In the latest surge of MMOs in the past couple of years, they all started with a pay to play fee like $15 a month. However, as the games began to die and the community dwindled slowly but surely, the MMOs had to reconsider their marketing plan. Free to play is the best option for every MMO out there trying to start out or for MMOs that are dying and want to keep alive.
Dungeons and Dragons Online was a subscriber based MMO with a pay to play subscription, but the community slowly dwindled as time went on after the initial surge of players at release. Turbine was determined to keep the game alive and decided to make it a free to play game with in-game micro-transactions. DDO’s revenue increased to a near 500%, which is incredible for a struggling MMO. With this surge, many players have tried the game and now are playing and paying for things they want.
Lord of the Rings: Online, another Turbine MMO, was in the same case as DDO. Struggling and dwindling fan-base, but as soon as the game went to the free-to-play option, the game doubled in revenue and the player base increased to about 400%. It is amazing when you let the players at least try the game and if they enjoy it, they will help fund it to keep it alive.
Star Trek: Online, created by Cryptic, is also going to free to play by the end of this year. Hoping to see the same types of revenue that DDO and LotR:O have seen. Personally, I really wanted to try this out, but I refused to pay for the monthly because it did not look anything groundbreaking or innovative. It just looked like another MMO with quests, XP grinding, and generic monsters.
Now I know not every MMO will do the free-to-play option, and I don’t expect it to happen. I would like to see MMOs try a free-to-play option to a certain level. World of Warcraft and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, have tried this to bring back a lot of old players and bring in new blood. I know people who have tried it and considered going back into the world of Azeroth or doing castle raids with their Squig Herders, which is what Blizzard and Mythic want.
All I am trying to say is, don’t completely throw out the free-to-play option for MMOs. It can produce some great revenues, create strong communities, and grow the game to certain extents that developers never thought it would get to. Not everyone can be like ArenaNet and create the Guild Wars series.