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LotR Online's Free-To-Play Switch Tripled Revenue

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the one-does-not-simply-log-into-mordor dept.

Lord of the Rings 91

Last June, Turbine made the decision to switch Lord of the Rings Online from a subscription-based business model to a free-to-play model supported by microtransactions. In a podcast interview with Ten Ton Hammer, Turbine executives revealed that the switch has gone well for the company, with game revenues roughly tripling. The active player base has also grown significantly in that time. Executive Producer Kate Paiz said, "This really echoes a lot of what we've seen throughout the entertainment industry in general. It's really about letting players make their choices about how they play."

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DUH! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34798038)

Yes, allowing people to actually pay (and play) when they want to, and not be forced to feel like they HAVE to get their money's worth with a subscription system, is proven to be better for both the gamer AND the company.

Re:DUH! (5, Informative)

Christophotron (812632) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798564)

Wow, LotRO made the /. headlines, awesome :)

I had never previously paid any money to play an MMO before LotRO. I used to play Ultima Online, first as a free 1-month trial and then on free unoffical servers many years ago. I joined LotRO a few months ago because it was free to play, and I quickly became hooked. It is a very high-quality game and very fun to play. Yes, I admit it is very commercialized because there is a 'store' built right into the game, and you can purchase points to buy things in-game. These things include additional content, quests and such, items, and lots of other 'little' things that can make things more convenient and/or fun.

But the beauty of it is -- you don't need to purchase _anything_ from the store to play through the main quest line, or to go to any area in the game except the major expansons. You can also _earn_ points without paying real money for them, just by playing the game. So I could avoid a monthly fee altogether and just throw a couple of bucks at it if there's something I want, or I could earn it by playing. And the stuff you spend the points on does not really imbalance the game. Sure, you can level a little bit faster or you can fast-travel to distant lands a bit more easily, but it's not like the free players are at a huge disadvantage.

I played for about a month and then I purchased the big expansion for the game, Mines of Moria. You need to be level 45+ to really go to the expansion area, anyway.. So along with this expansion I got a 'free' month of 'VIP' access, which includes many of the perks you can purchase using the points system. I really liked having these things after my free trial expired, so I decided to continue my VIP access by paying $10/month. I still play this game every day, so why not? But if I ever start playing less frequently, I can completely stop paying any money and still reap the benefits that I have unlocked already. That, to me, is really awesome. If this were WoW, if I stopped paying I could not play at all, period. It's a really ingenious system, IMO.

Re:DUH! (2)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799182)

Just out of curiousity, does the name "Mytharria" mean anything to you?

Re:DUH! (2)

Arterion (941661) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799658)

It certainly does to me! I wasted several years of my life there. Hell, I could probably even blame it for flunking out of college the first time around. Heh. Still, if I could put mytharria.org,2593 in my login.cfg right now and start playing again, I would in a heartbeat. Believe it or not, I have an old mytharria.tgz that's been sitting on my hard drive for years (the file date says 12/25/2001) that's the entire POL run environment for the server at some point, I think the "Dawn's Rising". Don't ask me how I got it, I can't remember. I used to have a huge number of screenshots, but I lost them all several years ago. It was a sad day.

There's really never been another game or another UO community that has been able to recapture that magic. =\

Re:DUH! (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34826686)

*stab stab*

-- Qamos

Re:DUH! (1)

Arterion (941661) | more than 3 years ago | (#34828528)

Hahah, wow, brings back memories. :D

Re:DUH! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34820186)

Hell yes! But a couple weeks on antibiotics cleared it right up.

You can save money by subscribing one month (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801080)

to get all your characters mounts instead of buying them with real money. You can also use this trick to get all your bags too.

Re:You can save money by subscribing one month (1)

RussellSHarris (1385323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34824502)

There's a reason that collecting many small payments spread over time will usually result in higher total revenue than getting one lump sump as a monthly subscription. It's the same reason that an "all-you-can-gamble" slot machine (e.g. penny slot machine but deposit $20, unlimited plays until you leave) would be much less profitable for casinos. They get you every time you need that one next thing.

It makes you feel like you can afford more, even though you end up paying more in the long run. And it's become so all-encompassing in our society as to even affect the way we buy luxury items like TVs. You can't afford a $2500 wall-sized TV, but you can afford a low monthly payment of $150 for the next 18 months...

Re:DUH! (1)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801410)

Also for the free players and non subscribers the whole purchasing system is presented very well. In the initial areas everything is unlocked, all quests are available and the main storyline is always available. Later on though you will start seeing little golden buttons and small messages saying you can buy so and so content whenever you encounter something locked. You can then simply rightclick the button/npc and it will open up the ingame browser and take you to the store where you can quickly and easily buy whatever it is you want or check out whats on sale. This i found was a big draw and what pushed me to open up my usually tight purse strings. The TP system is simply very well done.

