July 20, 2010

What is Wrong With $14.95?

For years I have played var­i­ous games — every­thing from sim­ple addic­tive “Pop­cap Games” to stan­dard MMO fare. Before try­ing MMOs, I had always dis­missed them as a waste of mon­ey, pro­claim­ing that “I shall nev­er play a game requir­ing a pay­ment sub­scrip­tion.” Fast­for­ward sev­en years into the future and I own 3 dif­fer­ent accounts among two dif­fer­ent games. What changed my mind about MMOs and the pay to play busi­ness mod­el? Why would I spend most of my free time play­ing MMOs instead of oth­er games? Let’s start off by ask­ing is $14.95 a lot of mon­ey to play a game?  When I got to think­ing about it more most peo­ple spend $50 or more on just their cof­fee at Star­bucks let alone oth­er things they throw their mon­ey at.  In all real­i­ty $14.95 is not that much mon­ey and if your bank is get­ting bro­ken by $14.95 a month then you prob­a­bly should­n’t be play­ing an MMO let alone pur­chas­ing any oth­er game for that mat­ter.  The total cost per year on your aver­age MMO 14.95 x 12 = $179.40  and most games give you dis­counts if you pur­chase bulk amounts of time. 
What do you get for your $14.95?  While not all MMO offer the same fea­tures you gen­er­al­ly get free updates for the game that address bugs and oth­er issues and in some cas­es add new con­tent, more mature and ded­i­cat­ed com­mu­ni­ty and a far more immer­sive game. 
Most games will pro­vide you with a cou­ple of patch­es after release but after that most sup­port ends for the game.  With MMO’s you tend to get a con­stant stream of patch­es that address every­thing – game­play bal­anc­ing, fea­tures, bugs, user con­tent, etc.  In addi­tion to patch­es some MMO even pro­vide you with expan­sions, while they are not always free, they do add more depth to the game and enhance the user expe­ri­ence.  EVE online pro­vides its mem­bers up to two expan­sions a year that dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the user expe­ri­ence by adding, new ships, star sys­tems, items and skills. WOW on the oth­er hand pro­vides free updates to its mem­bers but it does not pro­vide free expan­sions, while it does pro­vide its mem­bers with expan­sions it does require them to buy them at about $30.00 a pop. 
The com­mu­ni­ties with­in MMO are prob­a­bly the great­est offer­ing that MMO’s have.  Not only are the com­mu­ni­ties large and full of ded­i­cat­ed play­ers that are there to help you with almost any ques­tions you might have but the mem­bers of which tend to be far more mature than your aver­age gamer that would find say on Xbox Live.  While it is pos­si­ble to run into a younger and imma­ture play­er whose life goal is to make your life mis­er­able by yelling pro­fan­i­ties in a high pitched voice the peo­ple you tend to find in “pay to play” games are old­er more mature play­ers who actu­al­ly want to play with oth­er like mind­ed play­ers. 
MMO’s take immer­sion to an entire­ly new lev­el by com­bin­ing the need to have cohe­sive team work with an more mature com­mu­ni­ty the game actu­al­ly feels like a real world.  Games such as eve actu­al­ly have played based economies, cor­po­ra­tions and alliances so when some­thing hap­pens in the game world it actu­al­ly feels like it affects you and the uni­verse that you are play­ing in.   
I asked myself the ques­tion why is every­one afraid to “Pay to Play”?  Let’s start by say­ing “Pay to Play” is a decep­tive term the way most peo­ple use it.  You “Pay to Play” almost any game out there.  Your aver­age main­stream X360, PS3, WII or PC game will cost you on aver­age a $50 — $60 admis­sion tick­et   It’s most like­ly not the fact that you have to pay $14.95 per month that scares peo­ple more so then the fact that they can’t play the game if they aren’t pay­ing and the fact that they don’t own the game out­right.  If you aren’t pay­ing you can’t play it.  Peo­ple don’t like pay­ing for some­thing that they can’t call theirs.  How­ev­er it should be not­ed that now days, unless the game gets shut down, most com­pa­nies keep your saved data and infor­ma­tion even if you are not pay­ing to play the game so that way if you want to come back and play you can pick back up where you start­ed.   Many MMO’s now state that you down own the account and all of its con­tents.   
Hav­ing said all this why did I change my mind­set of “Pay­ing to Play”?  There are sev­er­al rea­sons why I changed most of my gam­ing to MMO’s *EVE Online and Bat­tle­ground Europe specif­i­cal­ly*.  The first and fore­most rea­son for me was that I bought at least two titles a month and these were new titles and I would play and beat them nev­er touch them again.  The aver­age game now days is less then 10 hours sin­gle play­er.  If you take $60 / 10 hours you get $6 per hour of play­ing time.  I might play through the game a sec­ond time so it would be $3 per hour of play­ing time to play through the game.  Where­as with eve I spend an aver­age of 4 hours a night at $14.95 a month which is $14.95 / (4 hours a night  x 30 days a month) = .12 or 12 cents an hour of enter­tain­ment.  You can see that in my case the cost per hour of enter­tain­ment is far less.  The oth­er rea­son I’ve switched the way I play games is the com­mu­ni­ty that comes with MMO genre is near impos­si­ble to beat.   I still talk to the guys that I played with even after I quit the games years after the fact.   Why?  Because I actu­al­ly got to know the guys and some gals that I played with.
Are MMO for every­one?  No.  Are MMO the way games should go?  Absolute­ly not.  But we don’t think peo­ple should dis­miss a game just because of the month­ly price tag as most peo­ple pay this and more with XBL fee’s and DLC alone per month.

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