The $15 MMO subscription fee keeps increasing in value — but how long will it last?

Way back in 2008, I vividly remember that prior to Warhammer Online’s launch, Mark Jacobs was publicly musing about the possibility of slapping a higher fee per month for a premium product like WAR — or at least floating the suggestion to see what the public said. This stuck in my mind because even by 2008, it seemed like the then-standard $15-per-month sub fee was not rising to meet inflation rates that were hitting other video game segments, such as box prices. It made me wonder how few days were left in the halcyon era of $15/month subs.

Of course, a huge jump in subscription fees simply didn’t happen. For one thing, in 2009 Dungeons and Dragons Online swept in the free-to-play boom that we’ve been experiencing for the past decade. For another thing, the MMO market leader (World of Warcraft) didn’t budge with its $15/month sub and so helped to keep that a fixed price for competitors not wanting to price themselves out of players’ demand.

So instead of pushing subscription prices northward, MMO studios started exploring other revenue streams: cash shops, content packs, premium services, buy-to-play titles, and the like. Fewer and fewer titles held on to the sub-only model, and today relatively few MMOs (compared to the whole field) even offer a monthly subscription. Of course, several of those that do are market leaders — World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, SWTOR, ESO.

What’s amusing to me is that we’ve even seen indications of subscription prices falling in light of a more crowded market and frugal gamers. FFXIV’s one-character subscription is just $13/month, which definitely doesn’t hurt in swiping some of those WoW players. World of Warcraft has ways to “earn” game time via tokens, which gives some players the ability to play for free on the backs of others. Many subscription packages are expected to offer bonus goodies to stay competitive (such as store discounts, premium currency, monthly perks, XP boosts, and the like). World of Warcraft just increased the value of its subscription by including WoW Classic (two MMOs for the price of one!).

It really does feel that when it comes to digital entertainment, we’re entering (or have been in) an era of cheaper subscriptions. In a month or so, Disney+ is coming out, and you better believe that its $8/month price tag is a lot easier to swallow for people like myself making the jump from Netflix.

It does make me wonder how long we’ll see that $15/month subscription last in the MMORPG field. Maybe a long time if companies can continue to make it profitable. But cheaper subs without as many bells and whistles might attract the more modern crowd that’s used to month-long entertainment costing under ten bucks.

6 thoughts on “The $15 MMO subscription fee keeps increasing in value — but how long will it last?

  1. bhagpuss September 16, 2019 / 10:11 am

    As the subscription model become the norm for entertainment it’s going to be next-to-impossible for single-item services to hold the line on asking more to play one video game than others ask to watch hundreds of movies or listen to millions of songs. How far it can drop, though, is another matter. $9,99 still sounds very expensive when you consider it’s for access to just one game in most cases.

  2. Dobablo September 16, 2019 / 10:33 am

    These days the only difference between free-to-play and subscription games is that the later extracts a monthly payment in exchange for promising that their cash-shops will not contain obvious pay-to-win items.

  3. Rowan September 16, 2019 / 8:30 pm

    Subscriptions always gave me the feeling of obligation to “get my money’s worth.” Given the amount of time I have spent playing those games versus watching Netflix, I still feel that $15 WoW sub is a better bargain even if I’m not subbed currently. DIsney+ on the other hand, I am expecting to be pretty awesome; but I am a Disney-phile.

  4. DonV September 16, 2019 / 8:46 pm

    I think $15 is too much in todays market. I believe things will settle around $10 or $12 per month. WoW is riding high with one of the most popular releases lately with Classic so they will hold on price. Looks like they are offering BFA as a reward for dinging 60 in classic. Smart move as it will get some of the new or returning customers for classic on to the more money making retail where they can sell mounts and wow tokens pets etc. If they don’t convert very many it might put pressure on that $15 price. In my humble opinion Classic by itself is a $10 sub.

  5. DonV September 16, 2019 / 8:59 pm

    Disney is steadily killing off most franchises it owns like Star Wars and Marvel Universe by destroying all the old lore and pushing Mary Sue characters as the new way. I think for your money Amazon Prime is better for some good shows like The Boys Jack Ryan and American Gods, Goliath is up for a new season as well. Apple is launching it’s new streaming service as well years sub will be bundled with new phones.

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