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City of Heroes Moving To Hybrid Payment Model 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-it-worked-well-for-champions dept.
KingSkippus writes "The superhero-themed MMORPG City of Heroes announced this morning that it is rebranding the game as City of Heroes Freedom ('freedom to pay and play as you choose'), and moving to a hybrid payment model including a free-to-play option. 'VIP' players who still pay a monthly subscription will have most features of the game unlocked and will be given credit towards purchase of others. City of Heroes Freedom is due to land later this year with the next major game update." The trend toward free-to-play continues. Meanwhile, a recent update that brought microtransactions to EVE Online has (at least temporarily) resulted in digital clothing items becoming more expensive than real-world counterparts.
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City of Heroes Moving To Hybrid Payment Model

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  • Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.
    • by Elbereth (58257)

      The best way to fill up a server is to allow in free-to-play people. The problem is converting them into paying customers. If you open up too much of the game, people will never subscribe, leaving you with sluggish, overloaded servers that you can't afford to upgrade. If you don't open up enough of the world, people will get bored and move on to a different game, leaving your servers perpetually empty. It's a difficult game to master.

      Early hybrid games, such as Flagship's Hellgate: London (HGL), suffere

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Turbine have done a pretty good job in LOTRO. You *can* play FTP if you wish but it gets excruciatingly grindy (e.g. kill wolves ad nauseum in some zone to gain advanced wolf killing achievement and 15 turbine points) but most people would pay just to avoid this and enjoy themselves.
        • so no different to when it was pay to play?

          • by DrXym (126579)

            so no different to when it was pay to play?

            It's quite different. People can set their own pace and their own budget to suit their free time and interests. :

            • You can go completely FTP and enjoy a large chunk of opening game for nothing and then grind for points to progress. Not my cup of tea but it's possible.
            • You can pay a la carte, augmented with easy to reach FTP achievements. It's easy to claw back 50-100 points per zone without much effort during the course of normal play. Which is fine for me.
            • You can go VIP and use a sub. A pile of stuff is in
          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            It's quite different, actually. You basically can set your own pace. Turbine is really, really good at the whole F2P thing IMO. I like the "Premium" option in DDO - I don't pay subscription fees, but I get to buy stuff that I essentially can keep forever.

            • I'm hoping CoX does something similar to DDO's approach, actually. Let me buy the bits and pieces I want for keeps, or let me pay a sub and rent everything at once. If I want to play dark elves but not favored souls, and I want this adventure but not those other ones I can simply buy access to them for a few bucks, if I want *everything* then I can have that two with a sub or a much larger outlay of money to the store.

              I know CoH is going to have a "premium" option that grandfathers in certain things if yo

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          The best part of the Turbine model is when you go premium so that you can buy the stuff that you want ala carte. So you can buy the content that you're interested in which decreases the grind and gives you decent gear and essentially play exactly like a full subscriber when you use that content. Premium players can definitely get into the end game and no one will even have to know you're not a subscriber.

          In LotRO you can get access to everything as a premium player. Of you've got only one or two characte

    • by DrXym (126579)

      Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.

      I played COH and COV for a while (the free month plus a few extra) before becoming quite bored of the game. Like many games it suffered from that perennial problem of grind and lack of content. Most of the missions I played it involved traversing generic offices / sewers / factories / tunnels zapping generic stationary bad guys before a boss encounter then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Levelling up usually meant a change of scenery and bad guys but more or less identical gameplay whichever zone you were i

      • Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.

        I played COH and COV for a while (the free month plus a few extra) before becoming quite bored of the game. Like many games it suffered from that perennial problem of grind and lack of content. Most of the missions I played it involved traversing generic offices / sewers / factories / tunnels zapping generic stationary bad guys before a boss encounter then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Levelling up usually meant a change of scenery and bad guys but more or less identical gameplay whichever zone you were in. I did leave about 3 years ago so maybe things have been shaken up a bit since. I know that LOTRO was a *lot* better when I returned after it went FTP so perhaps the same holds true for COH/COV.

        As grinds go, how is this different than any other MMO?

        • by DrXym (126579)

          As grinds go, how is this different than any other MMO?

