Price is NOT the Issue

I find it pathetic that price has become the scapegoat of failure in the gaming industry.  I’m positive that any executives, developers, or anyone making a statement about price being an issue is being deceptive;  I find it impossible to believe they’re all that stupid.  Anyone with an ounce of training in marketing, economics, business management, or even common sense, knows the principles of delivering value.

If your game sucks and isn’t worth $15 a month, that’s not a price issue!  That’s a quality issue!  Peter Moore says that price was always the issue, and people stopped playing SWTOR because they felt locked in at $15 a month.  Wrong, sir!  Wrong!  People stopped playing your game because it wasn’t worth $15 a month, not because they didn’t want to spend that money.  Those same people would happily pay that, or more, for a game worth the money.

This argument that price is to blame is like saying there is never an excuse for a poor quality product.  But Peter Moore and other people spinning the issue of price don’t want you to look at their product.  They want you to look at their competition still charging a price tag, get you to believe the market is changing, or see anything but the true reason why their game failed.  Not all of us are falling for your attempts at misdirection, you clever little magicians.

What happens when every game is free and you can no longer blame price?   There’s a reason why competing on price is a failed strategy.

Stop selling us on free to play and start selling us on your product.  Go all the way back to your first sales class where they taught you that people buy benefits.  They don’t buy advantages, features, or in this case excuses.  What’s your point of difference?  Where is your game’s value?  Blizzard still charges $15 a month for WoW because they are not competing on price. $60 boxes still release every Tuesday, and some sell multiple millions.  Be unique, develop a reputation, improve, or find some way to differentiate.  There’s a reason why people line up every year to buy the next overpriced Apple product.

Ten years ago, when my money was worth far more, I paid a monthly fee.  Since then I have never once questioned paying a monthly fee for a product worth that money.  The only time I ever question paying $15 is when a game is no longer delivering a value worth that money.     Give people a reason to spend their money, and they’ll happily spend it.

  • You are contradicting yourself. The title should be “Price is not the only issue.” or not the entire issue. As you stated, it’s value. Value = perceived benefits received / perceived PRICE paid.

    Also, I really like the freedom of not paying a monthly fee and feeling chained to GW2. I suppose you could say that is part of the perceived benefits received, but obviously its also tied to price except that in this case while the company is making more, they are doing nothing but adding a huge negative for me. Meanwhile, with GW2, I’ve only spent $60 and have the choice of spending extra money through their gift shop if i really want to.

    Price not only affects value, but how they apply said price can also affect value.

  • I completely agree with this article. For me Time > Money. My life is slammed yet I have some disposable income. I have NO problem paying 15 bucks a month for WoW since I still enjoy it. I have bought almost every other MMO that has come out recently and would have gladly paid them money had I enjoyed it. GW2 is free yet I still don’t have any desire to play it, since it’s just not for me.

    Price has NEVER been an issue to me because when you add the cost/hour it’s by far one of the cheaper forms of entertainment out there.

    One example that did make me think down Steel’s point of view was Skylanders. Now here is a game that I originally thought price was the issue. But the more I think about it, it’s still not. The final reason our family didn’t get it was it didn’t seem fun enough to justify the time and my kids were upset with their business decision to not have your original figures to have full power. This kept us from trying it and possibly spending more. (It’s hilarious listening to my kids talk about how dumb it was to them they needed to buy the same figures again. I really wish I had that recorded.)

    This industry just fascinates me. Good stuff Keen.

  • Price is always an issue, and when you have only one example of a game succeeding hugely with a subscription you undermine your argument out of the gate. It’s like expecting every romantic drama to do as well as Titanic or something. That simply isn’t going to happen, especially with WoW is still out there hoovering up every spare player.

    It’s easy to say innovate, provide more value, but a whole lot of people with millions and millions of their own money at stake have been trying for years and nothing has been good enough. Take the hint that it isn’t as easy as you think.

  • Totally agree… Players have proven they will pay for quality, and if you own a computer and an internet connection capable of playing these games, $15 a month is a non-issue.

    We’re about to go through a dark period where they think F2P is the answer to everything, and will go overboard (there’s nowhere to go after free.) I believe the pendulum will swing back the other way and stabilize more on a subscription service once again, in the next generation of these games. Perhaps at a modified price point.

    What worries me about executives like Moore saying those things is, do they really believe that? Or is it shareholder spin? Because if they really believe it, we’re all doomed.

