I do not pay much attention to Anarchy Online. Well, I don’t pay it any mind at all, really aside from the occasional industry lore aspects around things like rocky starts (“nearly unplayable” -GameSpy) and longevity. (It turned 13 just about a month back.)
But some people do still pay attention to it. There was a post up over at Massively announcing that the game had announced a new aspect to their subscription plan.
Called GRACE, for Grid Access Credit Extension, it is an in-game item that can be traded or sold between players that, once redeemed, turns into 30 days of game subscription time. There is a FAQ.
Basically, this the AO version of EVE Online PLEX.
PLEX itself has been live in EVE Online for just about five years at this point, where it has been a success thanks in large part to the in-game economy which is all pervasive in New Eden. There are a lot of aspects of the game you can avoid, but if you want to play you are going to be part of the economy.
The economy is such a big deal in EVE that I was curious if MMOs with much more optional or fragmented economies could really make something like PLEX work. World of Warcraft, with its large player base and need for gold sinks, seemed like it might be able to, even with the economy sliced up into three markets on hundreds of different servers. And Blizzard dipped their toe in the water… sort of… with the kitten economy idea. But they haven’t done much since.
It was left to Sony Online Entertainment to give the PLEX idea a try in the fantasy realm, introducing Krono to EverQuest II about two years back and then expanding it to their other games.
I really have no idea how Krono has worked out. They still have Krono as an option, even after the big consolidation of game subscriptions into the new All Access plan back in April, but I have never seen more than a couple on the market when I have bothered to check, and the prices seemed wildly different on different servers, so I cannot tell if they just don’t get used or if they are so popular that they sell out quickly to the platinum barons of Norrath. And the fact that the game is free to play complicates things.
Moving on, earlier this year we had two new MMOs announcing that they were all-in on monthly subscriptions. First, The Elder Scrolls Online made its position clear, and then WildStar joined the subscription only parade as well. But their business model also included something called CREDD, which is how they spell PLEX on Nexus I gather. Because it was that PLEX model again, an in-game item worth game time, which Carbine seemed to be using as a loophole to claim some sort of free to play status since, technically, after you bought the game, you could find a way to play for free if you earned enough in-game money to buy CREDD.
In Carbine’s world, you can play for free so long as they get paid. But to their credit, I don’t think they have overplayed their definition of free to play… yet.
My first thought when they announced their business model, including the CREDD bit, was whether or not it had worked for SOE by that point. That seemed like a reasonable question. Yes, a shiny new game sporting a subscription-only model with a brand new, out of the box in-game economy might not be the best parallel, what else was I going to compare it too?
The question is still unanswered at this point as far as I am concerned. The idea works in EVE, but I couldn’t tell you if it was worthwhile elsewhere.
And now Funcom is throwing its hat in the ring with Anarchy Online, which doesn’t help my understanding at all, because I am not even sure what their business model is. I think it is mostly subscriptions, but they have had this short-term “Free Play” option that shows you ads in game since… what… 2004? So does that make it free to play? And how many people even play? The late Game Data site tracked them as peaking at 60K subscriptions just after launch, dropping down to 10K by 2006, but nothing after that.
So who is out there playing Anarchy Online? What do you think GRACE going to do for the game, if anything?
Or, for that matter, how about CREDD in WildStar or Krono in SOE games?