On the Value of Your Opinion

Some people are very unhappy with LotRO moving to DDO’s payment model. Keen has a harshly worded example with more comments then we’ll ever see on a post. This is not just LotRO-specific, however, as many people like to say things about games that they neither play nor would have played.

If you are neither a customer nor a likely customer, the company does not care about your opinion. They are not losing any money by doing things you don’t like. They are not gaining money by doing exactly what you want. If you are already not a customer and their business model moves further from you, you cannot become any less of a customer. Yes, there is some chance that you could have become one, but most people who are “planning to play next year” will still be planning to play next year rather than actually playing and paying. Odds are, you are not the marginal customer.

If I am a vegan, KFC does not care about my perspective on the Double Down. My opinion on the latest patch to Warcraft, Warhammer, or City of Heroes does not matter much unless it includes the phrase “I resubscribed” or drives you to that state (or out of it). This will not stop me from commenting, I’m sure, as that is kind of what we do here in the blogosphere. But let’s keep perspective, considering the normal importance of an online gaming blog post.

: Zubon

44 thoughts on “On the Value of Your Opinion”

  1. I find Keen’s wildly oscillating opinions to hard to keep up with. He loves Lotro and then he hates lotro. He Loves Allods and then he hates Allods. He loves free to play and then he hates free to play. There is no gradual transition here he seems happy to flip to the complete opposite side of an argument overnight. I guess it does generate a lot of blog comments though.

      1. I think a lot of people, myself included, love to watch the monthly emotional swings. Allods was a train-wreck for them that played out even better than I could have expected. This LotRO bit is amusing given the Keen god complex, along with just how off he is about this particular F2P model.

        You don’t have to read every blog looking for insight or interesting commentary, some are just good for the lulz.

  2. I think that this is what gets people so angry when they go up in arms about casuals or F2P noobs or people who purchase minipets ruining their game. Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, it does not even matter if you actually are willing to cancel your subscription and not come back, if your dollars are offset by someone else who likes the change you hate. Having this fact pointed out makes you feel disenfranchised.

    This also might be one of the few cases where things actually WERE better in the EQ1 days – from what I know of that community, it actually was more homogeneous due to the logistic requirements of playing the game, so it was much more likely for most of the playerbase to be on the same page than in the modern world.

  3. Keen likes to be sensational. Sadly, people reward him for it. Whatever.

    Regarding the shift to F2P – odds are it’ll be a good financial move. Listen to this past Sunday’s GameBurst for an example of why: http://www.gameburst.co.uk/?p=37

    There are more people put off by subscriptions who would like to play at their own pace than there are who are rabidly against F2P.

  4. Keen is plainly wrong.
    Players think too much about asian F2P MMO’s where you must spend 10 years killing foozles in order to reach the level cap unless you buy XP pots to make that leveling take 6 months…

    I played DDO in Europe for quite sometime and now I’m playing it on the new model. If anything now i spend less money on it but I’m having a lot of fun and in-game the only difference I see is the servers actually having players, damn them!

    I never played LotRO for more than the trial but I will certainly play it now in my own pace buying the zones I need as i move into them. I wouldn’t play it otherwise so it’s a good move.

    There is room in a game to have free accounts and sub-based premium accounts but of course, they must increase the added value of vip accounts if they want to retain any.

  5. Keen’s post was terrible but the comments thread was superb. By setting up an extreme position for people to argue against he got some very good analysis from his community.

    The most interesting aspect was that the commenters felt that sub-based is the hardcore being supported by the casual whereas f2p is the casual being supported by the hardcore.

    1. I’ve argued that for a while now; it seems pretty clear to me. Mix the two and things seem to work just fine, as DDO and W101 demonstrate.

      …though now I wonder what it would be like to have “scarlet letters” to identify how players are paying for the game. Say, VIPs get shiny gold asterisks by their names, Premium players get silver ones, and “those little people” get nothing. Not that I’d advocate such, but I wonder sometimes if some people would go for that, since they seem to want to feel special instead of play a game.

  6. I just have to laugh when someone that doesn’t even play a game posts something like that. I did enjoy Keen’s Gollum graphic on the post though.