  • If I sell a new car for $20,000 and nobody wants to buy it – there will be a price point where everyone will buy it regardless of quality if the quality is within a certain reasonable standard (there probably is a price point where everyone would buy even if the quality is below the reasonable standard). I think that goes with a lot of things that you can purchase.

    I don’t think that works for MMOs though. We only pay to get access to a game but we still have to make an investment of our own – time. If you think about it – playing computer games is kind of silly because we are sitting here, staring at a screen, clicking a mouse, and hitting keyboard buttons…that is how we spend our valuable time. If the game fails to deliver the quality to make us forget what we are actually physically doing…the game could be free and I wouldn’t play it. They could pay me to play the game and I wouldnt (of course – then there will be a price point again when I would play the game).

  • I agree with you, to a point.

    I agree that value is the core issue here. However, as Steeldragon said, price is definitely relevant when considering value. SWTOR was not good enough to warrant $15, you’re absolutely right. So instead of increasing quality they’re decreasing price. That *does* increase value.

    For example, I’m sure lots of people here can identify with this scenario: Steam sales. I know I’ve bought several games that I previously had little interest in because they were 75% off. Why? Because even an average game for $5 is a good value.

  • There’s a lot of games that I enjoy (the Magic the Gathering game), that I put a lot of hours into, and I still wouldn’t pay 60 bucks for it, even though I enjoy it far more than many games I have paid 60 bucks for. If WOT charged a sub I’d have quit, even though for a while I was spending $100/mo on the game. I like being able to control when I spend money on it, and be able to take a break without feeling like I am wasting money or going through the hassle of canceling.

    There’s three basic types of players: ones who the 15/mo matter (and that is two or three hours of labor a month for a kid making minimum wage, which is no joke). They might be better off in F2P if they can control themselves. Then there are the ones who don’t care about the 15/mo, but they tend to be adults who don’t have a lot of time to play and don’t see the point in subscribing just for a few hours a month. They also would be better off in F2P.

    The third type hates F2P, because they spend a lot of time playing the game and if they had to pay for that consumption their fee would shoot up way past 15/mo. They prefer the sub model because it’s a good deal for them, even though it’s a bad deal for everyone else. I just want this third type to own up to the fact they like subs because it is in their own self interest instead of dressing it up like it’s a moral principle they are fighting for.

    On the whole I think the preference of this third group is largely irrelevant, because they are a small % of customers with the strongest drive to play these games, and will probably become the second type as they age.

    F2P allows for selective pricing; everyone gets to pay what they are willing to pay. Apparently that is the most lucrative model for MMOs that are not named World of Warcraft. Get used to it.

  • @Toxic (First comment): There’s over a decade of games succeeding with a subscription fee. There is more than enough established precedent, and current example, to prove beyond a doubt that millions upon millions of people are willing to pay a subscription fee. Outside of the gaming industry, there is even more proof that people are willing to pay above and beyond for a product for many reasons.

    Price matters, but price is not the ISSUE. The issue being: why games like SWTOR failed. Peter Moore and others shaming the subscription fee model, or paying for a game in general, are misdirection people while they scramble to make every last dollar they can out of a failing game.

    @toxic (Second comment): This is treading dangerously close to being off-topic, but you missed my category entirely. I hate F2P because it ruins the game’s design. Show me a F2P that hasn’t influenced gameplay. (In before someone says GW2. Not a F2P, thanks!) Fact: F2P games are designed to drive people to the cash shop to spend money. I dislike how that changes games. Let’s stay on the topic of this blog post. Price is not the reason why a game like SWTOR failed.

    @Steeldragoon: I like the freedom of not paying a subscription too. I can go play other games, and log in 30 minutes a day without regret. The question I have to ask myself is whether or not I would continue to subscribe to GW2 if there was a $15 subscription fee. If the answer is no, why would I be willing to pay for access to a different game? I’m positive that a great host of people do not even consider the $15 price tag, and care more about the quality of the game.

    If GW2 survives in its current model long enough, they will release many expansions that are paid boxes. GW2 is definitely buy to play. I got my $60 out of it so far. There was plenty of value there.

    As I mentioned to Toxic, price does matter but it is not the issue. The issue is quality and creating a product that delights customers. Build a game people want to play, and $15 a month isn’t an issue. Build a game that doesn’t live up to the hype, can’t keep players interested, and has many design failings and people will want to play the game regardless of the price.

