How $14.99 Became the Standard

For as long as I can remember MMORPGs have had a monthly payment plan, decent ones at least. Back in the days when I used to play Ultima Online and Nexus these were new ideas and ones that were strictly taboo amongst mainstream society. Hell, you couldn’t even really play normal video games back then without getting odd looks from most people. So, suffice it to say, paying a monthly bill to play one was virtually (haha I’m punny) unheard of. Of course, these games were both about $10 a month, a simple fee that I didn’t think much of at the time. So how did $14.99 become the standard for mainstream MMOs today?

Well, there isn’t exactly a history of MMO subscription fees lying around the intertubes. If there was it would make answering this whole question a hellofalot easier. So, what I am putting forward next is very clearly my own theories and conjectures. That said, I do believe the 14.99 price fee began with the inception of Everquest by Sony Online Entertainment.

Everquest is touted as being the first fully 3d MMORPG (I’m not sure if it actually was or wasn’t). Because the game was one of the first it was justified as being more “costly” to produce. Now, the cost to produce and develop a game is largely dependent on the technology of the time. We probably will never know exactly how much it cost Sony to make the game, but given the technology available it could have been less expensive to develop the title than even Ultima Online. However, due to it being introduced as cutting edge technology Sony was able to use that as a fall-back in order to secure the right to charge more than it’s 2d brothers of the time being. When the game launched in 1999 you had to pay a $14.99 monthly charge. When the game launched in 1999, under 989 studios, the monthly fee was $9.89, charged after the name of the company. However, when SOE bought the game a few years later they upped the charge to $14.95. No specific reason was given for this change, but a look at other MMOs showed that the cost was increasing industry-wide. Mythic had released their first game for $12.95, therefor it became beneficial for Sony to up their cost as well.

So, how did this affect the rest of mainstream MMO society? Well there is a very simple answer for that, Everquest was successful. Because the the popularity of the title it gave Sony, and other developers such as Turbine and Blizzard, validation that $14.99 was a good fee to use to charge gamers monthly. Had Everquest failed we’d probably see games still hovering around the $10 monthly mark. Now, this goes without saying, that as more and more MMOs come out the $14.99 charge could be more. Especially when a certain assumed mega-blockbuster title is hinting at that very possibility. Who knows? Anything is possible. . . I’m just theorizing here.

EDIT: Changed some thinsg to better portray what actually happened as opposed to going off my own theories. :) If you spot anything else wrong with the article feel free to leave em in the comments. Like I said, this was written almost entirely off my own theories and conjecture, a lot of this pricing history was buried in the intertubes somewhere. . . I couldn’t find it.


  1. uhm, not sure if this entirely correct. I was playing the Asheron’s Call public beta when EQ came out (they were basically the two big rivals at the time, with UO trailing third by end of 99) and it was only 9.99/mo to play that. Many other MMOs at the time all charged 9.99, including ones that came out after EQ like Anarchy Online, etc.

    In fact, the first game that I can remember charging 15/mo was Dark Age of Camelot. And they also used the same “better technology” scheme. I honestly don’t remember EQ charging 15, maybe you are thinking of EQ2?

    I also play the first MMORPG released publicly, The Realm, and I can’t seem to remember paying more than 10/mo for that. In fact, it may have been 5/mo in the early days, can’t really remember.

  2. I believe you’re correct that when SOE took over EverQuest, the subscription fee went up to $14.99 per month, but prior to that when Verant ran the show, the costs was $9.89 (989 Studios made it, yes?). But it wasn’t without precedent. IIRC, Mythic was the first to break the $10 mark by charging $12.95 per month. Then the rest bumped to $15, and the rest, as they say, is history. Look for Warhammer Online to push that monthly charge up again and for future MMOGs to linger around the $20 per month mark in the next year or two.

