Even with all of the varied business models for MMOs, I have to imagine that the finance team lusts after subscriptions the most. Regular, dependable revenue has to be so much better for budgeting than irregular microtrans — if you can get enough people to subscribe, of course. There have been many different ways that games have attempted to do this, such as punishing non-subbers (SWTOR) to sweetening subscription packages.
But what about a subscription… that evolves the longer you stay subbed?
In my recent excursions into Neverwinter, I had never planned on subscribing. I wasn’t even aware that the game had a sub — a VIP program, it’s called — but my guildies recommended it to me and I took a look. It seemed like a good enough deal for a single month to try out for some XP bonuses, a daily free lockbox key, and a daily character retraining token. But what really interested me, from a journalistic standpoint, was that the VIP program got progressively better the more you used it.
Each month you sub, it bumps up the VIP rank and tacks on more goodies, evolving the subscription package until it finally hits its maximum benefits 12 months into it (and those do not have to be 12 consecutive months; you’ll never degrade your VIP levels even if you drop the sub).
It’s not a new idea, but I think it’s a good one for encouraging and rewarding subscribers rather than penalizing them. Well, maybe people get so used to having those bonuses that dropping the sub feels like a penalty… I’m sure there’s a large measure of psychology in play here. Subbing every month isn’t just retaining benefits, it’s about adding more to them. That actually makes you happy to pay rather than reluctantly willing.
I’m not over the moon in love with this model, but it did make me think about ways that studios could push past the flat, unchanging subscription model and toward something more exciting.