I Buy Bad* Games

Julian wrote yesterday about The Secret World’s switch to a buy-to-play model with episodic content not being the only issue for The Secret World. At the outset, I have not played The Secret World, and it was for one reason. I did not try it out because it had a subscription fee. I had followed The Secret World prior to the announcement, and I felt that it would have been a great game to follow an episodic buy-to-play model. Yet FunCom decided that a forced episodic model relying on subscriptions to advance the content would be the better way to go.

Now, the reason I did not buy The Secret World is gone. Will I buy it now? It is likely, but I must say that the momentum of launch is also gone. Syp and Bhagpuss seem to enjoy it, and their MMO playstyles are very similar to my own. I think it will go on my Steam Wishlist to be considered next time I want to buy a game.

Once I realized what I was going to do, I saw the true brilliance of a buy-to-play model for an MMO. I would hazard a guess that many gamers, PC and console alike, buy bad* games. I say bad* because let’s keep in my mind that it is bad for me. For many MMO players, Guild Wars 2 was bad for them, but they still bought it. The Secret World might be bad for me, but now I plan to buy it. I can’t even count the amount of games in my Steam library that were bad*. They collect dust, but I don’t mind. Some were played for a few minutes and never returned to. I still bought them.

With a subscription, there is less room for a bad* game. The Secret World did not play it as safe as RIFT in making a post-WoW subscription MMO. I saw many fans of the game admit that The Secret World was “love it or hate it”. I wonder how many MMO players added up that they might not love it with subscription to create an impassable purchasing barrier.

Conversely, free-to-play implies lesser quality or free accessibility. The game might be good, but I can play it any, old time. If it is good quality I might keep hearing about it through MMO community channels, but there is no pressure to get there. I would say that MMOs that have become free-to-play are better discussed in more poignant posts. Still there is no ownership in free-to-play until I decide to spend significant time or money, and as such there is little attachment.

I’ve long been a champion of buy-to-play MMOs. They give me ownership. They give me attachment, and from a developer’s point of view, players buy bad* games all the time. I am much more willing to try a buy-to-play MMO than a subscription MMO.

The other bar I see is the entertainment worth per dollar. Whether because of World of Warcraft, or the subscription MMO meme in general, it seems like if there is a subscription  many players feel they need a higher entertainment worth per dollar. I’ve actually heard this flat out confuses some developers. With a buy-to-play MMO, the comparison reverts back to comparing value against all the other buy-to-play games like Skyrim, Far Cry 3, or that $10 indie that had a few hours of gameplay.

In the case of The Secret World, I am pretty sure it will provide me with $30 worth of entertainment that I can consume at my leisure. Syncaine possibly just coined the term “play-to-finish MMO”. I saw dozens of posts of people saying that Guild Wars 2 was bad*, but they got their money’s worth. Given those people’s continued ownership of the game, ArenaNet still has the chance to change the bad* aspect and get people back to check things out.

I am mostly surprised that FunCom was so shocked at premise of a successful buy-to-play MMO. I’ve been rooting for ArenaNet and their business model so long, it helps to see it through another’s eyes. I am hoping that the waves Guild Wars 2 might shift the tide more towards buy-to-play MMOs. I know that I will continue to buy bad* games, and MMO devs might as well take their cut.

–Ravious

25 thoughts on “I Buy Bad* Games

  1. moondog548

    Great point about the potential appeal to the customer of a B2P vs a F2P MMO. I still think it’s fair to be shocked at ANet having so much success with their B2P MMO model since GW2 is of course the first one to have it!

    (That I know of- and this is a case where the perception is the reality).

    Also of note is that the B2P price point for Secret World is half that of a typical game.

  2. Tesh

    Would that more devs understood this. I argued for SWTOR to use the model years ago. If I played M rated games, this move would definitely bump TSW up into my “buy” list.

  3. Winged Nazgul

    It’s true. I bought GW2 and the Alpha Squad package for Planetside 2 and have since found out these are bad games for me.

    Fortunately, TSW isn’t a bad game at all for me and looking forward to spending more time in that game hopefully with more new players.

  4. spinks

    I’m kind of with you. I am much more likely to shell out for a game, which may turn out to be bad, yeah, though than to buy stuff in a cash shop.

  5. darkeye

    One thing I’m going to watch for is how Funcom plan to sell the ‘issues’ to non-subscribers. It looks like it could be ‘same old, same old’ effect when subscribers get their allotment of points to buy the DLC ‘issues’, which is the same monthly (heard mention that may become bimonthly) schedule of content updates to get them to stay subbed previously. Non-subscribers will have to stump up the cash to get that regular content, but get the first 4 issues for free, that may be just moving the barrier a little bit to the left of where it was. Think I’m going to buy it on sale and put it on the backburner, and see if they bundle say 4 or 5 issues together and sell it for a reasonable price, that is a cost I’m willing to pay yearly. Definitely agree that B2P has more stickiness than F2P, have purchased all the content in Lotro and that’s probably the only ‘free’ game I return regularly enough, it’s felt like an investment.