Re:DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34826626)

I got a 'free' month of 'VIP' access

I thought the game was free to play. Under what conditions do they charge you on a monthly basis?

Re:DUH! (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802860)

Yes, allowing people to actually pay per minute when they want to, and not be forced to feel like they HAVE to get their money's worth with a flatrate Internet connection, is proven to be better for both the gamer AND the company.

It's more the "the first shot is free" business model, what they make money on are the addicts who typically spend way, way much more than they would in a subscription system while the casuals get a free game. Kinda like going to Las Vegas to not gamble, they even give you "free" chips with the room to get you into the casino...

Worked for me (2)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798078)

I quit a long time ago when it was a subscription plan, and the switch drew me back fairly quickly. I think I'll be subbing again as well. I fully appreciate Turbines move in this - the flexibility is very nice.

Meh (0)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798084)

I'd say it shows that people like to be 'winners' even if they have to pay real money for it.

If I can obtain an item by reaching level X - or by paying $5 and showing off the item, then certain people will just cough up.

Re:Meh (1)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798524)

Eh, different people enjoy games differently. I used to play CoH long ago, but quit after I kept getting into XP debt up to my eyeballs that I finally said, "I'm paying for this?" Now if I'd had the opportunity to pay $5-10 for debt forgiveness, or some item that made the work of getting out of debt more fun/less time consuming than fighting henchman after henchman, I might have considered keeping my subscription.

Re:Meh (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798656)

s long as they can't buy something that can't be reasonably earned in game, I have no problem with that.

Re:Meh (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798986)

Precisely, there's been a fair number of games in recent times taking that approach. The ones which allowed access to content that couldn't be gotten without donating tended to fair poorly. The problem being that either the content was pointless and trivial or it ended up breaking the game for people that couldn't afford to pay. And if they have to pay in order to get the content in order to keep up, you may as well require that people play.

Re:Meh (4, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799024)

Turbine does cash-shops properly. I play DDO, but I hear LotR is the same: none of the items you can buy for cash are particularly useful in the end-game. The Korean MMOs are different: cash and plenty of it is the only way to be competitive in the end game. But that turns off most US players, and the Turbine games don't use that model.

At least in DDO, most of the utility items you can buy for cash don't work in raids. The equippable items you can buy are nice when your first character is level 3, but are basically vendor trash items (still, when you're just starting off, paying 50 cents for a +2 sword or whatever can be attractive, but no one will be impressed by it). The main thing people buy is content, just piecemeal instead of subscription-based: a dungeon here, a playable race there.

Re:Meh (1)

Frellco (1971108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801612)

That's one of the really nice things about the LotRO store. The store does not sell "gear" in the sense of gear that will help you in-game.

You can buy lots of cosmetic stuff. You can buy a couple trait levels. You can buy some of the bonus books which improve your stats (but if you play any fellowship instances, you're going to get those anyway).

There really is very little in the store that could be considered giving you an edge or even equaling a player who does not.

They've done, IMO, an excellent job of this balancing act.

A lot of what folks end up forking cash over for things like bank vault space, shared space, wardrobe space, character slots, warden/rune-keeper classes, mounts, and some nice things like "double count for slayer deeds" which is a varying length buff that lets you get 2x the kills for slayer deeds.

At any rate, I'm completely enamored with the idea that Turbine is really doing well with this model as it means I'll get to keep playing more LotRO! :)

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34824686)

That's one of the really nice things about the LotRO store. The store does not sell "gear" in the sense of gear that will help you in-game.

You can buy lots of cosmetic stuff. You can buy a couple trait levels. You can buy some of the bonus books which improve your stats (but if you play any fellowship instances, you're going to get those anyway).

I'm sorry but this isn't correct. They sell stat tomes that permanently boost particular stats on your character that directly enhance your combat capabilities, by putting out more damage, more healing and taking less damage. While the stats are capped that doesn't really save you since without buying things in store you can only bring single stats to the cap, and with the store you can boost secondary stats closer or up to the cap. While theoretically these "stat tomes" also drop in-game it has been shown that the drop rate is impractically low and looks like just as excuse for Turbine so that they don't look bad for selling powerups in-store only.

What is worse are the potions they sell, and those are straight shop-only. These potions offer 6 times the self-heal rate from potions compared to the best non-cash potions (google "Superiour Draughts of Morale" which is their title). And those two combine, so a player who pays cash (and quite a lot if you pop them back-to-back, more than a dollar per minute) operates at 7x the heal rate from potions. That has a direct impact on what kind of fights you will win or lose and is exactly what people wanted to prevent.

