I posted this article on my Facebook earlier today and got some really interesting responses:
“won;t happen any time soon”
my response: “Bet it’ll happen sooner than you think, though. The sub model don’t make no sense no more. :p”
“it doesn’t make any sense anymore? they’re pulling in 165 million a month from players! that seems to still make sense to me :P”
my response: “Touche. But when DDO went F2P their profits increased by 500%…blah blah blah. It doesn’t seem like many new games are going with the sub model anymore in the US, at least, even though the sub model means more stability for the company. I think they’ll go F2P after Diablo III and Starcraft II come out, though. They will be facing too much competition from their own games, if that makes sense.”
“Well, part of the reason that new games can’t feasibly go sub is because blizzard has such control of the market,, it’s hard to draw those players away from their well formed wow characters. But i certainly agree that once Blizz has more modern games out, they’ll prolly drop the sub, and go with some form of free model, but i think 2 years is the earliest that’ll happen.”
Then we had another join the conversation with:
“Having played WoW and F2Ps, it’s way easier to outspend w/o subscription. Yes, the subscription guarantees every player pays X, but the F2P model lets players who are willing to ‘pay to win’ do so. people with the resources to cash shop definitely pay more per month than the usual subscription cost. Considering that some in-game items are $50, that makes $15/month seem less profitable. I think more companies are realizing that the subscription model is a de facto cap on income from players. Also, I’ve found that f2p games also draw some really really good players who like the challenge of competing w/o spending real money.”
I thanked them both for their insights (one of the better, more informative conversations I’ve seen take place on Facebook). But I think it’s a very interesting question being raised for Blizzard. Personally, I feel like Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 will pull too many people away from WoW and they will end up competing with their own games for player’s attention. Blizzard is just too good at what they do, it seems. And battle.net is free after the initial purchase. To compete with battle.net for the attention of their fans, I think it’s inevitable that WoW will go free-to-play (F2P). There’s also the concern of whenever Blizzard produces their next MMO, which might just be the WoW-killer everyone’s been hoping for for half a decade now.
Problems? Well, there are TONS of problems with this idea of going from the stable sub-model to the not-so-predictable F2P-model. But I think the most delicate problem that will have to be dealt with, whenever WoW goes F2P, is dealing with the anger of their loyal gamers who have paid up until this point. There better be some added value there for those loyalists in the form of something shiny, at the very least.