SOE: SWTOR the “last large scale MMO” to use subscription business model

Tuesday, 20th September 2011 18:58 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley believes subscription-only MMOs will soon be a thing of the past as more go free-to-play. Furthermore, he predicts Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the last one of its kind to adopt the business model at launch.

Speaking in an editorial piece for, Smedley noted that 40 percent of players who canceled their sub for EverQuest II listed subscription fees as one of the primary reasons for quitting the game.

“Economic times are hard out there and a recurring subscription is something that glares at you from a credit card bill every month,” he wrote. “For some people, saving money starts with getting rid of subscriptions that hit the credit card every month. But it’s fair to say that subscriptions are likely going to be a strong component of revenue for the foreseeable future, although I don’t believe they will be remotely as dominant over time.

“There’s another large juggernaut coming out soon in Star Wars: The Old Republic from EA/Bioware. That’s a game that I think has a legitimate shot at a 2 million subscription user base and I believe they will stick with the subscription method. In my opinion, this is going to be the last large scale MMO to use the traditional subscription business model. Why do I think that? Simply put, the world is moving on from this model and over time people aren’t going to accept this method.

“I’m sure I’m going to hear a lot about this statement. But I am positive I’m right.”

Smedley also noted that one of the reason subscription gaming is “the dominant form of revenue generation in the West,” was because World of Warcraft’s subscriber base is so vastly large compared to other MMOs on in the same market. However, he feels strongly that the future of MMOs is in the free-to-play market.

“Free-to-play encompasses a lot of different business models,” he explained. “Some games like League of Legends are microtransaction only games where there is no subscription. Other games like LOTRO offer a subscription tier as well. The key idea of a free-to-play game is that the game itself doesn’t cost money to purchase and you get some amount of gameplay for free. Beyond that it’s different game by game.

“This is what we’re seeing today and I expect that in the future you’re going to continue to see a lot of different ideas in the free-to-play space.”



  1. Droid

    Their seemingly mythical subscription model isn’t doing them any favours so far.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Christopher Jack

    I agree with them, as I mentioned in another article, the MMO subscription model is dying.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Phoenixblight


    I agree with this article. I think the tiered subscription is the best option for MMO with a f2p game as well just like the endless trial its good thing to take advantage of it.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. blackdreamhunk

    bio-ware has yet to come and say the they doing subscription. Ea is is about making money they are smart. I was thinking that they would go free to play like guild wars and go micro to gain more money but who sknows either way I will be getting the game.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Christopher Jack

    @3, I prefer micro-transactions, personally. I’ve really enjoyed League of Legends lately & it’s got a good amount of unique champions, 83 as of right now I believe. Now they can all be bought with IP(Influence Points, earned by playing) or you can buy them with RP(Riot Points, purchased via real cash), there’s also skins that can make your characters look cool but can only be bought with RP, cosmetic differences like that can earn big bucks for a game & I’ve seen countless players with multiple skins.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Yoshi

    Micro-transactions are fine as long as they let the players who don’t want to use micro-transactions available to get everything without needing to pay, but it just takes longer. That’s the smartest business model as it works both ways plus they player then believes they are getting their moneys worth etc and might even use some micro-transactions.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Phoenixblight


    Micro-Transactions work too if you are buying vanity objects like pets, mounts, skins nothing that puts those who pay for such objects far and above other players. Just one of those things that annoy me about those type of games is when a player has an object that makes their experience far more better than mine. Its all in the context of what type of game it is but for MMOS I am all for tiered subs and micro-transactions with vanity items.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Erthazus

    “Speaking in an editorial piece for, Smedley noted that 40 percent of players who canceled their sub for EverQuest II listed subscription fees as one of the primary reasons for quitting the game.”

    But your game was not very good to begin with after few patches and bad support.

    Subscription model is not dying and will not die. Look at the Blizzard for example.

    You really think that their next MMO will not use that model? haha. Alright.

    You really think that NC Soft’s Lineage 3 won’t use that model too?

