We got two big pieces of WildStar news this morning: the reveal of the game’s business model and the announcement that it won’t make a 2013 release.
Let’s start with the latter first. I’m not surprised. I’m really not surprised. After so many years, you start to get a feel for how far out a game is based on tells like what the company’s revealed, beta size and progress, word of mouth from testers, and if we’re able to pre-order or not. I always thought that it was highly ambitious to try to make a 2013 release and said that if that was going to happen, the game had to be a lot more done than we were being shown. But the pace of how the testing and reveals were going gave me a mid-2014 feel, and I guess this is going to be the case.
Some will say that this is a bad sign, that Carbine had to put on the brakes because of a horrible beta so far and is scrambling to fix stuff. Who knows, but I don’t think this is the case. It definitely is due to the beta, though, but probably more like this first-MMO-studio is realizing that there needs to be a lot more testing after seeing the feedback and tweaks that it’s made so far.
I’m a little bummed at the move, sure. That doesn’t really leave me with any big MMO to anticipate for the rest of this year, but I quickly remind myself that what I’m playing right now is (a) fun and (b) more gaming than I actually have time for. And considering that 2012 was such a huge year for new MMOs, having a “down” year is acceptable.
So how about that business model, huh? Despite the excess of words used to announce it, it’s a subscription-based game with the option to buy and sell subs in-game to other players (a la EVE Online’s PLEX). I wish you could see me right now, because my response is pretty much summed up in my pursed lips. This is not terrible. But it’s not great, either. Free-to-play or buy-to-play is the standard in the industry now; sub-only is an anomaly. It’s going to make a lot of gamers evaluate whether or not they’re willing to hop back on the subscription train once more. It’s also going to cause players to be a LOT more critical of WildStar while approaching it: “Is this really worth a sub?”
It’s obvious that Carbine/NCsoft is setting WildStar up to be a premium game, through and through, and I guess that this is a testament to their confidence. Of course, the instant comeback to this announcement is: RIFT. TERA. SWTOR. The Secret World. Running sub-only games in this day and age isn’t a long-term model, it’s a quick cash grab before turning to the inevitable F2P transition (which, of course, could be Carbine’s strategy).
I’m OK with paying a sub, especially since I’m not really doing so right now anywhere else. And $15 a month is getting to be more and more of a steal as time goes on, what with inflation and everything. But I do kind of wish that it wasn’t going this route.
The “amazing” factor in all of this is the addition of CREDD, the item that contains a 30-day sub and can be bought for real money and sold for in-game cash (or just used). I’m not overly familiar with the ins and outs of PLEX’s effect on EVE, but it seems to be widely used and I know some folks are happy that they can play for free if they have the in-game funds for it. But CREDD doesn’t solve the problem of roping players back in once their sub has lapsed and they’re no longer in the game any more. It’ll give some gamers another option to pay their subscription or raise quick in-game funds, but I don’t see it as a radical move.
Plus, with the way the typical MMO economy goes, won’t buying CREDD get more and more expensive as time goes on? I mean, that’s certainly the case for GW2’s gem exchange (I can’t be the only one who wistfully remembers the time when the price was well under a gold). So come a year from now, how are new players going to be able to earn enough currency in that first month to buy a CREDD as suggested by Jeremy Gaffney? They won’t. It’ll be sub or… sub. At least until it goes F2P.
While this all is big news, it’s not really rocking my world one way or the other. Now if Carbine will spill the beans on a collector’s edition, then I’ll be all ears!