MMOs Taking The Wrong Route

Some large scale MMOs are launching with too little content and asking for too much financial commitment from players, says the CEO of payment firm that has worked with the creators of MMOs such as Star Trek Online, Rift, and Champions Online.

Gene Hoffman, CEO of the payment firm Vindicia, says that some MMOs are launching with the bare minimum content while asking their customers for too much money.

"Look, some of these MMOs are launching and they're really bad," says Hoffman in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

"You don't want to say that too loudly to them, but seriously, these guys need to do a lot more content before they launch, so why not price it that way?"

Hoffman suggests that some MMOs should consider launching as paid betas, asking for a small upfront investment, and then giving players more content as it is added to the game, while offering freemium content on top.

"Why not do a paid beta initially, and tell people: it's pretty damn good and you'll be able to play, but it's not done and we're not going to fill the whole world until three months from now, but sign up today for 10 bucks a month and you know what, we'll throw in the actual release and just keep it going when we come out of beta."

This year has seen MMORPGS make a significant shift towards the free-to-play model, with players signing up for free access to the game and paying for access to extra content and superficial upgrades. The success of games like Minecraft also support Hoffman's argument, with millions of customers buying the early build of the game and later gaining access to the completed version.

With the direction that MMOs are heading, do you think that this will soon be the end of premium subscription games? Will World of Warcraft be the last game standing while everyone else shifts to free-to-play? Or do you still see room for premium MMOs? Let us know what you think!

[GamesIndustry.biz]

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Comments

    Difference with Rift and those other MMOs, Rift is constantly adding new stuff.

    I'm guessing Vindicia will not be working with too many MMOs in the future

    I play a game called Mabinogi...

    Its F2P and in my opinion, still beats most P2P games.

    That depends, will these new MMOs that are made actually be any good? Minecraft succeded because it was an original idea that people loved and the community helped build it up to what it is today. Too many MMOs are taking the easy route of just copy/paste the standard MMO formula and hoping it'll work and usually it does. Until a few months down the track when everyone realises this is the exact same game as every other MMO before it with maybe a few new features.

    I think MMO's need to go through a serious redesign and start offering up something new before they start thinking about charging us for an incomplete game.

      The problem is there's a lot of pressure not to mess with the core mechanics you'd expect in a game labeled a MMORPG. If you make a MMORPG that plays more like Zelda than World of Warcraft it'll go down the tubes when people try to play it like World of Warcraft and it fails to perform as expected.
      DC Universe Online is a good example. They simplified combat, they cut out a lot of the mindless busy work (making getting to level cap pretty quick), they had an optional preset gear/ability PvP mode, end-game was casual/social instead of hardcore, but people played it like Warcraft.
      They scoffed at the low amount of ability uses in combat without realising that it was to enable better encounter specific mechanics (no tunneling meant you didn't have to tell people to get out of the fire, they just did it, which in turn meant more complicated fights - even if they had less one shot mechanics). Entry level gear being able to down the end-boss of a raid meant you could do it in one night casually with friends, rather than having gear checks to artificially slow progression.
      Even though it was extremely obvious that the game wasn't trying to be Warcraft Superhero Edition people went in expecting it because hey, that's what an MMORPG is, and the game really suffered for it.

    some of these MMORPG developers are just scum of the earth (profit before customers).

    People STILL play WOW?
    Hasn't it been staked through the heart yet???

      Despite what you think, WoW is still pretty popular. Stop being ignorant.

        HA! I know thats you, Blizzard!

      Still the biggest MMO in town, dude.

      Unfortunately...

      Since its not very good...

        I hate MMOs and don't play WoW, but even I can tell you World Of Warcraft is very good at what it does.

        •It built off an established IP so the fanbase was essentially already there.
        •It kept the system requirements low to ensure the maximum amount of people were reached.
        •It was easy to learn but difficult to master.
        •And it simplified and reworked many MMO staples to create an experience that was greater than the sum of its parts.

        WoW is like the iPhone, sure, there ARE products out there with better features, but there are zero with as much polish and balance. And that's why WoW is such a success. The next MMO Blizzard makes will blow everything else away once again.

    It's an interesting idea but I don't know if it would work.

    One problem is how a lot of mmo players treat beta releases. Even though it's a beta you still get many, many people complaining about how the game is unfinished, full of bugs and is going to be a failure when it launches. If people had to pay to play the beta I imagine it would turn a lot of people off but also make the complaining a lot worse. The fact that they'd be paying for it would further remove from their minds that it's a beta and not the finished products so they'd be demanding a lot more from the company and would but up with a lot less. All that negativity could kill the game before it has even officailly launched.

