Turbine: F2P Model ‘The Only Sustainable Option’

It’s no secret that more and more MMO developers are finding that the subscription model simply doesn’t bring in the money needed to keep games going, which is why so many MMOs are beginning life as free to play, like the upcoming Ghost Recon Online, or were forced by financial necessity to make the switch.

The list of formerly subscriber-based MMOs that went F2P is long – Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Aion, even Everquest. And even World of Warcraft isn’t immune, with 2011 a particularly brutal year in which 800,000 players jumped ship.

All of this is to say that increasingly, the subscription-based MMO is becoming an anachronism and may soon go the way of tex based adventures and the UHF band. At least Turbine, makers of Lord of the Rings Online, thinks so. In a discussion with Games.On.Net, a Turbine rep discussed the success LOTRO has experienced since going F2P last year, and what that means for the MMO genre.

Free To Play has really been a great move for us. We were one of the pioneers in the F2P space and that means that in many ways we’ve been able to define what that means. For DDO players, what that means is that you can choose to play, and pay, in the way that is most convenient for you. This change had an even bigger impact on the DDO business than it did on LOTRO and there is no bigger testament to the success of the model than the fact that we were able to greenlight a substantial growth in our development team so we could release our first-ever expansion 6 years after the original launch of the DDO service.

The great thing about F2P is that it makes it a lot easier for players to check out the game or even come and go from another game. We continue to have hundreds of thousands of players in DDO every month and I doubt that could be the case if we were in a classic subscription model. It also allows different players to spend more or less in the game and everyone can contribute to the community in different ways and we can focus on improving the service for everyone. Overall it was and continues to be a great change for our game.

Is it sustainable? We would argue that it might be the only sustainable option.

So what do you think, Game Fronters? Is the subscriber model on the way to Dodo land? Sound off in comments.

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1 Comment on Turbine: F2P Model ‘The Only Sustainable Option’


On May 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

No, I don’t think the subscriber model is dying, but I do believe it has already been superseded by F2P as the more sustainable model. Subscription based MMO’s will still have a place in the market, but we will never see another one with the kind of numbers WoW managed to attain. Games like Rift and EVE have shown that you do not need an enormous player population to maintain profitability with a subscription model as long as your player numbers remain relatively stable.