    —-

    To further develop my point that people are willing to pay and that price is not the issue, take a look at how much people spend in games with cash shops. There are several reasons why companies turn to cash shops, but the big reason is that they can get MORE money out of the customer. No company, not a single one, goes F2P because they care about giving their customers the freedom to choose how their money is spent. That’s laughable. They go F2P because they believe they’ll make even more money.

    So while I’m not debating the success or failure of F2P games in this post, I am pointing out that blaming a price point which has worked for over a decade, and continues to work extremely well today, for your game failing is a misdirect. People are willing to spend money. Give them a product worth spending that money on. SWTOR wasn’t a product worth spending that money on, but hopefully for them it’s good enough to compete in the red ocean of F2P.

  • What other game has succeeded with subs? I mean, by the standards of success today (1 million subs+)? I didn’t say you couldn’t survive or make money with subs, but when virtually every MMO is going to F2P, I’m going to assume they know what they are doing. SWTOR’s subs would have been great for EQ or UO; they just wanted more.

    The point I may not have made clearly enough is that you cannot expect every MMO to be awesome sauce. Most will be mediocre, many bad. The quality will inevitably shake out to a bell curve, and of course each person has a different bell curve. For me, Lord of the Rings is a better movie than Avatar. Many people (sadly, IMO) disagree with that. Regardless, there is a place for the cheap slasher flick and the Avengers in the same industry.

    Advocating a model that only works for the monster blockbuster is not good business. And lesser films (like, I dunno, Night of the Living Dead) can still be quite enjoyable even if you couldn’t get many people to drop $30 to see it in the theatre. I’m having a love hate relationship with War Z right now, for instance, that would not be happening if it was a sub game. It also seems to have a pretty reasonable cash shop.

    The sub model also effects game design, you’ve just become acclimated to it. The gear treadmill and general hamster wheel design of WoW is because the sub model requires people to stay hooked for as long as possible. The design decisions made to support the sub model are the source of pretty much everything that sucks about MMOs.

    World of Tanks has a great F2P model. I don’t have much experience with other F2P games so I can’t comment on those, and I could see how trying to retrofit a F2P model on a sub game could get weird, but apparently it’s what works.

  • @Toxic: Why on earth would a successful game have to be compared to today’s numbers? And why are 1,000,000 subs the “standards of success today”? I’m confident my point stands.

    I agree that not every MMO will be “awesome sauce.” That proves my point. The game isn’t awesome sauce. Do you blame the price for that? Of coarse not. If a game isn’t worth playing to the point of having to give it away just to hope that people will start giving you money, that’s not a price issue.

    As to the once again off-topic discussion about cash shops…

    I would rather the subscription model be designed to keep me playing and enjoying the game any day over a game being designed to push me into a cash shop to spend money.

    *Sarcasm* Heaven forbid a game is actually designed to keep me interested. */sarcasm*

    I know you didn’t say this, but it’s important to point out that a sub MMO doesn’t have to have a gear treadmill; There and more games and years of MMORPG’s without them than there are with them.

  • Mr. Moore is either kidding himself or trying to kid us. If price were the issue, they wouldn’t have been able to sell so many Collector’s Editions and Digital Deluxe Editions at such high prices. We didn’t drop that money and then quit because we couldn’t afford the sub.

    Every word that comes out of their mouths only proves how little they understand MMO gamers.

  • @Jenah: Exactly! I hadn’t even thought to include the CE or the deluxe versions in my argument — great insight. Points out yet another reason why people were willing to spend above and beyond even the normal box price.

  • Because every MMO that came out in the past 5 years was deemed to be a total failure when they were at 500,000 subs, that’s why.

    EQ at its peak would be called a failure if it came out today.

    And you are missing my point, and I really don’t see how you can given the last 4 years of history: not every game is going to be WoW. They don’t even have the chance to become WoW because half a million jaded WoW players jump in, aren’t immediately smitten, and destroy the games reputation within 3 months. I have never heard a bad word about Rift, yet the same thing happened with it. That doesn’t mean a game sucks, it just means that you can make more money with F2P than by catering to the few hundred thousand people who will pay a sub for your game. A few hundred thousand is the normal sub amount an MMO can expect; you’re letting WoW distort your concept of what is feasible. Don’t feel bad— all the people who got burned on their 100 million dollar investments in MMO’s fell for it too.

