[TSW] Barking at the wrong tree

As you might have heard, The Secret World today announced its move to a Buy-2-Play model, essentially identical to Guild Wars 2. Or, if you wanna get ornate, just like it used to be back in the day when we owned the games we bought. Subscriptions are gone with the wind. You buy the client and you get (le gasp!) unlimited access to the whole game.

What surprises about the move is not that it came to pass. Many people would have rightfully argued it was coming. The surprise is in how it comes just less than six months after launch. I hope lifetimers are having a wonderful day. Personally I find myself having zero beefs with Funcom for doing this. If the game needs a shot in the arm, then it needs a shot in the arm and that’s basically the end of it. You gotta do what you gotta do.

I am, however, curiously reading some rumblings here and there about how this is exactly what the game needed and now… ha ha! -Now- you will all see how you were all wrong all this time, and everyone will get to see just how great the game is. Today, buy to play. Tomorrow, the world a critical mass of players and so on.

I say hang on a second. I say hold your stinking horses.

Excuse me if I differ, but I seem to be getting the feeling of this vague, generalized idea out there that TSW tanked because it had a sub attached and that was basically the only thing that was holding it back and now that the subs are gone it’s Return of the King time, Aragorn returning to Gondor with a brace of fine Haradrim honeys on each arm and it’s gonna be a rave at the White Tree.

I’m not so optimistic simply because the fundamentals of the game haven’t really changed. TSW is still the beast it is (for good and bad) and having or not having a sub does not change that. I’m sure there will be an uptick in sales. There has to be. And that’s only good news. But I doubt the retention rates, and by extension the amount of active players, would change much if you were to sample pre and post B2P. I think the fact that the game just didn’t click for a lot of people was a much stronger factor in the equation than the sub ever was. No matter how much you charge people at the door, or how expensive your drinks are, if people don’t really like the music all you’ll ever end up with are the people who really don’t care about the music. Which might be good for business, but that’s just about all that such a thing is good for.

TL;DR: The sub was not the only thing that drove people off TSW. And in a sort of ying-yang way, the lack of sub might bring some back, but it won’t be the only thing that will make them stay. And if you don’t believe me ask around Bellevue.

15 thoughts on “[TSW] Barking at the wrong tree

  1. Bex

    I think it’s a really good idea to make it sub-free. TSW is a game that people either seem to love or hate, and the lower the barrier to entry, the more of the former there will be in-game, especially as the box price decreases. I also like what I’ve seen of their model – much less intrusive than SWTOR, for instance.

  2. moondog548

    Wow. You can’t see why moving to a GW-style model instead of the F2P model that everyone else is doing (or the sub model that everyone else-else is doing) is notable? You can’t see what a huge barrier to entry a subscription fee is?

    1. Julian Post author

      Of course it’s notable, moondog. What I’m arguing is that the game itself has not changed. There were many people who were driven away by factors other than the sub. See Mekhios comment right below. B2P does nothing for them. And I’m also guessing (totally unscientific here) that this group is/was larger than we think.

      The flipside of this is, yes, naturally some people were turned off by the sub and if those liked the game enough, absent other factors, they might very well return. Which is good for the game.

      I’m just not drinking straight up from the idea that TSW didn’t do well -because- of the sub.

  3. Mekhios

    Many of us were not worried about paying the monthly sub fee and would have continued to do so. The game has far bigger issues that stopped our clan from playing it that had nothing to do with whether it was F2P or not.

  4. Curuniel

    “now that the subs are gone it’s Return of the King time, Aragorn returning to Gondor with a brace of fine Haradrim honeys on each arm and it’s gonna be a rave at the White Tree.”

    This sentence. Wow. Fantastic :D

    Also, this announcement makes me consider buying TSW again. My heart belongs to GW2 and I was never planning on paying a sub, but everyone who recommends TSW seems to recommend the story, and a good story for a single box cost makes the game suddenly a different kind of investment for me. I’ll keep an eye on how much it is locally!

    1. LineNoise

      TSW works *amazingly* as a buy-the-box game. The initial play-through is full of detailed characters, engaging plots, and some pretty solid gameplay. I was quite happy to have played it at launch. And then I cancelled my sub two months later, because I’d “finished” it, and the [redacted] that they had in place for “endgame” was useless. They’ve added a bit more since then, but none of it was appealing enough for me to re-up my sub.

