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WB Interactive: Subscription MMOs not dead yet

But restrictive payment options are, claims Lord Of The Rings Online publisher

Adam Mersky, digital communications director at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, has questioned the notion that subscription MMOs are a dying breed.

Warner Bros. owns Turbine Inc., the developer behind the The Lord Of The Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online, both of which enjoyed great success after switching to the free-to-play business model.

However, speaking to our sister site Eurogamer, Mersky doubts the widely held belief that subscription-based MMOs are now a thing of the past.

"People now in the West expect to have full control over their entertainment dollar and spend it the way they want to," he said.

"It's probably not right to say the subscription MMO is dying; it's probably more right to say the idea of forcing a player to only have one option for having to consume your content - that's probably dying."

Turbine was among the first wave of Western developers to attempt the transition to a freemium business model, and its success prompted a number of other games to follow suit: DC Universe Online, Star Trek Online and Age of Conan, to name just a few.

Yet Mersky does not see this shift as Turbine's innovation. Rather, it is part of a trend occurring across all entertainment industries in which content providers are giving their customers more choice in how they pay.

"You can choose to subscribe to your satellite or cable television service, or you can buy an IP box like a Roku or an Apple TV, and get your TV shows by paying per show versus paying a monthly fee for all the TV you can watch."

Dungeons & Dragons Online producer Erik Boyer also contributed to the discussion, highlighting the assumption that a new MMO should exhaust the possibility of subscription before retreating to free-to-play - the ideal model should offer both.

"If we were going to release another MMO, we would not come out and - from my perception - launch it as a subscription game," Boyer said. "The right choice would be to make it a player-choice of subscription or free-to-play."

In an article for GamesIndustry.biz published last year, Sony Online Entertainment's John Smedley - who oversaw DC Universe Online's transition to free-to-play - predicted that BioWare's The Old Republic would be the last "large scale MMO" to rely on subscriptions.

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Latest comments (1)

James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada4 years ago
Anecdotal, but, playing both D&D Online, and Lord of the Rings Online, both for less than a year each, I can say that I really appreciated the dual option of paying a subscription (which I did), and of also paying for in-game content (which I did). I'd guess I spent an average of around $20-25/month on each game, which is far more than a pure $15/month subscription would have gotten them.

And, perhaps best of all, I was -glad- to be doing it. They offered good value for the extra money, and now that I'm playing Star Wars, I miss that opportunity. It's something I hope other developers keep doing.
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