Champions: What’s $200 To You?

lifetime_6mo_adspotA lot of people most likely aren’t sold on Champions Online right now, and I can’t blame them — after all, no game pre-launch can give you 100% assurance that what you expect will be.  So many folks are going to wait and see, perhaps by wheedling into the beta, perhaps by jumping on board for the first month and going from there.

Cryptic is going to make this “wait-and-see” approach more difficult, as they just announced two long-term pricing plans that are designed to test the waters of true fandom.

The first is a six-month subscription plan for $60 — effectively lowering the monthly price of the game to $10/month.  Not too shabby, especially considering that (unless the game tanks), many dedicated MMOers tend to stick with a new game for about that time period anyway.  The six-month plan also comes with an “art deco” costume set, and guaranteed access into the Star Trek Online closed beta “beginning later this year”.

The second is the fabled lifetime subscription plan — a whopping $200, right there on the table, take it or leave it.  Now, as I’ve said before, lifetime subscription plans have really picked up in appeal to me.  While I’m glad I never took up Hellgate London’s lifetime offer (and I bet those suckers who did regret it whole-heartedly), I do wish that I was smart enough to get on board with LOTRO’s $199 lifetime plan before it shot up to $299.  I think I would’ve gotten my money’s worth with that.

Anyway, the lifetime sub has a lot going for it:

  • Access to the Star Trek Online Closed Beta, beginning later this year!
  • Exclusive Art Deco costume set
  • Exclusive Retro Future costume set, available only to lifetime subscribers
  • Unique Mirror Universe outfit for Star Trek Online, available at the game’s release
  • Exclusive in-game Foxbat action figure, available only to lifetime subscribers
  • Eight additional character slots!

From all of this, we’re able to deduce a few things:

  1. Cryptic is leveraging its multi-MMO studio status to full effect, before the first (of three) is even out the door.  The synergy between Champions and Star Trek’s marketing is strong, and if Cryptic can sell the lifetime sub to a player, then why not start working on getting them interesting in Star Trek for more money?
  2. Studios that offer lifetime subs do make me a bit wary, in that I’m not sure if their doing so represents a, shall we say, lack of confidence in their product.  As though they crunched some numbers, and figured that on average, it’s better to sell a $200 sub than hope that you can get a player hooked long enough to end up spending more than $200 in monthly fees.
  3. You can get a taste of Cryptic’s much-ballyhooed (and possibly controversial) microtransaction scheme in these details.  Along with the pre-order bonuses, Cryptic’s sure throwing around a lot of costume pieces, game options and even temporary powers that won’t come “standard” in the launch product.  Players who have the obsessive-collection mentality (“gotta have it all!”) will find these little pieces of flair more tempting than perhaps even the lifetime sub.
  4. Star Trek Online’s closed beta is going to launch this fall, at some point, and that unleashes a whole can of question-worms.

I have a lot more queries for Cryptic than this meager page provides.  For example, will I be able to buy into this plan a month after it launches — that is, let me have the standard “free” month that comes with the retail box and see if I like it enough to get this plan, or if I have to make up my mind before that point.  And if I can wait a month after, how long exactly will this offer stay on the table?

Update: Cryptic just posted this on Twitter: “As it currently stands, Champions Online lifetime and six-month subscription deals are only available until Sept. 1st.” Er… really?  Before the game launches?

23 thoughts on “Champions: What’s $200 To You?

  1. Zubon August 3, 2009 / 8:25 pm

    This makes me significantly more likely to play Champions Online. I would have done well to have had such a lifetime subscription for City of Heroes, and only around expansion time does Lord of the Rings Online™ give me second thoughts about that lifetime. If the $200 includes the download, no box cost, then that works out to 10 months of subscription fees to get lifetime access.

    I do not know if that brings me up to “likely.” I must poke around the beta more. Changing the default graphics settings made it a lot more tolerable the last time I tried it.

