Should Cryptic Consider A F2P Model?

This has nothing to do with the article; I just thought it was awesome, if you are into Arrested Development as I am

Reading through blogs, forums and comments on posts, I feel as though we’ve crossed some critical threshold where the vocal public is not willing to give Cryptic a chance about anything, ever again.  I might be a critic of some of their actions and agree that changes need to be made to both Champions and STO, but I still see a lot of good in those games, and in the people at the company.  It’s unfortunate that some people seem bound and determined to never give them another chance, but instead will spend the rest of their days loudly denouncing the company — which is not what we call “constructive” criticism.  It’s called being a “blowhard”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Cryptic’s approach to both MMOs and their business model.  I really don’t think either Champions nor STO are bad games.  They might have some glaring flaws and very little depth to them, but they are quite fun when the action gets fierce and the starships get explodey.  Some of my friends who have stuck with Champions speak to how the game’s really improved since launch, but you can barely hear those testimonies over the folks who hated it in the first month, quit, and refused to shut up about it ever since.

I think that Cryptic’s maneuvered themselves into an undesirable position by having games that are not worth a $15/month subscription but asking for it anyway, then topping it with microtransaction fees that — right or wrong — give players the feeling of being squeezed for money.

Compare this to how people were really down on DDO a year or two back, but now the game’s getting rave reviews and a huge following.  Why?  Did the core game itself change?  No, not really.  The change is that the business model adjusted to something more in line with what the public thought the game was worth to them, and as a result, it didn’t feel like a ripoff (even if they were spending more money per month through the DDO store) — it felt like a bargain.  And it freed people to enjoy the game in a way they previously could not.

So, my dear readers, the question I lay before you is this: would Cryptic reverse their trend of bad PR if they simply eschewed the subscription-and-RMT model and became purely RMT-supported?  They already have the structure in place to sell content in the game via the C-Store, so this would just be enlarging it greatly.  Would you be more willing to play STO and complain about it less if you could do it for free, but you’d only get one model of each starship per tier and would have to pay for the other ones?

I ask this because I totally would go for that and pick STO right back up if that was the case.  Business-wise, I don’t know if it would net them more or less money in the long run, but I can’t help but think they’d unload a lot of negative baggage by taking themselves out of the running for a legitimate $15/month big hitter and putting themselves into another category, such as F2P or even a reduced monthly subscription.

19 thoughts on “Should Cryptic Consider A F2P Model?

  1. ran93r March 16, 2010 / 7:10 am

    I think some of the F2P models are attractive, I never quite got around to trying out DDO again after being a subscriber but that’s down to me having spent enough time there already that I didn’t much care to go back. I would totally be all over WAR if they ever switched to F2P as that’s one game I loved but simply didn’t have the resources to maintain.

  2. Ryan March 16, 2010 / 7:12 am

    Arrested development for the win!… that is all.

    Move along… Move along.

  3. Canazza March 16, 2010 / 7:27 am

    I liked CO, I liked STO. I like the idea that both are getting an end-game of sorts.
    I just wish CO had done it before my 6-month sub ran out. My beef with Cryptic has little to do with their Payment model, more their lack of content.
    I’m still willing to give STO a chance when Season 1 is released. I’ll probably fork out another month then just to try it out. If it’s any good then I’m sure they’ll be able to keep their current payment system, for STO atleast.
    A F2P model for CO might work better. Costume pieces, symbols, power replacers, perhaps even whole new power sets for RMT might work in a totally Free-to-play model. My only beef is if they start charging for every content update, and every new zone (I don’t mind the odd pay-for instance here and there though). That turns the whole game into a 3 week levelling game with money to pay to actually participtate in what make MMO’s last, the end game, which would be shooting themselves in the foot.

  4. TK March 16, 2010 / 7:29 am

    By offering a lifetime subscription, Cryptic has set a date before it could possibly consider being a F2P title. If the game switched to F2P before the time at which a montly sub would have spent as much as a lifetime sub, I could see a huge backlash from the “lifers.” I am not sure if there would be an legal standing for a lawsuit, but it would just make for more bad PR.
    A huge credit in the C-Store is not a valid alternative either.

  5. Renquin March 16, 2010 / 7:44 am

    Ello there Syp,

    I’ve been a reader for a while now, but havn’t given a comment yet.
    But this post is just to good an opportunity to let pass by.

    Anyway’s I agree with you completely on the F2P model with more stuff in the store.
    But what I’m afraid of, and will probably happen, is that Cryptic will keep charging $15/month (or €14 over here), and will put more stuff in the store that they should put up for free.

    The latest patch notes, for the 45th day patch thingy, were already talking about putting new ship models into the store.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for new content, but this is just feeling like I’m being sucked dry money wise. Same with the respec thingy, it’ll be ingame, but also in the store. Which will undoubtably result in it being way overprised ingame, and so will force us to purchase it.

