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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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  • Second Life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:59AM (#29754327)

    Second Life has been doing this for years and years, relying soley on microtransactions.

    From all accounts, they're still doing very well.

  • iPhone developers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ElectricSteve ( 1655317 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:04AM (#29754347)
    This is the model to explore for iPhone game developers who are complaining about market resistance to price points above $2, and piracy. I also wonder if we'll see developers for the Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade) and PS3/PSP (PlayStation Network) give it a crack. I constantly end up with unusably small amounts left in my "wallet" on these services, and I wouldn't think twice about getting rid of it for small gains or more content. I guess you could say the cut price Rock Band Unplugged on the PSN is a start, but there's still an entry fee.
  • by Canazza ( 1428553 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:24AM (#29754449)

    There are hundreds of Free-to-play 'MMOs' out there (most of them browser-based affairs and/or Korean) that use a similar model to DDO. Free Realms being one of the biggest (and newest).
    The idea of Free To Play and Microtransactions is one that's proven itself to be profitable.
    I can also see Blizzards new MMO using that model to prevent it clashing directly with WoW

  • Re:Unlimited trial (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wildclaw ( 15718 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:40AM (#29754527)

    Players that have more time than money can grind everything,

    Unfortunately, due to how the currency system is setup, that grind involves repeatedly creating and deleting characters, as the amount of a currency a single character can earn is limited.

  • Runes of Magic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hotrodent ( 1017236 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:54AM (#29754583)
    A friend put me onto Runes of Magic (which uses Micro Transactions) as I was an ex-WoW player, vowing to never pay for MMO games again. So I played for free for a couple of months and enjoyed not having the "pressure" to get value for money that a monthly fee seems to induce. The decision to buy a mount using real $$'s came easily. A few more purchases later, I'd spend about $50 and felt I had got my moneys worth. I spend when *I* want, not when a certain date passes. I can take a break for a few weeks and nothing is lost (although a few purchases do have a time limit)

    The model works very well!!
  • tricky to balance (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Necroloth ( 1512791 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:13AM (#29754653)
    I think free-to-play games with microtransactions must strike a careful balance in rewarding those who put money in but at the same time not putting the free players at a disadvantage. For instance, I play on Jade Dynasty and shop items tend to be items that makes things easier such as getting mounts and cosmetic items but nothing that would put them at a clear advantage over non-payers. Besides usually people sell shop items in the market for in-game money and it's not actually that difficult to earn money if you're willing to put some time grinding.
  • Decent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:15AM (#29754865)
    I'm trying out DDO, again.

    For a simple critique... the game has many small issues, which most other games have already dealt with.

    Their auction house is a disaster. The quests are fine, except it becomes a simple grindfest way to early. It's an instanced world, similar to Guild Wars, not an open world like Eve, or even EQ or WoW. It's very linear. That can be fine, but don't expect to simply go out and explore and achieve anything.

    The graphics are good, and run pretty smooth. The skill acquisition and character development (feats and enhancements) is very nicely done, and allows for a several different ways to play any of the classes. While you do define your class and race from the start, there are a number of ways you can customize your toon to your vision of it.

    One big drawback for free players is there are limitations to things which Turbine doesn't quantify, such as: there's a limit to gold you can have per level, but nothing ever tells you how much.. until you sell something in the auction house and can't get your gold from the mailbox because you've gone over a non-disclosed limit. Pure frustration there.

    While overall it's a game I'd recommend, I'd have to say it has one other significant downside, that being the seriously myopic players. Not all of them obviously, but the few truly hostile ones to anyone new, and anyone who has anything good to say about any other game puts this crew into the "worst" category of people I've dealt with in online games, ranging all the way back to the original Diablo.

    But try the game, it's enjoyable enough, if you can ignore some of the "D&D started everything, bow down to us" crowd. My caveat is, i started playing D&D in 1977, no need to be rude or arrogant about it.. it is after all, just a game.
  • Glad to hear this. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:56AM (#29755059)

    I don't work at Turbine anymore, but I actually wrote the code for new player tutorial they're using now, and it's kinda cool seeing so many people use it. And I wish Turbine well, they treat their employees better than most gaming companies.