    WoW got a free pass from this because it came along at the right time and was able to build and improve itself when EQ2 was it’s only halfway serious competitor and the customer base wasn’t as fickle or jaded. But it has always had, and continues to have, severe problems that would be grounds to quit if it was present in a new game.

    WoW is a freak outlier. You could release a game just as polished and well done, and it would bomb (compared to WoW). Using the freak outlier as the benchmark is a bad idea.

  • Keen, got to agree with you on this one.

    If you have some disposable income, price isn’t the driving force that makes or breaks MMOs.

    If it was, you’d see companies LOWERING their monthly subs instead of switching their money model to F2P.

    I’ve been paying for WoW for years…because it’s a good game and well worth the monthly subscription. I’ve also tried many of the new MMOs — Warhammer, Rift, SWOTR- and ultimately decided I had more fun with WoW. In some cases I really rooted for the alternative and leaving it was a real disappointment. None of those decisions were based on price.

    I’m enjoying GW2 now but still have a WoW sub, but I know some people who stopped playing GW2 in favor of WoW (ie, opting to pay for a monthly sub over something they already owned that had no monthly sub).

    If it has to be free before people think it’s worth playing, I think that says a lot. And I find the nickel-and-dime annoyances of F2P cash shops and content designed to force you into incremental transactions almost always makes MMOs less fun than they’d otherwise be.

  • The CE editions don’t prove anything except that people are suckers. It’s a sunk cost anyway; $15/mo is $15/mo whether you’re down $80 or $50. In any case it’s not like these games don’t have anyone willing to pay the subscription; they have several hundred thousand people who enjoy it enough to pay the $15. They just have done the math and realized they could make more money with F2P.

    It’s not a matter of affording the sub either; it’s whether you are deriving enough fun for it to be worth it. I had a sub to Gamefly, and even though I could afford to light $25 on fire every month if I wanted to, I canceled it because it wasn’t worth it to me. If it had been $10 a month I might have kept it. I would use Gamefly enough to justify $10/mo, but not $25. All this discussion is coming from the perspective of a hard core MMO player, but that is a very blinkered and distorted perspective. These games are not important, they are not a lifestyle; they are one of a million entertainment options (and not a very fun one at that).

    The difference between Gamefly and an MMO is that the additional cost of another player is essentially zero, so they are better off letting people pay what they personally are willing to pay for it. They see a lot of paying customers they wouldn’t get otherwise, and they get a few people who shell out a hell of a lot more than $15. Hence why F2P works so well.

    These games don’t have to be a frigging lifestyle choice where it’s just what you do with all your free time. Most people don’t want to do that, and it just isn’t fun enough for them to spend 15 bucks whether they play that month or not.

  • Toxic, you keep arguing that money is the issue and say that innovation has been made yet people don’t buy into it. I would like to know what this innovation is, because as far as I can see there hasn’t been any real innovation in MMOs since WoW, and even WoW didn’t do any real innovation. I quit playing SWTOR because it was basically WoW in space, and calling voice acting innovative when that feature has been around in single player games for years is insulting to consumers. I quit SWTOR because I already play WoW, I don’t take a break from a game to go play another game just like it, that defeats the purpose.
    If all FPS games were identical to Halo in every way except they changed the graphics I would have stopped playing FPSs a long time ago.

  • I both agree and disagree. I shouldn’t really comment on TOR as I have never played it but even from the outside it does seem clear that a $15 sub alone wasn’t the problem. I also agree that if an MMO is sufficiently appealing, $15 a month is very good value and something I am willing to pay.

    On the other hand, I want to try many, many MMOs. All of them, in an ideal world. Free trials and betas are nice and before the F2P revolution I made extensive use of those, but free access, even with restrictions, is *much* better.

    I like the Freemium model, where a subscription gives you unfettered access but you are still able to play the game at a more casual level for free. As a consumer, this seems to give me the best of both worlds.

  • when I read that interview I literally cussed at him out loud in front of my computer. The whole industry is giving up on creating an MMO we want and focusing all their efforts into lowering our expectations.

  • I’m not sure where I said there was innovation. I believe the basic MMO structure is dictated by technical constraints caused by having to design every space around having hundreds or thousands of players present, so if I implied that I didn’t mean to. Any game that tries different gameplay to work around these constraints gets exiled as not-really-an-mmo, so you guys are really boxing yourself in while crying about how much you hate the box. I did say that people only give these games 3 months to prove themselves, and that plenty of solid MMO’s have gotten crapped on for things that were equally true of WoW at the same stage in its development. I understand that people can’t be expected to babysit these games through their teething stage, but the shadow of WoW prevents them from having a chance to thrive. All the people willing to bum around and pay $15 bucks a month to play for 5 hours a month are playing WoW, and you aren’t going to get them to leave for another game. They don’t care enough to move.