    I don’t hate Cryptic, as most of these things probably originate from Atari anyway’s, but it’s getting hard to stay in love with the game. I havn’t played it in a while tbh, cause I need to respec badly…

  6. Lukane March 16, 2010 / 8:36 am

    I guess I am one of the blowhards. For both CO and STO, I played past the first month, defended them on the forums, and really really wanted to stay with their games.

    I’m not sure what it was – maybe the respec issues, giving away content they were charging for a couple weeks earlier, the extremely horribly bad customer communication, or the PR heavy “everything is fine, we are always improving, if you don’t like it, then you are the one with the problem” interviews from Roper, but I just couldn’t take it any more.

    I don’t believe in them anymore and I think they are trying to call a turd a turkey sandwhich and then charge us for a bacon wrapped filet.

  7. Longasc March 16, 2010 / 8:58 am

    The question is what would they sell in STO so that they get some money? Can’t think of anything that would not be about as dumb as Allods perfumes.

    F2P always needs incentives that people actually spend money, otherwise people play *really* for free and this is not in the interest of the company.
    The game also has to be created with the model in mind – and it was really lucky for Turbine that DDO’s core design basically *cried* for that model. It does not work as well for every game that goes F2P, mostly this means the game sucked and is about to be salvaged.

    They could try a Guild Wars model. Yup.
    Pay to play Klingons. Pay to play Romulans.
    They would basically be selling mission story arcs and races.
    But they would definitely have to offer more content.

    It is not impossible. Guild Wars is very successful, and everyone has a lifetime membership. Woot. 🙂

    I think they should really have someone think about the business model. I like the space combat, but I don’t see many more of the people that started playing with me. There are new faces, but the game apparently has no lasting appeal.

    So yeah, they have to think about their business model. 15 bucks is going to scare people away if they only want to shoot some spaceships now and then.

  8. silvertemplar March 16, 2010 / 9:04 am

    Yep i must admit, both Champs and STO would be great “$50 once off box price” games. I would return to Champions for the odd weekend, or off-day play session if i could and enjoy it instead of mumbling and grumbling about Cryptic and shallow-short-term games.

    But paying $15 sub to a game which have (imho) similar replay (timewise) value as Dragon Age or Mass Effect 2 or even MW2/BC2 is just not on.

    The problem with a subscription game is also, it kinda “force” you to play it -all the time- , as in every night , not every weekend or every 2nd week but EVERY DAY. Why? Because you are paying for every day you don’t play anyway.

    So what happens? You totally rush through the game in 3 weeks, and then wonder why you should pay more for it.

    If it was like GuildWars , i’d prolly be playing Champions or STO at a LEISURELY PACE , not worrying about “running out of content” and then spitting fire until the next content update (which they again try to ask money for).

    Now DDO does not even have a box-price, it is -totally- free. I’m actually still willing to pay Cryptic for the BOX , but not willing to pay for the SUB.

  9. Feljin March 16, 2010 / 9:59 am

    Syp, are you aware of a good review of the real business economics of running an MMO?

    I’m really quite curious what the profitability looks like in this space. We can kind of guess at revenue, but I’m curious about the costs and what is expected when it comes to profitability.

    With STO and CO, I fully agree that these aren’t $15 a month games. They don’t have the depth or adhesiveness to warrant shelling that out month after month.

    At the same time, I’m not sure the microtransaction approach will work for the same reasons others said: is there enough gadgets, gizmos, and costumes to make me pay?

    HOnestly, I think Cryptic should offer a combo-subscription that lets you get both games for $9.99. I’d be down with that.

  10. toxic March 16, 2010 / 10:01 am

    The lifers still have a lifetime ability to play the game. It’s just that everyone else does to. I don’t see them having a real claim here. It’s precisely equivalent to someone who buys something at a store a few weeks before it goes on sale. You don’t get to sue the store, and if the store is kind enough to give a refund down to the sales prices, that’s wise customer service, but it’s not required.

    Anybody who bought a life time sub for Champions should have know that there was a high probability that was not a wise investment. I’d rather have put $200 bucks into Ugandian government junk bonds.

  11. Sarzan March 16, 2010 / 10:16 am

    As a lifer, I would like to see what they are going to do for us if they make it F2P. It better be bloody huge or refund my lifer fee. Should the change stiff lifers, Cryptic can say good bye to me ever playing one of their paying games again for fear of deja vu all over again…

  12. lonomonkey March 16, 2010 / 10:22 am

    You summed it up pretty well for me.

    If those games were F2P I would probably be enjoying more STO. The thing is I see a game that is not worth the price asked.

    Sadly I do believe Cryptic wants to squeeze the most money out of a game before moving on. Their actions speaks very loudly in the case, especially when they wanted to ask players to pay for zones on top of the monthly subscription fee in CO.

