In the last few posts I have been rather destructive. I gave reasons for why I dislike f2p games. This post will be constructive. There is a need of such a thing, because the old status quo of box sells plus subscription fees isn't optimal, either.
The problem with subscription fees is that every player pays the same amount. No matter whether he has a lot of fun or just a little. No matter whether he plays for hours on end or just a few hours every month.
This is a problem, because it holds the genre back. MMORPGs stay behind their potential if the companies cannot profit from the fun the consumer has. Take me, for example. Obviously, I like MMORPGs a lot. (At least I used to. Since about 2006, AAA-MMORPGs are becoming less and less immersive. It's really a problem by now).
But there's no MMORPG out there that asks for a money-equivalent of the fun I have and supplies me with an expensive MMORPG. I can buy a Porsche instead of a VW if I want, but I cannot buy access to a fully-grown virtual fantasy world instead of lobby-based minigames.
We need a business model that does three things:
First, it needs to allow companies to extract a fair amount of money from consumers based on how much they like their product. Second, it must not diminish the value of the virtual world itself, as îtemshops do in my opinion. Third, it must not involve strong incentives for the company's management that are detrimental to the quality of the game.
Here are a few brainstormed ideas:
1) If your game is class-based, sell access to the classes. One class of the player's choice is part of the initial download/box or just free. Access to any additional class costs. This way, consumers who access more of the game, pay more. This does not diminish the immersion into the game's world, as the purchase happens outside of the context of the game. It is also a very transparent transaction.
The cost can either be a one-time payment or a recurring subscription. A recurring subscription would be advantageous, in so far as it allows players to switch back to another class at no cost. This way, there is no pressure to stick with a class after you have chosen it and people wouldn't automatically quit when they don't like their selected class. Alternatively, you could buy concurrent access to a number of classes and change these classes for free every month.
Unfortunately this business model can lead to the management directing the developers to add much more classes than reasonable. So, it's not perfect.
2) Another idea is to sell a certain amount of play time. For example, one could sell a certain amount of free hours per week and demand a price for every additional hour played. These additional hours played and the additional costs would, of course, be shown on the UI and there would be a limit in how much extra costs can occur. This business model isn't exactly new. Mobile phone companies do it for years now and it works.
This idea encourages companies to make players play as much and as excessive as possible. So it's still worse than a flat rate. But if you cut off the amount of free hours at 30 a week and just offer a flat rate (normal monthly sub) for players who want to play more, this should work rather well.
3) Do you have any creative ideas?