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Funcom’s Morrison believes western MMO players “expect” the games to be free-to-play

Wednesday, 14th November 2012 21:37 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Funcom’s Craig Morrison believes MMO players have come to expect the titles to either launch free-to-play, or switch over to the options relatively soon post launch. The later, is a problematic expectation, according to the firm’s Age of Conan creative director.

Speaking with Gamasutra, Morrison said more games will launch with the free-to-play model as it becomes the accepted model for MMOs, especially in western markets.

At present though, the problem developers face is that if the game isn’t free at launch, potential players will hold out until the game’s publisher adopts the business model.

“I think you can definitely see Western games being designed to start at the gates as free-to-play games, because that’s what the market will expect,” he said. “That’s what the users will want, from an accessibility point of view.

“Eventually it only stands to reason that people’s thought process is ‘Oh, well, I’ll wait till it’s free-to-play,’ and that’s not something we want as game developers. You don’t want players to be going, ‘I really want to play that game! … But I’m going to wait.’”

Funcom was one of the first MMO developers to adopt the model with Anarchy Online in 2005, followed by Age of Conan in 2010. Many subscription MMOS which have resisted the free-to-play option thus far, have at least made the games free up to a certain level – which is essentially an extended trial – and its a trend Morrison feels is “disappearing fast.”

“That will no longer be a model which clicks with the players; they’ll more be looking for, ‘We expect a free-to-play offering,’” he said. “Players expect a large amount of content for a considerable amount of time on a free-to-play basis.

“If they see the added value in moving into a hybrid, or a subscription, or buying something through a virtual store, then they will. I don’t think players are averse to spending money if they think they’re getting added value.”

Morrison said with MMOs, subscriptions and free-to-play can be seen “as tools,” and used well, will result in hybrid solutions which work.

“We don’t categorically go, ‘Subscriptions are dead; there will never be subscriptions anymore,’ or, ‘Free-to-play is the only way to monetize your games,’” he said. “I think it depends on the game and it depends on your project.”

The latest MMO adopt a hybrid model is Star Wars: The Old Republic, which will launch its free-to-play option tomorrow, November 15.

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7 Comments

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  1. _LarZen_

    No we expect the games to be good, something TSW is not.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Sylrissa

    I can only speak for myself but, regardless of being F2P or Sub based, If I enjoy the game I’ll spend my time and money on it.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. John117

    Wow is still proof that gamers will pay subs if they have enough stuff to do. Maybe TSW would have been a hit if they introduced farming and lots and lots of daily quests at launch? xP

    #3 1 year ago
  4. OlderGamer

    I agree with you guys. Personialy I was happy to pay for my sub to Rift. The game is rock solid and worth the money. And say what people will, love it or hate, WoW is worth the sub fee too.

    One of the largest chalanges, I feel, with new MMOs isn’t to go f2p or sub, but it is the sheer amount of content needed to compete with a long term and established franchise like WoW. Lets face it no game is designed to be free. Be it f2p or sub, as a owner of a MMO you need people to feel like the game has value and is worth spending money on.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. GwynbleiddiuM

    True that OG, even though I have stopped playing WoW fro the time being I’d still go back when I’m ready and will re-sub. The problem with Secret World is, it was never on the same level as WoW and Rift. It might be in the same level as Guild Wars 2, but they didn’t go with a buy 2 play model like GW2 did, if they had, they could have succeed. For them what he said is true, for the rest of the industry it has some truth to it though. What these guys need to say and don’t have the courage to admit is, they can’t go toe to toe with WoW and expect to win over their player base over night, but they did and will always do. Over confident, eh?

    They either accept that, and study and learn their market better or will continue to be ignorant and tell themselves whatever our competition does we do better. They launched the game in a time window that there were GW2 on the horizon and a few months latter there was WoW’s latest expansion, bad timing, no, horrible timing. To top that, they introduced a subscription based MMO (and the failure of SWTOR didn’t discourage them in the slightest to make them reconsider,) while IMO they didn’t look at their competition at all, they thought they’ll be printing money in no time.

    To me the whole SWTOR thing should’ve been a wake up call for them, but they overslept and woke up to a nightmare, a nightmare that cost them heavily.

    The fact is, these days, Sub base MMOs have to be offering more, much more than games like WoW and Rift offer to be able to succeed and survive as a subscription MMO title. The number of good F2P MMOs out there are “too damn high” and you can’t expect to be a mediocre game and sell millions of copies and attain long term subscriptions.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. GrimRita

    I agree with OG. I haven’t played Rift for a few weeks now, mostly down to time but still sub as it has to be one of THE most solid MMOs to date.

    Superb service, lots of stuff to do, hardly any downtime. I’ve spent a lot of time in GW2, F2P – spent a lot of money on Gems but yet came away feeling that the game was trying to do too much.

    WvW great in concept but essentially just a daily zerg fest, far too many dailies to complete in the few hours that I had to play and combat, just didn’t grab me.

    With TSW, they charge a stupid price for subscription – £14.99 is plain outrageous!

    #6 1 year ago
  7. roadkill

    F**k off Morrison! Do you really think we’ll believe this crap? Only WoW players are smart enough for that.

    #7 1 year ago