  6. SynCaine

    The only difference between a ‘normal’ sub MMO that costs $50 for the box and $15 a month and B2P is the devs don’t get $15 a month.

    In a vacuum, that’s awesome for the players, yay. For the devs, what exactly did they gain? The ‘ability’ to maybe sell some people DLC for what, $15?

    Anet did not make GW2 B2P because they love their fans. They made it B2P because they knew the game was not worth $15 a month. If it was, it would cost that and people would pay it. MMOs going from the sub model to F2P or B2P are doing so because they are finding out their offering is not worth $15 a month. It’s a very clear admission of failure, no matter how much you spend on PR to dress it up.

    There is a reason devs only comment about how much money they are making now that they are free to play once, right after the switch. There is a reason LotRO is starting to look like Allods in the cash shop, and it’s not to feed an unending appetite for stupid.

    All of these issues are easily solved; make an MMO worth paying $15 a month for. For those that can, business is good. For everyone else, there is B2P/F2P/shutdown.

    1. darkeye

      I’d reckon there are more people willing to pay the $50 box price for permanent access, than pay 3* $15 for three months of access, no matter how awesome your game is to all sorts of gamers. In my opinion there has never been an MMO worth paying $15 a month, I only did that with WoW because I was new and didn’t know any better, but wouldn’t ever do it again and put up with the tedium and grind and gear resets that a sub dictates on an MMO’s design, not WoW or any other MMO. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blizzard going the same route with WoW when they have a new MMO to sell, or even make their new MMO B2P too. Failure has nothing to do with it, GW2 has a momentum despite being B2P.

    2. Curuniel

      “Anet did not make GW2 B2P because they love their fans. They made it B2P because they knew the game was not worth $15 a month.”

      I disagree, and since all my reasons for GW2 being a great game are subjective and can’t be fairly pushed onto someone else, I’ll fall back on this: no one lets a company spend five years developing a game that they think isn’t going to be very good. I’m pretty sure the ArenaNet guys believe in their game, and they’ve convinced others to as well.

      The sub model comes from industry assumptions; a LOT of games I would consider not worth it (again, my opinion) charge a $15 sub. Once upon a time, history books tell me, most service online charged, now few do. Diversity and change will just happen with time.

    3. Gina

      I agree. Right now the only MMO I play is EQ2, and while it has a F2P option, I pay the $15 a month. I’ve tried the others, and have not found them worthy of spending my time on them, even though I do not pay for it.

  7. bhagpuss

    SynCaine’s argument would hold water better if Guild Wars 1 hadn’t used the exact same payment model and wasn’t still running eight years later. I’m pretty sure ANet develop on the principle that they are confident they can keep on selling new boxes to more people pretty much continually. It’s an approach that ties directly in with Ravious’s main point, with which I largely agree, namely that people will pay the box price to try something they think they *might* like if the box price is all they are going to have to pay if it turns out they *do* like it.

    Plenty of people found they’d had enough of GW2 after a month or two, but most of them seemed to think they’d had their money’s worth by then. Those people talk to other people, who decide to take a look for themselves and so it rolls. With no subscription and no need to commit, the fact that these are “MMOs” loses most of its significance. They become video games that you play online, which, let’s face it, is what most video games have become.

    It’s a normalizing effect. MMOs used to be this weird outlier that required an unusual commitment in both time and financial outlay compared to regular computer games. Now, by and large, they don’t. Buy the box, play your 40-60 hours just like you would with any other game and you’re done, if you want to be. Except, of course, if you find you’re not done you can carry on. Many do.

    It’s a good model, I think. And The Secret World is very well suited for it, since it’s clearly worth the box price for the main storyline alone, which can be played through very much like a standard RPG should you so wish. The MMO aspects are a bonus, and a pretty good bonus at that.

    1. Curuniel

      “With no subscription and no need to commit, the fact that these are “MMOs” loses most of its significance. They become video games that you play online, which, let’s face it, is what most video games have become.”

      I really agree – I realised that my thinking about The Secret World was that as B2P I was looking on at as a new story-based RPG that I could play with my boyfriend, rather than an MMO. The investment is smaller and I’m more likely to make it. Given how little time most people spend in most MMOs these days (from my observations) it makes a lot of sense to just pay what you would for a normal RPG.

      It does highlight something I’ve thought for a while – that a lot of MMOs made recently really didn’t need to be MMOs. It seems to be a bandwagon thing now. At least I can see why TSW was designed for that kind of shared community/environment.

