July 20, 2010

What is Wrong With $14.95?

For years I have played various games — everything from simple addictive “Popcap Games” to standard MMO fare. Before trying MMOs, I had always dismissed them as a waste of money, proclaiming that “I shall never play a game requiring a payment subscription.” Fastforward seven years into the future and I own 3 different accounts among two different games. What changed my mind about MMOs and the pay to play business model? Why would I spend most of my free time playing MMOs instead of other games? Let’s start off by asking is $14.95 a lot of money to play a game?  When I got to thinking about it more most people spend $50 or more on just their coffee at Starbucks let alone other things they throw their money at.  In all reality $14.95 is not that much money and if your bank is getting broken by $14.95 a month then you probably shouldn’t be playing an MMO let alone purchasing any other game for that matter.  The total cost per year on your average MMO 14.95 x 12 = $179.40  and most games give you discounts if you purchase bulk amounts of time. 

What do you get for your $14.95?  While not all MMO offer the same features you generally get free updates for the game that address bugs and other issues and in some cases add new content, more mature and dedicated community and a far more immersive game. 

Most games will provide you with a couple of patches after release but after that most support ends for the game.  With MMO’s you tend to get a constant stream of patches that address everything – gameplay balancing, features, bugs, user content, etc.  In addition to patches some MMO even provide you with expansions, while they are not always free, they do add more depth to the game and enhance the user experience.  EVE online provides its members up to two expansions a year that dramatically increase the user experience by adding, new ships, star systems, items and skills. WOW on the other hand provides free updates to its members but it does not provide free expansions, while it does provide its members with expansions it does require them to buy them at about $30.00 a pop. 

The communities within MMO are probably the greatest offering that MMO’s have.  Not only are the communities large and full of dedicated players that are there to help you with almost any questions you might have but the members of which tend to be far more mature than your average gamer that would find say on Xbox Live.  While it is possible to run into a younger and immature player whose life goal is to make your life miserable by yelling profanities in a high pitched voice the people you tend to find in “pay to play” games are older more mature players who actually want to play with other like minded players. 

MMO’s take immersion to an entirely new level by combining the need to have cohesive team work with an more mature community the game actually feels like a real world.  Games such as eve actually have played based economies, corporations and alliances so when something happens in the game world it actually feels like it affects you and the universe that you are playing in.   

I asked myself the question why is everyone afraid to “Pay to Play”?  Let’s start by saying “Pay to Play” is a deceptive term the way most people use it.  You “Pay to Play” almost any game out there.  Your average mainstream X360, PS3, WII or PC game will cost you on average a $50 – $60 admission ticket   It’s most likely not the fact that you have to pay $14.95 per month that scares people more so then the fact that they can’t play the game if they aren’t paying and the fact that they don’t own the game outright.  If you aren’t paying you can’t play it.  People don’t like paying for something that they can’t call theirs.  However it should be noted that now days, unless the game gets shut down, most companies keep your saved data and information even if you are not paying to play the game so that way if you want to come back and play you can pick back up where you started.   Many MMO’s now state that you down own the account and all of its contents.   

Having said all this why did I change my mindset of “Paying to Play”?  There are several reasons why I changed most of my gaming to MMO’s *EVE Online and Battleground Europe specifically*.  The first and foremost reason for me was that I bought at least two titles a month and these were new titles and I would play and beat them never touch them again.  The average game now days is less then 10 hours single player.  If you take $60 / 10 hours you get $6 per hour of playing time.  I might play through the game a second time so it would be $3 per hour of playing time to play through the game.  Whereas with eve I spend an average of 4 hours a night at $14.95 a month which is $14.95 / (4 hours a night  x 30 days a month) = .12 or 12 cents an hour of entertainment.  You can see that in my case the cost per hour of entertainment is far less.  The other reason I’ve switched the way I play games is the community that comes with MMO genre is near impossible to beat.   I still talk to the guys that I played with even after I quit the games years after the fact.   Why?  Because I actually got to know the guys and some gals that I played with.

Are MMO for everyone?  No.  Are MMO the way games should go?  Absolutely not.  But we don’t think people should dismiss a game just because of the monthly price tag as most people pay this and more with XBL fee’s and DLC alone per month.

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