Does a company that is doing well make such a deal like that? Demand must be really low to give prices like that. And even now I’m only paying $9.99 a month to play. They realize their lower levels are barren and need people there. Going F2P does this and more so! And to be honest, I’m getting married soon. I’ll have a lot more bills on my hand and having any sub fees is too many for me. I would’ve quit anyway. Now, I don’t have to!

    If you’re so worried, stay in your 50+ area. Only paying players will be able to stay there. But stop being such an elitist jerk about it. (You’ll ruin my community! Get off my lawn you whippersnappers! I can’t believe those moved in, they’re ruining our neighborhood!)

    More players = more Income for a great company = MORE CONTENT. Win-win. Would you really rather have a limited and lesser game at the expense of keeping your limited community?

    If you want a subscription game thats all about community, go play A Tale in the Desert, I’m sure you’d like that much better…

    – Mikey
    Crusader of the Casual

    P.S. – The only downside I see to going F2P is the Monster-Play. I would totally be into it, but paying $15/month to do so isn’t worth it unless they really expand it. They should instead think of making that a one-time fee as well instead of VIP, or raising the level limit to start it, or something… Otherwise, I could totally see it becoming a joke.

  • The verdict, and this comes from the majority of past games that have financial backing, is that LOTRO will follow the path of DDO just like everyone thinks, right down to the last punctuation mark. By this, I mean, is that the content released will be short, shabby, and contain enough game play to help you finish off a quick boring weekend.

    I would like ANYONE here to truly go log into DDO right now and try to download a couple pieces of content and stay with it for more than a day or two. Just try.

    PS: You cannot, because it is just one ill-made dungeon.

  • I played LoTRO on the Gladden server from beta right up until a few months ago, when I finally quit aned moved onto other games. I don’t think this change to LotRo is going to change the things I didn’t like about the game; the repetetive content, the slowing of the pace of the content update cycles, or how the character development just felt lackluster at higher levels and very much ‘on rails’ for most of the character advancement. I was hoping that Rohan might rekindle my interest in the game, but even now I am a lot more doubtful.

    I don’t know if goping f2p will necessarily change the game itself, but I think this will change MMO games in general, although the change has been happening as games like WoW and STO dare to feature both subscription costs and an item shop and charge extra money for sought after content on top of subsctiption costs. I think this change for LotRO is a bit more flexible in that you can sub to get everything or go with the money for points system. Can you even buy the actual item shop content with real money or do you have to buy it with the points only which you buy with real money?

    If LOtRO is going to be like DDO then I think you can only use the points to actually obtain the shop content, which youof course buy with real money. Ultimately it is the same as applying monetary costs to the various item shop content in proportion to how many points it would take to buy something and how much those points will cost in real money. For the people who sub like the ‘good ole’ days’ this should not be an issue as they get points for free for constantly subbing.

    The problem I see is this, at what point does a VIP/subber find themselves not getting enough subscription generated free points to purchase the content they want which is not a part of the VIP/sub benefits/perks? At what point is someone paying extra money on top of the subscription costs to purchase something that used to be included in the things provided by the subscription costs of the ‘good ole days’?

    Think this type of scenario is impossible or highly unlikely for Tubine? Maybe so, maybe no. But games like WoW and EQ2 are doing it already just with the exclusive, overpriced item shop mount crap. I’m getting skeptical about LotRO’s change to f2p and it’s overall future and I really see the f2p for LotRO as a really long extended free trial.

    I played LoTRO on the Gladden server from beta right up until a few months ago, when I finally quit aned moved onto other games. I don’t think this change to LotRo is going to change the things I didn’t like about the game; the repetetive content, the slowing of the pace of the content update cycles, or how the character development just felt lackluster at higher levels and very much ‘on rails’ for most of the character advancement. I was hoping that Rohan might rekindle my interest in the game, but even now I am a lot more doubtful.

  • Dietx, I play DDO with my friends every Tuesday night and occasionally some other times during the week. You know what? It is fantastic. We don’t have to grind, grind, grind away to achieve anything and we can do a couple of adventures in the 2 hours we play.

    We’ve bought a couple of the adventure packs and I think they have been quite good. There are some decent stories, some puzzles, some good fun.

    I am not really sure what your argument is. When it comes down to it, most of the MMOs we all play are all about whacking loot bags with different types of sticks. LotRO was not any different when I played it. I am not sure what the move to free to play will change about it except bringing in more players.

  • F2p players are worse than the crap under my boot.Kids with no need for credit cards and no bed times = hill billy community.

    Sorry but I agree, don’t ruin this great game with f2p riff raff.

  • DDO turned for the better in F2P. I dont see why Lotro would be different. Maybe I’ll play again now.

  • @Keen #27 “I feel that free to play games in general are inferior. I have yet to find one that matches the subscription model in quality. Opinion? Yes.”

    There are so many things wrong with your idiotic hyperbole, but I think this abuse of logic quoted above sums up the nature of your delusion: you are incapable of differentiating between crap games which have been f2p from the start, and a AAA SUBSCRIPTION title like LOTRO that is adopting a f2p model IN ADDITION to monthly subscriptions.

    But no, according to you, f2p games are inferior. The day the LOTRO f2p is switched on, it will magically become a lesser game (despite the addition of more content) even though (as a non f2p title) it was worth subscribing to minutes beforehand.

    Reminds me of the idiot poster elsewhere who asserted that f2p games have bad graphics, so he’s disappointed that lotro will also be getting bad graphics. Gotcha.

    Someone needs a lesson in cause and effect. Just because so many inferior games use a f2p model does NOT mean f2p made them inferior.

