Lack of MMO Content Forces Free to Play Transition

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
Lack of MMO Content Forces Free to Play Transition

An executive from the pay side of MMOs called out publishers for quick launches.

After hearing about Lex Luthor [], unfortunately - runs a company called Vindicia that processes a lot of the purchasing for online companies like Blizzard, Cryptic, deviantArt and Boxee. Hoffman thinks MMO companies are forced to go freemium or free to play because they launch too early with not enough content.

"Look, some of these MMOs are launching and, they're really bad," he told "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 also had a few ideas on how he would launch an MMO that seems foolproof. "Why not do a paid beta initially? 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 ten 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. Or five bucks a month, and move it up - or there's a whole other model, where it's ten bucks a year, and then freemium on top."

While that isn't exactly a new idea, Hoffman at least has hit upon something to which game developers should pay attention. "MMOs don't have to have one and only one model for the entire life of the game. A lot of people have never really thought about businesses as being one model now and another model later - but of course, this is what movies do," he said before providing examples. "You've got your house opening, then your DVD release, your airplane release, your VOD release, then the movie channels, then it's on CBS, ABC, Sky One, etc.

"From that perspective, seeing the game business head that way - sure, the exact steps are different, but it's not that different in reality," Hoffman said.

Hmm, maybe subscription MMOs moving to free to play is just one step along a game's evolution. Perhaps there should be a lot more downgrades along the way. Of course, the first MMO to do this will get a lot of flack, but it be a way to keep flagging properties earning money instead of just turning off the servers.

Source: []



New member
Dec 22, 2009
I could've told you that F2P MMOs are that way because they're crap and it's the only way they'd ever get more than a handful of people to play them ages ago.


New member
Sep 18, 2008
I don't think he is hitting the nail on the head. There are multiple reasons why Free to play is ruling over subscription models.

With a subscription model it is great when people feel the urge to play something, this generally happens when a new MMO comes out and it is shiny and new. After a while a better or similar MMO comes out and totally over shadows the ones that came before.

People then leave the MMO for a newer one, the population decreases and the game becomes less fun because less people are playing which makes it harder to push out new content.

Here is what MMOs should do.

1) Subscription: when they start up have a subscription model.

2) Trial: 1-3 months after launch start allowing trials.

3) Free to play: After 1-2 years of official launch switch models to a free to play, this will give the game a increase in population and popularity.

This way they get money back from initial launch for those who are willing to buy the game out right. Then get the people who are leery about new MMOs AFTER a few bug patches have been release and then get another big boom in population when the decline happens.


New member
Feb 27, 2010
It's not the content in itself. It's how unoriginal it is. If you pick an established genre you immediately put yourself in direct competition with long runners - big games with loyal players, and if you're directly competing with them then yeah, your comparitive lack of content will show a lot quicker.

You're making a fantasy MMO? Okay, you're in competition with WoW, RIFT, LOTRO, DDO, Age of Conan, WAR, Aion and a billion others, most of which are F2P. Good luck with that.

Champions Online and DCUO both went F2P before the nearly 8 year old City of Heroes, because CoH had spent those 8 years expanding the game and maintaining a loyal playerbase that weren't going to jump ship en masse to the new shiny.

There are reasons EVE Online is still on a subscription model. There are reasons why Fallen Earth stayed on subscription for two full years despite being an indie game with a far smaller budget than some high profile failures. One of those reasons is that they're in genres that aren't already utterly saturated.


Level 80 Legendary Postlord
Dec 4, 2007
I've never played an MMO until recently, when I downloaded Lord of The Rings Online out of curiosity to finally see what it's like (now that its free to play). I'm not sure if it's representative (I assume WoW is more polished) but the overall quality of the game was so bad that I quit after the tutorial sequence and never gave it another thought.

So yeah, if I don't even want to play it for free, I wonder why anyone would want to play for money.

edit: I just checked Wikipedia and found that LOTRO actually got excellent ratings. I really don't get it. The graphics, animations, dialoge, text, and interface felt clunky and uninspired. Maybe I really just don't -get- MMO's.

Seventh Actuality

New member
Apr 23, 2010
There is a fucking reason the MMOs going free to play are always the ones that have tried and failed to survive on the subscription system first. I've tried nearly every western MMO and the reason World of Warcraft survives on that model and they don't is that they are straight-up worse than World of Warcraft.

Hopefully SWTOR will prove once and for all that the subscription model is viable for genuinely good games and leads to a higher quality and better content all around, while free-to-play is for second-string MMOs, outright failures and, more charitably, MMOs with more of a niche appeal.


New member
Oct 31, 2008
I have to admit, I think everyone in this thread is wrong and the dude in the article is especially the wrong.

The dude in the article is wrong because F2P is good when it's been designed bottom up F2P. Otherwise they just chuck in a hasty store and ruin sections of game working out how to pay wall it. If you go in thinking F2P you can take time to design a system and economy that makes sense.

And I think you people in the thread are wrong because I agree with the Penny Arcade guys, the problem isn't the quality of game but the price of admission. Stepping back a bit, they were talking about MMO Arena games. HoNE was a game that had a better deal but it was worth nothing to me compared to League of Legends. Why? Because for however good the game might be, I don't know if I would enjoy it. If I buy it and don't like it, I've wasted money. Whereas a F2P game I can test out, if I don't like it no harm done. I played a bit of LoL liked it for a bit and got bored and went away. I lost nothing for that and if the MMO is good then I will become more involved and I can take advantage of my involvement by spending money and becoming more attached to the game.

