Tomorrow will bring some form of big announcement for Blizzard’s (and the industry’s) flagship title, World of Warcraft. We’re most likely to get news of some new expansion loaded with lots of new and rehashed features, but rampant speculation points toward the possibility of some F2P announcement. I’m pretty sure that one is still many years away.
Blizzard has made a business of keeping WoW’s course steady as she goes. WoW has been about raiding since 2005. They could have changed that model to try and attract more people, but they don’t. There’s no need to change a sure thing, even if your numbers are only making you 100M a month. The cash flow is still fantastic, and WoW’s subscription numbers will skyrocket once again. Even if the numbers grow to HALF of what they were in Q1, that represents ENORMOUS growth. When your product bounces back that well in the next iteration, you don’t change. You wait until it stops bouncing back — at least Blizzard can afford to wait when it still generates that much cash. Change of this magnitude is far too radical to make simply for the sake of change.
The changes to the game itself to accommodate F2P would alter the very essence of WoW, and that itself would ignite a loss in players. Players, especially WoW players, do not want change. They don’t. Again, that’s why WoW has stayed the same game and simply become easier over the years. You have the same game providing the same experience, and doing everything it can to continue to provide that same experience with the least amount of friction possible.
Demon Hunters look neat, but the one class I’d be interested in playing if I returned to WoW is the Melee Hunter. Hunters have always been special to me. My first class in WoW was a Hunter. I was the first level 60 Hunter on my server, first with any set items, first with full hunter set items, and first with the Rhok’delar. I was all about the Hunter class! Throughout my tenure as a Hunter, I always wished for the ability to go Melee Spec (and be viable) like Rexxar.
When I saw the Eagle Spear artifact I was originally thinking Druids. When they said Hunter I was a bit shocked. A spear? for a Hunter? Could this be the return of Keen to the Hunter class?
If WoW ultimately brings me back, I might have that chance. Here are the confirmed roles for Hunters in WoW’s Legion Expansion:
Survival: Melee Spec (with pet)
Beast Mastery: Ranged spec (with pet)
Marksmanship: Ranged spec (no pet)
Thea idea of a hunter fighting alongside a pet is awesome to me. I’m a pet class fan. Most people play the pet class because it’s usually the solo friendly option. In EverQuest, I was a Necromancer as my main — the epitome of solo friendly. However, I grouped most of my time in-game. Why? I like being social, but at the same time I like having a companion. I like having my pet feel like an extension of my character. The more my class interacts with the pet, and synergizes with it, the more I enjoy playing.
Introducing a melee hunter as a legit way to play is quite a change. Hunters are known for their ranged DPS. I’m curious if Hunters will be given the same respect as melee characters and actually allowed to put out competitive DPS. I could actually see the spec being utility, though. Maybe buffs or… maybe become a tank class?
I hope that the hunter class with a pet offers more to a group. I’m a little skeptical since most of WoW has gone to way of pure DPS, pure Heals, or pure Tanking. There isn’t much left for strategic play or the need for support, but I still have hope for the class to be more than sending your pet in to attack and raptor striking non-stop.
I’d also love more of the game to revolve around the pets. Pets had really neat features and mechanics back in the early days of WoW. Catching a pet and finding the perfect one was a lot of fun. I hope the Hunter class hall has some neat activities centered around pets.
Anyone else as interested in a Melee Hunter? I fear asking the question might reveal I am once again interested in the most popular class/spec.Read More
According to the newest Elite: Dangerous newsletter (number 86), Frontier’s intentions for the PC/Mac beta of update 1.4 (CQC) are to get it out in the next couple of weeks.
That’s not yet finalised, but gives a reasonable idea of what type of window they’re aiming for.
Producer Michael Brookes suggests this beta will be handled a little different to prior releases. “We will focus on stability and major fixes rather than try to tweak everything in one go,” he writes. “This provides a path to a more stable 1.4 release”. The stated aim here is to avoid “the flurry of minor releases after a major release”.
Though the Close Quarter Combat (CQC) mode is the main event in 1.4, as with any major update there will be a number of other changes and fixes to the main Elite: Dangerous game.
These include non-specific “network optimisation” and fixing of certain connection issues, as well as the ability to switch off the shader cache check on start-up.
Game-wise, there’ll be a fix for fighters sometimes not spawning from an NPC capital ship, and some causes of “unnecessary NPC chatter” have been figured out. That’s in conjunction with a greater variation in overall NPC chatter, and the ability for NPCs to interdict other NPCs while in supercruise.
Brookes’ update ends with a warning about the upcoming Oculus SDK 0.7 release: “Players using Oculus Dev Kits should continue to use the 0.5. Oculus Runtime for Elite: Dangerous. Upgrading to the upcoming 0.7 release will not be compatible with our game”.
Reading between the lines of “without that SDK in hand, we cannot guarantee future compatibility”, it sounds as if Frontier haven’t yet been given the necessary access to 0.7 to make the game compatible at this point.
When you think of potential crossovers, the first thing that springs to mind is “I Am Bread” and “Team Fortress 2.” Happily, Bossa Studios agrees! Which is why there’s now a free I Am Bread update adding in a Team Fortress 2 themed level.
The level lets you climb around on Heavy’s face, give yourself tumours via teleportation, fire off a minigun, use explosive ordnance, and try to become a sandvich. Entirely free. And if some of that made no sense to you, you probably need to watch this first.
I Am Bread is also 50% off today, bringing it down to £4.99. You can see a trailer for the Team Fortress 2 update below.