    I tried LotRO, didn’t buy or subscribe. With the move to a hybrid model I have now just ordered the boxed edition of the game. I’ll play the current version for the included 30 days, then wait and play as a Premium member, upgrading to a VIP maybe once in awhile, or at least very likely buying any new content areas to explore. I’ve always believed in supporting any game I play, so they’ll be getting money from me now and then. I bet those like me will not only offset the few people that leave, but will keep this game alive longer than it would have lasted in its current form.

  7. I will be trying LOTRO again but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stick with it because apparently the running animation is still horrible and that was one of the biggest turn-offs for me. I really wanted to like LOTRO but after WoW’s fluid animations the static, robotic animation of LOTRO just didn’t work for me.

  8. I’m not as harsh as Keen on the subject, but I see his point and I agree with his core argument: The business model will change the nature of the game.

    I think Turbine should be free to try all sorts of business models. I’m just not as cool with them doing it on existing games, with an existing customer base. EULAs aside, it breaks a kind of unwritten contract with their customers.

    On the customer or not subject though, Keen is an actual Turbine customer. He started his blog on LOTRO and often states it’s one of his favourite MMOs that he’s likely to return to.

    That’s the point isn’t it? What customer likes to be told that their patronage is not valuable, that the business doesn’t care about them? Devaluing their opinions is like pushing them in the mud while they’re down.

    Everyone knew this would upset some folks. It was obvious. That alone validates their opinions quite a bit.

    1. But it’s okay for the customer to push the business in the mud while it’s down (not receiving their patronage)? The power relationship is entirely in favor of the consumer: they cannot force you to buy their product. If anyone is withholding custom, it is the consumer.

      1. Yes, consumers have that right with their opinions.

        There’s a certain amount of latitude that customers automatically get for being consumers. Otherwise we’re at the mercy of corporate margin-think.

        That’s paramount. The power relationship SHOULD be in the hands of the consumer.

        Marginalizing customers for the sake of margins– it’s appalling to me how many people are defending that now. It’s almost akin to a free-speech / censorship debate.

        Changing business models mid-stream on a profitable product with customers who have an ongoing time and energy investment– to me, that’s dishonest business.

        1. You’re welcome to cancel your subscription to LotRO if you do not like the way it is being run. I think we just agreed on that.

  9. Peoples reaction to this news, was the same last year when Turbine announced the change to DDO. It worked out very well for them, and I am sure that LoTRO will be just fine.
    The only issue that will come out of it, is like how it is on the DDO forums. It will be the never ending war between the F2P and the old guard VIP’s. Too much elitism, on the VIP side. I hope the LoTRO community can rise above it, and continue to act in the mature manner they always have.

  10. Let’s take Keen at his word:

    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.

    So please remember to check on December 4, 2010. The end of The Lord of the Rings Online™ will come before that date, we are assured by someone who has never been wrong about something like this. There is no chance that its subscriptions and revenues will increase dramatically as they did in DDO. There’s not even really a need to argue; just check back on December 4 to see what happened.

  11. Yes, Keen is over-reacting.

    Sometimes, people who are obnoxious in their opinions are still essentially valid with them. I’m not saying Keen is in the same ballpark as Larry Flynt here, but your outright and measured dismissal of opinions is to me, more obnoxious than anything Keen says in his heated moments.

    He has a point. He plays it up too much, which makes people miss the point. It’s still valid.

      1. An opinion regarding opinions is a wee bit of a targeted subject subject in this case Zubon, isn’t it?

        If you actually addressed the subject of what you’re attacking, that would probably be worthy of discussion.

        1. So your argument is that your opinion of my opinion of your opinion of my opinion of Keen’s opinion is not worth arguing about? Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

          1. I’m not trying to spar with you Zubon. I think this is an important topic, not just a comment thread to win.

            By the logic you’ve presented here, any negative consumer opinion would be invalid. Sometimes these are exactly the opinions that matter.

            Yes, I think that opinion is obnoxious. I’m against your opinion. So put the ad hominem sword down, please.