      With the base game now being F2P, I’ve already patched it back up and poked around, and I’ll probably buy the content packs when they start coming out. I’m a lot happier with paying $15 for a month’s worth of content that I can play at my own rate than paying $15 to rent the game for a month, knowing that there’s only barely that month’s worth of content, but now I’m obligated to play it right away so that I can go ahead and cancel again.

  5. Entombed

    Couldn’t agree more Julian. I was talking about this earlier, when asked whether I’d be revisiting TSW. The subscription barrier was really just one of the few hurdles I have to see passed before buying this game. Don’t get me wrong. I think the story, the theme, the narrative, and the NPC’s were all done quite amazingly. However, I already knew that because well…there was an open beta weekend. The problems are the same. The combat animations are quite frankly horrendous, the combat is kind of worn out, and I never really quite found the skill wheel as better alternative than something like GW2’s system.

    I wish Funcom the best of luck. I really do believe they tried. However, this isn’t going to make the game a huge success. It only prolongs the life of the game, and saves most of their customers (minus the lifelongs) a great deal of money.

    I am however, glad to see that more games are shifting Buy to Play, and at least doing the transition correctly (here’s looking at you SW:TOR).

    As for me, I think I’m going to stick with Guild Wars 2. It by no means has the story of TSW, but at least has the polish, the development team, and open WvW. The content updates have been plentiful, and yeah ArenaNet has slipped up a few times (i.e. the introduction of Ascended pieces, those long-painful phases in The Lost Shores), it’s an overall well done game.

    If any developers are reading: Please make Tera-quality combat, story of TSW, and ArenaNet’s quality/polish/efficiency/payment model. You will make money, I assure you.

  6. Telwyn

    I very much agree with this post, though my main reason for having zero interest in TSW is the setting/mood. Certainly the sub was never an issue and never would have been. It’s just a niche game pure and simple. If Funcom can make more money through a B2P model though all power to them, variety in the MMO space is a good thing after all.

  7. Rieth Mhide

    I, for one was in fact holding back on this title ‘cos of the sub, believe it or not :P
    I manage 2 EVE accounts plus a premium WOT and I did not think I’d have to the time to play TSW enough to justify the monthly fee
    now, however I will absolutely buy it and spend this coming weekend exploring the game
    not because the game has changed, but because now I won’t feel guilty or even silly if I can’t log in for a week

  8. SynCaine

    This move was as predictable as SW:TOR failing.

    It makes sense too. Both GW2 and TSW are essentially play-to-finish games, and that style can’t maintain a sub model (what are you subbing for once you finish?). It won’t make TSW a huge success long-term, because there is no long-term for such games, but it will allow randoms to pick it up and play through it, something that (mentally) the sub model was perhaps preventing.

  9. camazotz

    My understanding is that lifetime subs are getting a generous deal in terms of “cash shop money,” enough to insure they can buy all the content and then some (or so I’ve read). For my own purposes, TSW was a great example of a game I really wanted to play but not with the requisite MMO intensity, so I couldn’t justify a subscription fee. Now I can play as I see fit, buy the DLC expacs, and be content. This was a great idea, seriously. They should have had more confidence in this model from day one. And for my purposes I happen to feel that this is a significantly more innovative and interesting game than other MMOs out there right now. While I can appreciate that you don’t feel the same way, I admit I remain baffled as to why my experience is more engaging with TSW than your was (but then, I also concede I’m in that special subcategory of horror-gamer fans). I don’t think this new model will convert those who dislike it, sure….but it may well grab new players who were on the fence, and that itself is what matters.

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  11. DocHoliday

    A business model does not make a game, but a business model can determine how people see a game. One of the reasons I’ve read all over the place as to why people LOVE GW2 is because of the model. Just maybe, TSW wanted to grow their successful (profitable mind you) game and they looked at this as a way to continue their current path as well as providing a growth option. As a lifer, there’s no downside here for me – I get everything I paid for initially and more.

    TSW isn’t for everyone and I really hope it stays that way. The game is hard, both in the gameplay and the intelligence required (unless you do what I do half the time and use google). I want to encourage game companies to provide content that is challenging and makes you think about what you do, not just mash your keyboard.

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