So I used to play World of Warcraft (3 years ago, I even helped launch WoW Insider, see my posts here) and back in the second part of 2008, I was playing Warhammer Online for a while. In my opinion, these two MMORPGs are the two best out there and if you’re going to play an MMORPG, you should play one of these. More people, more polished questing, and more fun.

However, it costs a monthly fee and it takes time to play. After the first full month slips by and I am too busy to play and I realize that I just paid for nothing, the games lose me. I know part of the reason these two games are the best MMORPGs out there is because they are able to keep the money flowing via subscription, but it’s cutting out a section of their potential market, I think.

MMORPG companies out there: if you want to retain professionals like myself who want to play when there is actually time available for playing, then switch the pay to a time spent in game subscription credit instead of a real world time subscription. Offer that as an alternative means of payment, perhaps even at a slightly higher price point, for people like myself.

That being said, I’m no longer playing any MMORPGs that take a monthly fee now. I am still logging into Spore from time to time, if you can count it as a true MMORPG (I don’t think you can, b/c you’re playing alone with the larger group, rather than having the flexibility to play alone or work in teams). Most of my free time, however, when I can find any, has been devoted to console games like Gears of War 2, and more often than not these days, time spent drawing, sketching, and trying to improve my cartooning skills. 

You cannot do everything at once, so there it is.

UPDATE: Yesterday, I learned that when C.K. writes a blog post about MMORPGs early in the morning, he gets all dyslexic and miswrites it MMPORGS for some odd reason. In any case, fixed throughout. Thanks to this post for drawing my attention to the error.

UPDATE, THE SECOND: Hey, Massively peeps! Enjoy your stay!

2 thoughts on “A proposed alternate pay structure for MMORPGs

  1. While I'm not against the potential market, I doubt many people would be satisfied with what they'd end up seeing in an “hourly rate” example. You're not going to see something like “86 hours for $15” like some advocates figure by doing the math of 20/week (“average” mmo play) * 4.3 weeks/month. You'll be lucky to get 30 for $15… probably closer to 25. The subscription fees do cover some costs that scale with the user (things like bandwidth) but other costs- like maintaining a customer support staff or server administrators- are there regardless of the user base, and to cover these with a more irregular payment system, you have to include bigger margins.

    This also has a strong impact on the social structure of the game- and what kind of gameplay your group will find appealing. If I'm paying an hourly rate, I'm going to feel that clock ticking the moment I log on. Waiting to assemble a group raid will be out of the question. Heck, “wasting time” socializing in guild chat is time that's not earning me anything in-game. Those activities will be moved out-of-game, to other social spaces that don't cost me money. The game's just someplace to log in for quick action. As a sizable number of MMO'ers list “the community” as one of the things that keep them playing, that's a dangerous dynamic to mess with.

    Finally, this can actually have a dangerous impact on retention. LEAVING an MMO is tough for a socially-connected player to do unless the whole social group decides to leave to the next MMO together. Moving the core social space out-of-game makes the decision easier. Giving a low-impact alternative like this can make it even easier (“I'm not quitting, just switching to the hourly rate. I'll be on less, but still around.”)

    Because of all this, I have my doubts about the hourly-rate model. It may bring in more players, but not necessarily more revenue.

    Also, how much free time do you NEED to justify $15/month? That's one afternoon at the movies, after all.

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