In Defense of the New EQII Subscription Plan

Total rip off. 1/3 the price for 1/10 of the access? That’s horrendous.

-Dave, in a comment on my post about the new EQII subscription plan

Not that I am picking on Dave, but he does succinctly state what people seem to be objecting to when it comes to SOE’s new subscription plan for EverQuest II, the EQII Passport.

Sethial, in another comment on that post, calculated out that the cost per day of a normal subscription is 50 cents while with this new plan it is $1.66.  Again, a seeming blow against this offering.

Certainly, looking at in a raw numbers way as above, this subscription plan does not seem like a good deal.

So I want to approach this via analogy.

Okay, stop groaning!  This will be a pretty apt analogy, not some sparkle pony bizzaro world dream analogy.

I used to have a cell phone for which I paid $35 a month.

For that $35 a month, which included all taxes, fees, and whatnot, I got 1000 minutes of air time.  So the cost per minute of air time was 3.5 cents.  This was also in the days before minutes rolled over, so when the billing cycle was up, any unused minutes went away.

I gave up that cell phone and its plan for a pre-paid cell phone that charges me 25 cents a minute for calls.  That is a little over seven times the cost per minute of my old plan.

The problem for me was, in looking over my phone bills for a six month period of time, I was using about seven minutes of air time a month.  Seven minutes.

So my calls on the old phone were actually costing me five dollars per minute.

The pre-paid phone was clearly a better deal for somebody like me who is almost always seated within reasonable proximity of a land line telephone.

And so, while I am sure there are people out there who log on to EverQuest II every single day and who, thus, are really paying 50 cents a day for their play time, I am equally as sure that there are people out there who only log on a few days a month and who are probably effectively paying, per day, something very close to this new plan.

The price per day measure is interesting, but only works out if you’re using every single day, the way that first cell phone plan would have only worked out for me if I was using a lot more minutes than I was.

An all-you-can-eat plan isn’t a good deal if you’re not hungry or on a diet.  One size, and I speak as somebody who is 6’3″ tall when he stands up straight, rarely ever fits all.

That said, I still find the “three consecutive days” clause to be a deal-killer for me.  Perhaps if I was in a group that could coordinate and have a monthly EQII weekend it might tempt me.  But for general use, the consecutive days just axes the appeal.  I’d like to see somebody from SOE explain why they chose that particular restriction.

Still, as I said, I am glad that SOE is offering something new, and I am sure that somebody out there who will read about this new plan and think it is right for them.

24 thoughts on “In Defense of the New EQII Subscription Plan

  1. Tanek

    The “three consecutive days clause” is exactly why we were looking at it in terms of cost per day, though. That is the unit they are providing us.

    As some have suggested, a plan that charged the $5 for a certain number of *hours* and did not limit those hours to a small timespan (not saying it has to be unlimited, but maybe 30 days would be a good minimum starting point), then a user could more accurately calculate how much the plan is really costing them. Just like you did with the phone minutes based on actual use.

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  2. Jason

    I’d actually love to see them switch to “$1 a day” with the caveat that a “day” is only counted if you are logged in for more than X minutes (which can be something like 10 or 15 minutes) that way you don’t get charged a day for just logging in and seeing if your friends are online.

    And really, that’s more in line with what I want which is to pay when I play, not pay for the ability to play. There are so many MMOs I’ll never play because I can’t play them enough to justify the $15 a month charge, but if it only charged me 50 cents an hour, I’d probably play almost all of them.

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  3. pitrelli

    clever analogy!

    but yeah the 3 consecutive days thing would be the deal killer for me also,not that I play EQ 2 anyway but hey I’m sure other dev teams will sit up and take notice of it if its successful and possibly even implement a similar system into their MMO …….. hopefully with a bit more flexibility *cough*

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  4. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Tanek – But the comparison assumed that people paying $15 a month were logging in every single day. That was, in my mind, the faulty part of the comparison.

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  5. Thilandril

    I imagine they have to offer a plan that is sufficiently unpalatable as to prevent current subscribers from wanting to downgrade and impact revenue. And I know existing players are barred from the offer. So imagine their reaction if a subscription offer they liked was offered, but not to them. Bad juju.

    This is probably the same reason you don’t see extra character slots offered except as a “perk” for Station Access. If they offered a more affordable option that didn’t include Station Access, I think you’d find that there are a whole heck of a lot of Station Access subscribers that aren’t coughing up their $30 per month because they can’t part with Planetside. They don’t want to make a move that’s going to decrease revenue.

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  6. Besse

    Maybe I’m being dim, but surely all you need to do is take the fee for the month divided by how much you play (or can play, given the consecutive day restriction) to see whether it’s worthwhile for you. The ‘units’, as Tarek put it, have to be based on what you can and will utilise, not what’s available.

    So a full month’s subscription if you play 10 hours a month is $1.50 an hour. If on the new subscription plan you could only play 6 hours because of the restriction, that’s still $0.83 an hour, a cheaper rate. Stick your own hours into the calculation to get your own rate. Easy.