          Not especially different. Do missions, gain exp, level up, train, buy skills, repeat. Travel to new zone fight new enemies, repeat. What made it more stark though was the repetitiveness of it. There were 4 or 5 generic sceneries used for virtually every mission and they got boring really fast. I would hope the intervening time and updates (called Issues) have added new features and taken some of the monotony out of it. As I said, LOTRO got a lot better between the time I dumped it and came back and maybe th

          • You start seeing more variety in environment later on, when you aren't raiding office buildings and warehouses all the time and thus gettng maps with the office building and warehouse tilesets. The villain side has a lot more variety in environments early on than heroes do as well.

            I was always personally fond of the Portal Corp missions which mix things up a bit.

        • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

          Oh there's ways of going from level 1 to 50 in a couple of hours, if you have a high level buddy free to help.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        The weird thing is huge numbers of the populace seem to just love that sort of thing. My oldest went out and bought the LOTRO box set and just loves the hell out of it. Me I watched him play for an hour and i'm like "When do you stop grinding?" because frankly I just don't get it. I have yet to see an MMO that wasn't grindtastic to the 12th power, yet people eat that shit up with a spoon, why?

        To me the whole thing is a big old "meh" but then again I'm haven't played seriously online since the griefers ruine

        • by DrXym (126579)
          Yup most MMOs have a pile of grind. I play LOTRO and it's there too. Fortunately for the game it has the lore, some decent unique content (e.g. all the book chapter stuff) and some pretty landscapes to hide most of it. The grind was definitely a lot worse before it went FTP, presumably because they know it doesn't work so good when you want people buying content rather than smacking their heads against a wall because the grind is too bad.

          Worst game for grind I've played would be A Tale in the Desert by a

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Champions Online did this, but I can't use any of my existing characters without converting them to a dumbed down free version first. Only subscribers are allowed custom builds. So I haven't even bothered creating new characters or converting the old ones, spoiling the whole point of "I just want to stop in and poke around a bit now and then" part of free-to-play.

      From reading the brief description, it appears to be less restrictive than Champions Online but more restrictive than Turbine's DDO and LotRO.

      • Premium players can join SGs, but only VIP (subscribers) can create them.

        Which presents an interesting question for me -- I have a SG. All the members are either me or my nephew. We'd both be grandfathered in as premium. Does not being able to *create* a SG limit what we can do with an already existing one? Does that mean a free or premium player who wants to create a SG just needs to sub for a single month to get it made?

  • Glancing at the headline, I read it at "City of herpes", which I'm hoping doesn't say anything in particular about me.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also known as "Los Angeles". : )

  • For those that don't know, City of Heroes is the number 1 superhero MMO on the market. The game has been cruising along for seven years now right along side WoW and EVE and has had a strong, consistent player-base. I see this move as a means to expand the base a bit by giving folks a taste of being "super", without having to invest your social life like some other games. We have been getting free updates on a regular basis for years now under the old pay system and I see this more as a way to get even mor
    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      To be fair its subscriber numbers put it a long way behind even EVE or LOTRO and Aion let alone WoW or many other MMO's. It would be better to say it sits right alongside Age of Conan.
      • by syousef (465911)

        To be fair its subscriber numbers put it a long way behind even EVE or LOTRO and Aion let alone WoW or many other MMO's. It would be better to say it sits right alongside Age of Conan.

        Sits along side!? Well that's an opportunity to rationalize! A new MMO called Age of CIty of Conan Heroes! Flying barbarians with a big sword, big muscles, death ray eyes and a really bad Arnie accent! Who could resist that?

        • by Stone2065 (717387)

          Actually... you can make a "Scrapper" class hero that uses a sword and shield, or that just forgoes the shield, and yes, you can skimp his outfit, barbarian style, plus the hair, hairband, etc... Just an fyi, not an ad.

          Also, not sure how this will work with say a long term player that HAS been paying all along that decides that he's set, but is tired of playing. Are they going to fuck over/nerf his toon? Will it get "converted"? Will he even have ACCESS to the toon? A lot of questions I didn't notice answer

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @01:43AM (#36524398) Homepage Journal

    All the excitement and action of manipulating a large spreadsheet.

    At least the Crimson Permanent Assurance [youtube.com] got to carry swords.

  • I looked at the honestly very poorly written release that described the new payment model, and this really looks more like a line being cast to snag fence-sitters than any part of a 'march' toward free-to-play. The devs themselves have stated that the traditional subscription model is still their main focus (though soon to be complicated with microtransactions), and there are major limitations to accessible content for free-players-- including being restricted to team-only and short-range-local chat (which
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Because if you don't call it "free to play" people won't give it a second look. But catch-22 if you do call it free to play then some players will complain loudly and often that it's not really free. In the Turbine model you can absolutely play for free for as long as you want, and even earn points in-game to buy everything you need (a long grind if you absolutely refuse to pay even one cent, but some players are doing it).