Turbine has also been careful about leaving the interviews from before the f2p launch online, which contain statements that the store will not offer such items. They went out of their way to correct other information on the same sites, but conveniently they let these old interviews stand which made deceiving statements about store items. They said the store will be "cosmetic and convenience only" at a time when they had already put powerups in but the audience couldn't see it yet.

Is that good? (1)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798144)

Out of curiosity, did that make the game "profitable?" I mean, three times zero is still zero. Does the game now bring in enough revenue to justify its continued existence?

Re:Is that good? (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799078)

It was never unprofitable.

Re:Is that good? (3, Insightful)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799366)

It was never unprofitable.

That may be true, but if they were making a profit it was a tiny one. A good friend of mine works at Turbine, and things were very tight and not looking good for a long time. It sounds like they were very close to shutting down entirely when Warner Bros. bought them last year and brought a nice infusion of cash, which allowed them to try the free-to-play model that seems to be working out well (also allowed them to hire some new people and pay the bonuses and raises they had been going without for years).

Re:Is that good? (1)

barrtender (1930830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799766)

That answers the original question then. If they were spent x to make it and made y with y being a bit larger than x it means that after the free-to-play they're making 3*y which seems like they're getting a very significant return on their investment. I'm glad to see this strategy worked so well for them and seems to be catching on slowly in this market.

Re:Is that good? (2)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799772)

That may be true, but if they were making a profit it was a tiny one. A good friend of mine works at Turbine, and things were very tight and not looking good for a long time. It sounds like they were very close to shutting down entirely when Warner Bros. bought them last year and brought a nice infusion of cash, which allowed them to try the free-to-play model that seems to be working out well (also allowed them to hire some new people and pay the bonuses and raises they had been going without for years)

The DDO switch to free-to-play happened well before the Warner buyout, and the profitability shown by that change is, I suspect, one of the things that made Warner think they were a good acquisition. The LotRO switch to F2P was just a follow-up, with the hopes that it would prove as profitable as the DDO switch had been.

Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798178)

When this show started 10 years ago the amount of servers for a 1000 person "shard" was measured in racks, by the end of this decade I would not be surprised to see 1000 person servers on a single blade.

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (1)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798578)

Just because you can fit more users on a blade doesn't mean it doesn't cost just as much (or more) to develop new content. I mean, have you seen the amount of money developers spend on a non-MMORPG lately? Millions.

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (2)

GasparGMSwordsman (753396) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798592)

I hosted a 300+ person MMO server from 2003 to 2005 on a home computer (not even a beefy one either). It never even came close to max load (peak was about 40% of CPU/RAM with almost all users on at once). They take less resources than you would think.

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798856)

Indeed.

I don't know why people assume running an MMO server would be so costly - the amount of RAM that goes into simply running the 3D engine for the Client can store a lot of relevant information for a server that doesn't have to render a thing.

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (1)

erikdalen (99500) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802674)

The load probably goes up a lot in a PvP MMO with collisions than in a PvE MMO without collisions. Also the need for low latency is higher in PvP (With PvE the client can predict monster movements more easily)

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34824530)

The more you offload to the client, the easier it is to design hacks. If your game gets popular this will be a major concern unless you simply don't care about the cheating.

Re:Costs much less to maintain a MMORPG (3, Interesting)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34800304)

Check out the EVE Dev Blogs [eveonline.com] for extremely detailed information on users, blades, racks, nodes, etc. They have some excellent data on how they balance users on a blade and how the action happening within drastically affects each blade.

Missile Module Impact pt 1 [eveonline.com]
Missile Module Impact pt 2 [eveonline.com]
Fixing the Lag Blog Series [eveonline.com]

Lots of really interesting in depth information about how the code works, the tools they use for finding problems within the code, how their servers are configured, etc. Great read from a technical point of view

Seriously old news (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798208)

Gross doesn't equal net. Operating costs went up substantially as well and most of the money they made was from an influx of players that came in and bought things in game, like quest packs and such... Most of which is permanent so they will not continue to purchase more unless they make more. They basically resold a game that had already been made to players that had already purchased it but no longer wanted to pay a monthly fee. Once those players have bought up all that content (again) they are done spending money unless Turbine generates a lot more content. I'll give them credit, their free to play model is the best one out yet... but they certainly didn't triple their profits.

Re:Seriously old news (1, Troll)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799202)

Um, that's why the headline and summary say "REVENUE" and not "PROFIT." There is a difference. Unless you are a troll who made an ignorant post on purpose, you should know what words mean before you accuse the whole article of being a fraud.

