While I was away last week I saw a dev post come up in the EverQuest forums (I subscribe to the dev post feed in Feedly and, while it delivers a lot of garbage… you get every reply to a dev started topic… it does pop up something interesting now and then) about a new monetization scheme for the game.
Not being able to write about them at the time, I forwarded a link over to Bhagpuss who put together his own post about the idea.
As he noted straight off these “Perks,” as Daybreak has branded them, are not really perks at all. “Perk” comes from “perquisite” and is generally something you’re entitled to already, not something for which you have to pay.
Poor naming choices aside, I was kind of interested to see another attempt to bring in more money for an older title, because I was on a bit earlier this year about how the price of just about everything has gone up over the last 15 years, and yet somehow we’re still paying $15 a month for subscriptions.
The response to that was… not positive if you were an MMO developer. Massively OP picked up the idea and their staff responded mostly against the idea of subscriptions being more (that was back in May, but their answers didn’t change much when they did the same question yesterday), while the comments were vehemently against any such thing, with a theme of “I want more if I am going to pay more” appearing.
And I get that as a gut reaction, but any attempt to go deeper seems to get met by the “greedy developers” trope that is so common. Think about the answer I would get from the family that runs the Thai restaurant down the road using the same argument. Twenty years back a standard entree was $6.95, these days it is $17.95. Should I expect to get more for the extra I am paying? Are they greedy restaurateurs, pocketing that largess?
We know that isn’t how it works.
There are other factors of course. MMOs do not exist in a void and, as I mentioned in my post, we have been conditioned over time by the idea that tech should get cheaper and not more expensive. But even Moore’s Law has to adjust for inflation. And these days a lot more things are demanding a subscription, from Microsoft Office to Netflix to XBox Live, all of which influence our sense of value.
So when the Perks announcement came along, I was interested to see how they would be received. These were, after all, optional items that delivered extra value for the price, and very close to what the current darling MMORPG, FFXIV does with retainers. So who could possibly object?
Everybody? Is that the answer I am looking for?
I suppose the coverage of the plan didn’t help. Over at Massively OP they opened with the greed dog whistle by asking, “How can Daybreak milk even more money out of subscribers?”
I mean, unless I am missing some positive connotation for “milking” in this situation.
The comments naturally follow that lead, with a lone outlier mentioning FFXIV.
Over at MMO Fallout the tone was less overtly hostiles, though sarcasm was clearly in evidence at the idea of a subscription on top of your subscription.
The utility, or lack thereof, was barely up for debate. The news story was “greedy devs at it again.”
Which, as noted, is ironic not only because of FFXIV, but also because this would not be anywhere close to the first time that the company that was once SOE offered and extra subscription option for additional stuff. Those with long memories may recall that EverQuest II has such an extra at launch, offering access to their special players site for $2.99 a month. There were also a special GM driven events server that had an extra monthly toll to play on. And Station Access, the one subscription plan for multiple games, started off life as an extra cost option that offered perks, including extra character slots, which were enough to prompt many of the people in our guild back then to pay the price even though they were not going to run off and play EverQuest or PlanetSide.
Fine, whatever. If we won’t pay more for a subscription, or even tolerate the idea of optional extra subscriptions, then I’ll just assume everybody is happy with cash shop monetization. That must be true, right? People certainly are not out there clamoring for the return to a subscription only model in order to banish the horrors of cash shop monetization.
We won’t pay any more for a subscription, hate the cash shop, and complain that studios won’t risk millions to make something new, betting instead on franchises and sustaining already profitable titles.
We’ll see how that works out in the long term. But I’ll be investing in popcorn futures when Playable Worlds announces the monetization scheme for their metaverse project. The things Raph wrote about just yesterday don’t come for free. There is a lot of upside to the thin client idea, but it has to do the processing that the server normally does plus the work you desktop does as well, and somebody will need to play the bill for both.
Of course, it is possible that people say they won’t pay more… until they have to. It is hard to judge the price elasticity of subscriptions without somebody challenging the $15/month meta. If a game could go to $20 a month and keep the same number of subscribers, they do it. They’d also drop to $10 if they knew they would double their subscriber base. But nobody is willing to bet their game on that just yet.