    After that it’s a question of whether the convenience of being able to log in any time is worth the extra $10 a month. Depending on your tolerance, $10 for a bit of inconvenience may sit easily or awkwardly with you.

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  7. dave

    Wow, I feel so special and popular :)

    I still think it’s a rip off though. I understand what they are trying to do. I know why it’s set to consecutive days, to prevent people who use a grand total of 3 days of play time per month from getting all the play time they already use at a discounted price, but 3 days is ridiculous.

    If they changed it to 7 consecutive days, I think it could be defensible. 1/3 the price for 1/4 the product. That’s reasonable. It allows for the gamer that needs to cut the budget but still gives a modicum of value for your money. Even at 3 non consecutive days, it’s overcharging.

    As it is right now I honestly think it’s an attempt to offer cheap crack to the addicted.

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  8. Esri

    Yeah, the “three consecutive days” is a deal-killer for me, as well. 6-10 hours, spread over the month, that would be worth $5 for me.

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  9. Tanek

    @Wilhelm2451
    “But the comparison assumed that people paying $15 a month were logging in every single day.”

    You are correct. I guess I needed to back up one step and look around before darting ahead two. :)

    I was just thinking of another problem with the comparison. We are looking at this new option like it is a subscription plan. It isn’t, despite what they say in the ad. They aren’t putting this out there for someone to use month-to-month, it is something to use to dart into the game briefly without having to revive your subscription.

    Looking at it that way, I might be able to understand both the price and the consecutive days restriction.

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  10. Bhagpuss

    “And so, while I am sure there are people out there who log on to EverQuest II every single day and who, thus, are really paying 50 cents a day for their play time”

    /holds up hand

    Not only have I logged into EQ2 pretty much every this year so far, but so has Mrs Bhagpuss and so have the majority of people who I recognise by name on my server.

    Moreover, when I was concentrating on either Vanguard or EQ1as my “focus” MMOs, most of the people I knew well by name also logged in pretty much every day. I was under the impression that playing almost every day was part and parcel of playing one’s focus MMO.

    I play a lot of MMOs in general and often half a dozen concurrently. Some of those I might log into only every few days. For those, the new charging model might be attractive. Frankly, though, if I could afford $5 I could afford $15 so even there I wouldn;t be that interested.

    I am 100% in favor of as wide a range of payment options as possible. Personally, I want simplicity above all. I do NOT want to have to compare one price structure over another and I do NOT want to have to bear in mind while I’m playing how much I am paying per minute.

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  11. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Then it sounds like you are well suited to your current subscription plan and that this offer is not intended for you.

    @Dave – It is, no doubt, a bad deal for a lot of players… a vast majority of players I would guess. But somebody out there will like it. Heck, somebody out they will like just about anything when it comes down to it.

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  12. Sleepysam

    But somebody out there will like it. Heck, somebody out they will like just about anything when it comes down to it.

    So many ways to derail… possibilities are endless. I’ll keep it simple, agreed, somebody likes Jar Jar.

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  13. We Fly Spitfires

    I don’t really get the subscription plan because I don’t know anyone who only plays a MMO for 3 days a month every month but not at any other time. Still, it is definitely a step in a good direction and kudos to SOE for trying to innovate.

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  14. ahnlak

    “It is, no doubt, a bad deal for a lot of players… a vast majority of players I would guess. But somebody out there will like it.”

    Well yeah, but that’s the point. Why on earth has SOE’s marketing department invented something that’s so utterly unattractive to the vast majority of their customers? It took about 10 minutes for various people to propose far more useful plans (I love the $1/day one), which would seem to give a much better prospect of generating revenue than this crazy scheme.

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  15. kaozz

    Some people will use it. Pop in for a weekend, check on this or that. Some people use a second account for storage, this is perfect for them. Check out the Norrathian Homeshow, you’ll see just how many people do!

    It’s nice to have options. While I do think having a set number or hours would be nicer it’s still cool that it is out there.

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  16. sente

    Comparing hour for hours costs between different subscription plans is flawed for sure. But as others have pointed out, the flaw is not in how much you pay for each potential hours (assuming one would play every day), but that the offer does not quite match any common playing pattern.

    In practice it ia a $5 3-day trial; play your brains out for 3 days and hopefully love it enough that you get back in as a regular subscriber.

    Most people I know would not play their brains out for 3 days though, certainly not 3 consecutive days. They would take a little bit of time here and a bit of time there, maybe one longer session per week.

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  17. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Ahnlak – As I said in the post, I’d like to hear somebody from SOE describe the logic behind the structure of this proposal.

    I would guess that one of the parameters in coming up with a new subscription plan was not to leech off any of the current $15/month plan subscribers that pretty much pay the bills. So they ended up with restrictions that made the plan a non-starter for most people.

    But they wanted it to be a non-starter for Bhagpuss family, for example.

    And I am sure they want to make it feel constraining so that people will eventually decide to opt for the full account.

