STO Lifetime Sub – The Sucker Bet?

I missed a good chunk of the Star Trek Online open beta.

Part of that was because we spent a week on Maui, which is a pretty fair trade in the middle of winter.  Even for a California winter.

But even when I have been around there have been problems getting into the game.  The server was essentially full for most of the time before I was on vacation.  That is when it wasn’t down.  And it has been down rather regularly since I have been back.

Not that Cryptic hasn’t been working on things.  I’ve downloaded about a gigabyte and a half of updates since I got back home.  But I get the feeling that the Star Trek IP is a bit more popular than they calculated.

Somehow, between the outages, I have managed to get in enough time to, you know, blow things up.

Cruiser Goes "Boom!"

And I like what I have seen.

I think.

I have to deal my internal love of Star Trek which makes it difficult at times to evaluate whether I like something that is Star Trek related, or whether I merely like that it is Star Trek related.  I’m a fan boy.  Not as much as some people, but I am to the degree that I can be and still be me.  And Star Trek fan boys can get uptight about some of the silliest of things.

These fish are totally non-canon I say!

So play I must.  And having played a little, here is what I think.

Ship combat looks good.  It is close enough to the Starfleet Command (my favorite series of Star Trek games ever, which culminated with Starfleet Command III) style of ship combat for my taste.  Things go a bit quicker and I miss the ability to transport over marines to capture ships when the shields are down, but otherwise it feels about right.

I am undecided on ground combat.  That isn’t what a Star Trek game is really about for me, but it seems better than, say, Pirates of the Burning Sea’s version of the same thing.  And planet side seems to offer places to relax.

And the game as a whole?  I am surprised by some of the complexities.  But it feels okay, and you can tweak enough things to make the future feel a bit less sterile and mass produced.

USS Wensleydale Customized

Like Darren, I agree that being on a mission and finding myself in an ad hoc fleet working towards the same objectives works.  Though it can stink when you draw a tougher mission and find yourself alone.  I had to call on Skronk to help me out on one.

So, if nothing else, I am not going to try and get out of my GameStop pre-order.  I will be playing this game.  And I will be playing it soon since, as Cryptic pointed out, the last open beta weekend was upon us.

Next Friday, January 29th, those with pre-orders can get into the game for real.  Things are live.

But there is a decision to be made between now and the official launch day of February 2nd.

Do I get the lifetime subscription?

It is available up until February 1st for $239.  After that it will still be available, but it will be priced at $299.

The Trek fan boy in me says, “Get it!”  In fact, the Trek fan boy in me wants to know why I am still typing this since the order page is up in another tab and I could be ordering it RIGHT THIS SECOND!

And then there is skeptical me. (Alternately known as thoughtful me, sarcastic me, or obstinate ass-hat me, depending on how far off I am from other people’s own opinions.)

Skeptical me still likes the idea of the lifetime subscription, since it takes the whole subscribe, unsubscribe, am I playing enough to justify a monthly subscription detail off the table.

But then skeptical me goes on and points out Lord of the Rings Online, which I don’t play all that much.

Sure, I patch and log in about once a month and play a little.  But I spend a lot more time in WoW and even in EVE Online.  And while that is partly because I have regular groups and friends in those games, it is also, to a certain extent, because I am paying a monthly fee for them, so I feel I had better be playing if I am paying.

And so LOTRO falls into third place because the pressure is off in that regard.  I can play whenever.

Then skeptical me brings up Pirates of the Burning Sea.  The parallels between that and Star Trek Online are clear, if not absolute.  In PotBS I loved the ship combat, but the rest of the game really did little for me.  Could STO be a repeat of that?

And while skeptical me has me on the ropes, he brings up Starfleet Command.  Sure, I love that game.  I bring it out every few months to play it.  But how much play time does it really get, skeptical me asks like a lawyer in a courtroom drama bringing up the critical point in his case, exactly how much time did you spend playing that game in 2009?

Maybe six hours.

“SIX HOURS?” shouts skeptical me, waking up the jury, “You spent 6 hours out of the year playing that game, and now you want to get a lifetime subscription to a game because it plays like SFC?  Is this what you’re suggesting?  Does this make sense?

Damn skeptical me, he has a point.

