$15 Flatline

I really want to go back to Tabula Rasa.  I know that if I could afford to (or my wife would let me) subscribe to more than one game a month Tabula Rasa would be one of the top contendors.  I loved just going in an blasting the $#!& out of mobs with my knockdown shotgun.  Sometimes I would get so embroiled in a control point that an hour would pass… or I would run out of ammo and realize I hadn’t moved my character from a 200 ft. radius (filled with dead Bane) for 30 minutes.  But, I won’t be coming back (even with all the cool stuff you are adding).  Sorry, Richard.  Sorry, NCSoft.  A “better” game currently claims my $15 a month.

But, with MMOs being so cutting edge why do they require all-or-nothing committment?  They are providing a service, and plenty of other services have many different options for subscriptions.

Take, Lord of the Rings Online.  They have a $200 lifetime subscription or $9.99/month subscription plans available every once in awhile.  This is a great plan to bring people on the edge of a subscription back in to the fold.  It breaks from that $15 flatline.  I think, along with all the new shinies, that breaking from the $15 flatline is the best plan to bring people back (barring an expansion, which is the ultimate in shinies).  Lord of the Rings Online isn’t hurting for subscribers, and has found its niche.

Sony Online Entertainment also changed the game, but their plan isn’t as good as Turbine’s.  For $30/month you can get a ton of subscriptions for MMOs.  You can play Pirates of Burning Sea, Vanguard, Everquest II, Matrix Online, etc., etc., etc.  A dabbler’s dream.  Do some PvP-like action of Planetside, switch to a trader on the high seas, and then go back to vanilla EQ.  It’s great if you like one of the games to begin with.  But, if you want to play just only Matrix Online to mess around for a month… $15.

The Guild Wars business model is the stuff of dreams.  They are heading towards 6 million units sold.  That’s all I will say about that.  World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online… and I guess Age of Conan don’t need to try any “crazy” business models yet.  Of course Warhammer Online and Age of Conant don’t want to admit they can’t run with the big boys…

But, back to Tabula Rasa.  Is the nodal point for supply and demand so fixed at $15? They have sent up spaceships with founders and given their subscribers some great new content (much of it directly requested by users).  They are trying everything to get you back… except push off from that $15 flatline. 

–Ravious
…better than a 100% slice of nothing.

13 thoughts on “$15 Flatline

  1. Hudson

    Here is your issue:

    First off this game is about as dead in the water as they go. I am not knocking the game, I like it, but its a lost cause with GOOD potential. Honestly Anarchy Online for free is a better move.

    Secondly: there is no reason to give this game all or nothing attitude since there is NOTHING TO DO in it. But. Blast. Things. Over. AND. Over.

    Last time I was in there, only two servers had a LOT of people (barely a lot) and most at low level were botted second accounts on trial.

  2. Chris F

    The 15 a month is completely arbitrary and is the biggest barrier to these games. I can afford to sub to 10 different MMO’s if I wanted but I don’t – because I can’t possibly get that value out if it with my limited gaming time. So I just puck one and play one at a time. I had fun in TR beta and would still play it for free – heck I might even pay $3 for a 15 hour time block. When those 15 hours are up I may buy another block. If they can suck me in more than that I may decide for an unlimited time sub. Pressure is on them to earn my dollars. I’m not giving them up for free.

    I will even make the bold assumption here and claim that if WAR launched with a reasonable sub fee (comparable to the launch quality and completion level of the game) they would have bought themselves a lot more time with a lot more players to stick around and wait for fixed and improvements. At that time they could increase their sub fee – or keep it lower and enjoy the extra players that would come along with it.

  3. slux

    It is baffling that supposedly competent companies are not thinking about their pricing model at all here and most of the time just copy what WoW has done. Maybe they have gotten so used to the pretty much fixed pricing for new releases in non-MMO games that they are unable to think clearly about it.

  4. Jeromai

    I wish more companies would get creative about their pricing plans.

    I liked Auto Assault. I just couldn’t justify $15 a month for it. At $10, I would have subscribed for a couple months to drive around and blow stuff up. At $5, I would probably have subscribed indefinitely.

    Ditto Tabula Rasa. $10 for a while, $5 probably forever as long as I still get mileage out of it now and then. All you need is two more people who think like me, and that’s one more ‘full $15′ subscriber than you already have.

    Not to mention the temptation of second accounts then.

    Universal NCsoft pass. Think about it, NCsoft! Aion is coming out. I’m a hardcore CoX fan. I’d pay you a bit more to be able to play Tabula Rasa and Aion, but I’m not paying $15 each for all of them.

