Thursday, August 30, 2012

Turning Lies into Marketing

By now, I think we're all familiar with the pattern: A game launches with a subscription, they don't get the numbers they want, and then they go free to play. Sometimes the company is quiet about it until its second launch, othertimes they try to be coy and fail miserably. As I mentioned in the last post of the Worst Case Scenario series, the F2P revolution always comes on the heels of the subscription model failing.

I titled this post "Turning Lies into Marketing" because I felt that companies always lie about going F2P, due to the stigma it attaches to their game. From what I understand, Secret World is an exception to this as Funcom is not shy about saying they might do it, but for the most part companies are ashamed of it. I say, why lie to your playerbase? Instead, make that transition a feature of your game.

Here's how it works: Take a 3-6 month period after the initial launch  and before you go free to play and call that the "Subscription Head Start". This will act much like a normal MMORPG launch. There is a box to buy and you pay a sub, except unlike normal MMORPG's you launch with a cash shop. The box is not necessary to play the game, but the subscription is, meaning that you can pay 15 bucks and get in for a month without the box. The box merely provides a free month, some cash shop currency, and something along the lines of a Founder's Pack which provides unique items you can't get anywhere else. A mount, a title, a cosmetic item, or whatever they like.

Keep the game running as sub only for however many predetermined months you like. It is important that this length of time is announced beforehand, as otherwise people will feel cheated. This time is known as the "Pre-Launch Subscription Head Start". People pay a sub to get a start on the game before anyone else. Then you have the true launch of the game, which is F2P. When that happens, you switch the model over to a tiered system, where the subscription members can keep paying to get a better experience than the F2P players, who have to pay to unlock things.

This system is transparent, easy to understand, and does not lie about the game's future as a F2P title. In fact, it banks on that as a feature and uses it to sell a head start to players. It's not a subscription game, you merely need to pay one to get ahead of everyone else.

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