    Basically what I’m saying is that when WoW was growing by leaps and bounds, there was no other game people could turn to and say “WoW is just X with cartoony orcs.” There were millions of virgin players who had no baseline for comparison, and for those who did WoW was a distinct improvement over EQ and UO. People seem to want these games to just appear with the same level of development and polish as a game that has had years to and all the money in the world to polish itself with, which is deeply unrealistic. Saying “Get Better” is not an answer to that problem. I also think people are less forgiving. SWTOR didn’t have an endgame at launch? Neither did WoW. PvP sucks? So did WoWs, and it still has serious problems.

    Freemium is a fine model. I just don’t mind cash shops, though you can do them wrong (Allods comes to mind). My point is that F2P is financially the better model for most of these games, and it isn’t inherently inferior.

  • @Toxic I think you’re perspective is a bit off. It’s not that people hate games, b/c they try different things, it’s quite the contrary opposite, it’s what plagued games, like SWTOR, and RIFT at launch, only recently has it finally broken out of it’s shell.

    While polish is definitely something that we all as a consumer base, want, and appreciate, it isn’t the core feature. The problem Polish has become so important in the last 4-5 years, is because NO major game company releasing a AAA MMO worth anything has veered off the beaten path. They basically took the Themepark WoW MMO model blueprint, and did the same thing over and over. So us as a consumer base had to eventually adapt and say, well if this is the direction you’re going to do, it better be polished. This is opposed to say 10 years ago, where when games came out, and they were all so much more diverse, not just sandbox vs themeparks, they had far more deeper nuances and intricacies.

    Major companies saw the success Blizzard had with WoW and drooled (i.e. EA) and said why risk tons of money for something “experimental” and “new” when we can make a game with the same blueprint but with an IP that is so attractive and provocative and make bank (Star Wars). Problem was, they not only released a game that was unpolished, it was unfinished, the combat was actually watered down WoW combat, which is hard to imagine, seeing is how easy WoW combat is to master. Along with key features that all AAA MMOs are expected to have at launch (i.e. Dungeon finder, customizable UI etc).

    These so called “Constraints” you speak of in the MMO Universe were overcome for years and years, only in the last handful of years have they become an issue, yet technology has improved, so why are they going in different directions? Because big corporate companies are focused on money,especially in this economic climate, and as i mentioned earlier, the themepark model was proven, so they all jumped on the bandwagon. Now 5 years later, we as the consumer want to vomit as the site at any themepark that isn’t polished to an insane extent, b/c it’s the only thing that will compensate for seeing the same thing over and over.

    ” Any game that tries different gameplay to work around these constraints gets exiled as not-really-an-mmo” If you’re referring to how SWTOR designed it’s world, that makes each planet feel like 25 small rooms, rather than one seamless planet, another huge problem with the game, that again is just more proof the game was rushed. Maybe you’re referring to D3? the entire model of the game dictates it being an MMO or not, that’s like saying because a game is designed to be in first person to get over technical constraints that go along with 3rd person, its not an MMOFPS or anything of that nature…of course it is.

    “Freemium is a fine model. I just don’t mind cash shops, though you can do them wrong (Allods comes to mind). My point is that F2P is financially the better model for most of these games, and it isn’t inherently inferior.” As keen said, and i totally agree with, NO company makes a F2p game, or in your case “Freemium” without the direct intention of generative more revenue. It not only causes you to go to the cash shop and spend even more money than you would in a subscription but it also changes the entire game design when it comes to content release by the development team, they no longer have guaranteed 15$ and no longer feel the need to pump out content at a fast rate (I.E. RIFT) to keep the consumer occupied and compelled to keep their sub. I honestly don’t like GW2’s model either, b/c they suffer from this same flaw, but instead when they do release content you pay for it, making their model completely contradictory and stupid IMO.

    The Bottom line is, companies have lacked creativity the last few years, b/c they don’t want to take ANY Risks, problem is, we adapted, want uber polished games to compensate, they haven’t given that to us. Now you see smaller companies coming out of the woodwork, willing to give us that “different” experience, such as with Archaege coming out, and TRION is pumping out content at an astounding rate, and doing anything and everything to distance itself from the themepark model.

