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Post by Eorl @ 05:02pm 10/01/14 | 9 Comments
Subscription fees have been part of the MMO genre experience since the very early days, with the likes of EverQuest and Lineage utilising these payment methods way back in the late 90s. Developers have long since defended these 'paywalls' by means of providing a consistent income to the game, ensuring sustainable development and upkeep of server costings.

When Zenimax Online announced that their upcoming MMO The Elder Scrolls Online would be utilising this subscription method, many cried out that such a thing in this day and age of "freemium" or "buy-to-play" was absurd, and that it wouldn't be sustainable for the game's health. In a blog on MMORPG.com, CEO Ryan Dancey has taken to defending this choice, stating that MMO subs are estimated to bring $100 million to the West every month.

Dancey also states that while its tricky to really prove the calculations thanks to non-transparency in annual budget reports, he does believe that free-to-play utilising microtransactions barely bring in half this much.
"If we consider the MMOs that generate the most revenue in the Western market (North America, Europe, Russia, and Australia / New Zealand) a sizeable majority of the revenue being generated is in the form of monthly subscriptions," he writes. "The era of MMO subscriber transparency has ended but we can still make some educated deductions about these revenues and subscriber totals."
To help back up his statements, Dancey provided a list of rough estimates for the best performing MMORGPs in the Western market, namely World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2. He explains that "It’s even harder to estimate how much revenue is being generated from microtransactions (MTX), but it is extremely difficult to imagine that the revenue even approaches 50% of the amount being paid as subscription fees. Half the subscription revenue is coming from World of Warcraft and Blizzard has just begun to dip its toe in the MTX revenue stream."

It is obvious that the MMO market is shifting to a more microtransaction-orientated field (if it hasn't already), but Dancey believes that the revenue raised from your typical free-to-play or buy-to-play titles is barely that of the more senior subscription model. Of course titles like Guild Wars 2 have seen a huge success in utilising the buy-to-play method, but is such ideas sustainable for a quite large online title?
"Subscriptions are really great for developers too. They provide a continuous dependable source of revenue. Many people allow themselves to be billed for a subscription even in a month where they didn’t access the service. Having the billing information for these customers makes it easier to market to them for re-engagement of lapsed customers, buddy programs for virality, and up-sales for additional revenue."
For more analysis on the subject check out the full in-depth article of Dancey's, a great read for any avid watcher of the MMO genre and its ever-evolving nature in the industry. The question will always remain on whether a sub fee for The Elder Scrolls Online is such a good idea, but ultimately it will have to be a wait-and-see game when the title launches in April.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be available for PC and Mac come April 4th, with console versions coming sometime shortly after. Let us know in the comments on your thoughts about the aging subscription model, and whether there are still any benefits in keeping with the old ways.





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Latest Comments
MoulaZ
Posted 05:24pm 10/1/14
Good on them. By far the best comforting news I've heard. More then happy to pay a monthly fee if it keeps everyone on a level playing field in-game, keeps the new content coming consistently and at a high level of polish, and lastly give the developers peace of mind to keep looking after the game.
scottjames12
Posted 03:13am 11/1/14
Agreed - I for one hate all this freemium microtransaction BS, and I can't be the only one. Happy to pay a monthly fee if the game is quality
Crakaveli
Posted 04:43am 11/1/14
game will be f2p within 6 months of release.
Jboy
Posted 10:29am 11/1/14
Micro transactions are there whether a game has a monthly fee or not, at least this is the case with some MMO's today. Buy 2 play is good although I have to admit the way GW2 has progressed after 15 months it's horrible and I wish I didn't buy it.

In ESO's case I understand the motives behind a monthly sub, they said they didn't want to impose limits on the players' gameplay which is a good thing but things as they are I don't see them sticking with a monthly fee for long. Very few games are left with monthly subs namely WoW, EvE and Final Fantasy the only ones I can think of.

Personally I don't find a monthly sub to be a good model for the consumer, 15$ is a bit too much to be able to play a game make it 1/3 rd of that and I'm in for years to come.
arkter
Posted 11:14am 11/1/14
I'm happy to pay a monthly fee, generally speaking it attracts a higher caliber of players and people in general..that might sound snobby, but it's true. f2p is a mess when it comes to any form of organised gameplay... raids or pvp etc.... subscription is also motivation to keep new content coming out and eliminates any pay2win aspects...
Gung-ho
Posted 11:54am 11/1/14
Compare yourself to WoW! That is a brilliant idea since ESO won't be anywhere near as successful.

Using SWTOR as a model is similarly dangerous considering that game died after 3 months and went F2P after a year.

Perhaps their best model would have been to look at EverQuest prior to WoW's release for realistic projections.

ESO looks to be a pretty bland game anyway.
Toxus
Posted 01:41pm 11/1/14
ESO Looks bland as crap I'm going for WILDSTAR :D

Main reason SWTOR died was because they were soooo slow with releasing new content with a big mmo you need atleast monthly content patches..well it's not really dead the servers are nearly always fully populated now.
MoulaZ
Posted 10:39pm 12/1/14
I wonder if anyone has thought of the idea of monthly subs for everyone, except once you reach a threshold of say 2 years at $15 per month ($360) or $10 per month ($240), the game then becomes free for that individual for life, or even just at a heavily reduced rate, say $4 or 5 bucks a month from then on.

Benefits:
- You get a generally high quality monthly subscription style only game without the freemium bullshit.

- Entry is cheap at only $15 or $10 a month (no outright buy price for the game), and if you stick with it for 2 years, well you could either no longer ever have to pay or pay very cheaply.

- Developers still get their high source of income, and if the model works/takes off, people will be basically paying $240-360 over the course of two years... that is a looot of money. With even just 1 million subs thats (240-360 MILLION bucks, compared to the already impressive Star Citizen's current amount of about 38 Million I think), and still far more then just selling a game at an outright price.

Negatives:
- None. Unless someone wants to add some?

I mean back when I used to play WoW, I did so for about 7 years... at $15 per month. So Blizzard has scored 1260 out of my pocket over 7 years. Given the hours I poured into that game, the rate of entertainment vs personal expenses seemed pretty low. Just going out one night on the weekend in the city, and expect to blow at least a 100 bucks.
Nerf Stormborn
Posted 10:55pm 12/1/14

He explains that "It’s even harder to estimate how much revenue is being generated from microtransactions (MTX), but it is extremely difficult to imagine that the revenue even approaches 50% of the amount being paid as subscription fees.

Fairly sure The Old Republic devs said that going f2p did something like doubled or tripled their income.

http://www.polygon.com/2013/5/7/4309866/star-wars-the-old-republic-revenue-doubled-free-to-play
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