  2. Buhallin August 3, 2009 / 11:04 pm

    I think I find the level to which Cryptic is cross-leveraging their MMOs rather disturbing. If I happen to have a cool concept for a retro future hero, why should I be prevented from doing that unless I shell our $200 for a lifetime sub to a sight unseen game? While I understand them going the microtransaction route, the level to which they’re already pulling out is disturbing. Character customization is the biggest feature of CoH, and now Champions. Having microtrans’ed costume slots in CO(X) is the equivalent of offering purchase powers for other games.

    I also feel a little queasy at the offer for STO… Presumably, you can actually wear the Mirror, Mirror universe uniform. Why, exactly, will people be running around in those uniforms? How many other uniform customizations will there be, and what sort of justification will they have for it? They’re already getting rather “creative” in forcing Trek into MMO conventions – “modular customizable ships”? Really? It’s probably just the purist in me, but how much Trek will be left by the time Cryptic gets done MMO’izing it? Sony proved with Galaxies that it was possible to take a large property and make a game which had all the appearance but none of the soul, and it looks like Cryptic is on the same track.

  3. Rog August 3, 2009 / 11:28 pm

    I kinda have the opposite take with #1. If a publisher / developer offers a lifetime subscription, that sounds like confidence to me that they have a game worth sticking around for. The fail mentality scenario just doesn’t seem as likely to me. Sure, I think most corporations will go for a money grab, but if they lack confidence, this would be a money grab at not just the expense of one game, it would destroy that customer’s support for anything associated with their brandname.

    In other words there’s a risk involved in offers like this one and that takes confidence. I guess the question is whether the confidence is real or delusional, heh.

    For Champions Online, the lifetime subscription offer makes me feel even better about Cryptic, although I do wish it were available after release (but that’s the nature of the promotion I guess, even if I disagree with its marketing value).

  4. Sven August 3, 2009 / 11:54 pm

    I’m really tempted to do this. But I’ll wait a while, still have a month to hear how terrible the game may end up being.

    I’m not sure this represents a lack of faith in their product, though. Partially I think it’s a strategy to deal with just how fickle MMO gamers have become. This is going to lock in a small but dedicated base of players who love the game. They are constantly going to be logging in to play and will probably by constantly bugging their friends to sign up to play. Every MMO needs its enthusiasts. Enthusiasts bring other people to the game.

    The other part being the quicker they get their money, the quicker they can get their product into “the black”, the better it will look to investors or any shareholders they may have. Which is important if we’re going to see a decent expansion any time soon.

    What this mainly says to me is that their Pre-order numbers where well above what they anticipated. The carrot of Exclusive items must have really done well for them.

    It’s unfortunate in that this probably means that we’ll see more of this type of thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do this for every expansion.

    When you take all of the costumes and costume pieces they held back for the various pre-order bundles and lifetime subscription they seem to have been holding back quite a bit. I wonder how much more they have.

  5. thade August 4, 2009 / 12:08 am

    So there are two possible outcomes here that conflict (disregarding the two obvious ones of the mega happy ending and the I just don’t play at all ending)…
    1. I spend $200 for a “lifetime subscription”, play for a month or two, discover the game doesn’t have the power to hold me or just play sucks, and I’m out $200 big ones.
    2. I spend the standard $15ish/mo. and play as normal, then in N months when I read the point that $200 would have gotten me there, I think “Gee, too bad I didn’t spend that $200.”

    Honestly, I’d rather go with the latter as an outcome…because the worst case there is that my $ is going into improving the game, more or less an investment where the payout is fun-time. And I never minded it before…why would I now? =)

    $200 is too big a risk for me up front, but it’s okay by me if the game holds me for long enough to earn that out of me the old-fashioned way.

  6. Longasc August 4, 2009 / 5:40 am

    Betting 200 bucks on unlaid eggs is priceless. I see it as one more trick to extract the most money out of customers.

    Like pay to play betas (Mortal Online), digital collector editions (Aion), the industry has developed more creative ways to get our money over time.

