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 GI.biz, 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."