RIP: Pay to Play Business Model

Posted by on May 25, 2011 - 13 Comments »

It is official, the pay to play business model is dead.  MMOCrunch announces the time of death as May 25th, 2011.

Ok, that was bit dramatic, but you get the point.  Over the last few years, especially the last two, the free to play MMO business model has skyrocketed in popularity and for good reason.  Not only are the games 100% free to play, but you don’t even need to buy anything to get them.   Developers and publishers love the model because they’re making as much money, if not more, then they would have with the P2P model.

Over the last 6 months Turbine has abandoned P2P with both DDO and LoTRO.  Atari switched Champions Online to F2P and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I heard Star Trek Online going the same route within the next few months.  Today Funcom announced that Age of Conan would be going F2P this summer. Funcom already released another F2P title Bloodline Champions a few months ago and with The Secret World coming up, I put my money on it being F2P as well.

Below I’ve compiled a list of pay to play games that over the last 6 months or so have abandoned their subscription models and jumped on board with F2P.  If I missed anything, let me know.

  • Age of Conan
  • All Points Bulletin
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Global Agenda
  • Ragnarok Online
  • Champions Online
  • Everquest 2 Extended

The fact is that the F2P business model not only makes good money, but it makes finding new players much easier.  If you know you have to play $15/month to play a game, you’re probably not going to waste your time trying out a ton of different games, unless you already think you’ll like it.  Even if there is a free month trial and free download.  Games that are always free are more inviting to try out because if you like it, you don’t need to do anything except continue playing.

However after saying all that , I personally like the pay to play model better.  I just don’t like the feeling of knowing I can’t access certain items or areas unless I pay for them.  It shatters the fantasy that you’re in another world where anything is possible, when the game stops you and asks you to pay for something.

Even though we’ve announced the P2P model dead, I don’t think it will disappear anytime soon.  There are some games that it works very well for like Eve Online and World of Warcraft, however don’t be surprised if Blizzard’s next MMORPG is free to play :)