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City of Heroes Moving To Hybrid Payment Model

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the guess-it-worked-well-for-champions dept.

Businesses 62

KingSkippus writes "The superhero-themed MMORPG City of Heroes announced this morning that it is rebranding the game as City of Heroes Freedom ('freedom to pay and play as you choose'), and moving to a hybrid payment model including a free-to-play option. 'VIP' players who still pay a monthly subscription will have most features of the game unlocked and will be given credit towards purchase of others. City of Heroes Freedom is due to land later this year with the next major game update." The trend toward free-to-play continues. Meanwhile, a recent update that brought microtransactions to EVE Online has (at least temporarily) resulted in digital clothing items becoming more expensive than real-world counterparts.

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62 comments

Not surprised (1)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524240)

Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524616)

The best way to fill up a server is to allow in free-to-play people. The problem is converting them into paying customers. If you open up too much of the game, people will never subscribe, leaving you with sluggish, overloaded servers that you can't afford to upgrade. If you don't open up enough of the world, people will get bored and move on to a different game, leaving your servers perpetually empty. It's a difficult game to master.

Early hybrid games, such as Flagship's Hellgate: London (HGL), suffered from these issues rather acutely. To their credit, I think that Turbine has actually pulled off a rather impressive balancing act in Dungeon & Dragons Online (DDO). When you killed a boss in HGL, sometimes you got subscriber-only weapons. If you weren't a subscriber, it felt a slap in the face. "Ha ha! You can't use this! Sucks to be you," the game's developers seemed to be saying. That doesn't happen in DDO; in fact, loot that drops in subscriber-only areas can be put on the auction house or traded to non-subscribers. In HGL, you'd have rather dubious benefits as a subscriber, seeing as how almost everything in the game was available to non-subscribers. Flagship was very slow to add new content, and what little new content they did add just highlighted the lack of content on launch. Turbine, on the other hand, regularly adds new content, some of which is usually available to non-subscribers.

Obviously, HGL had many, many problems beyond their subscription model (such as being launched way too early), but I think that Turbine has shown how you can make something like a hybrid subscription model work, when other, prominent games using that model died fiery, public deaths.

This isn't to say that I'm a Turbine fanboy, because I think Turbine has done nearly as much wrong as they've done right, but they've really done a lot to win me over in the past few months. I've even spent some real-world money in their store, which is something that I never thought I'd do. The biggest problem with Turbine's method, I think, is that subscribers end up with ridiculously overpowered items, while non-subscribers scrape by with rather bland loot from the free-to-play adventures. With access to those items, the game becomes a simplistic (and even somewhat boring) grind, where you are never in any real danger of dying. Still, a simplistic, boring grind is exactly what most MMORPG fans want, so it's possibly another time when Turbine is more in tune with their audience than failed companies, such as Flagship, who tried to make their game challenging (such as adding hardcore mode).

Re:Not surprised (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525000)

Turbine have done a pretty good job in LOTRO. You *can* play FTP if you wish but it gets excruciatingly grindy (e.g. kill wolves ad nauseum in some zone to gain advanced wolf killing achievement and 15 turbine points) but most people would pay just to avoid this and enjoy themselves.

Re:Not surprised (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525296)

so no different to when it was pay to play?

Re:Not surprised (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525502)

so no different to when it was pay to play?

It's quite different. People can set their own pace and their own budget to suit their free time and interests. :

  • You can go completely FTP and enjoy a large chunk of opening game for nothing and then grind for points to progress. Not my cup of tea but it's possible.
  • You can pay a la carte, augmented with easy to reach FTP achievements. It's easy to claw back 50-100 points per zone without much effort during the course of normal play. Which is fine for me.
  • You can go VIP and use a sub. A pile of stuff is included and 1000 points per month for stuff that isn't. I don't play enough to justify this.

You pick. It's simply more flexible. I stuck in €39 in January (after playing since it relaunched) and six months further on and I still have points left over. If I had been paying a sub that whole time in the old model it would have cost me €90. So less than half the cost in effect.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525952)

It's quite different, actually. You basically can set your own pace. Turbine is really, really good at the whole F2P thing IMO. I like the "Premium" option in DDO - I don't pay subscription fees, but I get to buy stuff that I essentially can keep forever.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526214)

I'm hoping CoX does something similar to DDO's approach, actually. Let me buy the bits and pieces I want for keeps, or let me pay a sub and rent everything at once. If I want to play dark elves but not favored souls, and I want this adventure but not those other ones I can simply buy access to them for a few bucks, if I want *everything* then I can have that two with a sub or a much larger outlay of money to the store.

I know CoH is going to have a "premium" option that grandfathers in certain things if you have a previously paid account from before it went free.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525352)

The best part of the Turbine model is when you go premium so that you can buy the stuff that you want ala carte. So you can buy the content that you're interested in which decreases the grind and gives you decent gear and essentially play exactly like a full subscriber when you use that content. Premium players can definitely get into the end game and no one will even have to know you're not a subscriber.