And then skeptical me starts to play good cop.  Look, he points out, they also have a discount year long subscription.  That is $119, which saves you $60 over the course of a year and you lock in that price ongoing.  So in two years you will have spent the same as the lifetime subscription, and you might be over the game by then.

Finally, skeptical me wraps up his case.  Look at Turbine, he says.  They offered a discounted lifetime subscription before launch, but they have brought back that discounted price a number of times.  If you truly get into the game, you might have the opportunity again later.

But then the fan boy retorts that not having to worry about a subscription is more likely to get me through the rough launch ahead.  And it is going to be a rough launch if my current experience, where I have spent more time trying to play than playing, what with patches, the server being full, or the server simply being down, over the open beta cycle.

But the year long subscription plan also works for that.

I still have a week to decide.  Lifetime or not?

What would you do?

And more importantly, what would Kirk do?

34 thoughts on “STO Lifetime Sub – The Sucker Bet?

  1. bluelinebasher

    I voted yes for you, with 3 words: Lifetime Khaaaan Emote.

    I was ready to do it as I think lifetime subs are the way to go if you are vested in an MMO, until I managed to get a free beta key without a purchase or pre-order, and now I’m firmly back on the fence after participating in the open beta. But since you are already out cash in your case, why not just pull the trigger and do it. It’s easy to justify for something that you love, and in 2 years of monthly fees it pays for itself. If you’re still with it after that, pure win for you. Plus you’re helping STO dev work and furthering Sci-fi MMOs. That on top of the pluses that you mention, how can you not?

    I am hoping Eve counters with something similar.


  2. Karl

    Tough call… LoTRO was a game I played for 6 months before going for a lifetime sub, and I continued to play it 20+ hours/week well past the breakeven point. Now I don’t play as much but that’s also due to some RL issues.

    I’m not sure I’d plunge in for a lifetime sub without spending several months playing post release. The full year discount might be a better option. Maybe they’ll run a special lifetime sub option again to celebrate the one year anniversary of the game, and by then you’ll have a better idea if it is worth it for you.


  3. Andrew

    Oh jeez – no brainer – run screaming from the “deal” like the scam it is. STO isn’t going to be humming along in the 16 months (or whatever) needed to recoup what you’ll spend – it’ll be on life support long before then. Cryptic’s business model appears to be “promise the moon, ask for a few hundred bucks up front, and under deliver”. This is Champions Online all over again.


  4. Xerb

    I did it … so can you. After 16 months you are playing for free. FREE!

    Star Trek Online has a lot of expansion possibilities and I am a huge fan so this was an easy decision for me. However, I still haven’t told my wife I bought the collectors pre-order AND spent 240 bucks to play it LOL! I am betting she will appreciate it later when she doesn’t see the monthly fees on the credit card though.


  5. *vlad*

    In the early 70s, Kirk and the gang were my heroes.
    Time moves on, of course, and Deep Space 9, Enterprise, and even Voyager (despite 7 of 9) just sum up how not to keep flogging a dead horse.
    If I hear about Plasma Conduits, Warp Coils, Arrays or how a problem can be solved if you just ‘rig a by-pass’ one more time I will scream.

    Fingers crossed it will be a good game. If it is, I might even play it.


  6. Yeebo

    Wow, I was getting ready to write (nearly) the exact same response that Karl did. I played LoTRO for about four months before I had enough confidence in it to go lifer. I’m glad that I did, but I will likely never pay so much for a lifetime sub again.

    Turbine keeps degrading the value of the lifetime sub by making everyone (lifers or no) pay for more and more content that we would have gotten for free before. For example, the last expansion I got for $20, while everyone else only had to pay for a three months sub up front and they got it for free. In essence they paid $30 for the same content I did. I would expect the same to happen in any MMO that gets a lot of life time subbers.

    And $200-300 for lifetime access is pretty steep. Compare that to FtP games like DDO or Wizard 101 where you can get lifetime access to pretty much everything for under $100, and not have to spend $60 on the client. Or Guild Wars, where you pay for the client and nothing else.


  7. Grunthex

    Lifetime Subscriptions are a sucker bet at the best of times. And from a company with Cryptic’s… interesting track records. No. Just no.