    Then there's the other side of beta players. The hardcore fans who refuse to see that anything is wrong with the game and shoot down any sort of critism or suggestion of improvement. A beta is supposed to be a way for the developers to test player reactions to certain aspects of the game and then change those aspects as need be. The hardcore fans seem to ignore this. They'd keep every single thing the same no matter how broken or unfun it might be. If you had to pay to play this beta then it would only really be the hardcore fans willing to do that. Hardcore fans don't give good feedback which in turn could really hurt the game when it goes live.

    I think it's also worth mentioning that when it comes to content there's never enough. No matter how much time developers spend working on something and how difficult to complete they make it you'll have the super hardcore finishing it within a day at the least, a week at the most, and then complaining that there's nothing to do. And as sad as it might be people will listen to them. People who haven't even run the latest raid, killed the latest boss or even hit max level will hear these hardcores complaining about lack of content and will also start to complain.

    With a new mmo this "lack of content" often causes the hardcore guilds to leave and go to other games, mostly they go back to WoW, and they take a fair few non hardcores with them who track their entire mmo lifes but the achievements of the mmo elite, even if they themselves are not part of the elite. Depending on how many players do end up leaving this can start a chain reaction as more and more people leave for the simple fact that everyone else is doing it so the game must be bad.

    The only ways the developers can provide enough content to keep the hardcore around is to consecutively release content patches with only a small ammount of time between the releases, but that would have the probelm of the patches being poor quality because of such a short development time which in turn could drive people away, or to release an ultra hard raid or boss with increadible ammounts of health and damage that takes hours and hours and hours to defeat, like the bosses seen in some of the older mmos. The problem with that is that games like that often get accused of being grind fests and that drives away a large portion of the casual market. As loath as some are to admit it the casual market makes up a large part of mmo subscribers and is were the money is. WoW has only done so well because it is appealing to that market. If a game was to no longer appeal to that market it would take a huge hit, financially. In this day and age there's really no room anymore for an mmo that only caters to the hardcore.

      I think Arenanet has the right idea with Guild Wars 2 concerning beta tests and whatnot. Right now, they're still conducting closed beta tests to a select few while maintaining huge publicity. They said they'd conduct open beta when it reaches a set standard Ie; little to know bug, complete content, etc.
      If only every mmo was like that concerning beta.

    Why not have an online and offline version of the same game with option to integrate them.

    Wow tech has a free play model available (till level 20 i belive which is pointless, would have figured to 60 would have made more sense, that way they can see raids and things (e.g. MC/BWL) <--- ex-WoW player

      The WoW 'Free to Play' isn't a proper Free to Play model. It's an unlimited trial. You're restricted from doing just about everything. You can't chat with people, can't use the auction house, can't group, can't get above level 20 etc etc. Because if they let any of those happen, the gold farmers would be all over the free to play accounts and you wouldn't be able to take two steps in the game without being spammed about buying gold or having someone level your character.

    FFIX was a good MMO in my opinion. it was hard, it relied a lot on community but it was so, so good.

    ...then there was FFXIV. jesus christ.

    I'm an old Guild Wars vet. I feel their business model is brilliant. Each of their three main campaigns are stand-alone but are best when integrated together. There's one "true" expansion in that you must have one of the other campaigns to play it but apart from that you just buy a copy of the game and you're set for life. It has an in-game store but that's only for optional cosmetic or bonus items like extra character slots and such. I've never quite understood why other MMOs have gone down the P2P route because Guild Wars has always had a strong community and an excellent post-release dev team and they don't ask for an IV drip of cash. It's similar to Valve's remarkable attitude towards Team Fortress 2. Regular updates and new content without expecting you to pay more for it. Valve uses the term "games as a service" and like Guild Wars I think that's an admirable approach.

    Also, totally psyhed for GW2 ;D

    Haha of course a payment firm (who presumably takes a small cut from payments), would like companies to start asking for money earlier in the development process, particularly using monthly payments.

    Nonetheless, I cannot see how a subscription based beta would work at all, let alone the difficulty of getting "beta testers" over to the higher subscription prices for the "release version"

    Bring back Tabula Rasa

      You can still get it and the star wars mmo at my local Big W!

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