Re:Seriously old news (2)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799844)

They basically resold a game that had already been made to players that had already purchased it but no longer wanted to pay a monthly fee. Once those players have bought up all that content (again) they are done spending money unless Turbine generates a lot more content. I'll give them credit, their free to play model is the best one out yet... but they certainly didn't triple their profits.

That's not really true. The big advantage to the F2P model isn't forcing players to re-buy content, but rather to draw in new players. Which is exactly what's happening (at least in DDO - can't speak for LotRO since I don't play it). There are still plenty of "old-timers", a lot of whom still pay for "VIP" (subscription) status. But the number of new players outnumber the old-timers by at least 5 to 1. The F2P switch has allowed them to increase their player base substantially.

And in the case of DDO, a lot of new content has been released since the F2P switch. I expect them to do the same with LotRO.

Worked for others (1)

Wamoc (1263324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798346)

The free to play with MicroTransactions seems to work pretty well. ArenaNet has done it with Guild Wars for years. Other non-mmo games but still require good servers like League of Legends has been successful using it.

Re:Worked for others (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801936)

Guild Wars doesn't really push MicroTransactions like most such games do though. There's no item shop, and almost all the additional purchases are once per account. The only ones that aren't are character re-customizations.

Re:Worked for others (1)

tycoex (1832784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34805966)

Actually Guild Wars proves that the entire Item Mall or subscription model for mmorpg's is a scam. ArenaNet was making a steady profit off GW and it's expansions without relying on micro-transactions or subscriptions. Just buying the games for $50 is plenty of money to run the servers. Subscription fees are a scam that people bought into when mmorpgs and the companies continue to use because people aren't smart enough to see through them.

"tripiling" what? (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798376)

Without some dollars to measure, the words "tripiling" sounds fantastic. 3x a small number can still be a small number.

See: TF2 (1)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798444)

That's pretty much what Valve did with Team Fortress 2 - the product has been on sale so many times (via Steam) that they sold it just about everyone that owns a Steam account, then created the in-game store for players to buy items. Valve makes money, players get more options,and indie developers see a percentage of their custom creations. Play as you want, pay as you wish.

Re:See: TF2 (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798624)

*doesnt own tf2 yet*

Re:See: TF2 (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802644)

I haven't ever played it, but, sure enough, it is there in my account. It was very hard to skip it because Valve keeps shoving it into pretty much every "mega pack" they offer, and those tend to have very welcoming pricing, especially on holiday sales.

Questions... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34798500)

Thoughts:

3-4 times the number of players and most of them new == how much higher customer support cost?

How many people made one-time purchases during that time that allows them to do everything they want without paying for a monthly subscription ever again?

Which month compared to what? Turbine spent the year before f2p mostly on implementing f2p and very little was offered to make people resubscribe. It makes a big difference whether the 1/3rd is right before f2p (in the void so to speak) or whether it is during times where new content was provided on a regular basis.

Also, is this really month by month since September? And how much of it was caused by the huge 20% sale at the end of December that potentially allowed people to load up on "points" (the currency you later spend on game content and items) and live on them all year.

Last but not least if any of the above is true and revenue later drops, will we ever learn of it? It seems like dangerous one-sided information to rely on when deciding whether it is a good business model.

Re:Questions... (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799800)

To my knowledge, Turbine states that free players don't get customer support; they can post on the forums, but can't use the customer support system.

VIP players (aka, those who pay a subscription fee) get full customer support, and Premium players (those who have paid Turbine for something related to the game, at any point) get support for 30 days past the last time they bought Turbine Points.

Re:Questions... (1)

HybridST (894157) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801910)

I have a f2p account and the folks at turbine have been most helpful in getting the latest update running on my antiquated system! Of course i never read the support policy but that didn't stop them from emailing me config options that vastly improved performance and stability on my rig. Now i play daily once again...

Turbine (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798584)

Turbine is pleased with their results from doing this exact same thing with Dungeons and Dragons online. The concensus from players is that moving to Free to Play and microtransactions saved the game from becoming extinct and also helped fund more rapid game improvements. Paying players receive value from Free players as well.

PR Speak (0)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798760)

This really echoes a lot of what we've seen throughout the entertainment industry in general. It's really about letting players make their choices about how they play.

When I read this my BS alarm nearly knocked me off my chair. I get that when you are extracting money from people for data base entries, a very glib way of looking at it I know but bare with me here, you have to come up with some line of bs to mask that fact.

And I'm not trying to say that the guy has to be totally forthright. Further I know that people are indeed getting value for their dollar in terms of entertainment. But could he have said something that sounds a little less full of crap?

Re:PR Speak (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799962)

You seem to be misunderstanding the way this works. Sure, Turbine sells database entries for cash, but mostly they sell piecewise access to the content that subscribers get. You can pay $15/month, or $5/dungeon. That really is about letting players make chocies about how they pay/play. This seems to work pretty well in practice - lots of younger players buy content $5 here and $10 there as they have a little money, but they can keep replaying old content in the meantime and keep the social aspect of the game going.