Two notable MMORPGs launched in 2014 with subscription models: Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) and WildStar. Four months ago, Bethesda Softworks announced that ESO was going B2P (buy-to-play). Today, Carbine announced that WildStar is going F2P (free-to-play).
For whatever reason, game developers have been painfully slow on the uptake that gamers do not like subscription MMORPGs. The only sub-based MMORPG that has been able to maintain a meaningful playerbase is World of Warcraft (WoW).
WoW is in the unique position of having a huge amount of polished content and a huge community, which are barriers to exit for existing players. That is, players have invested so much into WoW and their characters / guilds / community that they stick around, even though that requires a subscription. As I’ve said previously, even Blizzard would struggle to replicate the success of WoW in a new subscription-based MMO, and Blizzard has pursued non-subscription models for their recent new releases.
Customer expectations have shifted. Gone are the days where subscriptions were the norm, and the question for gamers wasn’t whether they had to pay, but rather which MMOs they wanted to play and therefore had to pay for via a subscription. In today’s environment, a subscription fee is a monthly reminder to a paying customer to question where the product is providing sufficient value. Moreover, the perception that F2P games are inferior quality has diminished over time. This isn’t to say that there aren’t poor F2P implementations out there – there most certainly are – but over time developers are figuring out F2P systems that work for non-paying and paying customers.
The online gaming community has the reputation of being fickle, and gamers will not continue to pay a subscription if they perceive any or multiple of the following to be true:
The game is not meeting their (pre-launch) expectations
The game is buggy / not polished
There isn’t a critical mass of their friends or other players in the game – the world feels lonely. This was the reason I unsubbed from WildStar
There’s a shiny new game coming out soon
They’ve already experienced the content and are bored
About that last point, subscription-based MMORPGs have an inherent flaw in the business model: the cost and time it takes to produce new content are always going to be meaningfully higher than the amount of time it takes for players to consume this content, and gamers have the expectation that they’ll receive a steady stream of new content with their subscription. Developers have contributed to setting this expectation, e.g. here is what WildStar’s Executive Produer Jeremy Gaffney said (bold emphasis mine):
“There’s two major options to play,” he said. “One is super simple: buy a box, and pay a subscription. There’s a class of player that likes that, because they know how much they’re paying, they know the playing field is level, and they can expect big updates. That’s the joy of the subscription model.”
On top of this, Gaffney set the expectation that the cadence of patches would be monthly. Later, Carbine shifted to a quarterly schedule.
Simply put, pushing out polished new content on a regular cadence is very challenging. Therefore for years I’ve stated that developers need to develop highly-engaging replayable content – players don’t necessarily need a big world, but they need a world that’s fun to play in, even if it’s small. Think about MOBAs – players play in the same maps / scenarios over and over, and the content is simply the champions or heroes that they can choose to play. Or think about Minecraft, where the developer created the context but the players shape and define the world. Another good example of replayable content is WvW in GW2. Many gamers would love to have a huge, dynamic world to play in – I would too! – but the economic reality is that isn’t sustainable for developers.
The other flaw with subscription-based games, which Mike Donatelli acknowledged to PC Gamer, is that it creates a significant barrier to entry. I do believe that B2P (buy-to-play) games are a nice balance for the developer and the gamer to help the developer recoup their pre-launch investment, but B2P games are only viable for well-established IPs such as Guild Wars or Elder Scrolls. So for any new IP (e.g. WildStar), there really isn’t any model to consider aside from F2P. The question then becomes how to implement a F2P system that creates a sticky, non-onerous experience for non-paying customers but incents players to spend real money. Wargaming has done a tremendous job with their F2P system in World of Tanks (WoT), and WoT has one of the highest ARPU for F2P games.
Hopefully 2015 is the last year that we’ll hear of new MMOs with subscription models, which is still 4 years too late.
EDIT #1 (2015/05/28): some folks are pointing out that FFXIV is subscription-based. Yes, that is true, but remember, Final Fantasy is an IP that is almost 3 decades old. You can charge a sub when you have a very established IP because you have an existing large fan base. IMO a new game without a well-established IP will flop if it launches with a subscription model.
EDIT #2 (2015/05/29): so y’all understand, I am 100% fine with paying a subscription. Happy to do so. The problem is, a lot of people aren’t, and when those people leave in sufficient numbers, the game world feels empty, and that inevitably impacts me.
The thing I really care about is that games succeed, because that will drive further investment into new games, which means more choices for us as consumers/gamers. The reality is that subscriptions don’t work in today’s market for the majority of cases. I’m not anti-sub, but I am most definitely anti-game-fail, and my fear starting back in 2010 is that investment will shift from richly-complex PC games to superficial tablet and mobile games the more that PC-based MMOs flop. Over 3 years ago I wrote that business models for MMORPGs must evolve. The industry has been slow to realize this.Read More
The first downloadable MMORPG from Gamebox, Inferno Legend has accumulated attention worldwide, not only because of its delicate graphics, true-to-life game world, but more importantly thanks to its unprecedented anti-traditional storyline.
Players are the “devil” and fight alongside Diablo, Mephisto and More against the hypocritical Angels and Human’s invasion into the Hell. There are numerous servant-monsters to choose, strong skills to learn, multiple pets to own, you can form your demon legion and restore order in the chaotic world! Inferno Legend supports micro-client, web browser and mobile devices with data sync simultaneously, enabling you to enjoy it anytime anywhere.Read More