    I predicted it a couple years ago, but as WoW slowly dies, which i think the speed at with it declines will be accelerated by MoP, the themepark model itself will decline, bringing us back to how it was at the beginning of the millenium, a diverse mix of both sandbox, and themepark, and more nuances in both models that separate games. Unfortunately for now, as a consumer we’re essentially having a slump, as WoW falls off, and all the other big and small companies alike are rushing to get games up and running, or finished off to fit the new need and blueprint, of “different”. So we all must just wait….which sucks… 😀

  • Keen – Alright, I’m going to create an extremely wild example to prove a point.

    Something can be valued properly, but it also has to be affordable. In other words, price IS an issue. To say it isn’t, means you simply aren’t trying to focus on that part of the problem. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue or even THE issue. It just isn’t THE issue you’re concerned about that this moment.

    Lets say a new mmo comes out next year. It’ll be a one of a kind. Completely 3d/virtual and you can feel and perceive everything as if you were actually there. You’ve got RvR with a DF like DAOC with tons of sandbox elements … and it’s literally a million times better than DAOC, GW2, WoW, EverQuest, SWG, combined. The game costs $50,000 with a $10,000 yearly maintenance fee. Between living expenses and everything else, you can’t even afford to think about it. Yet the value is there. In fact, it has so much value, but you could never possibly hope to afford it because the price is too high. It’s an entry barrier to you even getting to play the game.

    How does this apply to games like WoW? I know college students that are playing WoW and barely able to pay the $15 a month fee. They do it anyway and forgo food or some other essential instead. Were they wiser and perhaps valued their health more, perhaps a game wouldn’t over take their life instead. The $15 a month should be a barrier to entry, but they are attempting to avoid that by screwing themselves out of bare essentials. Eventually I forecast that they won’t be able to afford it and price will be an issue. In fact, when they are no longer able to afford it, will be THE issue.

  • @Steeldragoon: I see the problem. Price -matters- but it is not THE ISSUE as it pertain to the context of this discussion.

    You’ll never get away from the fact that some people can’t afford $15 a month, but those people are irrelevant to the discussion. No disrespect meant to them. For Peter Moore to say that SWTOR failed because of the price, when over a million people dropped $60 on the box (or more if they got the CE/DE) and millions and millions pay subs for others games is a gross misdirection. Price was, by far, the least of their issues — if any issue at all.

    Do you see that I agree price matters but isn’t THE issue? Price isn’t what causes these games to fail.

  • While I agree with you on the point that SWTOR’s issue was the price, which it wasnt. The problem with SWTOR as most know is the lack of endgame and any sembelance of innovation from the WoW model. Its safe to say that those who want to play WoW style endgame will play WoW, with narrow exceptions of course since its not hard to get a few thousand people to pay for crap games like TOR or Rift.

    I do disagree with you on the broader sense though, MMO’s have always been a niche market audience and if you were poll any number of console, FPS, RPG, RTS, or single player games on why they dont play an MMO, the #1 issue is always subscription fees.

  • As an example does anyone really think that games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, FIFA, NFL Madden, or Borderlands would be as popular if one was required to spend $15.00 a month to play? Of course not and that is why the sub fee is an issue for everyone except MMO vets.

  • @Zederok: I don’t understand. What point are you trying to make by saying people wouldn’t pay $15.00 for a shooter? MMORPG’s justify the cost because they’re supposed to receive regular content updates.

    Despite the example making no sense, plenty of people pay that for DLC.

  • The technical restraints I’m talking about were not exceeded years and years ago, at least to my knowledge.

    Basically, as I understand it, and I am no expert, but each additional player basically exponentially increases the sizes of the calculation required to simulate the world.

    This is why Call of Duty 4 tops out at 18 players a server. They are computationally complex games with serious physics simulation. As a result they can’t handle 250 players on a server and apparently are now limited to 18 dudes per server. A Battlefield 3 server for 64 people costs over $900 dollars PER YEAR, and the won’t even sell you a 65 person server, much less a 5,000 person server. Basically each guy you add to the game is equivalent of one doubling of Moore’s Law. Obviously MMO’s are way, way, way ahead of their time in this respect since the gameplay and graphics they can give you is really shitty compared to every other genre of video game.

