It’s hard to put a value on content, but the expectations of the MMO community have changed over the past few years. Whereas once, access to the virtual world with all its trappings was considered worth the price of entry, we now expect a stream of additional content patches to justify the monthly fees.
Or do we?
Champions Online has put the cat among the pigeons by announcing a paid mega-adventure pack, Vibora Bay, (sounds similar to the sorts of big content patches we get in WoW). The player base is less than thrilled. There’s a sense that this business model is fine in a free to play game like DDO where you expect to pay for extra content, but a lot of players expect that a monthly sub should include this type of thing.
Perhaps it is time for MMO publishers to be more up front about exactly what you do get for your monthly fee, because games that do include content patches are definitely looking like better value. And when you can pick up a cool little game like Psychonauts for £1 off Steam in the sale (last day: today), just how much should you expect anyway for your £10 pcm?
I do think games like WoW offer fantastic value with their regular content patches. You could argue that if you bundle the entire thing into the price of the expansion it doesnt look so good on paper….but compared with Solo Play games I find it good value.
Champions:- Well I suspect that life time subs owners are going to be very peeved indeed. Whats more if I were considering a punt at STO I’d be even more wary of doing so. So far STO has limited PvE content for the Klingons and I’d expect PvP action to end up mostly happening in the latest ‘pay to play’ content. I know a few people have already sprung for lifetime subs to STO and I expect them to be ..less than enthused by this model. I mean how much is a life time sub worth if it extends only to the ‘vanilla’ game? I shall be avoiding this developers products for sure now….
Thanks for reminding me about Psychonauts again, almost forgot to buy it 🙂
As for the main topic: I see nothing wrong with paid expansions (and they call it one). WoW has those too. Now I don’t know much about CO, so I have no idea whether they have free content patches as well. In general I think that a subscription of the standard size does entitle you to a certain amount of free new content over time – especially if you have to pay up front for the game itself as well – but selling expansions on top of that is hardly a new concept.
It doesn’t even matter what we expect. What matters is how to keep us buying the product.
WoW is a total package. You get a solid single-player game – all the way from 1 to 80 it’s a great single player game if that’s what you’re looking for.
You get a solid multi-player game, from the time you can queue for dungeons until 80 you can play that way.
You get a solid strategy game, you can play AH from level 1 until … well level 1 that has more money than everyone else.
You get a solid social atmosphere, just join a social guild if you want.
WoW is a very very very solid game. Or more of a platform, with solid games built on top of it.
To compare it to a non-blizzard game is like comparing microsoft to mom & pop software development company. I seriously can’t think of any other game shop that produces solid games. Yes, some games are more fun, but they won’t last for as many years and won’t cater to so many different styles (rpg, pvp, strategy, probably all genres).
So what should a game offer? Should content patches be free? Well it should offer what makes sense. Both business sense and what makes sense to the customer. It’s very possible it isn’t good business for a tiny company to make free content patches. WoW has a huge player base, and if they only get 10 cents per month from each subscriber toward development, that’s still considerable money. if you only have 100k player base, than 10 cents per subscriber is 10k dollars … which pays for maybe … at most … 1 developer (this is per month). So no new free patches.
When I can buy a game every month for $15 that I can play for far longer than just the month that I bought it, an MMO just can’t compete.