            1. You can’t pretend to take the high ground until you make an actual argument. “I don’t like your opinion” is not an argument.

              Negative opinions from non-consumers are meaningless, yes. If you are not my customer, and are not going to become my customer, your becoming really not my customer has no effect on my business. If you want to run a company for the benefit of people who are not going to give you money either way, go to then.

            2. I’m not pretending at anything and surely you can read above the last comment. There’s a clear fallacy I’ve already pointed out and if you weren’t so blinded by your hate-on for Keen, you’d have already recognized it without tossing insults at me.

              Using your own example: Any Vegan (I’m not one) should feel free to rail against KFC’s Double Down if they wish, they have inherently consistent and valid reasons to do so. If a group of Vegans started a health-conscious campaign, it could affect KFC’s business. Even a singular opinion has the potential for impact on some scale.

              Of course it has an effect on your business. A negative effect is an effect regardless. This is the aspect I find so obnoxious: You’re implying that a business has an inherent right to avoid negative consumer opinion, based on their target customers.

              In this case though, we’re talking about previously targeted customers who are being cast aside. That’s the source of the strong opinions. That’s the part that really validates them from my perspective. You say anyone can choose to subscribe or not, but from their perspective the product they purchased has been bait-switched. I wholly understand that sentiment. They may have no legal recourse considering the nature of the product, but they have an honest complaint.

              You yourself, with this post, are trying to change consumer opinion. Except instead of discussing the product directly, you’re trying to invalidate the other consumers.

              If Keen thinks this will ruin LOTRO, I don’t see you explaining why it doesn’t. Why? Because you think the answer is obvious. Well here’s my wall of text to another obvious point.

            3. You keep throwing that ad hominem accusation, but I have nothing against Keen. The point applies equally if he is really excited about the change…and still not paying. It is like when Walmart moves into a town and people mourn for the little mom and pop stores that they love, that give the town “ambiance” or something…and that they never spend money at. Great, some people want companies they do not do business with to run the businesses for their aesthetic principles. Or, in this case, former customers who are unhappy that places they used to shop at no longer are trying to sell to them, despite the fact that they don’t want to buy want the store is selling.

              We can discuss whether something is a good change, but that is not what this post is about. We can also discuss gameplay, but your implication on the other thread is that discussing business models is, what, that we are taking away from the thousands of posts and threads that are on gameplay? Has LotRO changed its gameplay this week, that there is something new to discuss there? You would prefer to discuss a different point, fine, but that’s not the point of the original post. And you’re not even making that point, just complaining that I’m not. And then complaining that I’m being too meta.

              Yes, non-customer campaigns can affect customers. In this case, the response to the particular post in question has been resoundingly positive for Turbine, something like 7-to-1 on the responses as far as I read. So the longer the complaint runs, the more positive affect (proper use of affect as a noun) there is for Turbine. I want to argue that the opinion is irrelevant, but the net effect is likely to be contrary to the intent.

            4. Three morning-after, better rested comments for balance:

              I can see where you feel for non-players who had some vague dream of maybe going back some day. It’s like seeing one of your childhood hangouts torn down or turned into a Starbucks. I just am more about the moving on in that case.

              Second, I am on record (and on other posts) that developers should ignore my opinion, because they will make more money doing so. I’m equal opportunity on “ignore opinions that will make your company less successful.”

              On Thursday, I will have a different take on this (meta) topic, in your honor.

            5. Okay now that we have the hot flamewar part out of the way– Time for the guilt-induced mutual love fest. At the risk of getting even more wordy:

              I think where I get my hackles in a knot (or is it hackles up? I’m not actually avian) is on the concept of dismissing opinions via some formula. It seems counter-productive to general discourse, which from my perspective is what the blogosphere is all about.

              At first there could appear to be some formula we could agree upon. If a person reviews a product they haven’t tried, that seems pretty absurd and easy to discount. However, even then there are exceptions. A friend of mine created a site “Movies I have not seen” that was more insightful than expected. Lost has started a whole genre of commentary from the haven’t-seen-it perspective too.