    Pay for a sub. Pay for a year maybe, though that still makes me flinch. But never ever buy a lifetime sub if you have even a shred of doubt.


  8. Loredena

    As burnt as I feel after paying for two lifetimes for Champions Online, I’m in no hurry to throw more money Cryptics way. I wouldn’t opt for the lifetime — I’m not convinced they’ll still be a going concern in a year!

    (On the other hand, even though Sisca and I really don’t play LotRO much, I have never regretted that pair of lifetime subs)


  9. Maarkean

    Do it. I am in he same boat as you. Almost the same dilemma. Except I wish I had gotten the LOTRO lifetime subscription. It would have saved me a lot of money by now.

    So while it may be a lot of money up front, and the game may not be perfect, what game is at launch. A lifetime will guarantee you’ll be able to fanboy it up at each new patch. So in a year when they finally add the Excelsior class in and have captain’s ready rooms, you’ll be able to go play with one just because its Star Trek and won’t have to justify a new monthly subscription.


  10. sente

    I am no Trek fan, but the game shows promise I think. Personally I might be playing other SciFi themed MMOs later when they get released, but certainly not guaranteed that they will be any good or better.

    I do not really expect to play any game continuosly for many years, but certainly play some on and off a few of months at a time – and perhaps the first time a bit longer.

    In this case I think the 12 month might be reasonably good offer.


  11. Randomessa

    I look at it this way: the lifetime offer and the year subscription amount to the same total over 24 months. After all that time, I figure if I’m still playing, Cryptic deserves the extra money I throw their way!


  12. CunningB

    Judging from cryptics previous efforts id stamp this with a not now :/

    If it was a game like EvE online, with regular large free updates and a feel that the game was actively getting better and expanding then maybe but STO just seems like a fire and forget kinda game unless it stays really popular :/

    But hey i’m a cynic ^^


  13. mbp

    I vote the conservative month to month option.If you are very certain go for the year deal. I am not against lifetime subscriptions in principle and I have a Lotro lifetime sub myself. If you decide to stick with the game there will always be another opportunity to buy a lifetime sub and the price will come down in future special offers..


  14. Pantsula

    If it were that any characters you created were bound to an active subscription or face deletion, I would possibly consider a lifetime sub. But the ability to re-sub at any time to scratch an itch or check out the changes to things that bugged you makes for a safer bet.

    With all the other MMOs headed our way I would want to keep my options open as to where I throw some subscription money.


  15. Genda

    Here’s what I tend to do… Math is my friend, so I figure how much I would spend if I played 6 months, unsubbed, resubbed and played a few more months, etc.

    Your Break Even on the deal is 16 months played. So for practical purposes, are you going to play the game for 18 months? Really that is the point where you are ahead.

    Looking back, over the last 10 years I have played 2 games for more than 18 months total. Everquest and World of Warcraft. Even SWG, which I have resubbed to 3 or 4 times, less than 18 months.

    Given Cryptic’s checkered past and with Cataclysm and SWTOR due within that time frame (even if you DID go consecutive months), I wouldn’t do it.

    And no, I’m not refunding your difference if you do. :D


  16. Darren

    Grabbed the year sub for myself. I really like the game, warts and all at the moment. That, and the inner trek fanboi made a convincing case. I’ll re-evaluate after that.


  17. Josh

    I don’t know if this helps your decision or not, but you can launch marines over to enemy ships that will board them and start disabling systems. I doubt you can take them over, but you never know MMOs are hardly the same a year after release.

    “Things go a bit quicker and I miss the ability to transport over marines to capture ships when the shields are down, but otherwise it feels about right.”


  18. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Genda – Math is always our friend. It is the assigning of appropriate estimated values that is always the stumbling block. What if it follows the LOTRO path and is just okay the first year, but ongoing work makes it shine after that?

    The 16 month goal is a good plan still. I have played EVE, EQ, EQ2, WoW, and, depending on how you count it, LOTRO for more than 18 months at a single stretch. I still have a few days to mull this over.

    I’m not sure what “Cryptics checkered past” really refers to though. They haven’t shut down an MMO so far, but they have only had CoH/CoV, Champions Online, and STO. On the flip side, I bet the cost to use the Trek IP is high enough that the threshold to shutting it down is a lot lower than an MMO with an original IP. (The Vanguard vs. The Matrix Online problem.)

