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Role Playing (Games)

Massive Business Model Wars 71

Next Generation has an article up discussing the throwing down of the gauntlet that Guild Wars' business model represents. There is, indeed, more than just a monthly fee. From the article: "We're not the only ones in the industry looking at business models...If our competitors did this, would we be cheesed off? The answer is yes. We would view this model as one that might be used against us. So we wanted to be there before our competitors."
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Massive Business Model Wars

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  • Brilliant. (Score:5, Funny)

    by slicenglide ( 735363 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @02:45PM (#13105774)

    I like how getting to play the game you purchased with money is a "new" business model. Not merely a chance to then pay subscription fee's on top of the price you played for the happy meal manual.

    Watch out world, getting a value for what you paid for is the new hot ticket!
    • Re:Brilliant. (Score:2, Informative)

      by MBraynard ( 653724 )
      In the only fee based MMORPG I played, the monthly fee had value attached to it - specifically, monthly updates, new quests/items/etc.

      Would a game like Guildwar be better if the developer had an extra $5 a player to spend each month on improvements?

      I've noticed that among the newer RPGs, the ones that do provide that extra value for the monthly sub (WoW, etc) do well compared to those that simply collect the sub and provide only the continuing value of the live server.

      Let me ask you, though - would you

      • But Blizzard isn't really providing extra value for the sub, they are merely finishing features that they promised would be in the game on startup and fixing bugs/balancing classes that also should have been fixed before the game came out.

        The guildwars model works just as good as the subscription model, but instead of having to wait for the money to roll in with subscriptions they get it all up front when people buy the game initially, and many will because there is no monthly fee, so they get higher initi
        • Kinda like the Asheron's Call model. But with 12 updates a year corresponding to your 12 montly fees.
          • Yeah except with Guild Wars there are only 2 paid for updates at probably $20 each as opposed to 12 updates at $15.99 each, it's just a little cheaper that way. Personally I still like EVE-Online's pricing model. You pay your monthly subscription fee and they just give you the expansions instead of having to pay for them.
      • An amplification of some very good points:

        Not only is the ongoing fee reasonable, it's dirt cheap compared to virtually every other form of entertainment out there.

        $50 up front and $15 a month is really a trivial expense for entertainment.

        If a person were to buy a game and subscribe for a year, it comes out to about 63 cents per day. My local newspaper isn't that inexpensive.

        Even if I only play 1 hour per week, that's about $4.41. Of course, I doubt anyone who will only play for 1 hour a week and never
    • EULA aside, there are plenty of free servers out there to play other MMORPGs on. I know plenty of people who dont pay to play WoW, EQ, UO, etc. The key is the quality. You need great GMs and content designers to have a good game, and that is what you are paying for when you play the game the 'normal' way.
  • by CloudsSpaz ( 824168 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @02:49PM (#13105818)
    I think the Guild Wars model is fantastic personally (although I think it has to be recognized that it's not being applied to a standard MMOG- Guild Wars is much more like Diablo II/PSO when it comes to the actual formating/instancing of the gameplay), but I'm not sure it'll really be used all that much. I mean, when you look at a game like WoW (one of the highest-price-per-month games out there, and of course, one of the most successful), where Blizzard literally has players distribute game patches themselves, regardless of the monthly fee compenstation, I just don't see any big MMO developers jumping ship anytime soon.
    • by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @03:39PM (#13106312)
      The Guild War model would be a success giving the fact that they plan on releasing Addons after Addons after Addons. I have no problem buying massive $20 Addons versus $15 monthly fee.

      • ArenaNet has stated that the addons will be the same size of the original game, but will also be about the same price. I'd link the source, but WebSense blocks me at work.
        • right, but there are some differences that they've stated:

          a) you don't need to own the add-on to go into the new areas if someone that owns it takes you with them.

          b) $50 every 6 months is not $15/month, it's about $9 per month, and I've seen the game for $36 online, which means the expansions are more like $6/month.