              So yeah, generally dismissiveness sets me off I guess. Even self-dismissiveness, because I don’t think developers should ignore you. Profit-margin-centric game assembling robots should perhaps, but those are different beasts.

              The other half of this is the consumer specific part. I’m a self-admitted consumer whore and anti-corporate semi-activist. From where I sit, disenfranchised consumers have a voice that should be heard above the happy consumers.

              I don’t believe in the old adage that you can speak with your dollars, because it’s very vague and non-descriptive speech. It’s like arguing with my cat.

              Consumer displeasure should be communicated directly and any business would be wiser to listen to consumers, no matter how small the group. They would understand their own products better.

              Turbine in particular has had IMHO so many wasted opportunities for greatness. Their close-to-greatness has gathered some die-hard fans (most of the KTR crew now, from what I gather), but they’re relying on them too much. They could do so much better.

              Okay, gasping for air here. I’m ranting on too many related topics at once. I keep forgetting I have my own blog I could put these lengthy bits into. =)

  12. No, they may not care what my opinion is… but they probably should, at least a little bit because while I’m not a current subscriber, I’m certainly in the target audience for what they are trying to sell.

    While KFC would probably be right to not care at all what a Vegan thinks… saying they don’t care what a Chik-Fil-A customer cares about them seems shortsighted. This is a customer who regularly purchases a product extremely similar to what they are trying to sell.

    It’s also a bit silly to say that they shouldn’t care about your opinion unless it is the tipping point that causes you to cancel or subscribe. Things are almost never so black and white. Customer opinion is a continuum. Companies need to be aware of moves between “happy customer” and “subscribed, but ready to quit if one more little thing changes” as much as the people who cross the magical “Subscribe” or “Unsubscribe” lines.

    1. It is a good point about potential future customers, with the proviso that people shift categories less than they talk about doing so.

  13. I’m a LotRO lifer. I’ve played for 2-2.5 years now, and in that time logged in at least every other day. I own both expansions. I’d love to buy items through an online store (cosmetic items only, because I believe sales of gameplay-affecting materials such as XP and health potions adversely alter global game balance).

    The F2P announcement has left me depressed. When I think about logging in to play, F2P is the first thing that comes to mind, and I do something else. On the Turbine forum, I compared it to being told a place I spent a lot of time as a kid was being torn down to build a Walgreens. I know it won’t affect my day-to-day life, but it still makes me feel sad and powerless.

    I can’t point to any one item in Turbine’s plan that seems like a mistake. On the contrary, every detail they’ve released seems carefully considered and the way I’d do it – assuming I’d make a game F2P in the first place (I wouldn’t).

    If you’re charitable, you could say I’m just being overly nostalgic. If you’re not, you could say I’m just having a “not in my backyard” reaction.

    Hell. Because I’m a lifer, I couldn’t vote with my wallet even if I wanted to.

    1. Your comments are very interesting and have me thinking. Is it that people who play subscription games have a perception of… I’m reaching for a better word than “superiority” but coming up short – rather than evaluating F2P games on an as-they-come basis, the whole genre is painted with this inferior light and so the very act of adopting a F2P model serves to taint the *perception* of the product, even though no change in gameplay will be manifest to the player?

      As someone who supports multiple business models, I’ll admit I am puzzled by some of the reactions I have read. Of course perception is important, and if going F2P even “only” affects the perception of players that their product is now somehow inferior I think the devs should keep that in mind, but it IS really only that – a perception. How do we overcome that (assuming that devs don’t just continue charging subs for every game in order to maintain the perception of quality)?

      1. I’ll chime in on this one.

        Personally (opinion just as a player), everything else being as equal as we can make it, I would largely prefer the sub and this has nothing to do with quality, perception of quality or even money.

        To me it’s simple: I don’t like things too piecemeal. I like the idea of games as an ongoing service, and I also like the idea of one payment that gives me full access to the whole thing, minimum fuss. Of course I know that under some F2P schemes I could, if I wished, just pay for what would be equivalent to this full access, but as Brian stated elsewhere the design should (ideally) respond to the business model. Partitioned designs (however you want to define that partition) turn me off, and while some partitioning is always inevitable, that’s a far crying from segmenting as much as you can just so you can sell it piecemeal.

