Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | September 13, 2010

Why WAR should not be Free to Play…or should it?

Since this past weekend, the news of course has been about Turbine’s relaunch of their game, The Lord of the Rings Online as Free to Play. Numbers look good so far, launching LOTRO into the top 10 for the first time *ever* on Xfire (a great way to look at how games are doing versus trends.)

It is hard for Warhammer Online players to see this though and of course not worry about the health of their game. As a comparison, WAR dropped on Xfire this past weekend, to lower numbers than it usually has. So, check the forums today and you will see a multitude of players asking why WAR cannot follow the same scheme. Why is WAR not F2P with a cash shop.

One reason: PvP.

The “Pay to Win” issue looms large when you have a competitive sport like PvP. When others can pay to advance, while others cannot, this gives a player a sense that their skill is not they key, but is based on how big your wallet is (Makes you wonder why doping is frowned upon by many; unfair advantages suck). I prefer to call that “Big Business” and “Real Life”…but, I digress. PvP cannot allow this type of gameplay, if it wants to be known as a GOOD PvP game. WAR is a GREAT PvP game.

One offer that I have kept out there is the Tier pricing scheme. We all know Tier 1 of WAR is free. But, why not let others progress a Tier at a time at a price. I have covered this in many places, but for those who do not Twitter or read forums, the fix is simple. Each Tier is offered at a $5 increment. But, as well, keep the current T1 limitations in. Make it so the player must be a subber to get Blue, Purple or Gold bags to open. Cut off mail access. Only allow chat to be Advice and Region (and RvR of course). You need a “carrot” to get people moving.

I could easily see myself having one alt on another login who would just be Tier 2 for example. I would gladly pay an extra 5 to just stay in that area of skill. I bet you would also see more doing the same. And of course, $15 unlocks all. With the added bonus of RvR packs coming, the potential for extra cash flows exist. But, you gotta be smart in the business and not shoot yourself in the foot (“We are NOT going Free 2 play”….why say that at all?)

But, I also see more potential. No matter how much the RvR players want to ignore it; WAR has PvE. It is pretty decent PvE (needs work still, but has the true potential there). May I suggest something new.

How about a  100% Free to Play PvE server. NO RvR. Leave the lakes in place with it’s RvE, but players must flag themselves (i.e: duel) to RvR. Make all RvR purchasable by Cash Shop, but base it still on RENOWN. Just now Renown is gained by either RvE or Duels. And hey, why not leave Scenarios…but, make them an addon. To access Scenarios for 30 days pay $5 or $10. Of course, make sure players can GET RvR gear still in game. But, increase the grind. I smell Asian grind all over it, and thus gain an audience that likes that type of gameplay.

You are so elusive my little Unicorn because no one ever comes here to find you.

Allow horses to be earned, but raise in game cost, or offer them in the cash shop. Offer the uber horse and griffons/manticores in Cash Shop only. Make guilds have limits. A major guild can have 20 players to start, but you must level guild to Rank 20 before you can expand that. Or just let players BUY slots at a dollar a pop.

I have a whole list of them here, but hey, you get my drift.

Potential for mass market is where you put the effort in. Turbine learned this, and it is paying in spades. SOE still needs a few lessons (they went overboard in their cash shop, and based on the numbers, it shows interest is low). The truth is the market has changed. The game devs need to learn to cope with the concerns, and learn to game the market to meet their ends. Profit is the overall winning goal.

Any MMO can switch to a Free to Play model. Just, that model can ONLY exist in PvE. PvP and cash shops are just a bad idea. Recognize your strengths of your product, and you could be doing as well as Turbine or any Asian based Free to play.




  1. We are in a drought when it comes to MMOs at the moment. WoW’s Lich King is already dead, and Cataclysm still far away. GW2 not before Spring 2011. What else? People even try STO! 🙂

    I just wonder where LOTRO will stabilize. I am not sure if the shop works nearly as well as for DDO. I read the PvD blog today and it was a bit concerned about DDO’s new low level raid and other things related to the shop, and in LOTRO it does not seem to be as well implemented. The very nature of LOTRO makes it less suited for this model.

    The main reason is LOTRO’s appeal at least to me is the huge world Middle Earth. Selling this in chunks is not as easy as selling adventures in DDO, and I doubt the instanced instant-action “Skirmishes” will be a top seller in the long run.

    As high/max level player I apparently have to pay for fast travel routes. Imagine paying cash for being able to use the portals in Dalaran on an hourly (!) basis. Or just subscribe. This is what they apparently want from high level players. You are lucky if you are a hunter, which have very generous fast travel abilities without cooldown. As a Champion or other class one must pay cash. I wonder if some players in the closed beta complained about that.

    I reserve further judgement till I tried it out myself. I would not wonder if this brings in a lot of new players. LOTRO – if one can get over the animations 😉 – is not bad and it is Middle Earth, after all. It will suck in players.

    People usually quit in the North Downs / Lone Lands level and zone range. They revamped at least the Lone Lands recently. By the time people get there they will be required to buy quests and zone packs and all that.

    THEN it will be decided if LOTRO F2P works. I guess casual slackers will need 1-2 months to get there. For me the decision is made earlier: I hope the new Enedwaith area rocks and that I do not get nagged at every occasion to subscribe or suffer. This could drive me away.

  2. I still can’t understand why people so addict to such a WAR game. But you have wrote a nice article…

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