Yesterday, with minimal fanfare, the EQ2 team announced a new subscription option. Headlined, “Get over your commitment issues with EQII! A Solution Exists,” the solution involves allowing existing players with inactive accounts to pay $5 for three days access. That’s three consecutive calendar days, and this sub option can be used once per month.
Clearly they had spent some time figuring out exactly who they are targeting here. Why might you spend $5 (about a third of a month’s regular sub) for just three days game access?
The site suggests:
- Weekend Warrior (I think this means casual player, who can occasionally spare a weekend.)
- Party Crasher (Easy to just sub for a few days to try out a new seasonal event, or to get some seasonal achievement for an alt account.)
- Item Hoarder Galore (Don’t have to miss any promotional awards or special bonus items for logging in at certain times. Or possibly double xp weekends, or the like.)
- Penny Pinching Multiboxer (Want the occasional use of a second account without having to pay full subs?)
Those all sound convincing to me. It’s a solid campaign to target ex-players or retired second accounts, giving people the option to dip in and out of the game at a reduced price. Sounds like a good idea, although it’s not the casual friendly golden egg that many would prefer. The main risks are, of course, that during quiet times in the game even more regular players will be tempted to switch to the cheaper low-play option while waiting for the next expansion to come out.
Although people have wondered why this has to be restricted to three consecutive days rather than 72 hours spread over the month, the latter is unlikely to happen. Or if it does, it won’t be at much of a discount. Offering a low play but open access subscription practically guarantees that many players will switch to it whenever they’re in a quiet period in the game. Restricting this offer to three consecutive days in the month makes the regular sub far more appealing to the casual ex-player who wants to log in for a few hours a week to chat to their friends. Or the hardcore player who has a retired second account but might be persuaded to activate it during a double xp weekend. In other words, they’re cleverly targeting people who are not currently paying a full sub. And also indicating an ongoing commitment to providing content like seasonal events, double xp weekends, and other time limited goodies to encourage people to take them up on this sort of offer.
MMOs, being rather dependent on players actually being around to give the rest of the player base a community, do need to encourage the open access sub as the best value option wherever they can. So for example, even if the main reason you are subscribed to WoW is for your two weekly raid nights or your weekly levelling group, the fact you have unlimited access might encourage you to mess around in the game, level some alts, and so on. And any time you buy or sell, you’re supporting the in game economy. Any time you queue for an instance or battleground on an alt, you’re supporting the community. So from the developer point of view, that is something to be tacitly encouraged.
Having said that, I welcome the move towards a more mobile phone approach to subscriptions. I’m sure I said in some previous post that I prefer to see online games marketed as services rather than as goods. I’d rather see subscription options which fit my usage than be nickled and dimed by the cash shop. When buying a phone recently, I was struck by how much easier it was to find an option better tailored to my requirements. In my case, I wanted plenty of net access and messaging, but I don’t make all that many voice calls. So I was able to look at different subscription plans and pick the one I wanted. And if you weren’t able to predict your usage pattern for the next 18 months then there is always the option of pay-as-you-go, which is the equivalent of the casual friendly choice.
Is this the sort of offer you’d like to see for your favourite game, assuming you don’t already play EQ2?