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Role Playing (Games) The Almighty Buck Games

Free-To-Play Switch Going Well For D&D Online 201

babboo65 writes "Dungeons and Dragons Online is enjoying a second life in terms of player count and buzz, all thanks to its new business strategy: giving the game away. Turbine is making their MMO as accessible as possible, and that includes making players who don't pay anything as happy as possible. Subscriptions are up 40 percent. Ars explores how free can be very profitable."
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Free-To-Play Switch Going Well For D&D Online

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  • The game (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sinryc ( 834433 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:39AM (#29754231)
    The game is a whole lot of fun. I really hope this serves as an example for future online games. Micro Transactions really aren't all bad, especially the way that Turbine is doing them.
  • Re:Second Life (Score:4, Informative)

    by fake_name ( 245088 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:32AM (#29754487)

    The big difference is in Second Life those micro transactions are between players; Linden Labs takes a cut only when players convert ingame currency back into real money.

  • Re:The game (Score:5, Informative)

    by Targon ( 17348 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:14AM (#29754863)

    This is where you clearly have never even looked at the game in question(DDO). The game does not revolve around player vs. player, though there are some very very limited forms of it in the game(in certain taverns there are combat pits).

    The DDO method of free to play is really giving you an unlimited taste of the game for free by offering a bit of free content without making all content for free. You have the option to either play the free content on multiple characters to generate enough "Turbine Points" to purchase additional content, or you can pay real money for Turbine points which you can then use to get the content package of your choice. If you don't like being limited in what you can access, you can just become a normal $15/month subscriber to get access to all the content in the game. In a month or two, if you don't want to pay the monthly subscription any more, you can switch back to free to play, lose access to the non-free content you have not purchased, but you don't LOSE what you have accomplished. Those who pay the monthly subscription also get 500 Turbine Points each month they are a subscriber, and those points can be used to unlock content for the free to play if the player decides to go back to Free to Play status.

    So, DDO offers the best of both worlds. You get free to play with micro transactions, and you get subscription based for those who want all the content the game has to offer. There are also no "player rankings" as such, so no one really cares about who has the absolute best stuff, as long as your skill at playing your character is at an acceptable level(clerics who don't heal, or who don't know how to use mass healing spells in a raid situation may upset others for example). There is also a tolerance for poor equipment levels to an extent as long as party members know about it in advance so it doesn't kill what the group is trying to do.

    And, this is why DDO is seeing good subscription numbers from the release of Free to Play. Some people may upgrade for only a few months to get full access to the "premium" content in the low to mid levels, and then switch back to the Free to Play and then only buy the few high level premium modules they want access to after that. Or, if new content is released often enough, they may stick with their subscription so they don't have to buy each new content pack as it is released.

  • by Targon ( 17348 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:18AM (#29755163)

    DDO uses DirectX for rendering, and it would take a LOT of effort/money to recode the graphics engine at this point, and since the number of Mac people who would pay money would be fairly low, the return on investment would be so low that it would be a money losing effort. Then again, you KNEW that the selection of games that support Mac was fairly low when you bought your computer, so if you want to play games, you should have known that you would need to set up Windows to play the vast majority of games.

    You also have to look at how many people on a given platform may turn into paying customers early in the program development cycle. If you do not expect many Mac people to buy your game, and it will cost $1 million in development costs to support that platform, do you REALLY see it as a wise investment? DDO started as a regular MMO with a subscription, and Free to Play only came out YEARS after the initial release. With this in mind, would you REALLY expect that the Mac platform would have made Turbine a profit?

  • Re:Plays on Linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by larryj ( 84367 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:46AM (#29755737)

    Linux/OS X launcher: []

  • Puzzle Pirates (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:29AM (#29756253) Homepage

    I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Doubloon Oceans on Puzzle Pirates yet.

    A while back Puzzle Pirates set up a bunch of new servers with no subscription fee. Instead, they had a second currency. Besides Pieces of Eight, the standard currency, there was a new one called Doubloons.

    On normal oceans, you could play for free with some restrictions, or you could subscribe and have all the restrictions lifted. On Doubloon oceans, you buy off those restrictions with Doubloons - some on a monthly basis, some on a 30-day-played basis (my 2-year-old character is about three weeks through his first "30-day-played" badge. I don't play often.) You can buy off only the restrictions you care about, or you can buy off everything, or you can even buy "super-badges" that give you more capabilities than you'd have normally on a subscriber ocean.

    The trick is that you can convert PoE into Doubloons. And not at a fixed game rate, either - it's player-driven.

    So let's say I play Puzzle Pirates for the fun of it, and don't care about all the subscriber features. I go out pirating, I make money, I buy doubloons off the market, I can get my badges.

    Or, alternatively, let's say my time is valuable to me and I don't feel like grinding. I go blow $20 on doubloons, then trade them for a huge number of Pieces of Eight. Now I'm rich, and I can go buy the pretty clothes and furniture that I want.

    Everyone wins! Including the publisher! Because, remember, at no point in this system can you actually create PoE with doubloons or vice-versa. It's always a trade. If a group of players want to spend $10 in doubloons on a bunch of high-level features, someone, somewhere has paid that $10.

