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.
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.