In LotRO you can get access to everything as a premium player. Of you've got only one or two characters and will be playing for a year or more then it's probably cheaper to buy all quest packs and buy off all limitations than to subscribe (everyone does the math differently so the crossover point is up for debate). PvP is the only thing premium players can't buy but I think that's being allowed next expansion.

Re:Not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36525056)

If we are going to hold up a f2p game as being close to the ideal, you have to mention League of Legends. It is not an MMO which allows it to implement a different model. That point aside playing LoL as a f2p game just makes me want to spend money, without ever feeling like anything is being withheld from me because I don't. Given it's enormous level of success it is hard to argue with their business model.

Re:Not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36538146)

Turbine has all the style of a pay toilet.
Dungeons and dragons online is NOT free to play. Unless you don't play. You WILL have to pay eventually if you wan't to actually play for any period of time.
And pay again. And again. ect..

It's an ok game. But they just nickle and dime you to death all along the way. Even VIP isn't. You still have to pay more on top of yourr vip monthly to get 'everything' or even most things such as character classes and races.

It's also a severely buggy game that i would class as forever beta. Many bugs that are dead simple to fix (like text strings) have been wrong for years now. Along with quite a few game impacting serious issues that can screw you out of time and or money. Their answer when that happens is 'sorry, tough shit'.
They are well known but turbine refuses to discuss or even acknowledge them. And deletes any attempts to discuss them on the official forums.

And their customer support is some of the absolute worst i have ever seen in an online game.

And while i played i got to be 100% sure that the developers for the game do not EVER play on the live version. The disconnect between what they say and what is reality in the game is just too huge.

It was an ok game. They got some money out of me. Until i got sick of their epic greed and general incompetence.

Re:Not surprised (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524990)

Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.

I played COH and COV for a while (the free month plus a few extra) before becoming quite bored of the game. Like many games it suffered from that perennial problem of grind and lack of content. Most of the missions I played it involved traversing generic offices / sewers / factories / tunnels zapping generic stationary bad guys before a boss encounter then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Levelling up usually meant a change of scenery and bad guys but more or less identical gameplay whichever zone you were in. I did leave about 3 years ago so maybe things have been shaken up a bit since. I know that LOTRO was a *lot* better when I returned after it went FTP so perhaps the same holds true for COH/COV.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525022)

Knew it was coming. I still play this game, but only a few of the servers are populated. Many of them are near empty.

I played COH and COV for a while (the free month plus a few extra) before becoming quite bored of the game. Like many games it suffered from that perennial problem of grind and lack of content. Most of the missions I played it involved traversing generic offices / sewers / factories / tunnels zapping generic stationary bad guys before a boss encounter then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Levelling up usually meant a change of scenery and bad guys but more or less identical gameplay whichever zone you were in. I did leave about 3 years ago so maybe things have been shaken up a bit since. I know that LOTRO was a *lot* better when I returned after it went FTP so perhaps the same holds true for COH/COV.

As grinds go, how is this different than any other MMO?

Re:Not surprised (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525088)

As grinds go, how is this different than any other MMO?

Not especially different. Do missions, gain exp, level up, train, buy skills, repeat. Travel to new zone fight new enemies, repeat. What made it more stark though was the repetitiveness of it. There were 4 or 5 generic sceneries used for virtually every mission and they got boring really fast. I would hope the intervening time and updates (called Issues) have added new features and taken some of the monotony out of it. As I said, LOTRO got a lot better between the time I dumped it and came back and maybe the same holds true for COH. I know I'll give it a spin assuming my character is revivable from where I left him (around lvl 25).

Re:Not surprised (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526256)

You start seeing more variety in environment later on, when you aren't raiding office buildings and warehouses all the time and thus gettng maps with the office building and warehouse tilesets. The villain side has a lot more variety in environments early on than heroes do as well.

I was always personally fond of the Portal Corp missions which mix things up a bit.

Re:Not surprised (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526494)

Oh there's ways of going from level 1 to 50 in a couple of hours, if you have a high level buddy free to help.

Re:Not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36525930)

The team content (raids, TFs, trials) can have very different mechanics, which would have been true 3 years ago, and even more so now.

Some of the newer solo-friendly content has novel mechanics as well, I love the one where you fight up to 8 clones of your own character..

Re:Not surprised (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36529228)

The weird thing is huge numbers of the populace seem to just love that sort of thing. My oldest went out and bought the LOTRO box set and just loves the hell out of it. Me I watched him play for an hour and i'm like "When do you stop grinding?" because frankly I just don't get it. I have yet to see an MMO that wasn't grindtastic to the 12th power, yet people eat that shit up with a spoon, why?

