Today Keen draws attention to a particularly interesting quote from Colin Johanson, Lead Content Developer for Guild Wars 2:
If the success of a subscription-based MMO is measured by the number of people paying a monthly fee, how does that impact game design decisions?
His analysis of Johanson’s comment explores the theme of ‘fun’ being used as a success criterion, questioning whether the F2P model is any better positioned to deliver such fun.
It is a recognized truth that games using the subscription model create motivation for the developer to introduce ‘grinds’ – content that takes time (not skill) to complete, necessitating the player to stay subscribed for longer to achieve their goals. However the free-to-play model is incentivized to do the same – grinds enable the developers to make a comfortable business from selling short-cuts such as experience points and faster travel.
Whilst designers such as Johnason can make their decisions based on player fun value, the businesses that pay their salaries are expecting the best possible revenue from their investment. The only reason for going F2P is that you will make more money than a subscription would.
Whether Johanson likes it or not, the success of GW2 will be measured by box sales and cash shop revenues. Everything else is just marketing fluff in order to gain future box sales and cash shop revenues.
Where Free-to-Play models CAN introduce more fun for MMO players is by taking away the chains to a specific game. Whilst subscribing, there is a need to ‘get your money’s worth’ which sometimes means playing a game you are tired of. F2P enables casual players to dabble in a wider range of titles with no sense of obligation besides community ties.
Few people have the money and interest to subscribe to 5+ different MMOs simultaneously, but if you are playing 5 F2P titles you can jump in to different games on different nights according to what content takes your interest and what your friends are doing.
Arenanet may be scared to share this as a benefit, as it suggests that GW2 is not worthy of all of a player’s interest, but personally I feel is the biggest strength of the system.
F2P DOES let me have more fun overall – provided I get to choose what I play and when.