Friday, September 10, 2010

The great FtP experiment is upon us

With Lord of the Rings FtP going live this weekend, we now have three major MMOs (LoTRO, along with Dungeons and Dragons Online and Everquest II extended) that have switched from sub based to FtP. Besides those of us that obsess on MMOs as a hobby, I imagine a lot of industry folks are going to be watching these games closely.

I suspect that the success or failure of LoTRO and EQ2X in particular will have a big impact on the pricing structure of future and current MMOs. To be sure, DDO seems to have been an unqualified success. But it hardly counts because the game was in dire straights before. Any change of fortune that let Turbine justify keeping the servers running would have been deemed a success.

In contrast, if EQ II and LoTRO, two already modestly successful sub based MMOs, also manage to permanently double or triple their revenue just by "turning on the [FtP] newbie fire-hose" (as Ian put it when we were chatting last night), I think a lot of existing sub based MMOs are going to try it as well. For example, why wouldn't Age of Conan, Star Wars Galaxies, Dark Age of Camelot, or Vanguard try the same thing? On the other hand, if either EQ II or LoTRO experience a brief spurt of attention, but then go back down to normal revenue levels in the next few months, I don't think much is going to change.

A month in EQ2X does not seem to be slowing down. At the very least the newbie channel had such a huge volume of chat last night at ridiculously-late-o'clock a.m. that it was spamming half the chat from my guild away before I could read it. If SOE figures out sooner rather than later that most of the FtP players will never-ever sub and gives silver and bronze accounts more options, I suspect they will see a big jump in revenue.

I also bopped briefly in to LoTRO last night, and it seemed to be hopping. It took me a good long while to log in to my server, and I don't play on one of the more popular ones. I had 4500 free Turbine points, and relatively little worth spending them on. But then I'm a lifer, I already have all the quests, classes, bag slots, and such. About all the points are good for to me is expanding my bank (which is not to be sneezed at I will allow), at least for the time being. As an aside, I also noticed that Captains have gotten a major overhaul. They are a heck of lot more fun at low levels now.

I'm watching LoTRO with special interest, because I as much as I dig it personally I really don't think it's for everyone (as Jaydub has also pointed out). It remains a somewhat slow paced MMO with a very restrained feeling setting. There will never be more than four races or a class more flashy than a Runemaster. There are certainly a good number of Tolkien lore geeks out there, but I suspect the majority of those that were in to MMOs had already at least tried LoTRO. Who the legions of new players flooding the servers right now are and whether they will stick around, much less spend money, is hard to say.


  1. A couple days ago I decided I wasn't going to downgrade my LOTRO sub to a premium because I still play actively enough that it's more economical to maintain a VIP account. If I made this decision, it makes me wonder how many others will.

    By not really going completely free they've effectively managed to keep the cashflow coming from players like me, and at the same time reach out to this whole new demographic of casual players has will give more money to them by buying content piecemeal. Server populations are definitely up, I had to wait in a long queue to get into the game a couple nights ago. I don't know by how much, but I do foresee their revenue rising.

  2. @MMOGamerChick: That's a good point, if enough current players decided to stay subbed Turbine has lost little and gained something.

    Even outside of being a Tolkien geek, LoTRO is the best PvE MMO on the market to my tastes. It's gorgeous while undemanding on hardware, extremely polished, has an engaging narrative, and offers up a lot of fun activities from PvMP to decorating a house. There have to be others like me out there that would really dig it and are more likely to give it a chance now. I expect you are right that revenues will ultimately go up.

    However, from the first year or so the game was out, I also remember more players having really violent negative reactions to it than most MMOs I've played. Certainly more than any other MMO I've played that had such a smooth launch. If LoTRO takes off like DDO did, I think that will be a big nail in the coffin lid of subbing as a widely used economic model.

  3. I really do hope that LOTRO and EQ2X both do really well and are hugely successful. It can only be a great thing for us MMO players I think.

  4. @Jaydub: I agree completely. I'd especially like to see more FtP MMOs appear because I have the attention span of a hummingbird. For example, if SWG went FtP, I'd certainly give it another shot.


    Read it, and it all makes sense

  6. @Ian: great article, thanks for the link!

  7. Your title says it all. This is a great experiment and I'm looking forward to seeing how it shakes out. At least Turbine might be willing to brag about LotRO like they did with DDO. SOE probably won't tell us much. But if they back away from F2P or, conversely, if they open another server, that will tell us if EQTwoEcks is succeeding or not.

  8. @Anjin: I think you nailed it. We should expect some over the top self congratulatory PR from Turbine if LoTRO does well. The absence of that would be telling.

    SOE I think will either start rejiggering their other MMOs or not. In terms of new servers, I'm not sure those would be needed given that they can make unlimited copies of each zone. They seem to have switched to a CO style model where the same server has multiple shards of each zone.

  9. Yeebo,

    Very interesting post by Smokejumper of SOE

    09/14/2010 22:02:28 Subject: Re:Why I'm disappointed in EQ2x and playing LOTRO instead

    On Smokejumper said

    To be honest, we erred on the side of letting you adventure through the world without limitation. You can go to almost all zones (only needing to purchase the latest expansion pack) so that you could play for a VERY long time without limitation before you felt the need to upgrade.

    The fact that you need to upgrade to use the broker is intentional. But at the same time, you can use /auction at Silver membership in order to sell stuff without upgrading to Gold. This is absolutely by design and we hope the players will create their own "open air" auction facility (like they did with EQ1) in place of the Broker.

    If that doesn't happen, then we're ready to do other things instead, but the HUGE freedom of play experience (compared to LOTRO) is something we think it very attractive to players. We have WAY more territory and quests available than LOTRO has available for "free" players. We really hope that gamers will appreciate that.

    Being able to sell things is a seconary aspect and we tried (conscientiously) to provide alternate methods for selling without paying for gamers. It remains to be seen if those methods are acceptable or not.