Camelot Unchained Dev: The Subscription Model Has to Evolve

Camelot Unchained creator Mark Jacobs recently spoke with VG247 about his thoughts on the free-to-play MMO business model — a model he is not adopting for his upcoming realm vs. realm MMORPG. A veteran of the genre, Jacobs’ credits include lead design on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and Dark Age of Camelot.

“You know, free-to-play is just another model,” said Jacobs, “and just like every other model in the industry, it will hold its special little place for a while but then there will be consequences. Those consequences in a few years will be a bit of an apocalypse.”

We reached out to Jacobs for clarification on his statements, which stirred some controversy in communities like Reddit. Speaking with Game Front, Jacobs discussed his thoughts on the various MMO business models, explaining that no model is superior and that even the subscription model has to evolve if it is to grow in numbers. Regarding his own project, the MMO veteran hopes to see a minimum subscriber base of 50,000 players, and he has referred to his experience with KickStarter as “a crazy, crazy few weeks.”

Read on for the full interview.

Game Front: You mentioned that F2P is “just another model.” Do you believe that business models can evolve? That some old models will be phased out as new ones emerge? Do you think the subscription model will ever die out?

Mark Jacobs: I absolutely believe that all business models can evolve! Indeed, they must all evolve or eventually die over time. So yes, I think the subscription model has to evolve if it is to grow in numbers. I don’t think it will eventually die out nor do I think any of these models will. I’ve always viewed them like a roller coaster; sometimes you are on top, sometimes on the bottom. I still get asked for hourly rates for the game, which is the oldest of models for this type of game.

Camelot Unchained is a counter-revolutionary realm vs. realm-focused MMORPG from Mark Jacobs and CSE set in a post-apocalyptic yet familiar world.

GF: What will make Camelot Unchained worth the subscription fee?

MJ: Our job is to ensure that we have a steady stream of additions for the players so they will continue to have fun as the tide of the RvR (realm vs. realm) play ebbs and flows. New races, new classes and new challenges for them, even in an RvR game, will make it worth the subscription fee.

The subscription-based model can also be said to have gone through the apocalypse you’re predicting for the F2P model; I believe that was part of your point, correct? Not that the subscription model is superior to the F2P model?

Correct again! Sub-based games went from being the dominant model to secondary in a fairly short amount of time as the world went through a horrible recession/depression as well as the rise of F2P/iOS/Android games. These new challengers also hurt PC and console sales as both those platforms have seen a huge decline in sales over the last five years.

No model is truly superior, simply because this isn’t something that can be defined objectively such as who has the fastest time in the 100 yard dash. Some people love the F2P model, others love B2P (buy to play) and still others love P2P (pay to play). Also, the apocalypse that is coming doesn’t mean the end of F2P games, I used that term in regards to what will happen to all the studios and developers who are rushing to embrace that model. Just as so many that flocked to P2P had to shut down, lay off workers, etc. when the games didn’t produce the projected revenue, so this will happen to developers in that space. Just over the last three weeks, EA has laid off a lot of workers and closed a studio, all of whom were making these types of games, and shut down a number of games, including some based on one of their top IPs, The Sims. Zynga has also seen shrinking revenue from their core Facebook games.

As F2P games continue to become more widespread, do you believe subscription fees are being increasingly regarded as a barrier to entry that turns off potential players?

Absolutely. Selling a sub-based game now to consumers is harder than it was in anytime since the monthly subscription model was introduced.

What are your thoughts on starter edition models that allow players to try out an MMO for free up to a certain level, or with certain limitations?

I’m fine with them; no problem at all.

We’ve seen many pay-to-play MMOs move to the F2P model. Can you guarantee us that Camelot Unchained will never go F2P?

That’s what I’ve promised our backers and I intend to stick with it. I’ve also promised them that if we make the decision to shut down Camelot Unchained, we will put the server code up so that players can continue to play the game.

What approximate minimum subscriber base do you envisage is financially sustainable for CU?

50,000 would be great.

How has your Kickstarter experience been so far?

Tiring! I try to answer each email from our backers personally and the team is now in crunch mode working on our latest videos and concept art. It’s been a crazy, crazy few weeks.

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