    2. SynCaine

      This would hold true if GW1 makes anything close to significant money. We know it does not. And we know GW2 cost a whole lot more to develop than GW1. Basically, apples to oranges despite the title being a sequel.

        1. Isey

          well of course not, its an old game. Games don’t have to (nor are they expected to) generate revenue infinitely.

          I misread your statement initially – I thought you were calling GW1 a bust, when in reality at 6.5M + copies all time it makes it one significant games of all time by boxes sold.

  8. Winged Nazgul

    Does every MMO have to make significant money, I wonder? Or are we just conditioned to think that way because of WoW which is really an outlier rather than a standard of the industry. It might not make tons of money but do you really think NCSoft would keep it running if it wasn’t profitable?

    1. SynCaine

      If you have GW2 in the pipe, it would look pretty bad to shut down GW1, wouldn’t it? Even if GW1 was not worth the cost to keep alive, the negative PR cost would likely be much higher.

      1. Curuniel

        If GW1 did not make enough money to be worth if, why did GW2 continue to be “in the pipe” for so long? They were given a LOT of allowances, time and leeway to make GW2 the way they did. I seriously doubt a company like NCSoft would have allowed that if they didn’t believe it would make money.

  9. Chris

    I totally get Ravious’ point. I bought GW1 not knowing if I’d like it or not. I had stayed away from other MMO’s because of the sub fees. Turns out I loved GW and its probably the most entertainment value for money I’ve gotten from anything.
    I played the TSW beta and enjoyed it, but the sub fee scared me off. GW2 was a pre-sale though because of its lack of sub fees (and my love of GW and the look of the game from trade show vids).
    I do not agree that sub fees get you anything more in terms of quality or content and I think that is just a message that WoW and it’s cloned have driven home to justify their costs. (I can’t help but think of the saying that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.)
    Will I buy TSw now? Maybe. But at the moment I’m still busy with GW2 (which is very “bad” for me because I enjoy it so much. :)

  10. Kalu

    Simply put, the cash stores in games today have been so successful, they make F2P or B2P a very successful model. I have heard many players in F2P games say outloud that they budget the $15 per month for the cash store, if they like a game, because otherwise they would be happy to spend the same for a subscription fee. Others hide the amount they spend and spend much more to get the super gear and upgrades that gives them bragging rights. Other brag of spending hundreds of dollars. Heh, bragging rights apparently are very popular and fetch a very good price. Others find themselves spending a little bit here and little bit there with little control and end up spending quite a bit. Or, lol, they have control and spend the money too.

    I recall when Turbine’s two games, LoTro and Dungeons and Dragons Online went F2P. The worlds were flooded with poor and immature players who were a pain to play with. In the end, there were a whole lot of them who spent a lot more than the $15 per month the original players paid and were in many cases still were paying.

    I suspect this last point may be the most overlooked. F2P and B2P games open up a game to a whole new segment of players which subscription games have an almost impossible time reaching, players who don’t have a credit card to pay a sub fee. Kids, people without jobs, people with bad credit to name a few. Prepaid cards and game cards purchased in stores are great for purchases at a games in-game cash shop, not so good for the %$15 due every month year after year.

    1. Derrick

      Yup. I’ve bought zounds of games that normally I’d never have given a second look to, just because they were vaguely interesting but – most importantly – dirt cheap. And unlike the old Bargain Bin games of old, you do come across some real gems.

      Back In The Day, I bought maybe 3 games per year: The ones that looked most likely to be awesome, and otherwise wouldn’t risk wallet-juice on questionable titles – particularly not ones in genres I wasn’t very fond of.

      Now? I’ve got some 30 titles in my Steam library I haven’t even tried yet, and a big list of oddball games that I absolutely loved. I’ve got a bunch I didn’t end up liking at all, too… but who cares? At an overall cost of about a dollar per non-AAA game, the $30 I’d pay each for the couple I really loved make it worthwhile. Not to mention the huge backlog for those slow days, or when you want to play something Completely Different.

      I’d never have bought GW2 with a sub, and pure-F2P games, while theoretically awesome end up being completely awful. But B2P – like with a single player game, gets me a decent title that I can play when I like, with whoever I like. No wasting money due to underutilized subscriptions, no excessive cash shop harassment.

  11. 98pounds

    I also delayed getting into TSW due to sub, despite having an interest in the games mechanics. With that barrier removed I am now ready to see why this game has a reputation for having the best dungeons around.
    On a side note, Amazon.us has TSW on sale for $15 atm – you lucky lucky people.

  12. Rog

    The Secret World just moved onto my Steam wishlist. There’s a good chance I’ll pick it up either during the next Steam sale or after the holidays.

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