This isn’t a condemnation of the monthly subscription model for MMOs. In fact, I think it is still a great thing, and preferable to the heavy handed item stores than some games use instead of a subscription. However, over the past couple of months I’ve come to realize that as much as I love MMOs, games with a subscription model are largely a waste of my money.
Why? Well, back in the day, I started playing Ultima Online and I gladly paid their subscription because I played every day (almost). The same was true of EverQuest and of all the games that followed. Some games I didn’t stick with for very long, a few months or a year, but even then when I was paying I was playing. In the last year or so I have taken up a number of other activities, such as more reading, programming in my off time, writing, playing console games, and more. The net result is that my MMO playing time has become fairly erratic. One month I may play an hour or two every weekday and a couple of longer sessions on the weekend, the next month I may not log in at all.
Its the not logging in at all part that ends up bothering me. I hate paying for something I don’t use. Sure, I can just cancel and resubscribe when I want to play, but doing that is a hassle. On the other hand, I didn’t play Wizard 101 at all in November and it cost me exactly zero dollars and I didn’t have to cancel.
I’m not saying that Free-to-Play is the wave of the future and all games need to do that, however there is a disparity in the subscription model. It’s like going to an all you can eat buffet, paying the $10 and then only eating about $1.75 worth of food because you weren’t really hungry. I wouldn’t mind seeing some games in the US adopt the pay by hour model used in the Asian markets. I’d love to be able to buy a block of X game hours for Fallen Earth, and if I don’t log in for a month, I don’t use any hours, and when I do log in, all my hours are still there, waiting for me to use them. No canceling, no resubscribing, just easy. It would even be great if a game supported both models. Let people subscribe for $15 a month for unlimited play if they don’t want to worry about how much or how little they play, let people who don’t want a recurring payment and don’t mind watching their hours buy 75 hours for $15 ($0.20 per hour) instead.
I will say that the one thing the subscription model does is prevent me from maintaining active accounts in multiple games. I’d love to be able to pop in to EQ or DAoC or any of a number of other games for a couple hours once in a while, but re-upping for a full month of subscription makes the whole thing simply not worth it. However, if all those old games had a pay by hour model, I’d gladly toss $5 on there every now and then in order to keep some hours available for those days when I just want to go play something different.
All this hoping and wishing aside, however, the fact remains, as of today I am officially finished with monthly subscription MMOs. I want to play a number of them but I just can’t justify the cost given the amount of time I’ll play and the little spare money I’ve got for entertainment.
From a developer/producer standpoint, consider this. While the need to unsubscribe might garner you a couple extra months of fees from me before I realize I’m not playing and cancel, the need to resubscribe if I’d like to put my toe back in the water is very likely to keep me from coming back.