    I don’t think not wanting to buy in their double diping system makes me a blowhard.

  13. Buhallin March 16, 2010 / 11:37 am

    I don’t think your comparison of attitudes towards Champions/STO to DDO really holds, Syp. When DDO went free to play, I don’t think the attitude was “rabid hatred” it was more “apathy”. It had been out for a few years, and people had trickled away from it, but I don’t recall seeing many people trashing it – they just weren’t talking about it at all.

    Cryptic, on the other hand, seems to be facing a huge PR debt at the moment. Champions managed to be the failed sequel to CoH. STO took an incredibly popular IP and sucked all the life out of it, disappointing hordes of fans. Changing the business model won’t really fix that. While I know you’re in the “It’s a decent game, just not worth $15/month” boat, most of the people hating on Cryptic right now aren’t. You don’t get flamey over a game that you think is just overcharging a bit.

    Changing the subscription model may be what they have to do to attract new people going forward, but it’s certainly not going to placate anyone.

  14. ScytheNoire March 16, 2010 / 12:43 pm

    Cryptic has made their greedy little bed, and now they have to sleep in it. They triple dipped (box, subscription, RMT) into customers wallets for subpar games and I hope they pay the price for it, and allow it to be a valuable lesson for others who want to treat customers so poorly and like walking wallets. Not only did they triple dip, but they even offered the life-time subscriptions in fake limited quantities.

    Overall, Cryptic has done everything wrong, and I will never be a customer of theirs. They’ll be out of business within a year.

  15. Utakata March 16, 2010 / 1:33 pm

    I’m not sure going to a full F2P model with a company that’s known for it’s money grubbing tactics is the best solution here. It’s bad enough they’re double dipping now with their curent model. With F2P you might just see Allods reduce.

    If they where to do something similar to DDO then I might take a look at them. But currently it’s not I hate them, it’s I simply I don’t trust them with any business model outside of a pure Sub or Guild Wars.

    I will also add, any F2P model STO is a violation of the spirit in which Star Trek is, IMO. And because of that a cash shop just kills the immersion for me. Currently I won’t touch that game with a 10,000 km tractor beam because I know it’s there. 😦

  16. Mig March 16, 2010 / 1:56 pm

    This is totally unrelated, but it finally answers the nagging question of what the hell the blue lines in sector space are supposed to be.

    From Eric Heimburg, posted on his blog Elder Game, “On a larger scale, they reused Perpetual’s notion of how Warp Space works. They obviously used the mock-up screens we had made. However, in our design, the blue ribbons that flow along the map were highways that increase speed. In Cryptic’s STO, they seem to just be pretty ribbons of light.”

  17. Tesh March 16, 2010 / 2:35 pm

    DDO is using the Guild Wars model, just diced into smaller content packages. Ditto for Wizard 101. That they both offer “traditional” subs for those who prefer them is a nice addition to the GW model.

    I’ll *never* pay a sub to any MMO, but I’ve gotten good value out of DDO, GW and W101, and they have earned money that Blizzard will never see.

    Puzzle Pirates is another thing entirely, but I’ve gotten good value there, too.

    As to STO, I’d buy it if it used the GW/DDO model. Looking forward, the only way I’ll buy SWTOR is if it uses the GW/DDO model. Otherwise, I’m happy with other games, thanks. 🙂

  18. Joe March 17, 2010 / 10:27 am

    OMG Cryptic is teh Satan! I will never purchase a Cryptic product, no matter what they do! Even if they paid me to do it and washed my car while I played!

    If Cryptic left delicious candy on a table for me, I would steal the candy and kick them in the junk! Rot in HELL Cryptic!

    HAHAHA! Just kidding, Cryptic’s great.

    Actually, I don’t know anything about them or play their games, but I do follow several MMO blogs, and yeah…the vocal minority spew bile at them at every turn. And when someone’s that mad about something, there’s usually a bit of truth in what they say, although the level of anger is usually unjustified.

    So changing their business model would probably help a bunch, but MAN at the backlash you’d see from the people who bought a lifetime subscription. They’d have to just give a pro-rated refund to those guys to make them happy. And we all know how companies love to give money BACK to customers!

  19. Ryan March 21, 2010 / 4:06 pm

    Going F2P wouldn’t necessarily have to a huge back-lash against the lifetime subscribers. Here’s two options they could take: reimburse them for the lifetime sub (perhaps minus the months they’ve played thus far) or maintain their lifetime sub by giving them access to anything in the F2P cash shop, so they’d essentially still be playing the game for “free,” which is at the very least maintaining the spirit of their purchase.

    A guild wars/RMT model would, I think, be much better models for developers going forward in terms of making money and keeping players happy, but I think it’s going to take a few games failing big time by trying to triple dip with box price/RMT/subscription first. All three of those, when you make the RMTs so important, will just piss people off.

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