There’s something to be said for a company that sends one of its longest running MMOs into the Free-to-play market just as they release a new subscription MMO. It’s probably a rude thing to say, but it’s being said. “What kind of business are these fecal throwing apes running here?” probably.
Sony Online entertainment has made Everquest 2 free-to-play, with a real money stuff-store. Now, I’ve never played EQ2, and have no intention of doing so now, but what I have played is DCUO, their latest subscription MMO.
What baffles me is that with the popularity of Free-to-play MMOs increasing, and with Sony embracing such a model for another game, and with other companys doing similar or hybrid models, why they went with the straight up subs mode for their latest game.
Maybe they’re relying on the novelty and uniqueness of a Console-based MMO, as the market has yet to be cracked. Hoping that console owners will flock to this new genre. The problem, as I see it, is that the console market would be even more open to Free to Play than PC.
Consoles have had Halo and the like for the best part of the decade for nothing, they’ve had XBox Live Arcade for buying casual games, downloading songs for Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and generally getting things for free in Little Big Planet. Now Sony are sticking a big lumping game like DCUO on the consoles, giving people 30 days free to play, then expecting them to cough up to play every month. Are they going too far? Would it be better to give them what they’re used to? Buy the box, play the game for as long as you want, and pay extra when and if you want.
The problem is that they need solid numbers to get investors. A subscription model gives them that. Real-money-transactions aren’t predictable. Who could have predicted that Blizzard would have made so much cash out of that sparklepony, or the boomchicken non-combat pet. Then again, that’s a great indicator that RMT’s can make money. Extra trinkets and niceties can make you cash. Especially if you offer charity donations for each purchase.
It’s not like extras for DCUO are less than obvious. You could have packs of Iconic costumes to buy, new travel powers, cosmetic powers, respecs, renames, and more. Indeed, SOE will probably offer these alongside subs anyway.
DCUO is a fun, fast, frantic game, a cracking of the traditional MMO mould in most of it’s facets. It’s pricing plan is not one of those facets. I fear that a good game will languish in mediocrity, and not break that illusive console MMO market due to SOE’s backwards thinking money men. Sony are not adverse to Free-To-Play, but seemingly suitable only when a product begins flagging.