    @Josh – I haven’t gotten to that yet, though the combat in STO seems a bit more brisk than Starfleet Command. Shields come back up so fast at times it would be tough to get marines over in the interval.

    Now my wife wants to know if she gets me (or authorizes me to purchase as the case may be) the lifetime subscription for my upcoming birthday, does that count as a lifetime of birthday presents.

    And, as an aside, that guy shaking his fist at the fish in the admiral’s office is the most amusing STO picture I have taken so far. It isn’t up there with Potshot’s “relationship with the captain’s chair” post, but I like it.


  19. Pingback: Great Posts V + Final STO Open Beta Thoughts « Harbinger Zero

  20. Captain0

    Unless you’re gonna cry over the money come 16 months from now.. don’t get the lifetime. I say this because if Crytpic has to keep you interested to keep you paying.. then you win! (because if everyone got lifetime, then oh well no more incoming money, so no incentive on their part). In summary, you’re going to insure that they keep making the game better by getting a month by month or yearly subscription vs. a one time lifetime fee. My $0.02


  21. Genda

    @Wilhelm2451 – When I say “Checkered Past” I am mostly referring to their relatively uneven long term playability. A lot of people played the CoX stuff for a long time while I personally bored of it rather quickly.

    CO got an enthusiastic start, to be followed among my peers with complete disinterest mere weeks after launch.

    So I guess my question is; “Can Cryptic make a game that I want to play now AND in the future?” So far I haven’t been as tempted with them as I have with other titles from other studios. This would temper my decision.


  22. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Genda – Okay, I can see that. And, honestly, I couldn’t even get through the tutorial for CoX or CO, but I think that is mostly because I am not a super-hero fan. We shall see.


  23. Myra

    If you took any option other than 1, you would never see the lifetime account again.

    Also consider how many months you may pay for STO despite not playing it. Some people pay for games and never play them just so they can get full credit for all of the veteran rewards. The lifetime account guarantees all veteran rewards, regardless of how your finances go.

    Also, don’t listen to people who say that “only people who pay month to month would be listened to”. The devs don’t have access to whose account is lifetime and whose isn’t when listening to suggestions. Also, the lifetime account allows them to get a massive cash infusion to help make the game better as quickly as possible after launch. If only a thousand people get it, that’s a quarter of a million dollars.

    On top of that, lifetimers are more likely to spend on microtransactions. So in essence, as long as they keep the stuff available for microtransactions flowing, many lifetimers spend more on the game than people going month to month.

    Lastly, you’re right about one thing: lifetimers don’t tend to play much. The “you cost Cryptic money by going lifetime” is a moot point. If anything, the month to monthers aren’t going to play for a total of 16 months. They’re going to find some other shiny new game and go off to that before they have a chance to ever justify their prejudice.


  24. Myra

    Also, I’d like to say that you may not have a few days to mull it over… true, “Offer ends February 1st at 23:59 PST” but “while supplies last”. While the “supplies” are entirely meta data and therefore theoretically unlimited, the fact is that they put that there so they can cut it off at an arbitrary limit and say “that’s the end of it.”


  25. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Myra – I think you might be assuming that this is exactly like the Champions Online offer, but I do not think that is the case.

    For example, I have not seen “while supplies last” written anywhere as part of this offer. Furthermore, they have quite clearly stated that lifetime subscriptions will be available after Feb. 1, the price will just go up from $239 to $299.


  26. fester

    The only voice you have when it comes to MMOs is your subscription. If you pay for a lifetime sub and the game turns out to be poor, you are powerless to send an effective message to Cryptic. On the other hand, if the game is excellent and you enjoy it for 16+ months, why not reward Cryptic by giving them a few extra dollars? Think of it as a tip.

    In either case, the lifetime sub is really just a benefit for the studio: big upfront infusion of cash, little incentive to make changes later, will likely charge you for those changes anyway (like they are doing with CO right now). Plus you’ll still be paying for anything you want in their item mall.

    I think the lifetime sub is a big mistake and urge you to avoid it.