    After all, who knows if you are going to like the game longer than a few months? Nobody can say this for sure in the case of a MMO that often changes a lot over time. This gamble is hugely in favor of the bank.

  7. Pete S August 4, 2009 / 7:11 am

    I’ve been nothing but pleased with my LOTRO Lifetime sub. But I’d had a solid taste of beta before I had to make the decision to buy or not buy it and new there was something in that game for me.

    Sight-unseen, I don’t think I’d risk it for CO. If I get into the beta and really find it enjoyable that I’d consider going Lifetime.

    There’s more than cost/day here. There’s a psychological change when you know you’re not paying per hour to play. But I’d have to ponder how to put that into words and I’m already running late for work. 🙂

  8. Andrew August 4, 2009 / 7:43 am

    I don’t think I’d ever go for a lifetime subscription play for the same reasons that thade articulates.

    I’m floored that they’d revoke the pricing deals on September 1st though – that just reeks of a scam. Anyone who buys a lifetime subscription to a game not yet out of closed beta may as well just be stuffing endless quarters into a slot machine… but without the free booze.

  9. Lew Pew August 4, 2009 / 7:49 am

    If I were a trekkie and I planned on playing Champions Online at release, I’d go with the 6 month deal. $60 for 6 months (as opposed to 4 months) with a closed beta to Star Trek is a great deal! Even if the game fails, it will be around for at least 6 months as extra funds towards their Star Trek game. Don’t get me wrong, $200 is a great deal if you know you will to play the game for at least a year and 4 months… but how many MMOs are good enough to hold us that long?

    Hellgate London is my main reason for not doing this. They sold lifetime subscriptions before release and tried to get money where they didn’t really deserve it (extra storage space, character slots, etc. v.s. extra costumes – all of this should be free!). The game flopped on its back crying in failure on the day it hit stores. Fortunately I saw this one coming from the open beta… it failed so quickly! It’s funny to me how Hellgate did this with Bill Roper representing them… then he starts work with Cryptic and offers the same thing. This game has a better chance than Hellgate ever did though.

    LOTRO did something like this and stood by their game, but people don’t seem to stick it out with that game for too long in general. My other problem with the Lifetime subscription is Funcom’s attitude with Age of Conan. Funcom simply hyped up their game so much to sell mass quantities up front… get a couple months of subscribers and start making their next MMO and expansion pack. The players are complaining about balance, bugs, technical issues, etc. like crazy.. and they’re off developing new games instead. Hopefully Cryptic doesn’t have this *we’ll make it and drop it* attitude. Also Tabula Rasa’s failure was disappointing.

  10. Buhallin August 4, 2009 / 8:33 am

    One other thought on the lifetime subs: If these become bigger and more popular, what does that do to the long-term support for the game?

    Let’s get really crazy and assume that HALF of the players go for this (really, really high I know, but let’s look down the road). That means that they’re going to get a TON of frontloaded money, but two years from now those players aren’t going to provide any profit at all. Quite the opposite, really – assuming they’re still playing they’re a drain on resources, but provide no income. From a money flow point of view, the game has only half as many subscribers.

    What does that do to support and expansion efforts? One of the reasons CoH has done so well, IMHO, is the ongoing free additions with the Issues. With fewer effective subs to support that, what happens?

    Maybe they’re expecting to make that back up with microtransactions, which is disturbing in its own right… I wonder how many of CoH’s free additions over the years are something I’d have to pay for with Cryptic’s new model?

  11. lukane09 August 4, 2009 / 8:37 am

    If Cryptic had any confidence in their product, they would offer lifetime subscriptions all the time. As in, you play for a couple months, know you are hooked and dish out $200 betting that over 13 months from now, you are still going to be playing.

    It’s pretty nifty that as soon as you buy a lifetime sub, they try to hook you on another game (Star Trek). I’m actually insulted a little that they think we, the average player, are that dumb, or rich.

