Crowfall Interview on the Business Model

I contacted ArtCraft Entertainment – who is currently running a Kickstarter for the upcoming Crowfall MMO – to see if they would want to briefly discuss their choice of business model and a few followups. In the midst of the craziness they were more than willing to answer a couple questions.

Crowfall is a “buy once, play forever” game. What made you want to go against the MMO majority of subscription or free-to-play?

It was the right business model for this game and this audience.  There is a lot of fatigue with free-to-play that are actually ‘pay-to-win’ in disguise.  And we were sensitive to the portion of our audience that can’t easily afford a subscription so we made that optional, rather than required.  This allows players with more time than money to be just as competitive as players with more money than time, putting everyone on as even a playing field as possible.

What mechanics of Crowfall benefit from “buy once, play forever”? Is there anything you’ve had to avoid because Crowfall is not subscription based?

We are actually subscription-based, but it’s an optional subscription.  The offline training mechanic will let people advance their character skills as they choose, and a subscription just allows all three of their characters to advance in parallel.  Having a subscription gives you more depth/options, but it doesn’t make you advance faster.

What is your take on players that buy the game to dabble with Crowfall a couple times a month? Will they be beneficial to the community or campaigns?

Every player has a real life to take care of, and games are for enjoyment.  We welcome people playing when it’s appropriate for them to do so.  Our job is to make sure their entertainment time gives them a real return on the investment and we take that responsibility seriously.

There are two major ways that our game addresses this:

First, we offer a number of different “rulesets” on the different worlds, to allow players to choose the kind of game experience they think is most appropriate for their schedule.  It also depends on what kind of activity you are interested in pursuing — the economic trading game, for instance, will be highly geared to incremental play schedule.  City Sieges are designed to be played in a single evening, and will probably be resolved in under an hour.

Raiding is more free-form, with individual encounters measured in minutes.

Second, remember that advancement is primary driven by passive training — meaning that your characters continue to increase in skill, regardless of whether or not you are online.  This means that you can be absent for the game for long stretches of time, and come back without “falling behind” your peers.

As a side note, it also largely removes any “grinding” from the game.

The VIP Membership is one way that players can support Crowfall after the “buy once” to gain benefits such as passive training for more characters and priority access to all servers. Another one of the benefits is “discount pricing on any purchases.” What would these purchases be?

Our store will sell game time, cosmetic items and additional land for your Eternal Kingdom experience (the land doesn’t actually produce anything — it just means more space for buildings.)

Eventually will may offer other account level conveniences, like additional character slots.  We won’t be offering anything that will give players an advantage in the game.

The VIP Membership can be traded to players in game. Will this become a physical resource like EVE‘s PLEX, which has to be delivered and can be destroyed, or will it be a more permanent, PvP-safe item?

The idea was definitely inspired by PLEX, because we like the idea of players who can’t afford a subscription being able to “earn” a subcription by offering skills and goods to other players.

But no, it is not a lootable item.  Destroyed?  Well, that depends on how you look at it. The game time itself can’t be destroyed, but since you can trade it other goods / crafted items / resources, and those items can decay or be lost, that means the system still has an element of risk.  All the transactions are purely social — we aren’t including any automated NPC vendors, only player shops. Caveat emptor, I suppose.

Thank you for your time, and good luck on the Kickstarter!

–Ravious

One thought on “Crowfall Interview on the Business Model”

  1. Good stuff overall, this part aside:

    “And we were sensitive to the portion of our audience that can’t easily afford a subscription so we made that optional, rather than required. This allows players with more time than money to be just as competitive as players with more money than time, putting everyone on as even a playing field as possible.”

    In the above, anyone with time AND money wins, which has always been the issue with Pay-4-power systems. It’s not about the octo-mom who drops $100 to ‘catch up’ playing 30min a week; no one cares about that player. It’s about the guy or guild at your skill level who decides he really wants to win and drops $1000 over your $15 to ensure that happens. Losing a close fight because of a wallet isn’t fun, nor does it keep people around long-term.

    Granted, the next question somewhat contradicts the above quote, so either they just didn’t word the first answer correctly, or what they consider ‘buying power’ doesn’t match up with what others view it as, but you certainly can’t have it both ways. You can’t allow someone who has less time to spend and compete, while also claiming you don’t sell power.

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