No Time for Subs

It seems like the subscription vs Free-to-Play debate has been discussed ad nauseam on gaming blogs and press sites across the Internet. In many cases, serious and longtime gamers prefer the subscription MMO in order to bypass annoying in-game promotions and sales, as well as to set some kind of minimal barrier to entry in order to cut down on in-game harassment. Free-to-Play games open the floodgates to allow players of all means to experience the game on their own terms but tend to bombard the player with up-sale opportunities in order to create revenue so that the game can continue to exist.

I’ve played one subscription-only game, The Elder Scrolls Online, and I can say that I did thoroughly enjoy the experience. It was nice to not be distracted by “buy now” buttons and to know that I had full access to all content. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my ESO sub, which made me ponder the nature of subs all over again.

I find it curious that subscription games are aimed at the young adult/adult gamers, and yet this is a demographic that has less and less time to spend playing games at all. Most subs require a credit card, which in the US you must be at least 18 years old to acquire. In the case of ESO, the ESRB rating is M, which suggests that the content is suitable for those 17 years of age and older. Subscriptions cost about $15/mo, or $180/year, which although not a fortune, would typically require some form of income to satisfy. All of this evidence leads me to believe that the target age group of MMO’s is mid-20s to mid-30s, a time period where many are marrying, having children, settling into jobs, and procuring houses or apartments. Competition for a person’s time is at a maximum during this period of their lives. Thus, while the target demographic may have the means to pay a game subscription, more and more often they do not have the time required to make a subscription worthwhile.

I’m lead to wonder what affects this paradox will have on the subscription model going forward. Are game companies actually planning on utilizing the subscription model for long-term financial stability? Or do they also see the gap in the plan, and are only launching with subs in order to take advantage of the “early adopter tax” with the long-term plan to maintain a larger player-base through a F2P conversion?

Whatever the plan is, I know that justifying a subscription at this stage of my life is fairly difficult. There is such a thing as having more money than time, but it does no good to spend one if I don’t have the other.

#subscription #gaming

Featured image by Jason Tucker on Flickr Creative Commons

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9 thoughts on “No Time for Subs

  1. iogromerrybelly May 28, 2014 / 9:15 am

    Brax, great article!

    This subject has been debated at such a hardcore level. In my opinion if it weren’t for that F2P model I probably never would have tried MMO gaming. Even though the subs that some company’s charge isn’t much but it’s still a commitment from ones financial bottom dollar. I like Both models and have a sub with LOTRO right now but it was only by that F2P model that allowed me to test drive the car before buying.

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  2. Liore May 28, 2014 / 1:25 pm

    “…more and more often they do not have the time required to make a subscription worthwhile.”

    Yes, but what is “worthwhile”? If I pay $15 and get 4 hours of entertainment out of the game over a month (a very low number) then I paid $3.75 an hour. I’m not even sure $3.75 will buy you a large coffee at Starbucks any more! And that’s for just one hour a week of playing.

    Now granted I’m biased because I don’t really like F2P and try to only play subscription games, but that math makes sub games look pretty worthwhile to me.

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    • Braxwolf May 28, 2014 / 1:47 pm

      A fair point. Worthwhile is completely subjective. For me, I couldn’t justify spending even that little money to log in once a week considering my other option of logging into LOTRO (a game that I already know that I enjoy and that I already own all of the content for) for $0 … or not at all. If things get crazy with my remodeling projects to the point that I can’t play at all, I’m out nothing. That is the type of real-life freedom that being sub-free allows me.

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  3. Miss Mojo May 28, 2014 / 6:56 pm

    Gaming is my hobby. Most hobbies cost a lot of money. Atleast where I live, Norway is a super expensive country. Going to the cinema cost more then one month of subscription. So I feel I get a alot of hours of enjoyment for my money.

    One coffee with a cookie costs more then a monthly sub. Taking the buss to the city wich is a 10 min drive costs the same as a monthly sub (back and forth tho)

    And most end up paying more for those f2p games, the shops get updated frequently to make u wanna get this and that. Subbing lets me have it all 🙂 It is what I prefere.

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  4. Joseph Skyrim May 28, 2014 / 9:44 pm

    I don’t have money to play subscription games. It’s part of my “I will never purchase computer games for myself” motto. I quite enjoy the F2P selection out there anyway (to which I also never give money). Why spend when you can scrooge? ^_~

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  5. C. T. Murphy May 29, 2014 / 12:54 pm

    F2P has improved quickly, but there’s still a lot of room to progress. As a consumer, I am fully aware that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, so I am pretty vigilant when I am being gamed for every nickle-and-dime I have. Perhaps I have been too harsh on F2P MMOs in the past, but it’s hard to shake that feeling of being taken advantage of at times.

    I’ve also been playing subscription-based MMOs since Ultima Online. I am pretty well-adjusted to them, perhaps to a hilariously biased level. In general, I do prefer my product to feel whole and to include everything that I paid for. That becomes a far more nebulous and subjective qualification once we rid ourselves of any cost of entry.

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  6. Pasduil May 29, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    I’ve always been amazed that so far no MMO looks like it’s been started out subscription with a well thought out plan from the outset for adding an F2P option later.

    To me that seems about as good business as publishing a hardback book with no thought for bring out the paperback later, or launching a movie with no advance planning for DVDs, TV and streaming.

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  7. Talarian May 29, 2014 / 1:37 pm

    I echo the folks above me. As a 31 year old with a busy career, I find that despite only putting in like 12 hours a month, WoW’s subscription is still a good deal when compared to going to the movies, or out. It’s a worse deal compared to Netflix, but not by much. Given that in the US cable costs like $50 a month, I’d say even 3 subscriptions is a better deal still.

    Honestly, when comparing the cost of a sub and the amount of time you can put into it, I hardly find the price onerous. That being said, F2P is yet an even better deal, potentially. Depends on what precisely was monetized, and if that monetization is secretly required to play the game past a certain point.

    Subscriptions provide an upfront cost you can budget. F2P potentially obfuscates that cost until you’re already invested in the game emotionally.

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