          c) you can choose to add the expansion at any time, which is good for people like me that generally only have 3-10 hours of game time per week (depending on how busy my OSS projects are, how m
    • Guild Wars' multiplayer aspects are almost exactly the same as Phantasy Star Online, but PSO still charged you a monthly fee... and with Diablo were your players perpetual? (never played it)
      • Depending on your mode of play, yeah, they were perpetual (you could chose to play in a mode where characters were stored locally- which meant they could be played offline, but also easily hacked to max level/items/etc.- or on Blizzard's servers, the latter of which meant you could only play the game online, and, consequently, was generally preferred).
  • I am a player and I do enjoy that I don't have a montly fee. Is it new? Not to the PC space, but is very new in the MMO space. No one, before AreaNet, had run an MMO without a monthly fee - at least not on this scale. Even really bad MMOs had a fee.
    • Not exactly true: Project Entropia and even Anarchy Online to a limited extent have tried to go the way of the free-per-month route, but yes, Guild Wars has certainly been the most successful.
    • Its the same business model as Diablo II. I don't see how its any different. Instead of creating matchups in the BNet client you make matchups in towns where you can only see 10% of the people actually in the town because the other 90% are in a different instance of the town.
  • I love Guild Wars. After playing Everquest, WoW and so many other MMORPGs and having to pay everymonth for the right to play the game I bought in the first place, I was thrilled when GW came out.

    I just don't understand how they can think that they have this *NEW* idea. I play my FPSs online for free and have been for a very long time. I don't understand why the MMORPGs have been different.

    Oh that's right I, and many others, have been paying monthly fees so why wouldn't they charge. :(

    • -Server Maintenence

      -Continued Bug Patching (yes, that should be taken care of beforehand, but when you recognize the size of an MMO world...)

      -Customer/Tech Support + GMs

      -Bandwith (Most FPS devs don't host the servers you play on ;p)

      -Continued Updates (new quests/items/etc.)

      And yes, Profit. The majority of MMOs start launch in a serious hole as far as money goes. They don't generally break even/make a profit until over a year after they're actually released. They're a different beast than other gen

      • by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @03:10PM (#13106031) Homepage
        imho, bug patching shouldn't even be mentioned. That's a given. But the rest - yes, when you play on an MMO server, they're providing you with service beyond the original product. New content, GMs, and the server to play on.

        Personally, I think MMOs should go the other way - ditch the box-price altogether... but I guess they need that so that EB will put their box on a shelf.

        What I find funny is when RPG fans and console nuts pay through the nose for new content (like the extra maps for Halo). On PC FPS games, you have to beat the players off with a stick to keep them from making content for your platform. I couldn't help but giggle when I heard that players would be paying for a couple new Halo maps - compare v. the mind-boggling number of UT2k4 maps freely downloadable online, piles of which are pro-quality.
        • I agree that a free game w/ pay subscription seems to make alot more sense than pay for the game and no subscription, but good luck to GW for trying ;)

          As for in store costs, most retailers make between $5-10 off each title, so you could easily sell a $10 boxed copy in addition to the free download version.

          Another idea they could use is to offer free servers and "premium" servers. The free ones would be just like they are now, but the pay ones would offer more GMs and support along with free expansions
          • A slightly different concept to the one you described was launched by Sony for EQ Live. The 'Legends' server would cost a lot more, but would have almost daily GM events, with unique gear, custom naming, and other things that people would see as a premium service.

            They also offered free transfers for your characters, and to go back again when you were done.

            The concept has been done to an extent, and although I know it was still around when I left, I'm not completely sure how successful it was.

            I'm definit
      • Continued Updates (new quests/items/etc.)

        ArenaNet does plan to offer expansion packs to the game that you will have to buy. Althogh, they will, and already do, have limited updates for free.

        Customer/Tech Support + GMs
        Server Maintenence
        Continued Bug Patching (yes, that should be taken care of beforehand, but when you recognize the size of an MMO world...)

        This is the same for any online video game ever created. Why should MMOs get to charge for it?

        As far as bandwidth goes...fine. But $12-$20 a mo

    • Someone is paying for the server you play on in a First Person Shooter (FPS) game. If there wasn't those people then you wouldn't have any multiplayer game mode to play for that FPS, except on your own connection if you host it -- and that is useless because upload speed is very slow (along with a lot of other factors such as you having a 0 ping, etc.)

      With that said, back on GW: It's a great idea that these guys are innovating & putting original spins on what it takes to create a successful buisness mo
    • I'm not sure why I'm bothering to explain this. If you haven't listened any of the other times you've been told, you're not likely to listen this time.

      Writing an MMORPG game engine + content takes years of work. Buying the boxed game pays for this work.

      Running an MMORPG server requires hardware, bandwidth, and customer support staff. The monthly fee pays for this, and provides the profit necessary to justify a "business model."