  27. Dwayne

    If I may ( i know this is completely late) but, I was curious exactly how this “lifetime” subscription works? On the STO site, it doesn’t have a recurring fee, does this mean it is a 1 time payment of $299.00 and I can play for life? Or is there in face “hidden” subscription fee? And no where on the site is there a FAQ of some kind that explains exactly how it works. I find it hard to believe that they would be willing to offer a lifetime subsctiption for $300 dollars (one time payment) when monthly subscriptions would net them much more (and perpetually indefinitely). Please e-mail me and let me know.


  28. Nicodemus

    well,…well,…well,… i see allot of negitive thoughts on a life time account with STO, just becuase “it’s cryptic studios” and or people who got life times with LoTR. Maybee they like LOTR better cuase they like fantasy DnD type games better than scifi..? or they don’t like LOTR and feel they made a mistake.. maybee you don’t think cryptic is very good cuase of past issues. i have noticed that there were not very many negitive thoughts towards it from people who had actualy got life time accounts with STO. you know,.. well yeah, i know $300.00 for most people is allot of money for me to it is but guess what,.?
    i got a lifetime account and a collector’s addition game. i paid nearly $360.00 total for it but i figured out that the money i spent works out to be ruffly a year and a half, worth of month by month sub. i have been playing for almost 300 days i do not forsee giving it up any time, i have A FLEET with nearly 500 members. i got members in the fleet who have been playing for 6 months who “well gee i don’t know if it’s worth it to go lifetime.” but yet they continue to pay every month to play it none the less. they sometimes don’t seem to realize,.. that they are gonna spend just as much as i did; by the time they figure out that they realy do want it! and then they’re gonna end up spending almost 2 times as much as i did to get rid of the monthlies. i’m glad i bought mine cryptic is’nt the best company but they have come along way. the startrek game they have created is great and continues to get better they add content,expand all the time. i don’t ever pay for expansions and there are more and more EX-WOW players coming on board constantly as well as people from EVE who could’nt stand the leveling prosses..that’s my perspective enjoy….


  29. Michael Gmirkin

    Lifer. No qualms. Awesome game. With Foundry going live, as we speak, only liable to get better!

    Can’t wait until new playable factions become available. Hoping Romulans are next. Then maybe Cardassians? Borg? Species 8472– err, Undine? Would be awesome if they could eventually get all the playable races from Armada II as playable “factions” in STO.

    Maybe just a pipe dream. Maybe not. Might be a few years off, if ever. But I think there’s a lot that can be “made so,” once enough time is put in on it. :) One thing at a time, of course.

    So, yeah, played it on my friend’s account for a few months. Decided the game was awesome fun and since I’ve got my new quad-core laptop with a high-end video chipset capable of playing the game w/o much hiccup, I decided to jump in. Before I was even out of the “free trial” period my friend gave me, I decided to just dive in and get the lifer membership. That way I don’t have to ever worry about recurring membership fees… Granted, Cryptic will likely still make more money off players via the C-Store (buying limited edition costumes, rare ships, additional character slots, etc.). But, if the game is fun enough and has a large/stable enough fan base to keep things going, why not? They’ve said that they want to eventually make it so people can get most things available in the C-Store in some way via in-game means (but leave the straight-up “buy it” option available for those who are too impatient).

    So, yeah, I’ve got a friend who plays and is big on Star Trek. So, we’ll probably play together frequently enough that I’ll stick around and see how the game progresses over the next few years. I don’t regret the lifer membership for a second.


  30. Stu

    Excellent comments, great to read from an experienced MMO community, we’ve experienced some ups and downs from games in the last few years.

    I Subbed STO for its first year, and honestly, there were 5 months mid 2010 where the game was having a Gig patch every 2 weeks and the game was still “unfinished”.. So i left.. But returned around January 2011, swallowed the bigish update and Woa the game was actually becoming what i thought it could be.. Plus theres the new foundry editor,, over 500 peer reviewed community episodes and the new Cryptic feature episodes each week made the “content shortage” into a content bonanza.. With more players than ever online now, and with Craig Zinkievich back now with D Stahl onboard, I bought a lifetime sub, the game is going up, and after a year i’ve decided its here to stay..


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