The subscription model is doomed.

!) Yes I’m totally sure of it. The sands are shifting rapidly under AAA games, and it’s almost painful to watch them struggle to keep the shreds of a comfortable monthly income. Taxes only work on a captive base. It’s only January and my hard drive is full of games that I can try out and play with a bewildering variety of “free”ness. This was always the case but it’s different now. The difference is the games are good. There are proper alternatives in place and there is no way on earth the sub will remain the standard. It might still be the holy grail for a while though.

2) Those aren’t the only moving foundations either. NPCs are springing up all over the place and speaking for myself… I’d rather not be grouped with people I wouldn’t sit next to on a bus. I don’t know where the supremacy of forced grouping came from, but I won’t be sad to see it go. Choosing between an NPC and a lootgrubbing loudmouthed bragging unevolved creep is just not hard. That’s the thing – a lot of forced conventions will be unsustainable. Solo players are not going to be second class citizens for much longer because (cue lightbulb) – there are more solo players than conventional wisdom supposed, and when they hit the restrictions, they move along taking their friends – yes, their actual friends! who are friends! you know, people you know in life or chat with online because you like them, regardless of whether you are poles apart in levels/activities/zones/real countries or part of a joint endeavour.

3) Awesome is not the same as being the biggest jerkdev. If I have to play with any more aaahsum jerks in any more aaahsum instances designed by other aaahsum jerks, you can kiss my absolutely aaahsum behind goodbye and where my bum goes there goeth my wallet. The difference now is I don’t feel like a lone voice. A lot of people have had enough of aaahsum and are going to be shifting around, trying stuff out, making up their minds.  Nevermind shifting sands, think sinking islands on this one – messing with the playerbase suddenly got very unpopular with the shareholders.

4) Yay

and thats my prediction for the general flow of 2012, gaming wise. Anything games were getting away with for lack of comparable alternatives to play is for the heave ho.

Have you seen whats out there?

Added (7/02) The current noise about subs particularly over at Massively (I’m sure it’s coincidence) isn’t unexpected. It always amuses me that the makers of WoW, creators of “School of Hard Knocks”  actually believed the people who said things were too easy in Wrath. In that case it took one not to recognise one. I personally would take comments on “how much I’d pay” as delivered in good faith – but decide what payment model to use based on the bottom line, the one that says “net profit”  – but hey, it’s not my job or company on the line. Funders and moneylenders of all descriptions loooove a steady monthly income, shareholders (though they too are funders) can be appeased by a big profit. You can kind of tell where a game is by which model it’s pushing.

Categories: Game Design and Creation, Things In General, WoW

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2 thoughts on “The subscription model is doomed.

  1. I’ve argued for a while that the F2P/selling content model (Guild Wars or Wizard 101) is better for both players and business. It’s a finer grained feedback system and the removal of the cover charge of the subscription aids retention and social ties, simply by removing barriers to entry and reentry. This seems like a simple thing to me, something that games ostensibly about playing with friends and building social ties might be interested in. Puzzle Pirates has had a handle on it for a while now, though they use a microtransaction model, not so much selling content.

    I’m really looking forward to the continued revolution in the MMO space; subs just have too many deleterious effects on game design and business that I’ll be happy to see them die out. I think this change has been inevitable, and the natural evolution of a maturing market. It’s nice to see that my gut instinct from five years ago (that subs couldn’t last) has some validation.

    I’m also all for NPC companions. I love them in GW and STO. It’s nice that I can punt the NPCs if I want to play with a person (which really does tend to be more fun if the person is a friend), but it’s better that I can play without being forced to play with others. That’s just one more barrier down, another step down in the “activation energy” required to play a game in the first place.

    • My very first comment! Thanks Tesh 🙂
      … About the F2p/selling content you wrote “It’s a finer grained feedback system” – that is so spot on – and something I hadn’t thought about. Ima go and happily chew on that under a chair for a while!

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