A F2P MMO has to be good, because if it's not good, I'm not going to make that investment, I won't even invest my time. I'm not so desperate that I'll play a game just because it's free. I'll play a game because I enjoy it and if it hooks me and makes me enjoy myself, then I'll pay money for it.

Some facts to support it. A lot of the MMOs that have gone free to play were very well reviewed and liked before they went free to play. A lot of them were making money fine enough and had lots of loyal subscribers, its just going F2P they made much much more money and increased in userbase. Remember that! They were making money as subscription, so by your defintion were quality and had the content, it's just they make even more money with this system. F2P MMOs are booming.

On the other hand we've got WoW which is brilliant game constantly pumping out new content, and what's happening? In it's playerbase is shrinking faster and faster. Subscriptions work but they're working less and less and almost every MMO on subscriptions would make even more money F2P.

Now I agree there are a lot of bad F2P MMOs. But if you think MMOs are still like that, it's five years out of date. Good paying MMOs went F2P and now F2P MMOs can't get away with being bad because there's too much competition out there, if it's bad no-one will pay for it.

Look at games in general, Team Fortress 2 went F2P. Why? Because it's crud and has no content? No the opposite of that, because its so good and has so much content that tons of people will continue playing it and will even pay for things in it, despite the fact the whole game is being offered for free


Mysteron Display Team
Jan 6, 2011
Greg Tito said:
... MMOs don't have to have one and only one model for the entire life of the game. A lot of people have never really thought about businesses as being one model now and another model later - but of course, this is what movies do," he said before providing examples. "You've got your house opening, then your DVD release, your airplane release, your VOD release, then the movie channels, then it's on CBS, ABC, Sky One, etc.
You've got an end quotation mark there Greg, but no opening quotation mark.
I wouldn't normally point it out, only it's hard to tell if that's your views or Hoffman's coming across there.

I'm surprised he doesn't consider Expansions or DLC as the MMO industry's attempt to break into that kind of extended longevity (maybe he does in the full interview) and it's also interesting that his comments center on early-game business strategy yet his film examples are 'endgame' attempts at longevity.

Turn this around and I guess we should encourage film companies to charge for more sneak-peek releases based on the success of Blizzard expansion packs.... Doesn't really make for a convincing link between mediums there.


New member
Sep 24, 2009
RT-Medic-with-shotgun said:
Lets not do aid betas. Look at games that went into "beta" and charged for it. THEY NEVER FUCKIN LEAVE THE BETA PHASE!
For the most part, I agree with what you say, but at the risk of getting off topic, I have to ask which games you're referring to here, because I can't think of any, but perhas I just missed some.

Anyway, back on topic, personally, I'd take the word of some guy who is basically Blizzard's Paypal with a grain of salt or twelve, how about we hear what people who are more than tangentially related to the games industry's opinions on the matter?


New member
Jan 11, 2010
This argument doesn't really make all that much sense, because some of these MMOs that have gone from subscription based access to F2P have been around for AGES. They're LOADED with content, but they suffer from dated game engines and general loss of interest because the game has lost its novelty. Ragnarok Online, for example, has been around just as long as World of Warcraft. It had a free beta, then became FTP, LOST content because of a major hacking incident and a mass exodus of employees working on the game, and then survived on subs for roughly 5 or 6 years. It even survived piracy numbers greatly eclipsing the paying playerbase! But with so many more MMOs available and a an ailing playerbase population, they chose to slowly switch over to an F2P/freemium model to remain competitive.

Even WoW's subscription numbers are slipping, because the game is damn old and it shows. The reality is that the subscription model doesn't work anymore for any games because the market for online games has exploded and generally the quality demanded from games is higher, for less money.


Elite Member
Nov 9, 2008
Sixcess said:
There are reasons EVE Online is still on a subscription model.
EVE is an interesting case, though. With the ability to buy PLEX and the addition of the in-game store, it's not so clear cut with them.


New member
Mar 14, 2011
I would like to say lack of Content is not what drove LOTRO to F2P, seeing as they released Rise Of Isengard not too long ago, and one of the major updates went live a few days ago.


New member
Mar 17, 2010
The thing that's driving all the F2P transitions is that it makes a ton of money and players put up with it, for now. It's not the model of the future, anymore than facebook social games are/were the future: these are rip-off fads and eventually consumers will reject them. It's only a matter of time, and I'm sure all publishers know this, so it only makes sense in their minds to milk the model while the milking is good and turn all their existing MMOs to F2P.

Soon what will happen is that consumer confidence in MMOs will fall through the floor, which will send the message that these bare-minimum WoW clones with cash shops aren't good enough anymore, at which point some developer will figure out the next big thing, so we can move onto 10 years of cloning that to death.


New member
Sep 10, 2009
the first MMO to do this will get a lot of flack
I believe the correct term is flak.

As for F2P vs subscription, I think you can get the best of both words. Lord of the Rings Online does this well. If you pay a subscription, which is the same price as before the F2P switch, you have access to all the features. If you don't, you can buy them one by one (but it's going to cost you a fortune, as the system is supposed to be à la carte). I like this because it means if I have a heavy LotRO play period, I'll subscribe. When I don't, I still have access to the game world but not the quests or instances I didn't buy.

It's also quite hard to compare MMOs because of the huge gap in terms of means between studios. Even before WoW became a cash-cow, Blizzard was wealthy and could invest a lot of resources. They came up with a pretty darn good release version, which deserved a monthly subscription.

Other studios are not so big, and they should probably start F2P, if only to incite people to at least give the game a try.