    I think, however, the 3 consecutive days was a step too far. They’re pitching it at people who want to keep their account live for vet rewards and people who want to be able to pop on for just special events (which probably don’t blow by on a nice 30 day cycle), but I think it will be tough to get there.

    The investment in time and materials to create this plan seems to be relatively low though, so they don’t need a ton of people to make it worthwhile. And some of those people will opt up for a full subscription, which is all win in their view I’m sure.

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  18. Sethial

    I have only skimmed the responses, but I see your point.

    Lets break it down a bit further and look at it in a per hour basis, this will give a better picture. Let say the average MMO player play 90 hours in a month, thats roughly 3 hours each day for 30 days. This should be a good average (this accounts for missed days and weekends where a player may spend 5-12 hours in a single day. Now for the casual using this plan lets say he only uses it on the weekend and he plays for 5 hours each day so 15 hours.

    Monthly Sub = $0.17 per hour of game time

    3 Day Sub = $0.33 per hour of game time

    We are still at double the cost, and if the 3 day sub decides not to log in on one of those days then his costs go up to $.50 per hour of game time.

    As for the argument of the buying in bulk is always cheaper, basic sales comes into play here, it is cheaper because cost to manufacture go down, I won’t go into the details here but the more a manufacturer has to make the cheaper it gets to make it and the more likely he is to reduce his profit for greater gain in the long run.

    It costs SOE the same amount if not more to provide service to the monthly sub as to the 3 day sub as they will use less bandwidth and resources and pay SOE more per unit.

    Think of it like going to the grocery store and buying a bottle of ketchup, you know you go to the store every Saturday and you won’t use a big bottle of ketchup before than but you may within a months time and it costs more for a big bottle then a small one. However, the price per ounce is half of what the small bottle is and ketchup will last a whole month. Which do you buy?

    The whole point of an MMO is playing with others (preferably friends) and unless you only play one weekend a month (and don’t use the auction house or other such short (5 minute) tasks) then this MIGHT be a good idea, but if you plan to play more then once a month (in 3 consecutive days) then it is cheaper and a better buy to just buy the subscription.

    I think they would be better served to charge on a per hour basis of $.25 for each hour of game play (harken back to the old arcade days) it would be a better buy. It is still more expensive then the monthly sub but better fits the ultra casual player who plays only 1 or 2 days a week.

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  19. Saylah

    I would have jumped on board for a set number of hours per month or 3 days total. It’s the consecutive that’s a bit tricky. If I’m too busy to include EQ2 in my round up, I’m VERY UNLIKELY to play 3 days in a row. So if I log in on Monday and can’t again until the weekend then I’m screwed and won’t be able to play from how this sounds to me. Therefore even though it’s only 5 dollars I might end up spending that for only the few hours I could play on the first day I had time available.

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  20. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Sethial – In essence, I agree with everything you wrote. There are, however, two factors which work against things you are proposing as well as things which I have proposed in the past.

    The first I mentioned in my previous comment. We will never see an alternative subscription plan from SOE that will be attractive enough to pull players away from the standard $15 a month plan. That is just a realistic constraint we have to accept. To think otherwise is to move into the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking… which should only apply in game, not out.

    The second is that there is a cost to SOE for this plan. The credit card transaction fee for $15.00 and $5.00 is probably the same or very close. With Station Cash, for example, they make you pitch in at least $10, if I recall right.

    Like so many, I think they have made this offer a little too restrictive to appeal to much of a crowd. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody say, “Hey, that’s the plan for me!” But SOE can always alter it a bit if they don’t get enough takers.

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  21. Troy

    I am a bit surprised as well as to why Sony is making this offer. It also surprises me to see all the little restrictions that are tied to this offer as well.

    Besides the three consecutive days, it can be used only once per month, and cannot be used with present paying customers or new players.

    To me this is just another, “Hey come back to the game” trial that isn’t so free.I used to get emails from Sony asking me to return for a week or 10 days to try it again. So now they are making me pony up 5 bucks for a very limited offer.

    To me it sounds like a bunch of hogwash that some mid level manager purposed instead of just sending out emails offering a free re-examination of the product.

    I too would prefer to spend 10 cents an hour or even 20 cents an hour to play.

    And lastly, one must remember that the service being offered isn’t a physical object (or widget) that follows the same manufacturing curve of supply and demand. That is, having 1 user use the service is just as if 100 users are online — the servers need to be there and the management of the computers stay basically the same.

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  22. Peter

    Great analogy! I really like it!
    Recently I started posting interestnig analogies I found on the web on blog.ygolana.com. I thought it could be a good idea to create a place where people can share useful analogies such as yours.

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  23. Pingback: /AFK – What the What? Edition « Bio Break

  24. Ryan

    Yeah, the $5 for 3 isn’t the horrendous part of the deal. I’d honestly at least consider that for some of my old-time favorite MMOs if it was taken as an industry standard as an alternate sub. However, a $5 for 3-consecutive-days stinks. They should change it to any three days over a month, or even a week.

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