I know I’m a day late, but I find that sleeping on touchier subjects usually results in a better post. When I read the news that WildStar was going to be a subscription-based MMO, I too had pursed lips. Like Syp, I pretty much expected a subscription option, but since it was hinted it would be hybrid, I was thinking more along the lines of The Secret World or Lord of the Rings Online.
WildStar’s “hybridization” isn’t really one at all. It is a subscription-based MMO with various ways to pay for the subscription, including CREDD, which is available for purchase via in-game gold. EVE Online does this with PLEX, and I’ve heard mention TERA does as well. A CREDD however costs $5 more to turn it in to a tradable month.
While I personally would have preferred a true hybrid business model, such as The Secret World’s, this decision by Carbine is not one made in default. MMORPG talked with head honcho Jeremy Gaffney (who is one of the most insightful, open devs I’ve ever met) on this very subject.
The first issue is of course Guild Wars 2, which is NCSoft’s other prize Western pony. Guild Wars 2 relies on box sales and cash shop sales. Gaffney gave high praise for ArenaNet’s success, but he also implied that it could be really stressful on the studio. Each month ArenaNet has to “walk the line between not stretching development costs too thin while selling the right things in the store, and keeping content coming to the game on a consistent and interesting basis.” With a subscription-based MMO it seems that line becomes a tad wider to allow for the content updates they want to push out. He continues on about content updates:
Jeremy also said that the key to keeping people coming back and paying more is to keep the updates coming. He believes too many MMOs that had subscriptions and later switched to F2P failed at this. Updates need to come on a frequent basis and be of a quality that feels like you’re gettng what you pay for. He pointed to GW2’s biweekly content, and how well it’s done to keep their players coming back. WildStar won’t be going as ambitious, but their monthly updates will be big meaty story-progressing content that really adds to the world and gives their players a lot to chew. He reminisced to his days back with Asheron’s Call (from Turbine, the company he co-founded). AC was almost “over-engineered” in Jeremy’s words, because they spent so much time making sure the tools to build content were easy and robust to they could add dungeons quickly. Players of AC will remember the breakneck pace of content additions, and in AC2 as well. WildStar is built from the ground up in the same way. That’s why there are systems like Warplots, Housing, Housing Dungeons, and so forth. He’ll frequently go on travel to attend a convention like PAX for the weekend, and when he comes back the team’s built something massive and epic. He’s confident that with the tools they have in place, they’ll be able to churn out update after update, and keep their subscribers happy.
It’s really hard not to be jaded given the amount of big MMOs in the past 5 years that started out subscription and now aren’t. But, I wonder if it is time for “what old, is new again”. I’ve seen a lot of feedback around the ‘sphere on the dislike for Guild Wars 2 thin, constant line of content. However, WildStar seems to be closest in comparison to Rift, which also had a pretty good update schedule. Will it be different enough to avoid Rift’s quick transition to F2P? We won’t find out until next year since WildStar won’t be releasing until Spring 2014 now.