      There really aren't any "free to play" online games in existence that meet the defi

      • Actually since it is set in a city, I wouldn't mind seeing CocaCola ads in Paragon.
      • Actually, there *are* ads in CoH. They have to be enabled by the user (they are opt-in) and the replace certain textures in each zone, literally replacing some in universe advertising with paid advertising (that the game is mostly in an urban environment makes this not terribly jarring -- the less urban areas just don't have ads, because it doesn't make sense for a billboard to be in, say, the middle of a graveyard).

      • I deliberately wrote the title of the post to avoid the phrase "free-to-play," and only described it as an option in the body of the submission. I think the studio is taking great pains to avoid some of the pitfalls of the f2p model, and by making it a hybrid payment system with a VIP subscription option, you can avoid a lot of the nickel-and-diming typically associated with a f2p game and play pretty much as you have for the past seven years if you want. That's the purpose behind the new "Freedom" brandi

    • by Stone2065 (717387)

      Uh... endgame? In CoH? Really now... I've been playing for years now, and never heard of an "endgame" portion... you just keep going. When you hit 50, now you have Incarnate Shards to give you that little "+1" next to your level, and getting said shards HAS to be done via Task Forces, at least to get you "qualified" for the Alpha slotted stuff. The lastest Incarnate stuff is even harder to get.

      • And what do you consider "End-Game"? Raids?
        • by Kierthos (225954)

          See, that's the thing. In WoW, you can go "Oh look, this set of raid dungeons is 'end game'. In 4.2 (the content patch out next week) this other set of raid dungeons is 'end game'."

          For a long time, CoX didn't have an end game, per se. Yes, there were certain types of mobs you really didn't fight until you were in the last couple levels of content, but by and large, they weren't horribly different from previous types of mobs. (The exception probably being some of the Malta Groups mobs.)

          Now, and this is a fai

          • But really, what's the difference between a raid dungeon and a task force? There are TFs at almost every level-range.
            • by Kierthos (225954)

              Task Forces (pre-50) tend to be easier, and since there's really no "phat lootz" in CoX, you don't have the same mentality as in, say, WoW.

  • Are they seeing a drop in subscriptions since CO went for a similar system?

    • I don't think so.

      Most of us on COH had tried CO anyway. Heck, everyone was awaiting a second superhero MMO like the second cumming of Christ. It just wasn't all that good.

      I suspect that someone could move to a game they like less, for the sake of 15 dollars a month. But it can't be that huge a segment of the population IMHO.

  • The thing I've always liked about a monthly/quarterly/yearly subscription model, is that at least the costs are known, and fixed, up front. I always figure "Free To Play" is an attempt to try to nickle-and-dime me for far more money than I'd pay in the subs model. With "micro-transactions", they can try to milk you for more money. Of course you don't *have* to pay it; hopefully most people have good impulse control, and additionally have some sense of whether they're being scammed.

    I think Penny Arcade recen

    • I think the studio is doing a good job with this payment model of avoiding that. If you choose to maintain your subscription, you become a VIP and have access to most stuff without buying anything additional. You also get 400 Paragon Points (the currency used to purchase the extra stuff that's not baked in) every month, so if you maintain a subscription, you can just acquire the new stuff without spending anything extra. In my opinion, this is better even than how it is now, with periodic "booster packs"

      • They saw the value of the Booster packs and realized that they could get more out of them by parsing them out and having them available more often.
  • Puzzle Pirates uses a free to play and pay service. The puzzle MMO gives a few puzzles that non-subscribers can play, and allows others to be played on certain days of the week. In order to do a pirate mission you need x number of players doing some kinds of puzzles, the free paying ones will have something to do with other players.

    There are 3 kinds of servers, the first is a subscription server where if you choose to pay the monthly payment you get access to everything. The other you can buy special curren
  • That one thing is NCSoft. NCSoft has a penchant of taking a good idea and turning it into a train wreck. Remember Tablua Rasa? Also, they have not created a F2P model that works well. Exteel and Dungeon Runner anybody?

    I really hope that they get their act together with this F2P of CoH because it is a good game. However, I don't think they will have much luck if they pretty much force gamers to pay for the normal operations of the game. I would rather they avoid the F2P model altogether if that is the wa

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