Re:PR Speak (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34807158)

Fair enough. I almost did not post anything here because I could see that I was not knowledgeable enough about that MMOs pay model to really say anything of value. But I've got karma to burn so screw it heh.

On a side note, where was your sig for 8 years when we went from a federal surplus to a deficit?

Re:PR Speak (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34825878)

On a side note, where was your sig for 8 years when we went from a federal surplus to a deficit?

I hadn't realized, quantitatively, just how bad things were. But the past two years have been brutal - the debt has increased more under two years of Obama than it did under 8 years of Bush (not that the president really has all that much to do with it, it's just a convenient lable for the timeframe). This isn't a problem that a president can fix - we the voters need to realize that even though government program X may be a good idea in principle, we're out of money, and nearly out of borrowed money.

Our obligations to future retirees exceed $1M per taxpayer more than we have money for - we cannot possibly make good on those promises, the question is whether we wind down programs gracefully giving people time to make other plans, or ignore the problem until things actually start to collapse, as the PIIGS have done.

Re:PR Speak (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801554)

"Bare" with you? But I hardly know you!

LoTR free to play (3, Interesting)

Gronkers (912221) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798858)

Unfortunately they still want a month fee to play MonsterPlay which is the only truly unique thing about LoTRO! Rest of the game is just a restricted Tolkien setting. Sadly I stopped playing because Turbine never did any support, expansions or did any effort for Monsterplay. Once a year on April fools day you got to chase chicken players and splat them which was vastly amusing the first time. What other game can you play as a real monster (4 legged warg, 6 legged spider, etc) against other people?

Re:LoTR free to play (1)

Binestar (28861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798956)

Everquest had that feature in 2001. http://www.gamespot.com/news/2823441.html [gamespot.com] Never did much with it.

Re:LoTR free to play (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799994)

That kept in me Everquest for one more month though - it's a blast at first. It's also a great idea for a different PvP model, where you don't need to do any grinding to play on the monster side (but also don't accumulate stuff).

Re:LoTR free to play (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 3 years ago | (#34800940)

I believe they are reworking the monster play and making it f2p as well.

Re:LoTR free to play (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801126)

What other game can you play as a real monster (4 legged warg, 6 legged spider, etc) against other people?

Minions of Mirth. So-so as a MMO, but there's free play for a limited levelcap, and a one-time fee for the full game.

Re:LoTR free to play (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801390)

Monster play is PvP, and really there are better games out there if you like that sort of thing The best part of LotRO is the PvE stuff.

However they are opening up PvMP to everyone this year, and adding a new PvMP zone. It still won't be as good as any game that focuses on PvP though. Some players wish it would just be removed entirely. It can be fun now and then, but overall it is two completely separate communities and personality types.

agree (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799146)

I have to agree on the summary, and point out it's one of the reasons we (me and my girlfriend) stopped playing LOTRO. We're not hardcore players, never reached the max level with any characters (though our mains came close) and there were months when we played little or nothing. It just didn't feel right paying for. In fact, had our accounts not been so old as to have been deleted, we'd have taken it up again after it became F2P.

I think this also reveals a major problem of MMORPGs - the whole grinding means that you don't get out so easily (don't want to lose everything), but once you did, you're not likely to come back because you're not going to do it all over again. I know I won't.

Re:agree (1)

rvw14 (733613) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799670)

Intersting that your accounts were deleted. I played in the open beta, but not since. When I started FTP in September, my account fromt the beta was still there.

Re:agree (1)

HereIAmJH (1319621) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802358)

Your account was there, but the characters were not. But having said that, I quit playing in the spring of 2008 because I didn't have time (or money) for an MMO. When I came back for F2P, my accounts were still there (beta and release) with all of my characters on the production servers. I have since picked up copies of Moria ($10 ea) for both and upgraded to 5 char slots; with 5 bags, no gold cap, and mounts on all my characters. I also burnt off about 30k destiny points that I never bothered to use when I was a subscriber.

Re:agree (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34800530)

We're not hardcore players, never reached the max level with any characters (though our mains came close) and there were months when we played little or nothing. It just didn't feel right paying for.

That's why I quit EQOA Frontiers and Final Fantasy XI, I liked the games, but coudln't really devote a lot of time to them. I remember joining a guild in EQOA and getting kicked out when I wasn't leveling fast enough to help out guildmates. I couldn't really blame them either.

I even tried the WoW trial and liked it as well, but know I'd never be able to devote the time necessary to do the stuff other people think are "required" like spending hours every night raiding and whatnot.

