Carbine Stuns Community By Announcing Subscription Based Payment Plan for WildStar, Chaos Ensues

Game developer Carbine did something somewhat surprising in the MMORPG world today. They announced that their upcoming online game WildStar will not launch with a Free to Play (F2P) business model as expected. As a matter of fact, Carbine is actually (gasp!) charging $59.99 for the retail box on top of the sub requirement. What madness is this?!

wildstar 1Honestly I didn’t think anything of the announcement. Being an old school MMO player, I’m used to spending $79 plus for a Collector’s edition box and paying a monthly sub. Heck, I’ve paid lifetimer fees of $199.99 and still had to purchase a retail box.

After watching my Twitter feed blow up this morning it appears that I’m in the minority when it comes to preferring the old fashioned monthly sub. I find it fascinating that the F2P model is now regarded by a large percentage of gamers as the norm, even though the business model is relatively new. The reaction in social media and game industry news sites to Carbine’s business model announcement seems to support this theory. The subscription MMORPG which has been prevalent for decades has quickly been shoved aside since F2P became an option just a few of years ago. It is quickly becoming apparent that a return to subscription based business models may not be viable, or at least not easily sold to today’s gamer.

After a plethora of games either launched F2P or went F2P shortly after launch (SWTOR, The Secret World, Tera) the mantra in the gaming press and forums is that the FTP model is the only path to survivability for the genre. But companies like Carbine, Paizo (Pathfinder Online) and Mark Jacob’s City State Entertainment (Camelot Unchained) seem to disagree. Like Carbine, both Paizo and CSE have stated plans to launch subscription based games. In a recent interview Mark Jacobs actually alluded to a coming ‘Free to Play Apocalypse’ in 3 to 5 years time stating:

free-to-play is just another model, and just like every other model in the industry, it will hold its special little place for a while but then there will be consequences. Those consequences in a few years will be a bit of an apocalypse.

You’re going to see a lot of developers shutting down, and you’re going to see a lot of publishers going, oh yeah maybe spending $20 million on a free-to-play game wasn’t the best idea ever. That’s part of the reason, but the other reason is equally as important, that if you go free-to-play, you really have to compete with every other free-to-play game out there.”

Whether or not Jacob’s prophecy comes true remains to be seen, but it’s an opinion not many people have dared to say openly. While Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online is often used as the poster child for F2P success, as far as I can tell it’s been years since we’ve seen a celebratory press release about their numbers. (This is not a slight on LOTRO, I love the game).

Secondly, all F2P models are not created equally. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s F2P model is so bad it almost forces you to sub just to get rid of the headaches that it brings. While The Secret World and Trion’s RIFT are really very generous and set the bar as far as I’m concerned for future F2P models.

Lastly, I’m not sure I believe F2P is always the best option, or should always be an option. I’ve personally watched a few roleplaying communities detrimentally impacted by F2P players who have no investment in the game and no respect for the existing community.

Personally I think the most ideal model would offer both subscription and F2P servers. It’s not that I do not want to play with F2P customers. I’ve been a F2P customer. I have friends who are F2P customers. But I really don’t like the implementation of F2P money grabs that are necessary to utilize to enjoy the game. For me Cartel Coins and cash shops are another distraction which take me out of the game. They break the illusion of the world I’m in and make gaming for me a little less enjoyable. That may be my biggest issue with the F2P models we have currently. I guess if SOE implemented a cash shop in EverQuestNext which felt no different than dealing with an in game vendor I’d be all for it. However, current models often bombard the player with TV-like sales ads which I find irritating and cheapen the experience. When I play an MMORPG I want to be lost in the world. I do not want to be ping ponged back and forth into the real world to unlock content or buy a new sword.

So I’m fine with Carbine’s decision. I’m happy to support developers I believe in. I have no doubts that at some point WildStar will offer a F2P option. Just keep schmaltzy cash shops out of my face, and I’ll just keep my sub thank you very much!

-Maric aka PaganRites

Source for Mark Jacob’s quote:

About PaganRites

Non-jaded gamer. I like to support the arts by seeing the positive, even when the negative is in your face. Lover of virtual worlds and the MMORPG genre.
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7 Responses to Carbine Stuns Community By Announcing Subscription Based Payment Plan for WildStar, Chaos Ensues

  1. Dear Random Encounters, you’ll never believe what happened to me the other day. I walked into her salon expecting a simple pedicure…

    Oh, wait, wrong “Random Encounters” blog. ;-D

    So, I’m in the minority about F2P, too, an opinion mostly formed after seeing what it did to LOTRO, a game that I’ve played for over 5 years, but only truly loved until F2P. Everything Turbine does is now focused on getting people to buy buy buy from the store, all the time. It is forced on us through shady development decisions. If you want to have the BEST toon you can, you will HAVE to purchase certain things through the store. (All that, AND I still pay a monthly sub. UGH.) And, like you said, flashing STORE SALES totally breaks immersion, and makes for a lot of sketchy development decisions (like when they started selling low-end gear after initially promising to NEVER sell gear.)

