The Doldrums: ‘F2P trends’ and ‘Tribes tested by GA fans’

It feels like I’ve entered the Doldrums.   There is absolutely nothing going on!  Anyone else feel the same?  I couldn’t bring myself to write these past three days because I hate writing for the sake of writing.   I’m breaking my silence today just to comment on a few things.

Champions Online is joining the ranks of “Free to Play Pay” “MMO’s”.  This marks yet another failed game going this route in an attempt to make more money.   I’m against F2P games to the point where I write scathing anti posts, but maybe I don’t have to try so hard.  Any intelligent being can see the trend.  This is the route games take to retire.  AAA/High Quality/Highly Funded (you know what I mean so don’t nitpick) MMO’s are STILL not launching as F2P.  F2P is the backup plan.

F2P is a seemingly successful business plan.  It does, to my knowledge, often increase revenues for games that were doing poorly.  However — and this is where things get a bit tricky — it’s still not good enough to be Plan A.  Time and time again F2P is simply Plan B or the model for mass-produced shovelware titles.  I think the trends really are  starting to speak for themselves.  We’re still without a AAA F2P game.

Enough of that folderol though.

Tribes Universe’s Alpha Application is now available.  Hi-Rez has stated that priority will be given to Global Agenda level 50 players.  That’s a bit curious, isn’t it?  Aside from any contrived plan they may have to get people to buy or start playing GA again for a chance to play beta, I’m worried about what impact it will have on Tribes.

People who play GA and reach level 50 probably like GA.  Hi-Rez is making Tribes Universe because it’s (hopefully) going to give players what GA did not.  Do we really want the GA fans testing Tribes?  I don’t!  Ideally, Alpha Testers (who, let’s face it, are the only real testers that matter since Beta testing is a joke now), would be those who played Planetside and Tribes — you know, the games that Tribes Universe is drawing its inspiration from. I hope that some effort is made to insure that the minority of testers are GA players and that hopefully they’re only there because they’re supposedly “skilled players”, and not just there to tell Hi-Rez what they want to hear.

Last and most important of all: Only 12 more days until Call of Duty Black Ops!  It can’t come soon enough.

  • Going boxed initially and switching to free to play seems like a great way to double dip. You get the influx of cash from retail box sales, then you can fall back and milk those microtransactions once subscriptions decline.

    If you’re going to launch a huge AAA game with a huge marketing budget, and you fully expect your long term business plan to be F2P, there’s pretty much no reason *not* to move retail boxes and soak up the MMO tourist subscriptions for a few months first.

    Now, I have no idea whether this was the original plan for CO, but I can easily envision a company planning this all out ahead of time.

  • “Anyone else feel the same?”

    Nope! Happy to say this last quarter has had me as excited about MMOs as I’ve been for about three or four years. I’m absolutely loving the games I’m playing and fired up almost beyond reason about the prospects of half-a-dozen or more titles due out over the next 3-6 months.

    2009 was a fairly uninspiring yearbut 2010 has been very much better and 2011 looks like the golden sunlit uplands. Further up, dear heart, and further in!

  • I was going to say Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 are AAA F2P MMO’s. Yea yea its not one persistent world but its the closest I’ve seen.

  • If they want solid feedback they should recruit people from the community. That community was built around Tribes and I’m willing to wager most of the members still consider Tribes the best game of all time. I know a handful still actively play.

    If you can look past the dated graphics then check out these videoes (watch part 2 and 3 as well) and you can get a sense of how awesome the game was:

    I wish someone would just take the original Tribes engine and reskin it with updated graphics and some new maps. Each attempt at a new Tribes game has failed. I believe they placed too much emphasis on changing the core mechanics and gameplay rather than taking what was already a solid game and just expanding it.

  • It seems a lot of people are getting through the Doldrums with either Minecraft or World of Tanks.

    Given your playing preferences I am surprised you have not given World of Tanks a go yet. Beta keys are available from Shattered Crystal. But I’m sure if you chat to the admins, you would get a journalist account.

    A lot of Aussies and European players right now.

  • @Devin: GW and GW2 are not “F2P”. You buy those games and they do not follow the microtransaction model.

    @Freshmeat: I played it a little while ago. I couldn’t get into it.. for some reason it just felt boring to me.