I play the free FreeRealms now and again...I can play it on my own schedule without pressure, i'd play it more if they ever got the PS3 version done because I don't want to have to boot into Windows to play it. Been tempted by the free DDO and LOTRO, but they don't have Linux clients.

Re:agree (1)

mikechant (729173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34803668)

Been tempted by the free DDO and LOTRO, but they don't have Linux clients.
Don't know about DDO but LOTRO is rated gold/platinum for Linux under Wine, if you've got moderate Linux skills it looks like a relatively small effort to get it working.

Re:agree (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801470)

Hmm, no accounts in LotRO are deleted because they're too old...

Re:agree (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34805548)

Hm, then I have forgotten the login data and my e-mail and birthday have changed. :-)

Re:agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34824518)

I played the first month of release in LOTRO and that character was still there as of a couple months ago...same for DDO, which I created my initial account for in 2006 when it first came out. Curious.

Re:agree (1)

zukakog (909670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34808956)

Yep, I've made various accounts over the years, and I can login to all of them. My open beta account, which I haven't used since then, worked just fine when I just tried it. All my characters are still there too. I did delete some of them to free up names for future use.

*sigh* (1, Insightful)

Therilith (1306561) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799236)

I'm actually pretty disappointed by LoTRO going F2P.
DDO (another Turbine game) was dying and had no choice but to make the switch, but LoTRO was (as far as I know) doing fine.

I was considering going back to LoTRO after a long break, but now that they've switched to the "kids with mommy's credit card rule supreme" method that's not going to happen.
I have no problem with games supported by microtransactions existing, but it's pretty tiresome to hear people go on and on about how it's the best MMO payment option since sliced bread.

Re:*sigh* (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799664)

You've never played turbines f2p model then. I haven't played lotro but I have played DDO since it went f2p, and turbine has a huge difference in style then many f2p models. You generally can reach max level without even the slightest issue as a f2p player, The equipment in the cash shop, is all easy to find vendor trash that I get 10 items equal or better to them in a 15 minute dungeon run at level 9. The only major thing in the cash shop is extra instances that you can run. Essentially for $3-$7 you get permanant access to newer dungeons etc... Basically gives you more variety if you are playing a ton of characters. On top of that, you earn cash shop money for just running the game, so if there is one location you really want to get to, but didn't want to buy from the cash shop to get it, you can earn it instead. Assuming the Kid with the unlimmited credit card who spends $500 a month, going against say me who spends $15 every 2-3 months when something I want is on sale, my character is just as powerful as theirs are, there is no clear and obvious way to tell even in intense gameplay if someone spends a ton in the cash shop, short of maybe there armor is shiner (armor appearance kits, we'd still most likely be wearing equivalent gear but theirs might be dyed to look the way they want it)

Re:*sigh* (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34800308)

Yeah, the main thing sold through the cash shop is the basic content. It's more "kids with mommy's credit card blow it all on hairstlyes and armor appearance kits" (I've seen that exact complaint on the forums, as anyone on the account can spend the points once you buy them).

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801134)

The problem is with LOTRO it's not just cosmetics and content that they're selling. You can also pay to max out all your base stats, which WILL make you inherently more powerful than someone who doesn't have mommy's credit card to max out. You can also purchase potions that are far superior to those that you can acquire in-game.

I've played LOTRO a long time, and I like the idea of F2P model. Turbine just took it too far, too fast. Now everything in the game has been commercialized, and I'll be honest as a paying subscriber getting the same adverts that free-to-players get, a constant bombardment of "SPENDMOREMONEYNOW!" that make me dread logging in sometimes.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801026)

Except you are wrong, kids with mommy's credit card don't rule supreme, they just level faster. You can buy stat buffs but they're relatively worthless and can be earned in game. You can buy XP boosts, but all they do is count as rested XP, and the cost isn't really worth it. You can buy traits, except those can also be earned in game.

I was VIP and now I'm free to play because money is tight. The only perceptible difference I can see is that now I don't earn rested XP. I have a bunch of points they gave me for subbing and just from playing, but I am saving them for quest packs. This model is actually greatly beneficial for me as I sparingly play MMOs. I subb when I'm heavily playing, then cancel and still have access to nearly the full game and have points to purchase quests I'm missing.

It's actually stacked pretty heavily in the player's favor. I can't see how Turbine will be able to keep this up without either a constant influx of new users or rapidly creating new content.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801422)

The kiddies aren't ruling supreme. You don't get uber gear with a credit card, and it's not pay-to-win at all. Yes, there are more players now, and more players always pulls down the average IQ of a game. But most of them are in the starter areas. Overall the newcomers are much less obnoxious than first predicted, and they quickly pick up on local style. Ie, you don't hear "lol" much in the Shire but you do hear a lot of newcomers there getting into the spirit of being hobbits and enjoying the atmosphere.

