The subscription model isn't dead - Parker

Industry is "arrogant" to assume consumers want to adopt newest business models, says consultant

While many online games have dropped a subscription model in favour of free-to-play, there's still a strong desire for subscriptions from consumers, according to consultant Nick Parker.

He claimed the industry is arrogant to think that it always knows best, and it risks alienating customers by assuming one service fits all.

"It's not dead, there is still a desire to have subscription models out there from consumers," he told an audience at Develop in Brighton today.

"We think there are people out there who are stupid if they want to pay a subscription, that's crazy."

We live in a guilded world here as part of the industry. We think that everybody is like us

Nick Parker, Parker Consulting

The advantages of subscription are still very appealing to consumers, said Parker, such as a single payment option and parents being able to control their children's spend online. For developers too, there's a constant revenue stream even when players aren't online, and developers have a deeper relationship with long-term players.

And while games such as Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes and Age of Conan have all shifted to a free-to-play model, Parker said that the UK and US businesses make big assumptions about their consumers without considering different markets want different services.

"We live in a guilded world here as part of the industry," said Parker. "We think, especially in the UK because we're super-arrogant, a bit like we are in the US - that everybody is like us, we're all for slightly irreverent, dark-type of gaming experiences. But in fact if you're a global business and you go talk to people in Spain, Italy and France, you're not going to be talking on the same level.

"They are not going to want to play those type of games all the time, which is why Xbox 360 and Microsoft are having a very tough time in getting global leadership because they cannot beat PlayStation in those territories. They will always be winning because they have very strong brands and a family presence."

Latest comments (8)

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
I am dumbstruck by the idea that a monthly subscription is being described as a method the "control children".

As for the rest, it all boils down to how good an experience a game delivers (be it due to its own merits, ore merely by means of peer pressure), how long a person plays the game and how much he is willing to pay for it.

Sure, Blizzard has tapped into the holy grail, by finding an audience which is willing to pay for being able to keep playing. But what ever happened to simply selling your MMO game at the store for $50, then do some microtransactions and DLC? Everybody always jumps on the wagon shouting the only alternative to monthly fees was giving the game away for free, making it a pain in the ass to play and earn money by charging for temporary unlocks which make the game somewhat playable and well paced. ArenaNet seems to be working just fine on that model nobody else seems to be willing to adapt. And they sold 7 Million retail products, on the PC of all platforms, with very hardcore niche gameplay.
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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 6 years ago
If your game for the most part sucks but some people are such nerds they'll pay for anything which has their subject of affection's mark on it, go freemium and give your stupidest, least discerning customers a way to spend more money on your product. If it is genuinely good than subscription isn't a risk at all. You've made a product people will be proud to pay for, and unabashedly discuss their fondness of.

Sit through 10 minutes of LOTRO and you'll know why it has to be freemium.
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Kim Pallister Director of Content, Intel6 years ago
The right business model is 'all the business models'.

Ultimately, more paths to the cash register is always a good thing, and there'll be markets for all of them.

Whenever someone says "X will kill Y and Z", it never does. It make take it's place alongside or even outsize the earlier models, but there'll still be opportunities for them.
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Rick Ellis Tech Director, ArenaNet6 years ago
Nice slam on the US... Stopped reading there...
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
From my point-of-view, certainly I can see the appeal of F2P to businesses:

1) Less risk of the game collapsing due to not having enough players. Sometimes players want to stick with a game but if they have no-one to play with, they go. F2P has that population of free players to act as NPC targets for the payers.

2) Muuuuch more money. In a subscription game, I pay x per account per month, usually around $20. That's it. With any kind of cash shop and suddenly I could be spending $60 on that thing, then $2 on that little bit. Actually, let's have 2 of those. And next month I will have to pick up that, which is $30, and those 4 things that cost $10 each.

3) More of the customers who pay our wages are "cash-rich, time-poor" these days. They can't do great long stints of grinding but they want to keep up with the others playing the game. Cash shops keep these people competitive and interested, so they stay and keep paying.

When I have my consumer hat on, F2P means two things:

1) I will hate 90% of the vocal players - people who have paid nothing lose nothing if they get banned and so behave horribly towards other players.

2) It will cost me much, much more than a subscription game.

I think perhaps that's something that developers (or do I mean publishers? Not sure how that works) do need to bear in mind when looking at f2p. Microtransactions have certainly worked great on kids in the past, but as an adult, I look at cash shops after making a couple of supportive purchases and think "We're not stupid, stop taking the mick."
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 6 years ago
"Ultimately, more paths to the cash register is always a good thing, and there'll be markets for all of them. "
That's a great quote
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 6 years ago
"Ultimately, more paths to the cash register is always a good thing, and there'll be markets for all of them. "
That's a great quote
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Lidia Janoszka Marketing Manager, Ganymede6 years ago
Matt, you give only "emotional" arguments. Tell us story about any game for which subscription proved to be better than free to play.
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