    The other big negative I’ve seen with the F2P model is that it really changes the community for the worse. There is less cohesion, less respect, and less loyalty when people are just passing through another “free game.”

    I think that the GW2 model is different, since it requires an initial investment, but time will tell if their Living World model is as successful in the long run as a replacement for actual expansions. (More on that later in my blog)

    Anyway, I’m happy with the decision for WildStar, and I love that Carbine is ballsy enough to say that they fear no competition since they are making an amazing game that people will want to sub to. I have high hopes!

    And good luck with the blog, guys!

    • Pid says:

      Yay! Our first comment is not a troll comment!

      Anyway, I am of the opinion that the F2P model has a place, but more companies should look into specific servers for it. There are PvP and regular servers, why can’t they code F2P and subscription servers?

    • Maric says:

      GSprink, my comment on role playing communities being affected was directly influenced by what I saw happen in LOTRO and Funcom’s Age of Conan. Both games had exceptional RP communities prior to F2P. Conan’s community was utterly and completely destroyed. LOTRO still has a great RP community but it’s a shadow of what it once was. RP communities need a safe haven and a moderated environment which the F2P model just doesn’t coexist nicely with.

    • -Pagan- says:

      Also Bridget, finish your Penthouse Letters story… I was hooked!

  2. I guess I’m in the minority also… I have some thoughts on the whole F2P subject, just never really tried to compile it all in one spot before.
    My thoughts are that F2P does have it’s place, but the trend to make everything on that model is disturbing for a number of reasons.

    I believe that this model has turned developers to making “disposable” games that lack substance, depth, and long term playability. Way back when, MMO’s were made for the long haul and pretty much worked like a never-ending story which worked well with a sub model because players felt that the quality and quantity was there to justify it. Somewhere down the line, MMO’s, FPS’s, and consoles all ran into each other and congealed into what we have now days with instant gratification and hurry to the “end game” mentality that many gamers have grown accustomed to.
    Now days, it’s like a race to burn through the “game of the month” and then off to the next flavor. It seems that developers now are catering to that mentality by creating games that can be played and then discarded for the next “new hotness” with no incentives or reasons to buy in for the long run. I think loyal playerbases are becoming a thing of the past because of this.
    It just feels like its all about quick strike cash-ins for developers these days… make it quick, make it cheap, launch it, run as many players as possible through the cash shop before they lose interest… rinse, and repeat.

    The funny thing is, I think many gamers really just want to have games that are WORTH a sub fee and not these half-baked poor attempts games we see now. I honestly think that current developers have misread what players are saying as “We like what you are putting out, but we don’t want to pay for it.” when in reality they are saying “We don’t feel like what you are putting out is a complete experience and we don’t like paying to beta test your game while you implement the things that have become staples in games for years now.”
    I remember just before TOR went F2P, I received a survey from BW asking my thoughts on the subscription. It stands out because the choices were all bias to be that I preferred F2P with the last being a “fill in the blank”. I chose the last, and put in that I felt the game was lacking and it did not warrant a monthly payment… same thing I put when I cancelled my account. Fast forward a few months and BAM! F2P announced as being what the players had asked for…. Funny, because what I asked for was a game that was worth a sub.

    Community. Yup, I’m going there… F2P communities are horrid compared to P2P games. The ability to just make a free account brings out the worst on some people. Accountability and self restraint are out the window when the biggest thing you have to fear by being a D bag to folks is getting a ban (IF there is any actual game support) and having to make a new account. With P2P games, you really have to watch your reputation, or face the reality of being more or less shunned by the other players.
    I seen the communities decline rapidly in a few games… LOTRO was on of my favorite games before F2P. I played on Brandywine and Landrovel. Both had the best communities I have ever been a part of. Not so much these days.

    I’ll stop here… maybe I’ll make a blog post some day and go into more details. But to close, I believe that all business models can work, it just depends on how it is implemented. I prefer to have the option to pay a sub and have access to everything in the game. I do not like paying a sub and having a cash shop (reason I left STO pre-F2P) because I despise double dipping. For me, let me pay X amount a month and you gimmie it all!.

    • Pid says:

      Heya buddy,

      Glad to see you are still kicking about. Thanks for the comment. It is a shame, yet not surprising, that companies have gone the way of the fast easy money. Isn’t that pretty much what you can say about anything these days? Anyway, hope to see you back gaming again once we can all find a game that we can agree upon.


    • -Pagan- says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Hope you consider writing for our blog or start your own. Hope to play another MMO with you in the coming year!

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