  3. But what i dont understand, why do we Europeans have to pay 12,99€ for every game? Today this would be about 19$
    The costs for the Games should be the same, some Game servers are located in the US even the servers for the eu(potbs for example)
    If one of the upcomming games would use the $ fee for europe, that would be a big hit.
    A mmo for about 8€!
    That would be a big difference to wow for example!(and today thats the only thing that counts for a MMO…)

  4. Good article, everyone always thought I was retarded to pay a monthly fee to play computer games, especially my parents \o/

    I also think its bad that mmo’rpgs continue to cost more and more.

  5. Sorry, but you are incorrect. When EQ launched it did not cost $14.95 per month. At launch Everquest cost less than $10/month. I don’t recall the exact amount, it might have been something silly like $7.89 for 789 studios, or $7.99 or $8.99 at most. I was playing it shortly after launch.

    $14.95/month didn’t become a standard until several years later. Each new game incremented their fee slightly (and EQ gradually raised their’s) until a crop of games all released with a $14.95/month fee and nobody dared go higher for fear of raging consumer backlash. Then a few years later along game WoW, and that fee standard became cemented in people’s mind as the price an MMO subscription should cost, so much so that it’s hard to remember subscriptions used to be lower.

  6. Soukyan is correct, it was $9.89 for 989 studios. I misremembered the name of the company. Hey, that was 9 years ago!

  7. It still is not hard at all to get a Founder’s Referral in LoTRO and play for $9.99/month. As a matter of fact, the only reason you should be paying more than $9.99/month for LoTRO is if you want to. Plus they ran a spacial over the Holidays where anyone, Founder’s Referral or not, could sign up for $9.99/month, billed quarterly.

    LoTRO FTW.

  8. If I recall, Ultima Online was the first to charge a monthly fee and it was $9.99. I remember ordering the special edition box so I got to play 7 days before official release. The monthly fee was a shocker!

  9. When EQ launched it cost about $9.99 and it stayed at this price even after SOE purchased Verant Interactive. When DAoC Launched it was the first to break $10 at $12.95. Sony gradually increased its price (over a few months, but still within a year time frame) to the current $14.95. I think they did this about the time they announced the SOE All Access Pass (one flat fee for all SOE games) for $24.99. This was essentially EQ, EQOA, and Planetside wrapped into a set fee… in a way, it was a recurring buy-two-get-one-free. Within a year after this price increase, EQ2 launched, and about less then a year after this, SOE added Star Wars Galaxies to their All Access Pass (changed to the Station Pass later this year) and increased the pass to $30 /mo.

    Keep in mind, EQ2 launched within months of WoW, beginning the reign of 2nd generation MMOs (to include others such as City of Heroes, etc). This $14.95 price seems to continue as a trend within the industry even today with the 3rd Gen MMOs (Tabula Rasa, LoTRO, etc). But with this 3rd Generation, many gamers are beginning to voice that its getting expensive to continue playing the games they like (look at NC Soft, over 4 MMOs and no set price like SOE’s Station Pass… include EA (Mythic)’s DAoC, Turbine’s LoTRO, and Flagship’s Hellgate:London and one can easily reach over $100/mo on MMOs). A trend to move to the Free-to-Play MMOs is beginning to rise (hence why SOE has a few FTP MMOs in the works for Gen 4).

    Im not too sure if there will be a trend to push the fee to $20/mo, mostly because a good deal of people wont pay it at all if they can pay less and play a decent game (or pay nothing at all and play a FTP MMO). But we never know, EA is a giant in the gaming world, and has the clout to set the next price level, especially with a game as anticipated as Warhammer. Only time will tell.


    Turbine looks like they are moving towards a $9.99 pricing model, perhaps with the qualification that they are looking for quarterly or twice-yearly payments (although at least in LoTRO most people can still get a Founder’s Referral for $9.99/month with monthly payments)..

  11. I guess anyone so inclined will have to cut and paste that link rather than click on it, or just go to my page and click on the blog link.

Comments are closed.