I have had a week and a half or so to dwell on the Station Access price increase.
$24.99 to $29.99 a month. Five bucks. A 20% hike.
Any sort of price increase where you are asked to pay more but are not getting anything new tends to rankle.
The annoyance is double when it involves anything related to the computer. The last 25 years of computer hardware pricing has made us all feel that we should always get more for our money over time, not less. I would love to see a display made up of those back-of-the-PC-magazine Dell ads from the 80s and 90s that always featured a computer for around $2,000. The price was always the same, but the system specs just kept getting better and better month after month.
So the gut reaction to the price increase announcement was an almost universal intonation from the players that SOE could take their plan and shove it, we weren’t subscribing any more.
But often a little time and thought will take the sting out of a price increase. You determine what you are getting for your money, what the alternatives are, and what you are really need and you decide what to do.
Frequently, if the price increase was well thought out by the company, you will decide to stay the course. A company would be foolish to destroy the value proposition of a particular plan.
Yet when we come to Station Access, I think that is just what SOE has done.
Of course, the value of the plan is a person by person assessment, and I am sure there are people out there for whom the price increase still leaves them in a position of benefit. If somebody played, say, EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, and Planetside regularly, Station Access is still cheaper than three individual subscriptions. (By the way, I am sorry for the Planetside folks who got whip-sawed on the Station Access price increase with one of their own, no doubt to ensure that no two individual subscriptions would total to less than Station Access.)
But how many of us really, actively play three games like that? Not I, that is certain.
My own desire for Station Access is to have more character slots in EverQuest II and to occasionally indulge the desire to go see some feature in EverQuest. Basically, alt-itis and nostalgia.
I can have them both for $29.99.
I can choose one or the other and pay between $26 and $29.98 by either having two EQ2 accounts (which would, ironically, give me more character slots that Station Access) or an EQ2 and an EQ plan.
Or I can suppress them both and pay less than half the price per month just for EQ2 by paying for my subscription in bigger time increments, getting down to $13 a month.
Honestly, I think I could suppress both Alt-itis and nostalgia for the time being, so the last option is looking likely for me.
Now SOE could dig themselves out of this hole, at least with me. In follow ups to the informationally slim price hike email, there have been statements about more to be added to Station Access in the future, and that this raise in rate was to accommodate that as well.
This seems like a bad way to approach things. Announce the price increase, but do not announce any of the additional features that this increase is going to make possible. Maybe Sony has been involved with the music business for too long?
So far all I see for $5 more per month is things I already have. If they threw me a bone and gave me, say, the EQ2 Players.com stats as part of Station Access I’d probably be okay. But to run a 20% price increase and give the subscribers nothing? Insanity! I want to know which mail-order diploma mill sold the faux MBA to the guy at Sony who came up with that plan.
Another alternative for SOE is to offer more plans. Something between the individual game subscription and Station Access salad bar.
I called for a new plan some time ago, if only to fill the bizarre void that seems to exist between plans that are “Free” and those that are “$14.99 a month.”
Kendricke put up some thoughts on interim price plans that SOE ought to consider.
And Brenlo himself was quoted on VirginWorlds #58 saying that they were looking into other plans.
So there is some hope I suppose.
And I have a bit of time on my side. My billing plan comes due on the 28th of the month, so I have until the end of April before the price increase hits me. Some time between now and then Sony can entice me with something new. In the mean time I will take a couple more trips into EverQuest and start figuring out which six characters in EQ2 I want to keep.
Just in case.