  • MMO Doldrums: yes, I’m not playing any MMOs now (and City of Heroes is terrible so the news it’s gone FTP won’t entice me to try it again.

    Gaming Doldrums: not really, I’ve still got Assassin’s Creed 2 to actually start but my Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition arrives soon.

    On the horizon is Dragon Age 2 and Crysis 2 albeit games launching around March. Between now and then I have the fight to avoid resubbing to WoW on my hands….I’m back and forth on this as I want to play the Expansion but don’t want to get sucked back into the grind.

  • “This is the route games take to retire.” what is the date for DDO to pull the plug? When does Turbine go belly up after posting a 300 percent revenue increase?

    Hell, I bet if the original EQ went F2P right now, the game would get crazy amounts of people joining the game to see what it is about and see an increase in its profits.

    I think you don’t understand that the model works when things are there in the game store that are flair or spur of the moment type things that people are going to want, just like any good department store does.

    Just becasue it’s F2P doesn’t make it bad, in my book, it makes it more appealing because I am more apt to try a MMO out that I would have skipped before to save some cash to test it out.

  • DDO already pulled the plug to the point of being shut down before. LotRO was out for several years before going F2P. If EverQuest goes F2P then it’s being done after being out for over a decade. My point stands that F2P is plan B.

    Also, I said that F2P is successful for a business model. That’s -why- they call it the business model of MMO’s. That changes nothing, though. We’re still not seeing AAA F2P games and games are still going F2P as plan B. I’m predicting that F2P will remain a plan B mentality and as such will never overtake paying for a game the original way.

  • I wonder if F2P isn’t really the natural business model for MMOs. Aside from WoW, what game has ever held more than 500,000 subs for any period of time? UO and EQ, the previous kings of the hill peaked at 250,000-500,000— numbers that would put them solidly in the massive fail category if they launched today. Every other big MMO follows the same pattern; huge launch, huge fail, slow suffocating death. EVE Online, probably the only other MMO people would consider a success— 250,000 subs.

    You might not like it much, but it seems like the natural sub numbers for the average MMO is between 250-500k. At that level, F2P is apparently the way to go (once you paid off your investment costs with the tourists box sales and a few months of subs). The sub model is outdated for those games that aren’t the MMO equivalent of Avatar and Titanic combined.

  • The huge launch huge fail trend is new (as in Post-WoW). EQ reached 550k (I remember the announcement) and stayed steady for a long while — in fact it grew for several years from 250k+. UO was steady too. DAOC and SWG were also stable. Most MMO’s pre-WoW were stable and solid releases that would be considered absolute blockbusters today.

    As I’ve said 100x now, I’m not denying F2P is lucrative. However, 250-500k subscribers is nothing to sneeeze at. If that is maintained over years it’s absolutely fine.

    Even if you disagree, can you tell me why F2P remains secondary?

  • F2P never being the first plan is a little odd. Frankly I don’t even have a guess for that, it seems like we would have seen a lot more AAA games aiming to use that model.

    And yeah, MMO land is pretty fucking slow right now. I’m keeping plenty busy running through the Guildwars PvE campaigns, and with the new TF2 Halloween update. Other than that, not much going on.

  • As for level 50 GA players testing, I don’t mind too much. The main problems with GA are the fact that it is level and loot based. The actual shooter mechanics them selves felt pretty decent the brief time I played the trial. Assuming they aren’t going to listen to GA people saying “we liked loot in GA” which if they do means they weren’t serious about anything they’ve said so far to begin with so it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t be too big an issue. Ideally they’d take people from or something, they people that are going out of their way to play Tribes years later.

    Still, it doesn’t have me worried in and of itself. If the game starts looking like a diku MMO, then i’ll start to be worried.

  • @Mala

    Although, they did say that they are creating Tribes Universe based on player feedback… I’m worried that they will continue down that line when they have GA players giving feedback during the first months.

  • After the $150 that APB dropped, and the $300 Star Wars will drop, and the unimpressive results from WAR and Aion, I suspect that any AAA title will find it very hard sledding to raise funds.

    On the other hand, FTP/a la carte games will keep getting more revenue and, critically, will be able to quickly monetise newly developed content.