    MMOs, on the other hand, have to deal with being able to theoretically handle thousands of players in the same place. As anybody who ever saw a truly massive pvp battle in WoW or Planetside can tell you, it turns into a 1 frame per second mess very very quickly. There’s a reason you can’t duel in IF and SW, and thats because if everyone tried it the cities would be totally unusable.

    As a result of having to design the game around an almost entirely hypothetical mass gathering, you see the exact same features in every MMO:

    The game is essentially a flat plane with a few columns. Hills are an illusion because you move the same speed up the hill as you do down the hill. There are no physics to speak off; if you charge full speed into a tree on your horse, you just stop, the same as if you had walked into the tree. Combat is based on crude measures of distance and LOS checks. You stand around a lot (because that is easier to simulate) waving your hands to cast a spell. The summary is that every MMO designs combat around being as computationally simple as possible. This means they all look the same, the same way that that every car that tries to be aerodynamically efficient looks the same (compare the EV-1 to the original Honda Insight or the Prius). They all look the same because there is one best answer to the problem.

    This sound familiar?

    Every MMO is like every MMO for the same reason that every car looks more or less the same: the laws of physics dictate that there is only one best way to build a car. There are relatively minor variations, but from the Model T to the Porsche 911, they all have 4 wheels. The absence of three wheel cars is not because the automotive industry lacks courage; it’s that three wheeled cars suck balls. 5 wheeled cars suck too. Two wheeled cars are fun deathtraps. Blame God if you don’t like it.

    Same thing with MMOs. They are what they are because they have to design the game around the worst case scenario of everyone being in the same place at the same time. Either loosen up the definition of massively (a term invented when dudes were dialing each other up on their 28.8 modems to play Duke Nukem 3D, so don’t feel it’s etched in stone), or accept that that MMO’s will ALWAYS BE BASICALLY THE SAME BECAUSE THE LAWS OF COMPUTATION DICTATE THAT MMOS HAVE TO HAVE THE SAME BASIC GAMEPLAY. Increased consumer expectations re; graphics suck up the entirety of advances in computer power.

    So here is my challenge: tell me what innovations you want that is 1) computationally feasible if 1000 players were participating and 2) would not be ruined by asshole players and 3) would attract 500,000+ subscribers— I will buy you a years subscription to the MMO of your choice, or give you $150 worth of game currency if you prefer a FTP game. Open to anyone. Serious offer. Tobold can be the judge if he is willing. I hear a lot of calls for innovation but very little explanation of what innovation they want. Tell me what you want and tell the people making these games how to do it. Or stop whining. One of the two. To me MMO gamers sound like spoiled teenagers who don’t understand why their parents won’t buy them a new car for their 16th birthday. They don’t understand what a new car costs, they can’t conceive of the discipline it takes to hold down a job, they don’t understand that their parents have lots of bills to pay as well as college to save for and retirements to plan; they are just gaping maws of ignorant mewling want. Prove me wrong.

  • @Keen: Yea I am saying MMO’s is the only PC genre that forces a player to pay a monthly sub. In other words it would be as if a FPS would charge a DLC fee but not deliver any content. Lets face it not many MMO’s put out content on a monthly basis. If say for example WoW charged $15.00 for every content patch then the average gamer would only pay about $30.00 a year. Most MMO’s dont fare much better (Rift being the rare exception).

    Go around any other gaming forum and ask around any time a MMO is brought up, the vast majority say they dont play because of a sub fee.

  • Heading in Zederok’s direction on this …

    The $60 for the initial game might be worth it, but the game then becomes a 3 monther or less due to lack of content updates making the $15 equivalent to 25% of the game they just purchased. In other words, if the $15 monthly value of the game play after the initial purchase isn’t worth at least 25% of the initial value of purchasing the game, then why keep playing and paying that sub?

    Of course, the issue in this context is still value. The problem is simply the amount of content added monthly compared to the amount of content originally purchased for $60. If at the end of 5 months you don’t have double your value of the original purchase, were those monthly payments worth it?

  • I agree 100%. I’d pay a sub for a good game. I’ve lost faith in people to be able to make one though. Gw2 will do me for now, its pretty good and has no sub.

  • Is anyone else amused by the fact that 100% of what Toxic has written here is outright wrong? Nothing you have written about server structure, lag vs client performance, MMO design, MMO history, etc, is even remotely accurate.

    Also, send that $150 to me buddy. EVE.

  • Eve doesn’t pass the 500,000 subscriber prong. Or arguably the ruined by assholes prong.

    It’s a pretty hard test to pass.