    Give me a break. If the game is very good. People will pay. If your game is not very good you get what you get and eventually it’s going to be F2P
    F2P system is good for some games, but not for blockbuster MMORPG games that require solid loot system.

    If SOE will make EVERQUEST III F2P they are going to die with that franchise unless they will offer a fantastic experience with F2P model which is impossible to do anyway with scale that players expect from SOE.

    Games like World Of Tanks work absolutely great with F2P model for example. I love that model if it is working and not disbalanced.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. blackdreamhunk

    I also want to add that DC online was not even that much of a great mmo game. the game lacked immersion. It played out more like a console action game than living breathing world. You didn’t feel like a super hero. The game felt like gait sized diablo or marvel alliance not worth paying 15 month for.

    that is what happens when you try to force a mmo on console.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. DSB

    It won’t be the last one. The reason why most others haven’t succeeded is because they haven’t been as good as WoW is, and possibly SWTOR will be.

    There’s no doubt that there’s a huge market for free to play though. Personally there’s no way I’m gonna play anything with micro-transactions, unless there’s also a subscription, or a system that lets me play in peace without constantly being sold shit.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Erthazus


    World of Tanks is a good F2P game and i mean VERY good game with that model. With that model it’s working absolutely great if it was for example using P2P system… Than fuck that shit.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. hitnrun

    @10 and 11: I think “good” is the wrong word…personally I think WoW has blown pretty hard for half of its existence now. But DSB has a point nonetheless, because there hasn’t been an MMO as successful as WoW.

    The top one or two MMOs that can, will be subscription based, because there’s more money at the top for that model. It’s just a question of value for money for customers.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. GrimRita

    SWTWoW will probably have subs AND MT’s – just wait and see. And nothing like Smedley jumping on the band wagon of another MMO to promote his crap.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. DSB

    @11 I don’t know. I do love World of Tanks, but when I played it during the closed beta, it was very unbalanced.

    Big tanks with little tanks. It’s pointless to be stuck in an underpowered tank destroyer when you have T-34s coming at you, and that just makes you a target, more than a player.

    How many free points do they give out these days? Unless you’re able to buy the golden ammunition, there’s not much of a point in competing, you’re gonna lose every head-to-head duel. If they balanced it properly, I would be addicted to that game.

    I’d pull out Team Fortress 2 as a brilliant model. I don’t feel pressured to buy anything, the game throws me a bone every now and then, buying games on Steam gives me items, and I don’t really feel cheated by going up against the people who do spend a lot of money on it. Plus, I get to keep (and trade) every item I get, unlike games like Battlefield Heroes.

    @12 Good is always subjective, but I think it’s pretty obvious why WoW has completely annihilated the competition. Especially considering the selection you had back in 2004.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Talkar

    MT’s wouldn’t benefit the game, and both Bioware and EA has said it won’t have any MT’s. But it’s good to know once again, you’ve done your research before uttering yourself about this game.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Erthazus

    @14, TF2 is barely F2P. It’s more of a gift to the players because i can’t see how these guys make a lot of money out of TF2. it’s basically absolutely free.

    World Of Tanks, yes sometimes disbalanced but you can do with regular ammo just fine. If you played just the beta than you ruined your experience. That beta is the first Russian version of it and it’s a freakin mess. Once everyone in EU and US played the beta version or official game it was the first shitty version when there were a lot of basic stuff.
    I’m currently playing on the Russian server and it’s fixed. Yes, you still get the overpowered tanks feel.

    You should also read this:

    this helps a lot.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. TheWulf

    Champions Online.

    All content is available to all players (paying or non-paying) except for a few adventure packs, which are fairly small in size and can be acquired for a nominal fee on the store. The only things offered on the C-Store are very desirable cosmetic upgrades, because the game is based around cosmetic freedom.

    If you ask me? That’s the way forward – Cosmetic freedom. It allows people to stand out by configuring their character to look the way they want, based on an intricate character creator, but it allows the game to still turn a profit whilst keeping the vast majority (99%) of the content completely free.