        Silly example time: Sometimes I want cake. A full, whole cake, and would much rather pay $12 for it once than make 12 payments of $1 for 12 slices. Why? Because sometimes I want a whole cake, not a sliced one. Price is the same, but I have no interest in a sliced cake. And just as it is with designs, if you -know- beforehand that you’ll be selling the cake by the slice instead of whole, it’s in everybody’s best interests that you “design” the cake so it doesn’t crumble unsightly every time you slice it.

        1. Is it the case that there is no room for both playstyles in the same game? While I would relish additional options being made available for games, and would especially like more games to be released and/or become free to play, it would seem from some reactions that a sort of segregation is in order instead.

      2. You may have something there. I’ve tried NeoSteam, Allods, and Runes of Magic, and all three left poor impressions on me.

        NeoSteam’s combat was dull and its movement unplayably laggy. I didn’t last more than a couple of hours in it. It felt incredibly cheap and slipshod.

        Allods’ Spelljammer-esque stylings had a strong pull on me, and it seemed competently crafted. When I heard about how high level play was effectively impossible without spending tons of cash (and that the client software installed a form of DRM made by Starforce – yes, THAT Starforce), I quit.

        Runes of Magic was full of silly pastel-colored junk. If it had a story, I couldn’t find it. It didn’t feel like a world so much as a montage of in-jokes and cheap plastic holiday decorations. And the money-grubbing was shockingly blatant. In an hour, three NPCs told me how I could spend money in the cash shop to do their quests more easily, or skip them altogether.

        1. Free to play games have not made the best impression from the start. However there are alternate models such as Guild Wars’ buy-to-play model, or tack Turbine is taking, which is not the same as the RoM/Allods/NeoSteam approach.

          Personally can’t solely associate business model with quality, as I echo your reaction to Runes of Magic, but I also felt the same way about WoW. I do observe that the games you listed are imports localized for Western audiences, and that may contribute to the impression (I felt that the first few levels of Aion felt very similar to the first few levels of Aika, despite one being a subscription game and the other F2P). Games like Free Realms, Puzzle Pirates, and Wizard 101 made in the USA have, in my experience, notably higher quality and polish to them.

          All this isn’t so much to change your mind as it is to urge you to withhold judgment until the changes are in place – you literally have nothing to lose, as a lifetime sub.

      3. You’re assuming that no change in gameplay will be manifest to the player, which is a huge and, I think, unwarranted assumption. Broadly, I can see three possible areas of concern:

        – a change to the environment, especially in the completely F2P starter zones, with people yelling ‘My blud elf pally kicks hobit but!!’ in Hobbiton and underwear-clad elves dancing on the mailbox outside the Prancing Pony, plus the greater difficulty in keeping the ‘We are joyous to present our gold-selling and power-levvel servicable for your most flatulent pleasantry!’ spam to a minimum.

        – increased complexity in finding groups. “I’m dropping group because I haven’t paid to get into that area/bought the ‘Kill 10 Boars in the Lone Lands Adventure Pack’.’

        – diversion of dev resources. Instead of new cosmetic outfits or housing items becoming available at festivals, or from new recipes, they’ll be available for the low! low! price of 28,914 Turbine Points, on special this week!

        Maybe Turbine will manage to avoid all of these potential pitfalls, but I don’t think they can be dismissed out of hand.

    2. Funny thing is, this is more or less the same argument Keen was making, which I accept far more from someone who might actually quit because of it.

  14. What they do now is also affecting my attitude towards their FUTURE games, not just current. DDO didn’t get complaints because we all understood it was this or shut down. Now that they’ve shown that theoretically healthy games can be changed to this model it makes me hesitant to try one of their sub games.

    I can’t cancel my sub. I can, however, not buy any future turbine products. I can choose to avoid LOTRO now when I am looking for a new game. The difference to me is before I would have considered them: heck if they ever got a console MMO out I would have preordered and bought on launch.

    You are right in the sense they shouldn’t listen to people not playing, but we do have the right to not like a change, and to avoid the company that makes it.

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