The debate on whether or not new MMORPGs can launch with a subscription model has been on-going since the turn of the decade. All the evidence so far points to the answer being no – it’s going to be hard to justify. Not many games still can charge players a monthly fee and remain stable. World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are the exception here. The former is a Juggernaut. It’s dominance in the early 2000s has garnered it roughly 10 million subscribers a month and they can pretty much do whatever they want. The latter is a monopoly of both IP and company. It knows there is a demand for a Final Fantasy MMO, and it too can charge whatever it want, despite what critics think.
As for newer titles? Not much luck there. Bigger IPs than Final Fantasy such as Elder Scrolls and Star Wars have tried and failed. A combination of launch issues, lackluster gameplay and other player feedback is no doubt the cause, but the bigger question remains. Can newly launched MMORPGs justify a subscription model? Here are a couple of discussion points.
Can It Deliver Timely And Quality Content?
When players pay a monthly fee in this day and age, the consumer privilege takes over. That means players expect better customer service, better maintenance and better content that comes at a steady pace. Free to play MMORPGs always struggle to juggle content. It can be a mixed bag, and major expansions take a long time to make due to the lack of funds off the bat.
If newer MMORPG games use a subscription model, they have to absolutely ensure that they cover all bases. Content and the quality of said content will be incredibly vital to its success. Game play will also have to be stellar, or players will just move on to the next or return to whatever game they came from. The first month after launch is always the best barometer to gauge how successful your launch is. Adding new content ASAP is a good strategy, and to do that quickly, you need that funding injection that can only come from subscribers who pay that monthly fee.
Does It Have An X-Factor?
Content aside, the other factor is the X Factor. What’s so special about your MMO that you think it deserves a monthly sub? WoW can justify this by being a sort of pioneer of the Theme Park in an age where competitors were null. Final Fantasy can claim that “if you want an MMO, you gotta pay or else you won’t get to experience a FF MMO anywhere else”. Both are justified. Therefore anything newer will have to have a surreal amount of hype and wanting.
Enter Ashes of Creation – the latest MMORPG in development that is of the AAA variant. Changing worlds based on player choices, open world trading and PVP on top of excellent graphics, gameplay and sandbox mechanics. That the game smashed its Kickstarter funding in less than 24 hours is all the indication you need that players are looking forward to Ashes of Creation in a big way. Because of what it promises, players have no problem paying of a quality MMORPG monthly if it delivers. So right now, the pressure is on the AOC team to deliver, because they are absolutely launching with a subscription based model.
In short, there’s nothing wrong about launching with a subscription model, under one caveat. You have to absolutely earn it in your first month as an MMO. Can you deliver what you promise, and pump out quality content quickly to retain your playerbase? If games think they can, then there should be no reason why it can’t join the likes of World of Warcraft in the choice of payment model it of