Free Trials, Open Betas, Welcome Back Weekends — Do they tempt you?

MMOs are difficult games to pin down; they’re constantly changing and growing, being streamlined, including temporary holiday events, and adding new content and rewards. A game that failed to grab you at launch may be exactly what you are looking for in six months time.

But it is a difficult task to tempt a player back to a game after they have tried and abandoned it once. And just as hard to lure new players into an older game where they may have to level solo with very little guidance, and then find themselves bottom of the pecking order among the established playerbase.

So what can games do to encourage players to take a second (or first) look? We’ve seen increasing numbers of games this year flock to the Welcome Back Weekend banner. LOTRO and Champions Online have held repeated free weeks for ex-customers, and even WoW offered a free week in game recently. It’s a handy way to check the game out, remind yourself about any old characters you left hanging, and see what has changed since you last played. Even to touch base with old friends and guildies who still play.

Free Trials and Open Betas (which pretty much are free trials these days) make it easier for a new player to decide to throw down some cash on a subscription. At least you will know the game runs on your machine, and whether or not you like the feel of it and the community.

I know that having a welcome back week in LOTRO helped me decide to resubscribe. It also helped a lot that Arbitrary was happy to show me around and help me catch up to what I needed to be doing during the free week. I also know that I have never subscribed to an MMO sight-unseen. There has always at least been a free trial or open beta involved.

How about you? Do welcome back weeks tempt you back? Would you buy a game without trying it first? Do you play open betas because it’s the closest you can get to a free trial? And if you do have friends who you know are on a free trial, do you try to sell the game to them or help them out especially?

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10 thoughts on “Free Trials, Open Betas, Welcome Back Weekends — Do they tempt you?

  1. I’m currently playing 4 MMOs.

    EQ2 I used to play in 2004-5 and have always wanted to go back to (I left because my friends left to go to WoW). It was fairly natural to go back to it although I did trial it first).

    DDO I never would have looked at in a million years had it not gone F2P. I really like it and consider myself a long term player. Having bought a few packs is really like a lifetime sub.

    Eve seemed very forbidding and I never would have tried it without a free trial. I now have 2 accounts.

    Warhammer I jumped in specifically for the endless free trial. Mindless pvp scenario zerging when I don’t want the mental effort of a thinking mmo. It does that job very well. There is a faint possibility at some time in the future I might sub but only if there is nothing around I want to play.

    Other games I’m interested in are Darkfall and SWTOR. Not fussed about a free trial for that. Anything else would absolutely require some hands on first and preferably a F2P model. Having played a game like DDO that I can go back to any time I’m loathe to go back to sub-based games (Eve and War are also free for me, EQ2 costs but I made an exception for that).

  2. I definitely pay attention to free (re-)trial opportunities, and I’m very hesitant to ever try a game that requires a large upfront purchase before I can determine whether I hate the UI too much to ever enjoy it.

    Incidentally, I do think that Turbine overdoes it with the free retrials. The US servers have had half a dozen retrial weekends (or longer) in the last year. If you’re just looking to see what got added in the new patch, there’s little reason to pay cash when another free trial is right around the corner.

  3. I am definitely tempted by free trials and accounts that have been reactivated. AoC is a game I don’t really want to play full time or devote a lot of time to currently (for any number of reasons) but they did offer me 14 days back and I checked out the changes. WoW also offered me 10 days that I took advantage of, and WAR which I’m also currently playing (and may eventually re-sub if time ever allows for it). Since I’m already playing a lot of games that I pay for these free trials and activations are pretty key in whether I decide to drop one of my current games for theirs. Or just to poke around and see what’s up.

  4. Do welcome back weeks tempt you back?

    Not at all. I’ve never felt compelled to play an MMO for a weekend, especially if I already dumped it.

    Would you buy a game without trying it first?

    Hell no.

    Do you play open betas because it’s the closest you can get to a free trial?

    To a certain extent, yes. I need to try something before I buy it in almost all cases.

    And if you do have friends who you know are on a free trial, do you try to sell the game to them or help them out especially?

    No, not really. People can make up their own minds if a game is right for them without the peer pressure.

  5. The trials and welcome backs give me a good way of coping with the perpetual draw to go back to the different games I’ve subbed to at one time or another. If I don’t get enough out of it when its free, than I really don’t want to re-up, I just think I do.

    Had a variety of trial experiences myself this weekend. LotRO and WAR are/were running welcome back programs, and EQ2 activated at least some old accounts for the month apparently. I’d been thinking about all of these games at some time or another recently.

    Fired up WAR to learn that I had to go through and reactivate in account management in some way to replay. Figuring since I couldn’t be bothered to do that, I’m not really that into WAR anymore. LotRO doesn’t seem to want to patch right, so no free weekend for me. EQ2 kept me online for a few hours, though I can’t remember at all what to do with my main. My confusing relationship with that game looks like it will be up in the air until the end of the month at least.

  6. I’ve had welcome back weeks tempt me several times, CoH a few months ago and EQ2 right now. CoH I didn’t even consider resubscribing too. EQ2, I’m considering but probably not, I just have too many other games I’d rather play.

    I bought and played both EQ and DAoC without having played them prior (but that was waaay before trials were a possibility). I also bought Vanguard without doing any research and only played it for about 60 minutes. Everything else I’ve managed to play prior to buying, usually by checking out the open beta.

  7. I buy games without trying them first but that’s because I’m a bit of a sucker :) I usually only buy MMOs though and most of the entertain me at least for a few weeks so I get my money’s worth.

    Free comeback periods are always a big temptation for me too and a clever strategy by the developers. It just seems that their timing and mine are always at odds though!

  8. If it’s a new game that isn’t well-proven yet, yes, it’s tempting. If it’s a game that I previously subscribed to, no, you had your chance and I found enough dissatisfaction with it to leave. Fooled me once…

    The fact is, MMO changes tend to seem fairly random to the players. The devs may mean it as a “balancing pass”, to quote one company, but to the players it’s just a nerf that wrecks their fun. If I had reason to leave once, I have no real reason to believe my re-experience of the same game will be any way improved. There are better uses of my time.

    • I think for me it may depend on why I left in the first place. If I was bored with nothing to do but liked the game apart from that, then adding more content might well lure me back. If I left because my guild exploded then it may be that after I’ve cooled off, I’ll be in a mood to return and make new friends. With WoW, for example, if I left because I was frustrated at never being able to get instance groups, then the new dungeon finder might address that completely.

      But yes, if it was something core to the game itself, that’s less likely to have changed.

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