  • Keen you have to accept the fact that you are a dying breed my man. The heavily invested experienced MMO player, the guy that shreds a game to the bone and lives by it.

    In the current market, with so much MMO competition, hardcore MMO players are not where the money is to be made. Nope, casual gameplay is the next big thing. And casual gamers are the moneycow.

    I love how someone in an above comment brought up the latest Blizzard mount example. He’s so dead on.


    I like to think of LOTRO in SWG terms. It has (had) a tight playerbase. A very dedicated audience, hardcore kinda people, that live and die by their game. But those people (numbers) are not enough. Not if you want to survive in the current market.
    You claim they were doing all right? How can you know? How can you tell? That’s what people said about SWG as well. “But they were doing all right man, why the changes??”. Well ,they weren’t. Bleeding slowely is death by ignorance.

    LOTRO is not, and this may sound weird, a niche game. It has elves, orcs and the like. It’s not that different than what’s out there atm. LOTRO had little future left in my opinion. Could they grow any further? Nope.
    And again, in this period/market, stagnation means decline. The only ones that keep beating the odds are EVE Online, because they are a niche game that cater to a very specific crowd.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hear what you say, and I understand completely. But the days of hardcore MMO players, the days that MMO games were difficult to understand and get into, the days mmo’s in general were a niche, those are over.

    You’re 100% correct in some of your opinions, but in the changing MMO world today, you sound like that 60 year old dude sitting in his wheelchair in the corner of the room, yelling stuff like “In the old days we had to walk to the other side of the map by ourselves. We didn’t have insta-travel and shiittt.”
    And then your grandkids look at you from the other side of the room and say “We know granddad, we know. Now be quiet we’re trying to play a game here. Sheez.”

    Great discussion here though. But the rabbithole goes deeper than people think.

  • This will probably never be read. After all, it’s comment number 149.

    In any case, if some poor soul cares to read this far, I would like to present an article that I just read on Slashdot from April 14th (yes, I’m that far behind on my news).

    It states “Turbine Responds To DDO Community Protest.” Turbine tried to pull a Allods mistake and instead of continuing even after the crowd cried out, they listened. Did they attempt to push it through anyway with just some lower prices? No, they took it completely out and said they’d rethink and then represent the idea if that’s what the crowd wanted. This is the way a business is SUPPOSED to be run. It’s the way a F2P MMO should be. I seriously doubt many hardcore MMO players will be hurt in LOTRO by this move. Turbine seems to be trying hard to prove they actually CARE about their player’s experiences.

  • I agree with you on most things, Keen, but on this, I think you’re wrong. For me, this is an opportunity to try a MMO that I would probably not play otherwise — I think it’s definitely a good thing. Also, Turbine’s F2P model is perhaps the best out there right now; DDO proves that it works rather well. If you’re thinking LOTRO will somehow become like Allods Online… well, that’s like comparing a ripe, juicy apple to a raisin.

  • As a lifetimer I don’t really like the micro-transaction nickel & dime shops. I can’t say i’m surprised they went this way given DDO. The only positive I can pull from this change (for the long term players) is that it may pull the game out of the dead non-development state it’s been in for almost two years. We haven’t had an expansion since MOM (Mirkwood was a map not an expansion). If they get extra revenue from the switch they may actually continue to ramp up the development of the game.

    But then who knows, they may also just put more fluff items in the cash item shop and continue to flush this great game down the toilet.

    To all those who claim that this type of F2P transactional payment item model it the wave of the future I say I sure hope not! All you have to do is look at the garbage Perfect World Entertainment, Allods and other F2P companies put out to realize that anyone who enjoys this type of game doesn’t really long for shallow casual type games.

    For those who claim that Turbine is somehow better then the other garbage F2P developers, don’t forget that they lied to the playerbase on the F2P conversion. The last update they provided was to reduce allot of the group quest (i.e. casual solo) so this whole thing has probably been in the works for some time.

  • OMG, you people for F2P are so ignorant and naive! F2P is a ripoff! First its NOT free at all. If you want to get anywhere in the game, beyond the beginner zones, you will need to pony up REAL cash for their item store…which is at the heart of all F2P games.

    I pay 15 dollars a month for my MMO, which is nothing compared to the amount of money you will be paying to F2P. Seriously…at first it starts out great. That is how they draw you in. The tokens you receive are more then enough to buy all your novice gear and stuff, typically. However as you level and try to go into higher level areas, you will notice an astronomical increase in the price of items in the item store. You will have to dish out real cash to move on, or else be prepared for the ultimate grind play ever.

    Plus, buying items just cheapens the game. It is as if Turbine gave in to all the online gold selling companies and said, the hell with it, we want in too. Playing just for the purpose of seeing content…hmm in a game that hasnt seen an expansion in a couple years…yeah that should be fun.

    The lifetimers have it the worst. Sure they get VIP priveleges now, but as the F2P community grows they eventually will be edged out. F2P people will want want the lifetimers have and as their voice will become dominant, Turbine will give in to their demands…majority rules. Keen is right, this is a sad moment for the true mmo community. As for you F2Pers, I laugh at you all, blind not to see how you are really paying more and for less quality gaming.

  • I left Lotro as soon as I heard the announcement about free to play, and as did a lot of my Kin, and also players I know outside of my Kin. I started playing in June 2007, and I really loved the game from then until late 2009. Mirkwood was a terrible “expansion”, but we now know why that it was bad, and why we’ve recieved so little content from summer 2009 up until now, the reason being Turbine have been working on free to play.

    I will miss what this game was, and also what it could have been, but most of all I will miss the community. Of all the MMO’s out there, Lotro has by far the best community, but this will no doubt change come 10th September. Thankyou all for a great 3 years in a once great game.


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