Payment Models in MMOs: Yeah, Still Don’t Care

It’s the never-ending topic whenever games have a bad launch, a mid-term low, a one-year crisis: it’s the payment model’s fault. Tobold goes as far as saying it’s the players’ fault when investment companies with chilling grey websites acquire a videogame developer like Sony Online Entertainment. If players aren’t willing to pay for games, well that’s what happens.

When it comes to this particular topic, I am out of fucks to give. Either I am not a very representative MMO player or an awful lot of people have it wrong when it comes to the effect of payment models and the viability of MMOs. The very first podcast discussion I joined was Liores’ Cat Context episode 28, and to this day my opinion is largely the same:

I want to play good games. I am more than happy to pay for good games. I’ve paid subs in WoW, LOTRO, Rift, Wildstar and Final Fantasy, to name a few. I’ve bought into buy-to-play and free-to-play games; free-to-play is just another word for “I’ll buy dresses and mounts instead” and I am vastly disappointed when developers present me with a lackluster shop I can’t spend any money on. That is on them (and happens all the time).

As for pay-to-win, hardly an MMO exists that truly deserves that label. What pay-to-win definitely is not is paying for airdrops in H1Z1 that fall visibly and audibly from the sky, for everyone on the server to see and retrieve, with a minuscule chance for upgrades. H1Z1 airdrops are paid chaos – there is more P2W in buying a silly hat in GW2 that distracts the enemy in WvW.

It cannot be up to players to know which payment model is the right one for a given game and it cannot be up to players to finance MMOs of a particular payment model just to “make a statement”. Heck, players don’t know what they want or what’s needed half of the time. Don’t put that type of impossible responsibility on their shoulders. Want me to pay for your sub? – Make a great game! Want me to pay your box? – Make a great game! Want me to invest in your f2p? –

Make a great game!

Make a game I actually want to play and that doesn’t crash and burn within three months because you’ve epically miscalculated your budget. Thanks!


lolcat knows her numbers!


  1. For a while, I was a B2P or F2P supporter because I felt like that gave me flexibility to try games and not feel tied to one. At first, I balked at the idea of paying a sub for a MMO again… until FFXIV came out.

    I took that leap, and I ended up turning right around. Now I find I prefer a sub game, as long as the game is, as you said, a GREAT game. I discovered that playing one game with a sub ended up making me really scrutinize whether a newer game with a sub was a good enough game to make me want to leave my existing sub game. In the end, I didn’t join the hype, and discovered I’m pretty happy with the sub game I chose. In a way, that’s a good thing – it’s almost like armor against the hype train! XD

    Anywho, whatever payment model the game uses doesn’t change whether it’s a game worthy of my money. I agree with what you wrote above. If it’s a good game, I will go out of my way to support it with cash shop purchases or a sub and feel totally fine doing it.

    1. I admit, I like ingame shops for swag. 🙂 So I’ve no problem with that type of business model, as long as the shop isn’t popping up in my face at every occasion. Subs are great if you play the same MMO regularly, they’re just not very effective for sporadic casual play imo. In a way all models have a mixed calculation going on, with a different demography profiting the most.

  2. To be honest, it kind of ticks me off when people insinuate that it’s all on the players. What, gamers are the only consumers that aren’t allowed to be savvy? Bah, you got it right, here. Make good games, people will pay for them.

    1. Yes, agreed. It is sad that developers can live or die by a single game so easily, but I am not going to prop up a company with sub-par games that try to abuse my wallet in the hopes of getting something really special down the line.

      1. There is a discussion to be had about consumer ethics but this is definitely not it. If a developer is putting out a f2p game like Allods for example – am I supposed not to play it because ‘reasons’? Am I supposed to know better than them or second-guess their choice of payment model for THEIR product? It’s frankly a little bizarre to expect players to make such calls. If you release a sub MMO, I am assuming this is the model you require to sustain yourself and that’s fine – it’s then up to me to buy in or not. And the same thing goes for b2p or f2p.

  3. I’d say that the first implementation of H1Z1 air drops were undeniably P2W. They have since been nerfed into what you describe, precisely due to the backlash.

    Aside from the quibble, I largely agree. It’s crazy to blame “entitled” consumers when one’s business model clearly failed for market reasons. The only time anyone can make such an absurd criticism is when a game is being pirated. Or maybe that’s going to be the next argument: free players are pirating F2P games.

  4. I will put up with a lot of annoyances for a game that really interests me, and I won’t spend an extra moment with something free (or already purchased) if that has ceased to interest me. I present my Steam library as exhibit A.

    There is sort of a middle ground, where I am still playing a game but things are starting to make me cranky. LOTRO ends up putting me in this zone after I have played for a while, where I have about had my fill for the time being and all those little buy buttons in every single dialog window in the game starts to really pull me out of the game. As somebody who always subscribes if possible when he is playing a game, F2P or not, I would sort of like the option to turn all of that off. They do bug me, and kill some immersion from time to time, but they won’t stop me from playing something I really want to play.

    1. When I joined LOTRO, I thought the payment model was fantastic; it gave me a chance to play a game I otherwise wouldn’t have and soon after, I was subbed. They went a little overboard with the popups and item roulettes later on but generally, having different payment options in an MMO is still what I’d like to see more often.

  5. I’ll have you know that Guild Wars 2 is Pay-to-Win-the-Fashion-Show. MMOs aren’t all about combat, you know. *wink*

    Philosophically, I’m right there with you when it comes to making great games and paying subscription fees to play them, but the principle of Marketers Being Marketers guarantees that if they can get away with a hypermonetized, less-than-stellar game, they will do so.

    1. The mobile market sure is proof of this, so yeah. Then again, the myriads of crappy games that still magically seem to be successful shows there is some sort of demand for that kind of thing….whether we like it or not. -.-

  6. I never get how it’s the consumer’s fault for a game failing. We’re not the ones that created an inferior product or business plan, the company did. It’s not our job to keep throwing cash at it to keep it alive (necessarily). Like you I am more than happy to pay for a solid game, but lately it feels like few games live up to expectations. Making a “good game” is (apparently) a huge investment that most companies can’t seem to manage. That or corporate mentality of “never turn back!” has taken hold in too many studios and they refuse to acknowledge the flaws in their own games.

    1. Many sub games have failed because of unrealistic, WoW-like aspirations, so that’s definitely not on players (and not on WoW either) but on a failure to understand a competitive market. A lot of MMO ventures are as you say, cheap stabs at a cake that turns out to be complex and right after 2005, there was a great era of MMO ‘gold rush’ with investors jumping aboard that usually wouldn’t. In a way it’s better that we are back to more realistic expectations even if it means we’ll see less AAA-MMOs.

  7. Buy-to-play or free-to-play games guarantee that I am more likely able to afford to play the games and when I can afford to, may be willing to spend money in their stores because I love the games. While I’m not against sub models, and heck, I’m happy to pay them if the game is worth it in my opinion (hi FFXIV), I can’t always afford it. Maybe that will change this year, that’d be nice. Anyway, I’m rambling, and my point is, if the game’s good enough, and the price is right, take my money. 😀

    1. I understand that. It’s still fact that a sub is generally more costly than b2p/f2p gaming – it’s roughly 100$ a year which is probably not the number you’d spend in an ingame shop. Especially if you only play sporadically, you might not get your subs ‘worth’.

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