      When an expansion is released, there is a charge for the expansion, used to co
  • by Bazuul ( 561189 ) * on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @02:57PM (#13105911)
    One of the key business challenges Next Generation faces is revenue variability. While box sales of Guild Wars have been phenomenal, it is basically a point sale with unlimited support costs flowing behind it. Next Generation plans on making money to cover the support costs by continuously releasing expansion packs and/or new games.

    One challenge with this model is that the company will have consistently growing support costs while revenue will be generated in large spikes. It is very difficult to gauge how much revenue a new game will generate, and without an accurate forecast the problems of scaling backend support grow proportionately. But the real danger lies in that in only takes one poor-selling game to threaten the company's future.

    If Guild Wars has 20 million players, and Next Generation is eating all those support costs without a monthly revenue stream supporting it, what happens if the next expansion pack flops? Suddenly you have another 9-12months of support costs ahead of you with no real revenue to feed it.

    The whole thing reminds me of the pager companies in the 90s that offered lifetime pager service for an initial flat fee. They enjoyed explosive growth, but as soon as the market saturated, it only took one month for their support costs (satellite bandwidth in this case) to sink them. The owners of the company pocket millions and the subscribers were left out to dry. I can very easily see the same thing happening to the Guild Wars installed base.
    • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )
      Simple, they start selling character buffs like UO. Cut Ebay/PlayerAuctions out of the loop, sell and buy items and gold too.

      Project Entropia tried this business model, and it was an excellent idea. Unfortunately the rest of PE sucked (although not everyone thinks so, a few 10s of thousands of people still play). In PE there was a direct exchange rate from game credits to real currency, they made their money in small fees on each exchange (like $1 on a deposit, 2% on a withdrawl, something like that).
      • That's a really good point and one that I hadn't thought of. Thanks for sharing it.

        Do you think that charging for upgrades or opening up a real world market economy would promote the game further? Or do you think that it would cause backlash and have people shun the game because the playing field is no longer balanced? Both?
        • Ask Sony. EQ2 has much the same thing, with its "for sale" server, where you can sell characters and items and such. I don't think it's had any kind of massive collapse in membership since the sales allowed server was put in place. I know one person that sells characters to try and make a bit of cash.
    • The problem is of course support.

      To resolve this problem they need to discontinue support and shift the load to the players. Let the players run the masterserver and let the players support themselves in the forum.

      Sure it might kill sales in the future, but there is speculation (amoung the tech supporters out there in the world) that the cost of one person to support is actually far greater than if you let him go as a loss even if he fails to purchase service in the future.
      • let the players support themselves in the forum
        Which works so well in WoW's "If you don't like it, leave" general forum.
      • by patio11 ( 857072 )
        Its simply not feasible to have "players" administer a MMORPG server. This isn't Counterstrike, its not double-click on the .exe after twiddling two config files and watch it support 16 players continuously until you power down your machine. An MMORPG server with 10,000 players daily has a monthly bandwidth bill in the high gigabyte/low terrabyte range. Its also likely a cluser of machines, requiring 24-7 on-call tech support from a team of networking pros (and your players will go ape after literally 15
        • Trace the network flows for Guild Wars - FAR less traffic goes to/from their servers (I imagine) than in a "normal" MMO game. As someone mentioned, it's closer to Diablo II model when it comes to how it works. That also why you can play it over dialup quite reasonably (especially once the initial patches are downloaded) - try that in most MMOs.
          • What's "normal" for an MMO? WoW seems to use about 0.4kbps for me, on average.
          • Assuming it uses about the same amount as WoW wich uses apparently .4 kbps according to Rallion. Then if your server has 2000 people on it all the time (fairly low for a modern MMORPG, years ago when Everquest still posted this info it had around 1200 people on it all the time and close to 3000 on it (per server) at peak times), you will use 248 Gigabytes of bandwidth a month. Thats a lot more than my cable modem lets me use. Even if I didn't have a cap 2000 * .4 = 800kbps thats a lot of upstream bandwit
            • One measurement I found was 2.2MB over 2 hours; average about 4.8 Kbps. I've read other estimates of 1-2Kbps. Probably depends a lot on what you're doing, how over you switch areas, how much time you spend in towns (lots of people running around and talking), adventuring with humans or hirelings, etc. Running around the wilderness with hirelings might use almost no BW.