    I honestly have never seen a more balanced, more fair system than that used in CO. The friends I have playing CO actually decided to sub/buy a lifetime subscription out of appreciation more than anything. Cryptic are very generous with their model, and it pays off.

    And, for once, I’m going to disagree with Erth.

    Not everyone will pay for subscriptions because subscriptions are a giant con and the math doesn’t work out. What do we pay subscriptions for? Do you know? It’s not for server costs, that’s for sure, because ArenaNet proved with Guild Wars that box sales more than covered server costs. So there’s that. And that could be backed up by microtransactions. (Worth keeping in mind that WoW has a subscription and microtransactions, and TOR will have both, too. No doubt.)

    So let’s say it’s for content, yeah? Okay. Let’s say that you pay three months of a $15 subscription and after that you get a bit of content. Often that content will be almost inconsequential, but let’s be generous and say that it’s a raid, yeah? Okay. Right. So, Cryptic sells an equivalent on their C-Store for about $2.

    $45 vs $2.

    There’s the reason that many people are wising up to subscriptions right there. With a microtransaction model similar to what Cryptic is using; It has to be said that they don’t fool you, they don’t even try. They show you exactly what you’re getting, you can read what other people think of it, and then you can buy it if you want to. You can also choose not to buy it.

    That’s an important point.

    If I’m playing a game like CO, I can choose not to pay $2. If you’re playing a game like World of Boredom, then you cannot make that choice. In order to keep playing you must, most arbitrarily make that payment. It’s mandatory. So you may pay $45 and in that three months you may even get nothing, or at best you get a raid instance.

    I pay $2 and I get that same amount of content.

    It’s a fool’s game, and this money goes right toward lining the pockets of the fatcats that run the big companies that create games with subscriptions. And if you pay a subscription without realising that, then you’re a damn fool. That’s what matters. If you realise it then, fine, go on. Different strokes, I suppose. But for me it’s an unnecessary cost and needlessly greedy.

    It generates ill will between the developer and the players, too. Not everyone is going to be weak willed enough as to fall for this con forever. Even the most unobservant will wake up eventually.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Butcher8

    Not only is tor the last mmo to have a sub it will quickly move to a ftp model, Blizzard’s next mmo “project Titan” will also be ftp, mark my words. Once people get into a game they are willing to pay ridiculous sums of money on vanity items.

    So the trick is to lure people in with a free game/no sub and then once you catch them you eat them…um wait I’ve confused the analogy, anyway you get the idea!

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Phoenixblight


    Not to be a downer but you do know that the lead team that had developed CO had left 3 months after launch the company that owns the rights to them is the oen that is using this model. SO eventually and I am sure you have noticed the amount of content has declined. I am glad you are enjoying it but I played it for a year and noticed that it had nothing to really offer as much as end game content so I left it.


    Blizzard has said multiple times that they will only do F2P if it becomes more profitable than their current model which at the moment it does not and the same goes for EA/Bioware.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. Talkar

    Or they could just use the force :P It sems to work for SWToR since it broke all of EA’s preorder records, and it doesn’t even have a release date yet xD

    #20 3 years ago
  21. DSB

    @16 The same could be said for League of Legends, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re making a hell of a lot more money than those with far more aggressive models.

    The more people you have playing, the more you sell, that’s the basis for every micro transaction model. Sure, you get free stuff, but if you want to put together a set, you have the option to wait several months and cross your fingers, or pay 5 euro and get it instantly.

    A lot of the hundreds of thousands of people playing it right now is gonna pay 5 euro.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. viralshag

    I would be hugely surprised if Blizzard’s next MMO isn’t subscription based consider how well that has and still does work for them when it comes to WoW.

    I think at the end of the day, if the game is worth the money, people will be happy to continue paying for it. Personally, I don’t mind subscription based models. I was more than heppy to pay for Rift and WoW. I think as long as they can maintain the numbers, then they should charge a monthly sub.

    #22 3 years ago

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