    I’m planning on getting REALLY into this game and looking forward to some of the new systems they have. I hope this is not a sign of things to come as they slowly try to elbow out us $15 a month players. I have an aversion to paying real money for virtual items.

    In that case, bring on the SWTOR.

  12. Andrew August 4, 2009 / 9:18 am

    @Lew Pew:

    “I’d go with the 6 month deal. $60 for 6 months (as opposed to 4 months) with a closed beta to Star Trek is a great deal! ”

    Paying to beta test a game is NEVER a “great deal”. Testing is a valuable service, and if anything we should be paid for doing it. (The last game I beta tested gave away $10 Amazon certificates for players – a far cry from foisting a lifetime subscription on players for the “pleasure” of helping them make a solid product.)

  13. Ravious August 4, 2009 / 9:25 am

    Lifetime subscription offer for the first live month = win. Lifetime subscription offer only prior to live = smells-like-a-scam.

    I don’t agree that any MMO dev offering a lifetime sub is confident in their game. What if CO sucks? What if there is no end game? What if the server is massively buggy? Etc. I know I would’ve bought a lifetime sub to WAR, and that would’ve been $200 of lose.

    The most confident MMO dev would get people to buy a box, play the game for their free month, and then want to buy a lifetime subscription.

  14. Stabs August 4, 2009 / 12:05 pm

    I’m absolutely astonished that they’re promoting Champions Online with access to Star Trek Online. If you think you will want to play Star Trek a couple of months after starting Champions then you’re paying a lifetime sub to a game you think you will be already a bit bored of 2 months in.

    Only game I would bet a lifetime sub on at this point would be SWTOR.

    Only past games I would have bet on would have been WoW (which I played for 4 years) and AoC (which I played for 3 months).

  15. arbitrary August 4, 2009 / 2:15 pm

    I have the LotRO lifetime sub and never regretted it for a moment, but I’d played the beta. Champions Online can bugger off if they think I’ll be paying a bunch for a game I’ve not seen (seriously, we don’t even have EU pricing, so it might not even count for us anyway).

  16. We Fly Spitfires August 6, 2009 / 9:52 pm

    I’ve been offered a discounted lifetime subscription to LotRO which I’m mulling over. I was also offered a lifetime sub to CO but I’m not going to for it. It’s a lot of money to pay for something I’ve never played before.

  17. Benjamin Solheim August 27, 2009 / 4:12 pm

    One thing people are missing is 200 x say 10,000 users is 2 million dollars now suppose they have enough money to make it six months on what they have in the bank right now. That means they can invest 2 million for six months. That is more money than if they just collected the extra 5 dollars from 10,000 users over six months 50,000 x 6 = 300,000.

    So selling lifetime subs is never a bad idea or one that loses money provided that the money is leveraged. Even if it is just to cover development costs that means money that does not have strings tied to it.

  18. Cantankrus September 8, 2009 / 8:00 am

    Well I went ahead and rolled the dice on the “lifetime” deal for Champions. Which to me seemed like a great idea. For some it might be, but buyer be warned….. If you are on a satalite internet system don’t bother even buying the game for the free 30 days. I managed to connect one time with satalite then nothing. After waking a person up at tech support they told me that my internet connection wasn’t fast enough, but thanks for shelling out the cash. It is going to be a cool game no doubt. But check your system before commiting. Oh and LIFETIME SUBSCRIPITION FOR SALE……still has that NEW GAME SMELL…..HARDLY USED…..

    Happy Gaming…..

  19. Raccoon September 13, 2009 / 2:40 am

    Everyone seems pretty iffy on the microtransactions bit of the CO experience, but they are either forgetting or don’t know about CoH where they would sell small packs of costume pieces, maybe a power, for $10. And people would leap on it. I doubt it’s going to be any different in this case, especially if they start offering up deluxe, spiffy-looking costume pieces that are only available through the Cryptic Store.

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