Remember the days when Massively Multiplayer Online games were first coming into creation? Do you remember the first time you stepped out into a vast open world? Do you remember the first boss you took on involving you and forty nine other people? If you do then you know how much MMO’s are loved by fans across the world. Being able to jump into a world, create your own character and, effectively, create your own legend.
Today there are many MMO’s to be played, each with their own unique worlds, characters and storylines to behold and enjoy. However one question has yet to be answered; which model of MMO works best? Is it a subscription model where you pay-to-play, a one-off model where once you’ve paid for the game you can play for free, or is it a completely free-to-play game with micro transactions for those who wish to purchase more? Well I hope to share with you guys my opinions on the matter, showing you where I stand currently, especially after being a part of many MMO Beta’s recently.
World of Warcraft still goes strong to this day with an average of 8,000,000 Players World Wide
Let’s start in a world many of us are probably familiar with, the world of subscription based MMO’s. The premise here is simple; pay a monthly subscription and you are free to play as much as you like for that month. This may add up to a significant total cost for games using this system, but it’s a matter of value over price. For example, if you were to spend fifteen pounds for two months subscription, would you want value from that purchase? By paying for the game and then paying to play the game in its entirety, you are effectively signing a contract that states ‘for these two months I will be playing this game on a regular basis’. On one side this is a good idea, you may find yourself with nothing new to play for a month but new content has been released in that MMO. This gives you the chance to give the game a break and check back with it when something new arrives.
But on the other hand, where I usually stand, it is a matter of keeping you engaged in the game. The best way to explain this is to put a game like World of Warcraft against one I have been playing recently in Beta, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. WoW, in all honesty, bored me. Back in the days of the Burning Crusade, the game would keep me engaged throughout and I generally felt like I wanted more. However, when Cataclysm came around and changed everything, the game was made too simple and easy. This made me get bored within the first thirty levels which made me move on to the plethora of other MMO’s out there.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Will Be Available as of August 27th
This leads on to Final Fantasy XIV and how my opinion on the subscription based MMO’s has turned full circle. This game does everything so right. It immerses you into the world, it allows you to do anything and everything you wish to do and makes you, the player, feel like a difference maker in the world and not one of many. With the promise of new content coming in every two months on average as well, the MMO is looking to be a fantastic contender upon release. Finding out how much a month I could be paying for a subscription has literally made me pre-order the game in anticipation to continue my adventures and make new ones. Players will be able to pay either $12 a month for a standard account with eight characters max (one per server). However there are offers for other standard accounts, the best being $12.99 a month for forty characters max (eight per server).
Overall, when it comes to subscribing for an MMO you need to be careful. The best way to approach a subscription is to try it out for a month, weigh up how much you like it and then carry on. Maybe you’ll decide to keep playing for more months ahead, or maybe you’ll move on and play different games whilst still keeping an eye out, in case a new update brings something of interest for you to try out. Or maybe you won’t like it at all, in which case you just abandon the subscription.
One kind of model that taken the gaming audience by storm in recent years has been the free-to-play model. This means you can play the entirety of the game without spending a single penny. When it comes to FTP MMO’s there is a very thin line between a truly free-to-play experience and a pay-to-win experience. By this I mean placing micro transactions into the game that can give you a substantial increase of power above those who are going through the game the ‘hard way’. This is why I have always fallen out with FTP MMO’s and tend to go with subscription models or one-off payment models.
Star Wars: The Old Republic went Free To Play Earlier This Year After It’s Release Back In December 2011
These games can and do excite me, especially when it comes to their worlds or quest lines. But sadly there is one problem with a majority of FTP MMO’s; if there is a lack of new and interesting content, then it can get boring really quick. A great example of this can be Star Wars: The Old Republic. Along with many other people, I was really psyched to get into the game upon release. Little did I know that the game was in fact incredibly boring and just felt off on so many levels. So much in fact that it went from a subscription model into a free-to-play model. This change brought back a lot of old players, though I didn’t appreciate the games new money grubbing angle. I had constant reminders in my face from things I did in the world telling me I could pay for more action and thrills. Little did I know that it just meant ‘Make your Jedi look slightly more awesome’. Suffice to say, this game made me hate free-to-play MMO’s and start looking for the games worth playing, which brings me up to the next model.
Last, but no means least, we have the one-off model. This is a more recent model where you can pay for an MMO and then play it for free. Although there are micro transactions in the game, these are mostly aesthetic and in no way make the player stronger. The prime example of this models success is Guild Wars 2. Arena Net truly understood what it takes to create an MMO that can entice a player. As well as creating a magnificent sequel to the original, they also managed to introduce so many new players into the world with ease. It is with this that, I believe, GW2 has perfected the model for MMO’s.
Guild Wars is currently seen by the majority of gamers as the best MMORPG out there right now.
But how has it been perfected? Easily, it is a matter of making every player rely on skill over pure outright power. For example, you can purchase an extremely rare weapon for money that can, in theory, make you stronger. However, if you lack the skill needed to truly use that weapon to the fullest extent, you will become as weak as a level 1 player starting out in the world. This is where you, as a player, feel powerful in comparison to your character. You can have the best armour, stats and weapons available but still get your arse kicked if you think of taking the game too seriously. Add that together with a slice of constant content to keep you interested and Guild Wars 2 becomes an iconic game that truly should shape the future of MMO models.
So where exactly do I stand on the MMO Models today? I accept all of them as valid, working models but I believe that the subscription model and the one off model work the best. It is a simple matter of value and in the end you get value from a game if you invest money into it in the first place. If the game bores you after a while you can simply cancel the subscription or not play the game, but you can always return to that world and experience it again at any time because you invested into it. For me, FTP MMO’s are simply there for break periods between games. They keep you entertained for a time but never really immerse you or give you the value you want, because you haven’t invested into it.
So those are my opinions on the MMO Model and what works today. What are your opinions on the matter? Is there an MMO for you that is perfect? Let us know what you think about this in the comments below and share your favourite MMO moments in the VGU Forums.