Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free to Play Vs Paid Subscription

In the genre of MMORPG, there is always a debate on whether which business model is better. Here in Asia, it’s mostly the free to play business model in which players play for free and the company get their profits from micro-transactions. The more popular model in the West is the paid subscription model in which players pay a monthly fee for the game.

I have tried both. I had paid monthly fees for Age of Conan and Lord of the Rings Online, and I had played numerous free to play MMORPG like 9Dragons, Maplestory, Silkroad Online, Cable, Ran etc.

If I am to compare the 2 models, without question the games with the paid subscription model are vastly superior in terms of gameplay with more quests available and more things to do (especially if you are one of those players who love crafting). Free to play games are mostly grindfest with only 1 to 5 quests available at a time. However that’s not saying free to play games are poor. People are more willing to give free to play MMORPG a try, and if the game appeals to them players can stay on the game for months. If Acclaim didn’t put up that stupid advertisement banner, I might still be playing 9Dragons right now.

My point is this: Why should there be a debate on which model is better? To me the MMORPG market is a growing market with new games coming out regularly and there’s more than enough room for both business models to co-exist side-by-side. In fact, I think it’s better and healthier for the MMO market to have more than 1 business model.

Rather than arguing about which business model is better, game developers should concentrate more on making a good game. Quality counts and as long as you have a good game, players will give it a try.

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