              Of course, in a player party, the PC's may be communicating largely directly with each other instead of via the server (so it doesn't use
    • So basically, if the publisher decides to pull the support/servers/game from the market, the people who bought the game last will pay for a product they wont get... reminds me of a pyramide-scam structure.
  • Guild Wars. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @03:10PM (#13106030) Homepage
    The lack of a monthly fee is the *only* reason I even tried Guild Wars. I've avoided all the MMORPGs mostly out of a fear I might like one and get sucked into yet another monthly bill that I didn't need. With Guild Wars, that isn't a risk at all. Not only that, it's actually pretty fun and very nice to look at! Although I admit I haven't played it in the last several weeks, I don't feel bad about that, because I'm not wasting money by not playing it. The obsession I had for the first week or so after getting the game more than paid for itself, so I feel I got my fun out of the deal and can freely go back whenever I have more time - be that tomorrow or 3 weeks from now. That's a huge bonus, in my book.

    Additionally, I very much support their model as it encourages them to produce a fun game that you want to buy expansion packs and such for. They can't just sit back, get lazy, and let the money flow in each month. They have to actually keep working to improve the experience and build on it so that current customers will become future customers of their next release. That should do a much better job of encouraging innovation and quality into the future than a monthly-fee-based system would.
    • The lack of a monthly fee is the *only* reason I even tried Guild Wars. I've avoided all the MMORPGs mostly out of a fear I might like one and get sucked into yet another monthly bill that I didn't need.

      Just curious, here: do you feel you're "sucked into" cable television?

      I used to have cable, but I found I got much more "entertainment value" out of the monthly fee from a single MMORPG (and the monthly fee was much cheaper, to boot). Of course, I use DSL instead of "cable modem" ...

      I still have televisi
  • Brilliant! (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Tachikoma ( 878191 )
    I must be out of the loop, the last online game I played was star craft (3v3 nrmm like its my job)

    Let me get this buy a game...with real money...which really cannot be played OFFLINE, and then you pay MORE real money to play it. Isn't that like buying a computer, and then paying a monthly fee to turn it on?

    So how long until I don't have to physically get off my fat ass and buy a game, instead I simply download it and pay for it to suck?
    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:3, Informative)

      by generic-man ( 33649 )
      So how long until I don't have to physically get off my fat ass and buy a game, instead I simply download it and pay for it to suck?

      Three years ago. []
    • Think of it as paying for XM radio subscription even though you bought the radio already.

      Another factor to consider is that MMORPGs offer a LOT more entertainment for most people than an offline title would. It's not uncommon for MMORPG players to log thousands of hours on the game, when the average off the shelf $50 offline title might give you 40-80hrs of entertainment. The subscription payments give the publisher incentive to constantly enrich the MMORPG.
      • Another factor to consider is that MMORPGs offer a LOT more entertainment for most people than an offline title would.

        Most people do not play MMORPGs, in fact I would guess that most people don't either.
    • Most MMO's go to the free client model after initial release. Box sales generate income at launch and soon after. Once sales start to drop off, downloadable clients usually show up, with a fee to activate an account.

      Eve Online did this. Now you can download the game and pay $24 to activate the account. This includes the first month of play, so you essentially buy the game for $10.
  • *raises hand*

    i'm [currently] hooked on blizzard. Diablo II. Price of the box and the expansion pack. It's an old game, but you know what? I got into it late because it was still around, bought a copy, bought a friend a copy, watched eight friends buy copies, and my team joined some online buddies a little while back for a group adventure as a change from the usual.

    (Go ahead, tell me it's an old game, i'm crazy, just some n00b girl gamer, whatever. i'll wait.)

    Done? Good. Here's my point:

    They're still sel
    • Recommendation? Guild Wars, of course.

      For team-oriented players, Guild Wars offers much better gameplay, although do have to get out of the beginner zones before it really starts to shine.
      • Re:DII (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ReverendLoki ( 663861 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @06:30PM (#13108252)
        I second this. Though I cringe a little bit whenever someone does, a lot of people have remarked that GW is like a MMO version of Diablo II, with all of the annoying parts fixed.

        Though I don't like the comparison because it gives the wrong idea, I sort of understand it. You seldom are really aware of your level/XP, as they advance well as you complete the storyline quests. It's easy to get started with, and has a pretty good story with it.

        Also of interest: This game is the first project by developers ArenaNet, formed by a core of developers that all originally worked for Blizzard. You can visit their site for more info.

        ArenaNet: []
        GuildWars: []

        Really, I can't say enough good things about this game... everyone I've introduced to this game has become hooked, no matter what they're gaming background. Seriously, quit reading this and give it a shot. Now. Click away.

