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.