    I might be mistaken, but didn’t Mythic offer a joint subscription offer for DAoC + Warhammer for existing subscribers?

    I’m still subscribed to LOTRO because of Founder / special offer pricing. I don’t play it heavily at all, but I can rationalize away something sub-$15. Talk about easy money. I don’t tax the servers at all, but they still get $$$ from me.

    Lifetime membership folks? The money is already in their wallet. For the value of around 20 Founder months. Prepaid.

    Guild Wars. The ultimate in cunning pricing. No subscription. Just buy the box when you feel you need it. Take advantage of the addictive nature of multiplayer gameplay / desire for content and dangle ‘expansions’ and bonus packs or quick skillup packs in an online store. Microtransaction model done right.

    As long as someone is interested, they’ll eventually buy something. And another. And another. Until their ‘collection’ is complete. The people who enjoy your game the most are the happiest to give you money.

    If they’re not, no harm, no foul, they just stop. No bad feelings. Until maybe they think about trying it again. Maybe a new box that is being so highly recommended, etc.

  5. Ravious Post author

    @Hudson: See that’s the thing. I would pay some amount of money to just have fun running around and blasting stuff with childish glee, but not $15. In some amount, I want their service… just not the ONLY amount they offer.

    @ChrisF: that’s an interesting theory about WAR. Quite possible.

    @slux and Jeromai: /concur

  6. Openedge1

    As to Tabula Rasa, I never bought the game.

    I just found it online for .96 cents…yup less than a buck, and I get 30 days..

    May just have to create new accounts on a regular basis…lol..

    Guild Wars rocks btw!

  7. NBarnes

    I wish there were more lifetime subscriberships available. Tabula Rasa would be absolutely at the top of my list for that, with CoX right behind it.

  8. Chris F

    @NBarnes: The only thing I don’t like about Lifetime Subs is that I am NOT going to drop $200 outright on a LT sub without seeing the game for a while, and seeing how it improves. I would, however, love that option if it was part of a smarter package. For example.

    I played WoW, in my prime, 60 hours a month. That worked out to .25 cents an hour.

    I would play other games at the same rate, say 0.25 per hour, and have it CAP at 15.00 an hour, if I were to play it that long. Now lets use that for TR since it is a common game in this thread, that I didn’t “mind” playing – and how to incorporate a Lifetime Sub into it.

    I start playing TR again, only paying 0.25 per hour. First couple of months I don’t get much of a chance to play so heck, the time I did play I still feel I got value for it.

    Now, I start getting sucked in, and a couple months in a row I hit the $15.00 per month cap. Wow, this game is really working for me, its great, its fun. Woohoo.

    NOW, give me the choice for a lifetime sub. Say, anytime within the first 12 months of the game, you get the option to lifetime it for the $200 bucks. At that point I have had a fair chance to evaluate how much I play it, how much I like it, and how they have improved the game.

    Sounds simple. Even if TR only got $3-4 bucks from me a month, there are so many benefits. Other players see more other players. They get something from me instead of nothing. My very limited time doesn’t impact server load, etc.

    The pricing problem is even more magnified in WAR, since you really need other players to have fun in that game – friends and/or enemies. Most other MMO’s these days play quite fine as single player experiences.

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  10. Tesh

    How did I miss this gem of an article? I need to drop by here more often. *adds to blogroll*

    Chris, I’d extend your excellent idea and make the “lifetime price” include whatever you’ve paid since account creation. Prorate it, so that at any point, you can convert to a lifetime subber and pay $200 total (or whatever) whether or not you’re new or old. (So after three months at $15/month, you’d pay $155 to convert to a lifer.) If you somehow go over the limit via monthly payments, you’re automatically converted to a lifetime subber, and never pay another dime.

    It’s the Guild Wars model at that point, just at a much higher price point, and “homegrown” by how much you play, not by how much time you’ve paid for buffet access.

    Of course, I’d just prefer to go the Guild Wars route, but I can see this sort of “do it yourself sub” as a happy middle ground, allowing you to test out the game before diving in.

    This means that the “lifetime sub” price likely be a bit higher than the “lifetime sub” of GW (paying for convenience), but not onerously high… I’d probably peg it at $100, maybe $150 max. That’s a year of slightly discounted $15/month sub price for the consumer (playing a game for a year is fantastic by most measures), and still a fair chunk of change for the devs. If GW can keep running their servers on $30-150 per head, $100 per head would do nicely, methinketh. Especially if the insatiable graphics beast were ignored and smart business were running the engine…

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