  • Re:The game (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Liambp ( 1565081 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:24AM (#29755205)
    That is a sobering post and your story is consistent with other things I have read about Free to Play Games. However I think there is a distinction to be made between micro-transactions where you pay to "get ahead" and micro-transactions where you pay for additional content. Micro-transactions where you pay to get ahead (faster XP potions or Item shop weapons and gear for example) are fraught with moral hazard. In order to maximise revenues the developer has to sucker you in to make you want to get ahead but to make the free method of getting there as tedious as possible. In essence you are paying to avoid having to play parts of the game!!! Microtransactions where you pay for additional content seem less problematic to me. That's a more traditional type of business transaction - if you want to play in that that extra dungeon you pay for it. If you don't want to play in it then you don't. I haven't played DDO online but I do note they are offering both types of micro transaction: Adventure packs which offer additional content (good imho) and also the usual gamut of faster XP scrolls and bonuses (bad imho).
  • Re:Dark Dungeons (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jank1887 ( 815982 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:53AM (#29755825)

    thank you for the humor. I haven't been reminded of this travesty (travesty because some people take that comic seriously) in some time. Because I'm afraid you might be one of those people, I'll "feed the troll" with some counter humor:

    MST3K analysis of Dark Dungeons: []

    A less humorous, but wonderfully sarcastic "Dark Dungeons" point-by-point response: []

  • Re:The game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:21AM (#29756141) Homepage Journal

    That sounds like shareware from the stone age. It worked then, no reason for it to not work now. For example, the first Duke Nukem, a squeaky little side scroller, gave you three levels for free. The game was so fun and had so many amusing aspects (like getting points for killing the energizer bunny) that you would gladly shell out the (iirc) twenty bucks for the Duke. I did, and Apogee surprised people who registered with not only the other six levels, but the shareware version of another game as well.

    Attention musicians: you can make money with file sharing. The original Duke Nukem sold 35,000 copies with virtually no marketing or advertising; purely "word of mouth" since there was no world wide web for most of us back then, although we did have BBSes.

  • Re:The game (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:21AM (#29756951)

    Your problem isn't the game, it's that you want to be 'in the top players'.

    Most people don't care about that.

    That you do, is nobody's fault but your own.

    I don't know about Travian, but, most "free" games I've played have content that's not available except for the Top Players. Well, sure, it's available but the second you enter the dungeon or get to the boss or whatever, you're squished pretty soundly. That's because these top tier events are balanced for those at the top, who get there using in-game paid help. To me, that's just as good as locking people out for non-payment.

    It's the right of the game developer to do that, of course. But they shouldn't really be billing it as a "free" game if you can't fully play it without paying. They should be honest and admit that if you're not prepared to pay, you're not going to play it all.

    If I wanted to play a game where chance of winning is directly related to the money I spend, I'd play Magic again. At least WotC doesn't pretend it's a free game.

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

    by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @11:09AM (#29757671) Journal

    ugh, not him again.

    Jack T Chick is to D&D what Jack Thompson is to computer gaming. I remember finding pamphlets by his loonie followers in bathroom stalls in college (seriously!). Chick at least has an excuse - he's Baptist and they tend to be a bit...zealous..., but Thompson is a friggin Presbyterian, so he's uh, zealous by choice (zealous = loonie). And why the f*ck do they all go by Jack?...

  • Re:The game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:25PM (#29758751) Homepage Journal

    well if one implementation of the idea was bad, clearly no one can ever do it well~

    DDO has addressed this issue.

    You can't buy anything that makes you uber powerful.
    Even if you were UBER powerful, it wouldn't mean much because there are instance based dungeons.

    You can buy dungeons, but there are plenty to do if you don't buy them.

    You can get to level 20 and never spend a cent.

    It's the best integrated store in any game ever produced.

    I received some free points(everyone does) during the beginning quests and used them to buy a +1 sword to see how it worked.

    The transaction was flawless. Sent an email in game, and email out of the game and just dropped it into my inventory. The whole thing took a few seconds.

  • by default luser ( 529332 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @02:11PM (#29760229) Journal

    After reading this story on Ars (Slashdot is always days late), I tried out the free account system. Three things that really made me happy:

    1. They never asked for a credit card. I just created an account like I was signing up for a forum.
    2. The download was quick and painless (maxed-out my 25Mbit connection, was playing in 30 minutes).
    3. I felt so free that I didn't even feel bad about not getting the chance to play it last night.

    I've been itching to try one of these MMOs, but couldn't stomach the monthly fee (I don't often have lots of time to play, and I also tend to put a game down after a couple months, then pick it back up later). For me, a monthly fee would be wasted. I like this pricing structure because I won't be forced to pay for anything, but if I really like the game I could see myself making small purchases here and there. If I find I really like this, and get worried about spending too much, I still have the option to upgrade to the VIP account for the normal $15/month.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.