Thursday, August 27, 2009

In lieu of a Champions Online review

As I feared, my reentry into the World of Warcraft resulted in me not spending enough time in the Champions Online beta, so I can't really write a review. I spent 3 or 4 hours only with the game, of which 2 hours and 22 minutes on my "main", who got up to level 7, adventuring in the crisis zone of Canada. Turns out that wasn't even the main world yet, just a second part of the tutorial, so I really didn't see all that much. I stand by my initial impression, that it feels very much like a console MMORPG (which it is supposed to become), that as long as you see it as that it is not a bad game, but that with the more arcade-like combat and MMORPG-lite features of a console MMORPG this isn't the game for me.

Fortunately some other people had more staying power. Bright Hub has a preview of Champions Online, which covers all the basics, and is very balanced. If you prefer the more personal blog style of game reviews, you can read one at the Church of Pangoria.

What is most confusing about Champions Online is it's business model. Not just the stories that they "ran out of" lifetime and 6-month subscriptions, and then "generously" created more of them. Not just the fact that Champions Online will have both a monthly fee, and a microtransaction shop. But the much bigger question of whether Champions Online will still have a monthly fee in the console version. Console games are generally more expensive than PC games, so it would be completely possible that the console version of Champions Online costs 20 bucks more than the PC version, but has no monthly fee, only the microtransactions. Which, in my opinion, would be a lot fairer, as it is really hard to argue that CO is "as much" game as a classic PC MMORPG for the same price. A "Guild Wars plus microtransactions" business model would suit the game a lot better than a monthly fee plus microtransactions model. I actually have problems believing that Champions Online can hold a large number of subscribers at $15 a month, while without a fee on a console the game would probably do quite well. But I can imagine the uproar of the PC players if the console version has no monthly fee, and the early buyers basically feel they got scammed. So either way it is going to be difficult.

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