I have heard a lot of mixed opinions about subscription based model as opposed to the now more popular free to play model, and have come to some conclusions of my own. I commonly hear two main points in favor of subscription based games, and I think they’re absolute rubbish. Here’s why:
1. Subscription Based games have steadier income, meaning more money for updates and new content.
This is the most commonly held view that I have heard in favor of subscription based games. Subscriptions mean more income. While this might have been true at the dawn of the subscription MMO era, MMOs are a lot more popular than they used to be and there are a lot more options for MMO fans to pick from. The big question in gamer’s minds is no longer “EverQuest or WoW, which game do I want to pay for?”, rather “Do I really want to pay a subscription when there are so many comparable free options?”.
The Free to Play model opens up games to a much wider audience, and (as proven by my irrational love of League of Legends skins) people will typically pay more than $15 a month when they can afford to do so. If developers are smart with the money they make, they can turn it around and create more content that players will be inclined to buy, and still pocket a profit.
It has been proven over and over again that, in general, subscription based games generate significantly more revenue when they transition to Free to Play (See DC Universe, Champions Online, D&D Online, SWTOR, LOTR Online, and the list goes on). “But WoW is still making tons of money with subscriptions!” Yes, yes it is. They can do what they want because they are Blizzard. But consider this – they haven’t TRIED free to play with WoW. If games like Champions Online can get a 1000% increase in revenue from going free to play, what would happen if Blizzard did the same?
2. Subscription Based MMOs provide equal access to all content
This is the most baffling argument I have heard, but I hear it all the time. “Free to Play games have a class system – because some players can’t afford to pay for perks and some can.” For people that have said this – do you realize you are arguing against yourselves? Subscription is exclusive by definition! Subscription based games take those people that can’t pay for perks, and tell them “You can’t play at all.” I have gone through plenty of times in my life where I simply could not afford to pay $15 a month for a game. I would certainly have preferred being able to play free, and potentially spend $5 a month on perks when finances allowed.
I think the subscription based game is on its last legs. I think it is very possible that we will see the end of new subscription based games in the next few years. What do you think?
Ben is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PCGR. He writes much of the content, manages the site, and does other editorial things that would bore you to tears.