Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Strange new business model

Via Syp I found Stylish Corpse's blog entry on the new EQ2 Pass, a new business model from SOE. It allows existing players who have cancelled their subscription to jump back into the game for 3 consecutive days for $5. The ad suggests this would be great for "game update events, bonus xp weekends, multiboxing, special promotions, and Station Cash sales". Me, I'm rather doubtful whether this is a good idea, and whether it will have many takers.

One problem is the complexity of MMORPGs. I had the experience several times where I came back to a game I previously played and had left for some time, and that invariably ends with me feeling a bit lost. Meanwhile you got used to the control scheme of whatever game you were playing in your break, you forgot where the quest giver was who gave you that quest a year ago, and you don't necessarily remember what you wanted with all those strange items in your backpack. And of course the people who stayed have moved on too, and the game developed with patches and expansion while you were gone. Imagine you logged out in Shattrath two years ago, which was fully crowded then, and you log back in today and find yourself alone there, with your talent build reset, and lots of other game changes you aren't aware of. Playing a game after a long break for just three days will is barely enough to get you reaquainted and up to date with the game.

The other problem is the fundamental motivation why people play MMORPGs. I would say that in most cases the motivation for playing a MMORPG is relatively long term. Character development is the cornerstone of MMORPG gameplay. Another important motivational factor is social interaction, with the online friends you made. Logging back into a game for three days isn't going to do much for your character development, and depending on the length of your absence your friends might or might not be there any more. I once found myself guildkicked after a 7-months break from WoW, and in another case when I looked back into LotRO I was presented with a rather funny button asking me whether I wanted to "usurp" the guild leadership, as the guild leader and all the other members hadn't been online for months either.

In summary, I could imagine somebody wanting to play a single-player game, anything from Tetris to Call of Duty, once in a while for a three-day gaming binge. But MMORPGs don't really lend themselves to that sort of short burst playing periods. And if its just to see the game again, you could save yourself $5 and just sign up for a 10-day or 14-day free trial that most subscription MMORPGs offer nowadays.

What do you think? Is there any game you left where you would like to pay $5 to play for a weekend, gain a level, and then not touch the game again for several months until the next short 3-day gaming session?

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