  • Um, RTFA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @03:28PM (#13106207) Homepage
    Let's see....
    Guild Wars offers an online gaming universe for the price of the box; and that's it. No monthly subscriptions.
    NCSoft hopes to create a large enough fan base to guarantee sales of sequels and add-ons.

    I don't see how no monthly fee equals "more than just a monthly fee". They've already said that you can play forever. If you want to buy the expansion, then you get the advantages of it, but if not, keep playing the game you bought. And this summer, they're putting out a mini expansion - Sorrow's Furnace []. For free. Not to mention the weekly patches, fixes, new quests and the like.

    I'm not an MMO guy. Far from it. I bought this because I wanted something like Neverwinter Nights, and I haven't been disappointed. Everything but the "cities" (which are basically chat channels and places to form a group) are personalized for you and your group. The only PCs you'll see outside a city are in your group of 4/6/8 people. It's damn cool. Might be enough to make me drop my sig.
    • I don't see how no monthly fee equals "more than just a monthly fee".

      Try reading it "more [options] than just a monthly fee" then it makes sense.
  • Could anyone tell me if Guild wars is playable on 56k please?

    • It's very playable. Of course, you may take longer to load areas, and it will be difficult for you to use third party voice communication software. Still, you will be able to play enjoyable, even at a competitive level.
    • Re:guild wars. (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I know some people who play on 56k, and they seem reasonably happy with it, but be warned, you'll need to grab updates off a mate or something otherwise you'll be in for a wait.
  • I have to say that Guild Wars is an amazing value for the money. In addition to an awesome game, we get a heck of a lot more than most online RPG gamers. The developer, ArenaNet, lets a fansite interview them every single Friday. In addition, there is a substantial patch (much more than just bug fixes) almost every Wednesday (in the months that I've owned the game, they've missed a patch date twice, but both times, they had a large patch with new content and features the following week ). We also get ba
  • When we launched in the U.S. we noticed there were about 20 million online subscriber gamers in Asia, about two million in the U.S. and about 200,000 in Europe, Garriott explains. Every time you move east, you lose 90 percent. How can we change that? Issues like broadband expansion are outside our control but we can influence genre expansion, appealing to new age groups, ease of play, and billing methods.

    You can also change it by actually give us games at the same time as the rest of the world, with serve
    • Oh, this wasn't pointed at NCSoft, who surprised me with their global launch of Guild Wars. Other game companies, however, seems to feel Europe is some shithole that should be eternally grateful for every game we get (Both MMO and non-MMO).
  • I think it's a misconception to believe that 15 bucks a month buys you better service. First, as this article nicely points out, that if sells enough copies, they can easily turn the same profit that a subscription service can. So both companies have the same money to spend on developement/content/patches. Second, subscription services have a trackrecord of being horrendous for a reason : the treadmill will make the adverage person forget about the payments. That gives companies like SOE and Blizz
  • GW Not Sustainable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @10:49AM (#13113433) Homepage
    GW is not sustainable. I have been playing since beta, and really enjoy most of the game. However it simply will not hold up for long. The business model is based on expansions every 6 months... they already are going to be behind on the first expansion by a number of months. On top of that they have shot themselves in the foot while painting themselves into a corner by two decisions:

    1. Expansions will not unbalance the game to players who do not purchase it.

    2. Level caps at 20 which can be reached in 1-2 days quickly or about 1 month with normal play. (weapons and armor max out too at preset levels that are easily had by mid/late game)

    While these seem like good things, it is a major flaw for longevity. If I buy the expansion I already know that I will not be able to grow my character any more than he is now, I will not be able to buy/find more powerful or unique weapons/armor, and nothing else will change much.

    Why keep playing? What needs to happen is that PvP and PvE need to be separated (they are already bastardized and semi-split as it is) and PvE needs no limits and expansions need to progress levels and more and more powerful weapons, while PvP can stay balanced regardless of expansions.

    I don't think expansions are going to offer much and people may buy one but I think that will be about it for Guild Wars. I hate to say it, but too many bad decisions have been made to date that all limit the longterm success of the game.
  • In its attempt to grow the online gaming market, NCSoft's Guild Wars has turned the MMOG model on its head. U.S. CEO Robert Garriott reckons giant ambitions justify mighty risks.

    Robert Garriott?? Bob Garriott?? Quite honestly, how could they miss something so large?? Its Richard Garriott (Dick to some).. Thousands of Avatars scream out in pain as their beloved Lord British gets called a common "Bobby". Honestly, how reputable of a "reporting" company are you if you can't even get the name right of th

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