Daily Archives: February 18, 2015

Nebula Online – Running an MMO with No Visible Means of Support

No free-to-play limitations, no cash shop and no hidden costs – not even a monthly sub. Relax and play!

Nebula Online Kickstarter Tag Line

I don’t really want to pick on anybody’s Kickstarter project, but sometimes they just raise questions that I then want to write about.  I appease my inner self-critic by telling myself that at least I am giving them a bit more visibility.

NebulaOnline

Anyway, there is the Nebula Online Kickstarter campaign.  They have 29 days to go on a 45 day funding run, want $130,000 (though in Canadian Loonies as opposed to trusty greenbacks) and haven’t even managed to garner 10% of their total in the first two weeks, which anybody who has followed my commentary on Kickstarter campaigns before knows does not bode well for success.  If you bring in less than 25% of your goal in the first 24 hours, you probably haven’t built enough support for your campaign in advance.  Their daily data looks bad right now.

The game itself is billed as “an old school hardcore Sci-Fi MMORPG,” and sounds a lot like a more ambitious EVE Online with maybe a bit of Elite:Dangerous sprinkled in for leavening.  But I have to say that space is suddenly becoming a crowded market of late, which probably isn’t helping them much.  Star Citizen looks to be grabbing the lion’s share of uncommitted money on the space game development front.

And the team… well… looking at their bios, they all really like MMOs, they just haven’t actually made one yet.  Yeah, they are doing the whole thing on Unity, which will give them a leg up in many areas, but going full on MMO is going to be a learning experience for them.

None of which makes the project particularly post worthy here.  I am sure I could find a new campaign every week that looked as starry eyed optimistic as Nebula Online.

No, the bit that sparked my interest was the quote at the top, which is a tag line for the project.

They plan to finance this whole thing based entirely on box sales.

Yes, I know, the “Buy” category in the whole range of “to Play” options is the new favorite option of the mob.  GuildWars 2 falls into “Buy to Play,” as does The Secret WorldThe Elder Scrolls Online is heading that way in a month and the new hotness that is Crowfall is talking about that as well.

The thing is, while those games are all in the B2P column, they all have optional revenue streams.  I could not think of an MMORPG … at least something I would call an MMORPG, which includes a persistent world and all that DikuMUD / EverQuest baggage, and not a lobby game like World of Tanks or League of Legends or Diablo III… that has made a go of it without some follow on plan to pay the bills as the years go by.  A cash shop with a special currency, an “optional” subscription (your definition of optional may vary), content or expansions, PLEX-like items in game, or just a straight up ability to buy in-game items from the web site.

There always seems to be something on the recurring revenue front to keep paying the bills after box sales eventually taper off.

So, of all the aspects of Nebula Online, I find this to be the most dubious, the idea that they will be able to keep a game… a real MMORPG… up and running on box sales alone.  It doesn’t make logical sense in my view of the world, which is abetted by the fact that I cannot think of another similar game making a go of it with that particular model.

But then, it is no longer 2004, back when it seemed like a mere mortal could know all you needed to know about the field of MMORPGs.  Today there is so much going on that I sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the games I am actually playing (thanks CCP “every five weeks” expansion schedule), much less what in the hell is going on in the wider market.

Has somebody else been successful… for whatever definition of success you care to pick… with a “box sales only” business model for an MMORPG?  Has somebody managed to keep the lights on for an extended time with only that revenue stream?