Rampant Speculation: Subscription Model

Welcome to Rampant Speculation!  This column looks at game details about which we currently know little-to-nothing, and tries to make our best guess.  We might be right, we’re probably wrong, but we’ll do our best to look at the whole picture and put ourselves in the minds of the dev team.

The biggest question on most fans’ minds right now is “When the !#&% is beta coming?!”, but for a good look at what’s known so far and things to expect, check out this awesome article at Wildstar Fans.  We’ve decided to dedicate this inaugural guess-fest to another hot topic – Will WildStar be a subscription game, free to play, buy to play or only available for purchase with the souls of your peers?

Possible business models

There are three prominent business models used in MMO titles today:

  • Subscription games: These require a purchase and ongoing monthly fee (See: World of Warcraft)
  • Free to Play (F2P): These generally sell “boosts” and other micro-transaction goods to generate revenue (See: Marvel Heroes)
  • Buy to Play (B2P): Pay once and play online without further fees (See: Guild Wars 2)

All of these business models have their merits, and each has drawbacks.  Some games, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and DC Universe began life as a subscription game and transitioned to a hybrid of subscription and F2P in order to help waning player numbers.

So what will WildStar use?

Right now that’s a good question.  Carbine has been consistently tight-lipped when asked about the business model the game intends to utilize.  However, some of their recent reveals of how they intend to deliver content lends us some clues.  For starters, they have frequently said in recent interviews that Elder Game story content will be delivered episodically.  Future content development doesn’t come free, nor does the operation of online game servers.  That means that somehow, a steady stream of revenue will be required in order to keep gamers entertained.  Knowing this, it could be safe to assume that a Guild Wars-esque B2P model won’t fit with the intended goals for WildStar’s future.

So that leaves us with subscription, F2P or a hybrid of the two.  In everything that’s been shown, we’ve seen very high quality content and Carbine’s repeated focus on catering to a myriad of play styles.  If WildStar goes F2P that leaves the potential for some of the less popular features to require development dollars that the micro-transactions don’t recoup.

To put it in perspective, look at collegiate athletics.  Does the hockey team get nearly the amount of budget as the football program?  Please note: We are based in the United States, so if your country (looking at you Canada) values hockey over football, please feel free to substitute curling or something.

If the revenue has to be spent on the most popular features, will players who were promised a game that let them play the way they enjoyed most stick around if the “cool kids” get all the attention?  Over time, this can morph a game into something that ceases to represent the original design, and Carbine seems to have a very clear picture of what WildStar is to them.  I suspect they want to do everything they can to keep this promise intact.

So if F2P is a risky proposition for a AAA game like WildStar, that means it must be destined for $14.99 a month, right?  (Well, only $12.99 if you pay six months at a time!)  Not necessarily.  There is a stigma in the industry as of late that subscription is an automatic recipe for disaster, but that is only true if a game doesn’t deliver on expectations at launch or within a reasonable post-launch time frame.  Given the head start and years of development WoW has under it’s belt, gamers can enter into new titles with unrealistic expectations.

In the case of WildStar, it is obvious that Carbine knows this and is doing a phenomenal job keeping the community informed of what will and won’t be in WildStar on launch day.  Even gamers with passing interest should get a good idea of the game they’ll purchase at launch.  By offering a subscription at less than the longstanding standard of $14.99 (say, $7.99) Carbine could capture gamers who might not be able to afford that other 800 pound gorilla, but want the quality brought by a subscription-funded MMO.

What are the chances we’re right?

I firmly believe that WildStar will offer some form of subscription option to players who are wanting the best experience they can get.  However, given the recent success of SWTOR’s F2P transition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them launch with a hybrid model that allows gamers to vacation on Nexus before making a commitment.  Of course this is all rampant speculation.  No matter what Carbine ultimately decides, look on the bright side…if Protostar Corporation had their way, we’d all pay for the game through indentured servitude.

Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments.  We’d love to hear your theories!

Written by: Datix

4 Responses to "Rampant Speculation: Subscription Model"

  1. Jem Kegawa says:

    I’m personally hoping for some sort of F2P option, funded by micro transactions! Not only would that give me the opportunity to try out the game for only the original box cost, but also save me the money currently since I don’t have a lot of time to invest into a new MMO to make it worth the subscription at this time :)

    • Valento says:

      I’m with you, time has gone since people could spend a lot of time in an MMO to make it worth a subscription, unless their audience is different than I expect. F2P opens many possibilities to P2W features, so a perfect model would be the one chosen for GW2 (B2P) with cosmetic shop, if they go with premium + free models the ones who pay will have large advantage, so I’d prefer B2P + very small cost premium, so that the advantages don’t go too far.
      Carbine probably knows that to profit nowadays they need public, and P2P isn’t the way to go at this period in time.

  2. linux vps says:

    Nice post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful info particularly the closing part :) I handle such info a lot. I used to be looking for this certain information for a very long time. Thanks and best of luck. |

  3. ArchGamer says:

    I am hoping for a model that does not have a cash shop. What I am hoping for is a hybrid model between sub and B2P. You have the option to pay monthly, or to buy a lifetime subscription for a high price (along the lines of a years sub fee). Sub fees are not much at all when you look at them. $15 is 50 cents per day, and they could even go less than that. I would rather have a smaller group of people who are invested in the game than a huge group of people who logged in because it was free.

Leave a Reply