    Eve Online does something similar. Now, Eve is a subscription-based service, but you can also convert timecards into items called PLEXes. Pilot License Extensions. Each PLEX is a 30-day subscription, and PLEXes can be traded, at will, on the open market. So, again, if you don't want to pay any money for the game, you don't have to - make the money ingame, buy a PLEX, use the plex, repeat. As long as you can buy one PLEX every month, you're set! (You may have to subscribe for a few months to gear up your PLEX-making.)

    Alternatively, if you want a small fleet of battleships, go buy some timecodes, turn into PLEXes, and sell. Lots of money, lots of battleships!

    Everyone wins!

  • Same difference (Score:3, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:16AM (#29756883) Homepage Journal

    it would take a LOT of effort/money to recode the graphics engine at this point

    Or alternatively you employ a competent software architect who doesn't choose to use DirectX thus tying your programme to a single OS.

    Then it would take a LOT of effort/money to hire a competent software architect who doesn't choose to use DirectX to recode the graphics engine at this point.

  • by Targon ( 17348 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:22AM (#29756973)

    I think you have missed my point. At this point, since the game WAS originally designed around DirectX, it would cost more money to update the game to support another API than would be made. It wouldn't make sense for Turbine to change the rendering engine to something multi-platform if the expected revenue from such a change would not be well beyond the cost of the development work. Since DDO is not being sold in stores, the only money made would be off the micro-transactions and the subscription revenue. Do you REALLY think there are enough Mac people out there who would spend enough money to justify the cost of the extra development at this point?

  • Re:Dark Dungeons (Score:3, Informative)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:56AM (#29757509)
    This cartoon certainly is real, chick publications is a somewhat whacky, apocalyptic organization that believes that the Roman Catholic Church is anti-Christian.
    On the other hand, I have played with people who argued with the DM that a spell shouldn't work the way the rules specified because "that's not the way it really works". So, there are some people who play D&D and believe that the magic in the game is a representation of something that exists in the real world, just like the physics in the game is.
  • Re:Dark Dungeons (Score:3, Informative)

    by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @01:57PM (#29760019) Homepage Journal

    Jack Chick is about more than D&D. He is the poster child for everything that is wrong with _some_ Christians.

    As a Christian, and as someone who plays D&D, I can see the potential for harm in the game. For instance, I think playing evil characters could be problematic and unhealthy. However, the idea of the game in and of itself is no more harmful than kids playing cops and robbers, or perhaps more appropriately, knights and dragons.

    Is it a sin to read about Greek Mythology? Or to make the analogy more precise, would it be a sin to act in a play about Greek gods? If fantasy is a sin, then most everything in life that's not literal work or prayer is out of bounds. Lewis, as was mentioned above was a devout Christian who wrote about fantasy and magic. Ditto Tolkien.

    It is this kind of narrow-minded thinking and rejection of reason that gave rise to the most virulent of Muslims, and we all know how screwed up those folks are. I don't understand how there are branches of Christianity which essentially deny science and reason, when Christianity was the biggest nurturer of scientific and philosophical advancement for most of the time it has existed. Who created most of the original universities? Who was responsible for gathering and passing on the wealth of knowledge from the Greeks and Romans? Who can deny the strong correlation between scientific, philosophical and civil advances with Western Civilization, which was primarily a Christian civilization? This isn't to deny the advances of other cultures, especially in the past. The Chinese were way ahead of everyone 2000 years ago. The Muslims in the Middle East had a great age of learning and development around the end of the first millennium, which was spurred in part by their discovery of the great works of the Greeks. India gave us math, etc, etc. But there's only one place that has most consistently and steadily been the source of the advancement of civilization and that has been the places where Christianity flourished.

    You know everyone likes to point to Galileo as proof the Church was opposed to science. Aside of the fact that even the Church itself has admitted it was wrong in that case, and the fact that if you study the details, the issue at the time was more political than it was doctrinal, or the fact that Galileo was _also_ being an ass, even though he was right, name another example. I bet most of you can't. I don't know of any, although I can't imagine there aren't. But this only shows that that was the exception rather than the rule. The Vatican has its own observatory where real science is done. Look up the history of seismology and its relation to the Jesuits. Read about how the Industrial Revolution might have occurred in the 17th century rather than the 19th, except all the Christians (Catholics and Protestants) took a couple of centuries off to slaughter each other, more often than not over nationalism (or any of the other various reasons people war) than doctrine. The Enlightenment is seen by some as a move away from religion, but look how well that worked in France, or later in Russia and China. The Enlightenment owes as much to religious philosophy as it does to secular philosophy. See the Founding Fathers of the U.S. for a perfect example. See how Adam Smith, despite being extemely anti-Catholic, conceived of an economic philosophy that is pretty consistent with Catholic social teaching. Read "Rerum Novarum" [] to understand how capitalists and workers each depend upon and owe each other, and how socialism and the abolition of private property is inimical to all freedom.

    The reason for this is that Christians did not abandon reason. We believe that God is omnipotent, but that He has made an ordered world, and has given us an intellect and will to use to advancement of Mankind in accordance with His Laws. We believe that God wants us to use our minds (otherwise t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:49PM (#29762147)

    Turbine's first two MMOs were originally on MSN Gaming Zone or whatever it is/was, and funded by Microsoft. As far as I know, their current games (DDO and LotRO) are using engine assets from those games, so I would consider that a pretty "good" (given the circumstances) reason why they've been tied to Windows so far. No need to call competence into question; someone with money had a say in what they were going to use, and presumably it was more cost-effective to reuse that code than to write something new and possibly get a larger market.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.