Micro-transactions are completely optional. You can play without it if you subscribe. There's flexibility though if you like. You can stop subscribing while on vacation and still log in now and then to say high or do some crafting. I know a lot of long term players who've stopped with regular subscriptions because of that. I've also seen a lot of completely new players start off free and then decide to subscribe, and a lot who are in the middle, buying content ala-carte.

However I do think the model does fit in more smoothly with D&D Online.

Asheron's Call (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799276)

I just want to throw my comment into the ring. I really hope they can get Asheron's Call on a free-to-play model. I think they've upped the price on it(from it's initial release at least) and it would be fun to explore Dereth at my will, rather than making the commitment to pay for it monthly.

Eventual Bust? (1)

Bensam123 (1340765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799350)

"This really echoes a lot of what we've seen throughout the entertainment industry in general. It's really about letting players make their choices about how they play." PAY or PLAY?

I may be being a pessimist, but I believe systems like this will eventually bust. All of the failure MMOs are switching to free-to-play with heavy game based influences being based on how much money you spend in game. I'm not completely familiar with LotRs model, but eventually you'll reach a point where people get tired of having to put in a quarter for continued play. The influx and increased revenue right now, at least in my opinion, is based on the fact that everyone is all googly about so many free things and most MMOs do have a decent amount of content you explore before you get tired of them. I'm sure given another year or two this will climax and people will start to realize they're getting milked for something that they don't really find worth the money (or at least feel it).

Putting that aside, while I'm not familiar with LotRs model, I am with other crappy MMO models where you need to buy items in order to stay on top. A lot of 3rd rate Korean MMOs are like this and I recently played Global Agenda in which you almost immediately run into the pay wall. I almost justified buying this with friends, but after looking at the benefits for the 'purchased version' vs the 'free version', I started to realize that there is almost nothing to the game and they just try to hide it with smoke and mirrors. In other words 'if you buy this, the game will be so much better!' when really you already played the best parts of the game, sorta like a movie trailer.

Maybe I'm just putting too much faith in consumers to eventually figure things out or get a little inkling in their head that says 'danger will robinson'.

Re:Eventual Bust? (1)

coolmadsi (823103) | more than 3 years ago | (#34821060)

I see the Free-to-play games as slightly more aimed at a casual gamer than someone who games daily. If you game daily, it's fairly easy to justify a subscription, but if you play either a lot of different games, or play sparingly, the free-to-play ones can be beneficial. I played DDO last year, but stopped playing when I started my thesis. Have been thinking about playing again, but am in no particular rush, and don't feel the need to rush into playing again becuase I'm not paying monthly. I did spend some money getting new areas/quests, but have completed them once so don't feel as though I'm losing out by not playing them now (in fact using them again would be more of a bonus, if I were to start playing again)

As far as I'm aware you don't need a subscription to play Farmville, Angry Birds or similar (note: I have played neither so am only speculating I'm afraid), yet these are quite profitable.

As a side note, I was shopping at the weekend and saw a selection of 'gift' style cards (iTunes for example); I'm fairly sure they had Farmville ones among them.

Warcraft & Team Fortress 2 (1)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799398)

Obviously, this is the opposite of Warcraft, which is monthly subscriptions, but that also lets you buy a variety of microtransactions. The other game I play routinely is Valve's Team Fortress 2 via Steam, which has no monthly fee, but has a ridiculous array of little extras and add-ons and play-changing toys you can buy for extra cash when you feel like it--but you don't need even one.

How does LotR compare versus those?

Re:Warcraft & Team Fortress 2 (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801078)

In that scale, LOTRO is more on the line of TF2, but it sits somewhere in the middle. The items provided are usually along the lines of buying a gun from the TF2 store. It helps save time, but doesn't cause balance issues for those that don't want to use the store. There are content packs that are only available for pay, so that's like valve releasing 1-2 new maps that only paying users can connect to. The concept doesn't work well in the TF2 sense because it would mean servers having to be distinguished based on pay scale and in that sense the community is split in two (or more) pieces. In the LOTRO sense, Everyone plays in the same world, but you can only succeed in a zone if its free or paid for. Byt, it still allows everyone to play within the same world, talk, socialize, etc..

Re:Warcraft & Team Fortress 2 (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801484)

By "pay for" that includes subscribing. Subscribers get access to ALL content (assuming they have purchased the expansion). If you are a subscriber you can play the game exactly the same way you did before it went F2P.

