[WS] Business Cred

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.


9 thoughts on “[WS] Business Cred”

  1. I’ve read two different people in the last few days who broke their NDAs and spoke at length of their (rather unfavorable) experiences with WS because of this subscription and CREDD issue being the drop which made their particular glasses overflow. Decided they wouldn’t be playing it anyway, so screw it, basically.

    Of course for these two there are maybe thousands who didn’t break it, that goes without saying, but it’s becoming more than just pursed lips for some people. Specially those with inside experience on the state of the game right now and their views of what’s to come.

    Disclaimer: No skin off my back either way. WS is not something I’ve been following or expecting anyway. This is purely informative.

    1. I don’t wanna say what’s my experience with WS ;). Was planing to play it since start to replace GW2, but “was” is operative. Sticking to GW2, even if WS drops on f2p model within 8 months (my private prediction).
      Still – I understand why some people may love this game.

  2. It’s interesting.. “monthly updates” with “big meaty story-progressing content” is the sort of thing that, last year, would have made me say “yeah, that’s what you need to do to justify a sub!”

    But now.. you look at this, look at their stablemates Guild Wars 2, and you have to say, “hang on, you want me to pay a sub, and you’re promising half as many updates at that no-sub-fee game I’m playing right now?”

    1. This right here…

      I had the same reaction yesterday after hearing about TESO.

      Since switching to the pay then play, with minor purchases here and there….or like my current game, Tera, where I get the hog free, and can have BBQ sauce and beans and corn if I pay each month…

      It will be difficult to go back to a game that is forcing me through a gated payment each month to experience what I already initially paid for.

  3. I seem to recall that The Secret World also promised, and delivered, big, meaty updates as part of the subscription. It did not save them, as they are trying to sell to adults now and adults have always had difficulty justifying paying an ongoing subscription to a game when there are so many other games that only want your money once.

    I remember explaining how World of Warcraft worked to an acquaintance of mine who was a gamer, back before it came out, and they were horrified at the idea that a game would demand money from you every month in order to play it. People don’t seem as horrified over the idea of paying for services, like Netflix or Xbox Live, because you’re not paying for content. You know exactly what you’re getting with those services.

    The only way you can possibly manage it is if you attract a small, fiercely loyal following who cannot get from anywhere else what they get from you, and WildStar has very explicitly gone ‘hey! remember all those concepts from MMOs you loved, and are possibly even still playing? Raiding! Trinity-based combat! Housing! Jumping puzzles! We have those as well!’

  4. Purely as a spectator (GW2 and Hex are my gaming interests this year), both WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online announcements drew some serious eye-rolling from me…

    It’s not that either/both game cannot actually deliver on the “subscription gets you everything!” & “regular big content updates forever!” promises – though obviously both are rather suspect tropes nowadays – but I literally CANNOT envisage these games not launching with a cash shop + also charging for expansions (lifespan of business-model/game permitting).

    Major props if either game actually manages to resist the ‘triple-dipping’, but in all honesty who see’s an MMO launching in 2013/2014 – with it’s own real-money purchased currency no less – NOT selling goods/services at launch or when the first major holiday comes round?

    Possibly the subscription-gets-you-everything model is endangered amongst customers because it’s positively extinct amongst game developers. ^_^

  5. I started losing interest in WildStar once I saw some extended game footage of combat. The more I learned about the game, the less I liked. Now the subscription model lets me cross this off my list entirely, just like everyone else I know that was thinking of playing it. B2P (my favorite option) or F2P would have been the way to go for this game to have any chance. Ditto with ESO, now also crossed off my list thanks to a sub.

    I predict not only will WildStar not do well as a sub game, it will crash and burn, with NCSoft closing the studio down within a year, if it even lasts that long. CoH was actually making a profit, yet that wasn’t enough to save it or Paragon Studios from the Korean owners, especially now that Nexon owns a huge chunk of NCSoft. The fact that the game has been pushed back (possibly multiple times now) and they seem to have serious issues with systems, let alone keeping deadlines for stuff, does not bode well for this game at all. NCSoft at some point has to be thinking that their money will get a much higher return if spent on Lineage Eternal instead.

    ESO is likely to go F2P (probably poorly done, like so many sub games that switch to mixed F2P/sub model) 6 to 8 months after release. It has a big name IP, but as an Elder Scrolls fan myself, this isn’t really anything I’m much interested in, certainly not something with a monthly sub.

    1. We clearly don’t have all the information on CoH, because that closure was so sudden and shocking, but Guild Wars 1 hasn’t been shut down at all despite its profitability slipping. I find it hard to believe the publisher that has been so indulgent towards ArenaNet and now Carbine is mercenary enough to shut down CoH because it wasn’t profitable enough. GW2 doesn’t make a ton of money either – it’s profitable, but for one of the big juggernauts of the genre it’s not that profitable.

      Something else must have happened with CoH, something we likely won’t ever find out.

      1. Merus, perhaps. I have to admit there could very well have been something else going on with CoH’s shutdown. I even was expecting they might be working on CoH2, so was really surprised when it happened. But NCSoft does have a long history of closing down their games and has several times mentioned it being mostly a case of feeling they can get a higher return on their investment by doing so.

        And, thankfully, GW1 stays open thanks in no small part to GW2 doing well. I think ArenaNet also gets a more hands off approach from NCSoft than perhaps some of their other owned studios have, which I hope continues.

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