Cheapest Lifetime Subscription Ever

A while back I was wondering what was going to happen with my lifetime subscription to Lord of the Rings Online when it went free to play.

Now Massively just reported that, in some Bizarro World turn around, SOE’s Free Realms, a free to play game, is offering a lifetime subscription for the low, low price of $29.99.

Is that a squirrel or what?

The offer is limited, the text from the site reads as follows:

Lifetime Memberships – Limited Time Offer

Free Realms is offering a Lifetime Membership for a limited time!

From July 16th, 2010 (at Noon PDT) until August 2nd, 2010 (at Noon PDT) you can get a lifetime membership for about the same price as paying month to month for 6 months!

With a Lifetime Membership you’ll have access to all the great Member content without having to worry about your subscription running out!

If you have previously purchased a 12 month subscription, we have you covered. You will automatically be converted to a Lifetime Membership at no extra charge.

If you are currently a Member with a 1, 3 or 6 month membership, the Lifetime Membership and charges will take effect at the END of your current membership cycle. You’ll get an email reminding you of how it works when you sign up.

Visit the Membership page to sign up today!

There has to be fine print, so here it is:

Sony Online Entertainment does not ensure continuous or error-free access, use or availability of any game content, feature, gameplay or server and may change, modify, disable, suspend or remove any such content, feature, gameplay or server at its sole discretion.

Robgoblin treasure cannot be used to pay for a Lifetime Membership

If you pay a subscription for Free Realms, you get access to all of the jobs (some of which sound like work to me), special status items, a house in the country, a Station Cash discount, and all sorts of special monthly goodies.

Which is all nice and good if you like that sort of thing.  Similar subscriptions are available for other casual free to play games like Club Penguin and even WebKinz.

But a lifetime subscription?  And for just $29.99?

That price point just happens to be $10 cheaper than a year long subscription, which leads us to the what-in-the-hell-are-they-thinking part of the show.

I mean, they are nicely giving anybody who currently has a one year subscription an automatic upgrade to Lifetime.  That’s nice, even if they paid extra for it.  But why go for a lifetime offer in the first place?

Is SOE in need of some quick cash here?  I know things aren’t going so well down in San Diego this week (I feel your pain), but all we’ve heard about Free Realms is how many millions of people have signed up for accounts (though it has been a while, April I think, since we last got one of those updates) and what a mega-success (Massively’s term) the game has been.

Just what is going on here?  Is something wrong at SOE?  Or was this another plan from the same people who brought us the EverQuest II Passport?

7 responses to “Cheapest Lifetime Subscription Ever

  1. I would love to see the economics for lifetime subs and whether or not they are a good deal for the company offering them.

    Some time back I managed to buy a Lotro lifetime subscription for £75 (about $115) approximately half the going rate. This offer was only made available to selected lapsed customers and was not advertised except by email to those eligible. The forums were pretty quiet about it except for a few bemused posts from people wondering if the offer really existed. My guess is that Turbine/Codemasters had carefully figure out how much a returned lapsed customer was worth to them and picked a price point that still made them money while being low enough to entice some extra cash from those of us who had lapsed.

  2. I would guess this is just an attempt to monetize some of the millions of subscribers who never pay a dime for the game. I’m sure there’s only a small number of their millions of accounts the buy things in the store or pay for a subscription, so this is likely targeted at them, an offer so good how could they refuse? It’s a limited time deal, so it doesn’t really matter if it undercuts their regular subscription prices — that’s what a sale is after all.

    I’m sure this will net SOE a nice infusion of cash from people who would not otherwise pay, heck, I don’t play Free Realms and even I’m tempted! Clearly they’re gambling that they’ll make more money from people who aren’t paying (a majority) over the lost revenue from people who were buying 1 year subs (a small minority most likely).

    It also gets Free Realms back in the media with lots of free advertising.

    @mbp – Sadly I suspect the profitability of a lifetime sub to a company is inversely proportional to the quality of their game. LotRO probably hasn’t made much profit off their lifetime subs, for many people they’ve probably even lost money, but it’s still a reliable chunk of one-time profit. A game like Champions Online though, likely made a killing of their “lifetime” subs, as I don’t know a single person who bought a lifetime sub to that game that played more than a month or two. Ouch.

  3. @Zubon – indeed

    @PeterD – I would guess you’re about right. The $29.99 price even got me thinking about it, until I asked myself Zubon’s question.

    Even if 1% of Free Realms’ “10 million registered users” (as of April) buys in, that does make a tidy sum.

    On the other hand, with the price point, and the automatic granting to year-long subscribers, they did also remove from future payments a segment of their population that was obviously willing to subscribe.

    And your theory on quality/profit… well, all I can say is that I haven’t burdened Cryptic with a lot playtime on my STO lifetime subscription.

  4. @Zubon Free realms is great. It has a lot of fun things to do, the environments are beautiful and the quests and NPC dialogs are written to a higehr-than-average standard for MMOs.

    Let’s not forget SoE have the full metrics. They know how long players tend to stay subscribed and how often they log in. Want to bet they have data that predicts that the lure of “Lifetime” free play will bring in $29.99 from players who actually would have spent less than that in incremental payments over the average lifetime of an active account??

  5. I suspect it’s SOE considering moving to something similar to the DDO model with free vs. “premium” accounts. I suspect that few people subscribe and many more people buy stuff with Station Cash, so they’re giving people “premium” standing for a one-time fee. Once they’ve got your CC number they can keep it on hand to make it easier to buy Station Cash.

    Plus, as others have pointed out, it gives them a nice boost in visibility for a bit.

  6. Pingback: Gaming News: Layoffs at SOE, PC Zone kicks the bucket, Tale in the Desert’s new telling, Is Bobby Kotick a gamer?, Free Realms lifetime bargain « Welcome to Spinksville!

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