Re:Warcraft & Team Fortress 2 (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801464)

LotRO is primarily a subscription based game still. That's what Turbine wants most players to be I think. But it has two other options: the completely free-to-play players, and the player that spends some money to buy just what they want. Subscription gives you everything you need and nothing vital is left out that you would need to spend extra money on, but you do get some points each month that you can spend on fluff if you want. The completely free-to-play is mostly an extended free trial. You can slowly earn points as a free player and try to do the full game for free, but it gets more and more inconvenient over time (you can level up to max level and can go anywhere, but you don't have most of the quests unless you spend points to purchase them). If you spend any money at all (or used to subscribe) then you can become a middle-ground premium player, with fewer restrictions than a free player.

It's the checkout candy model (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799718)

Or sweeties as us Brits call them.

Anyway, go free, get mass publicity, get 10x as many players, hook them in and when they're at their weakest offer them cheap ways to get whatever they want in game.

Change in playerbase demographics? (2)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34799904)

What I'd be curious about is the extent to which this has changed player demographics.

Back when I was playing LotRO, one of the primary attractions was that the average player was several years older than on WoW and similar subscription-based MMOs (something in the early 30's, according to Turbine folks at Austin GDC). This had a significant effect: a whole lot less of the trash-talking and harassment that tends to come with younger playerbases. Free-to-play games such as Runescape tend to attract younger people (primarily for economic reasons), but with that comes more behavioral problems.

Can folks who have been through the change tell me whether the free-to-play model has brought a change in the "character" of the playerbase? I might want to come back, but not if the primary attraction (a serious, literary playerbase who are there for the backstory and setting) is now a "u r teh g@y" pit.

Re:Change in playerbase demographics? (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34800362)

Well, for DDO (another freemium Turbine game), the demographics shifted a lot younger, as you might expect. However, it's a remarkably polite crowd, by MMO standards. I don't know why, but within a week you level out of the ""u r teh g@y" pit" (and you can earn or buy an option to start at level 4, making it take only a couple of nights to leave the annoying chat behind). I can't explain why the childishness is confined to just the starting levels, as it's not particularly difficult to level up. You certainly see young-seeming players at higher level, but for whatever reason they tend to be polite. Now that I've said that, I'm curious why that is! Maybe the trash talk all moves to some guild chat where I don't have to see it?

Re:Change in playerbase demographics? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801520)

It's basic peer pressure. If rude behavior isn't encouraged, then it tends to go away. The player either acts the same way that most others act, or they go away and try to annoy a different game. If no one laughs are your antics then you stop doing them.

Re:Change in playerbase demographics? (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801112)

The beginner zones in the game seem pretty mixed in terms of quality. In general you'll see a lot of young pukes that don't necessarily care about anything and run around acting like crud. I generally didn't have too much o f a problem with it, but occasionally I'd have to turn off global messages just to stop listening to a particularly inane conversation. Once you start to leave the beginner areas, the quality of the conversation and population seem to rise a lot. I suppose the kids that really have little attention span for the game end up getting bored and switch to different games instead of continuing.

Re:Change in playerbase demographics? (1)

zukakog (909670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34809084)

The community on my server is just as good as it ever was. We (as a server, and seemingly as a game-wide community) really tried hard the first few weeks to set a good example for the kids coming in, and in turn, they're setting a good example for the others that are following them. There is a bit more annoying chatter in our global chat channel, but Turbine had the foresight to add a "Report as Harassment" item to the chat window. If you report someone, it also adds them to your ignore list.

Digital divide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801924)

Games that offer in-game rewards in exchange for real life currency may offer increased revenue streams, but they perpetuate (and arguably worsen) the digital divide that undermines those from financially underprivileged backgrounds.

Re:Digital divide (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802654)

... so?

Re:Digital divide (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34855744)

It's a game. We're not talking about food or education or something. Luxury goods are exactly the kinds of goods that ought to be distributed via free markets. The "financially underprivileged" will probably be better off without addicting video games anyway ...

Fashion caps, sports jerseys (1)

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Re:Fashion caps, sports jerseys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34825892)

Hey, I wonder... is god_shanji@hotmail.com your real e-mail address?

Whoops. Now spammers will find it. That would be ironic.

why it really works (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34803962)

I play Dungeons and Dragons Online, the first game from Turbine to go free to play under the same system. I think it's been successful because you get a tiny bit of the in game store currency just by playing the game. That means you get used to buying items out of the paid store instead of outright boycotting it and being dead set against giving them any money. Also, they provided massive benefits permanently to players who bought their store currency from them once. It's only $6.50 minimum and I believe LOTRO is the same and then tada, you get massive benefits for life. So once you've got your credit card on file or got someone else to lend you their paypal account, they assume you'd do it again. Then of course there's the people who buy like $100/month in store currency because they're horribly rich and I hear that's what drives any game like this.
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