  • Why are people lining up to buy overpriced apple products?

    I’m seriously interested because I was never able to figure that one out.

  • @Winter: For the same reason people spend money on anything. Whether you break out the hierarchy of needs and analyze the individual, or you look at the big picture, there’s a value being provided.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I have enough disposable income to easily pay a monthly fee to multiple different MMORPGs if I felt like it. But I don’t feel like it. I used to feel like it though. Back when they made games with the skinner box model. Grinding for the next “ding”. Or camping for a rare spawn. Or spending the night with 72 of my friends to earn DKP so I would have a chance in a month to bid on one amazing item.

    Back in those days they always had a handful of people who would reach max level in less than a month. But it was just a handful. Now they design the games so the majority of the player base is max level in a month. It’s totally self defeating for the game designers and I really don’t understand why they keep repeating this mistake.

    And everybody can basically get all the loot now so nothing is really rare. There are no rare spawns to speak of. Dungeons take a random group of newbs and you don’t even need the holy trinity anymore. Even “raids” are a joke with only 16-18 people required.

    They’ve dumbed themselves down so much they have broken the business model completely. So now they all have to be free cause nobody wants to pay 15 bucks a month when they are basically finished with the game in two months.

    And I disagree with the person who said if a game like WoW came out today it wouldn’t be able to charge a subscription. Those of us playing EQ at the time when WoW came out thought that WoW was a dumbed down piece of crap, but we didn’t realize at that time just how far the entire genre would collapse. Maybe WoW started the decline, but it had way more complexity and skinner box like functionality than any of the crap coming out today.

    I know a bunch of you are going to come on here and tell me it’s a new world and not everybody enjoys the skinner box in their gaming! And I’d tell you when you remove it all you have left is roleplay, an the majority of us don’t want to pay $15 bucks a month for that. That’s the entire problem.

  • More and more I grow tired of spend $60 on “blockbuster” games. I have spent hundreds of dollars on games this year but I have found that often I get far more enjoyment out of $10-$15 games than I do those $60 games. Most MMOs I know by the first or second week after launch if I am going to stick with them. That said I don’t think I have ever really quit a game just because of the monthly fee. At one time I had six active WoW accounts and multiboxed so I agree that price isn’t a lot of the issue. Quality of the game is. To me though I like games that I am going to get at least thirty or forty hours playtime out of. I rarely buy games anymore if I don’t think I will get at least that much unless I get them on 75% off steam sales, or under $15 indie games.

    My biggest problem is having far, far too many games that sometimes I get bored just trying to figure out which I want to play first. I much rather have this problem with $15 indie games than $60 games. That said I don’t mind paying the money for games like BL2 and GW2 that I know that I will easily get dozens and dozens of hours out of.

    I really thought about getting Dishonored. It looks great, got great reviews but at the end of the day it for the money it just didn’t appear to have enough replayablity or longevity.

    As far as MMOs go though, I 100% agree that price isn’t the issue. $15 a month isn’t jack for the amount of entertainment a good MMO can provide. Going to the movie and getting popcorn and a drink is that much and that is only for 90-120 minutes of entertainment vs. possible hundreds if not thousands of hours of MMO entertainment. Even though I spend a ton of money on GW2 and only played it for a few weeks I still put in about 150 or so hours playing and had barely scratched the surface of the game. So my fun boiled down to less than $2 an hour if you factor in the box price, money on gems and buying the collectors edition stat guide. I consider that money very well spent.

    So I agree that price isn’t the main issue for most gamers. I do think it varies from gamer to gamer. To me the length of gameplay or replayability is what matters most. It is hard for me to justify $60 for a 10-15 hour single player game, when I can spend $10-15 and buy indie or games on sale that can get me 30+ hours of fun.

  • Dishonored isn’t going to last more than a week or two either, but it will be a really fun few weeks. I bought GW2 and Dishonored and I think Dishonored was a better investment. It is the game that reminded me most of the Thief series in many years.

  • $15 is my lunch.. I do not play swtor cause is is a big stinking pile of shit not because they charge sub for it

  • I doubt I will ever play a monthly fee game again. There are just too many other options out there and my time is just split in too many directions. Price most certainly does matter to a significant portion of the player base. It isn’t that it is a ton of money, it just feels like money thrown away unless I dedicate myself to just that game.

    SWTOR was awful so I can’t blame that one on the monthly fee but you just aren’t going to see many titles release with a $15/month fee anymore.

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