SWKOTORO – On the Defensive?

When I first read the Bioware’s Star Wars MMO based in the KOTOR universe (my apologies for making up yet another acronym for it) was going to be micro-transaction based – I rejoiced. I am still in rejoice mode. Doing the math, I spent about $1000 on WoW, between two accounts, two expansions, sub fees, etc. In fact that is probably higher than that. $1000 is a nice round number though.

For the life of me, I can’t think how I can possibly spend the same amount on a micro-transaction based MMO. Even one in the Star Wars Universe. Unless, of course, $1000 lets me be Darth Vadar.

I mentioned before how playing an MMO’s is much like entering into a marriage – it is a full commitment. If the time sinks don’t get you, the subscription fee does – heck, I am paying for it, better get good value from it! A Micro transaction MMO will allow me to enter into a much more mutually beneficial arrangement – I can date the MMO. Not only that, but if the dates get boring I can go on less dates. If I fall behind my friends in the dating scene, I can pay a little out of pocket to catch up. It really is a fantastic idea – one that will push developers to put out a high quality of product to entice people to play. One that will focus on fun, instead of focusing on sucking as much time out of you as possible to lengthen the almighty sub fee. One that will force you to pay $5 to get a cool outfit. I know that last line just sounded wrong – and of course it all depends on what you will be paying for – and then I had an ancillary thought. What if EA learned from their Warhammer mistake?

More after the break.

The general (ie:casual) populace only plays one MMO at a time. Moreso for the time required than the $15.00 fee. The Sub fee does pay a part (as there is no way I would sub to 5 or 6 MMO’s – although I would play 5 or 6 under a model where I chose what to spend). This goes back to my argument – maybe EA realizes that WoW has captured the casual market, and no budget possible will unseat it under the $15 sub model. So, to compete, remove the sub model altogether and give (literally) GIVE access to the game. After the little present, EA can earn their money the hard way. By, you know, earning it.

I am assuming the goal is to hook as many millions as possible, and as people spend less and less time in Pay to Play WoW, they will stop justifying their monthly payment to NOT play it. With freed up cash those ex WoW players will turn around and justify spending money on a game they are actually “playing”, under a scheme that they can contol.

I learned a long time ago in business there are really two quick and easy paths to success: 1) find something someone else is doing, and do it better – or – 2) find something someone else is doing and do it cheaper. The best way is of course to design something completely original but the aforementioned two is the path of least resistance. Being original takes too much talent and time.

Of course will withold judgement until more details are spilled, but from the outset I like where they are going with this.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’d definitely consider re-subscribing to WoW if I could do a $/hr subscription, but I’d have to weigh it up versus their current sub price.

    If I play 2 hours per weeknight (not uncommon for me) then 6 hours each on Saturday & Sunday (I may play a little less, but I might also put in 3 hours once or twice during the week), that’s 22 hours for the week, or (approx.) 88-90 hours for the month. Let’s round it up to an even 100, because there’s four 7-day weeks and 3-4 extra days in each month.

    Now if I pay a flat $15 per month for my 100 hours (I paid $13/month for the 6-month block) then I’d only be willing to switch to a $/hr subscription if the rate was cheaper than $15/100 hours, being 15¢ per hour (in my case, 13¢/hr).

    This site: http://gigaom.com/2006/08/29/world-of-warcraft-2/ says the Chinese pay approx. US4¢/hr, while on his Blog, Tobold says it’s approx. US6¢/hr http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2007/11/free-to-play-world-of-warcraft-in-china.html

    Assuming Blizzard is pissed at the Chinese (for their 15% lower revenue than the U.S. market, despite them playing more than us) so they want to make that up by gouging the Western players and charging us 10¢/hr, “casual” players like myself would still be better off paying the $/hr rate than a flat monthly subscription.

    10¢ per hour to play WoW? I’d probably go for that, especially as I could take off for a long weekend and not play for 3-4 days, and not care that I’ve “paid” for WoW time which I’m not using. When you pay-to-play, if you don’t play, you’re not paying. What a beautiful, consumer friendly idea. No wonder Blizzard won’t go for it.

  2. @Tesh: I think I have slid firmly into casual land – and mindset. Not sure how I feel about that yet. =P

    @Cap’n: The time model would work great for us part timers – but unless there is no “ceiling” for the hardcore folk the model doesn’t work. Some people would be paying $30 bucks a month. While I think that is all fair and dandy, they may lose those folks. If there is the $15 dollar ceiling then why do an hourly – no point having people play for 10cents an hour – no profit in that. (Their mindset, not mine – I would return much like you under a system like that). Since you only need 23 other people TOPS in WoW to fully enjoy the entire game there really isn’t much motivation for Blizz. Warhammer, however, it would probably work better. If no one else is playing the game, it isnt fun (PVP based) – so there is an incentive to have as many people playing as possible to up the enjoyment for everyone.

  3. I’d happily pay 10 cents an hour to play WoW. (Well, not as happy as if they just did the GW thing, but still…) Since I might at most play twenty hours a month, that’s downright loverly for me.

    Of course, that still means I’m paying for time, so I’d feel a pressure to maximize my play/reward, which sucks some of the fun out of it. In GW, I can just putter around and take screenshots one day, and not feel like I’ve wasted precious sub time.

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