To me the whole thing is a big old "meh" but then again I'm haven't played seriously online since the griefers ruined MechWarrior for me. but at least that game took some thought, it kinda reminded me of the "big blue blanket" WWII Pacific US strategy: You put your big monster heavies in the middle, mediums guarding those in an outer circle, and the smaller ones working as harrassers beyond that. It really took a tight team to keep from getting picked off in the game. These MMOs all seem to be "Bring me the asses of 20 snow goats" which I didn't find fun in games like Sacred or Diablo and I'm sure not gonna pay a monthly fee for the privilege of bringing an NPC the asses of 20 snow goats.

Eh, I guess to rip off every action movie ever made "i'm getting too old for this shit" as I don't get it, nor do I get the whole Farmville thing which my GF thinks is a slice of heaven. I had to set up a spare box on the far side of the apt so I can sleep when she is having her daily click fest. I wish the CoX guys luck, but I just don't see what makes them different from every other MMO out there.

Re:Not surprised (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#36529476)

Yup most MMOs have a pile of grind. I play LOTRO and it's there too. Fortunately for the game it has the lore, some decent unique content (e.g. all the book chapter stuff) and some pretty landscapes to hide most of it. The grind was definitely a lot worse before it went FTP, presumably because they know it doesn't work so good when you want people buying content rather than smacking their heads against a wall because the grind is too bad.

Worst game for grind I've played would be A Tale in the Desert by a mile. The least grind would be Puzzle Pirates where the games are the grind but you play them for fun in the first place. The most hands off grind would be Eve where skills auto train themselves but the higher proficiency skills can take days in realtime to learn but you don't have to be logged in while they happen.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525264)

Champions Online did this, but I can't use any of my existing characters without converting them to a dumbed down free version first. Only subscribers are allowed custom builds. So I haven't even bothered creating new characters or converting the old ones, spoiling the whole point of "I just want to stop in and poke around a bit now and then" part of free-to-play.

From reading the brief description, it appears to be less restrictive than Champions Online but more restrictive than Turbine's DDO and LotRO. Primarily they've got a VIP only server plus free players can't join super groups, both of which I'm sure will help to create free/premium players feel like second class citizens.

Re:Not surprised (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526282)

Premium players can join SGs, but only VIP (subscribers) can create them.

Which presents an interesting question for me -- I have a SG. All the members are either me or my nephew. We'd both be grandfathered in as premium. Does not being able to *create* a SG limit what we can do with an already existing one? Does that mean a free or premium player who wants to create a SG just needs to sub for a single month to get it made?

City of what? (1)

oquigley (572410) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524288)

Glancing at the headline, I read it at "City of herpes", which I'm hoping doesn't say anything in particular about me.

Re:City of what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36524370)

Also known as "Los Angeles". : )

Unbalancing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36524294)

Those pay-to-win games just allow the richest or most committed players to gain an advantage over others. You don't win based on skill but based on your wallet. Or in other words, your skills don't make you win, your wallet does.
This also takes away the purpose of playing since usually good items can only be bought with real money and can't be earned within the game by playing. In some games it's no big deal - mostly games where players don't play against each other - but in most pay-to-win games it is an issue.

I'm not really sure why people even play those games.
Why play when you know other people, who are willing to spend more money than you, will just spend cash to defeat you?
What is the enjoyment in defeating another player thanks to your money instead of your skills?
Where's the fun in doing quests or other achievements to earn items or other content when you know those in-game rewards don't compare to the items you can buy?

Pay-to-win schemes are killing video games.

Re:Unbalancing (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524336)

A lot of the games are not pay to win though. For example in DDO you buy content packs but theoretically you could also earn every one of them eventually if you tried. Champions Online you also don't pay to win, you can buy new costumes, powers and content.

There is a huge difference among free to play games. The western free to play games are very very rarely pay to win games.

Re:Unbalancing (1)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524840)

While it's true that you purchase adventure packs in DDO, those adventure packs are the only way to craft the most powerful weapons and armor. I have the same problem that the anon does: in most games of this type, the more money you spend, the better your character becomes. I think that DDO does it in a way that's more tolerable than most other games of its ilk (especially since it's possible to grind Turbine Points and get those adventure packs for free), but it's still something that bothers me somewhat.

In Hellgate: London, subscribers got very little in the way of benefits for their money. That was probably one of the biggest reasons that it died (among numerous reasons), but it was also kind of nice knowing that all the characters were generally equal to each other, without vastly overpowered items or classes being available only to subscribers. In the end, the way that Turbine does it is clearly the better way, from a financial standpoint (what incentive did people have to subscribe to HGL?), but I wish that free-to-play didn't also mean pay-to-win. I'm pretty sure there's a middle ground, and, admittedly, DDO is actually a lot closer to that middle ground than most free-to-play games that I've seen, but once you buy a few adventure packs, the game effectively turns into a boring grindfest, where you slowly plow through the content, wielding overpowered weapons and wearing overpowered armor. I'd prefer that the adventure packs merely opened up more quests, rather than giving out such overpowered items. It makes the game a bit too easy and causes non-subscribers to effectively become useless gimps, since they can't keep up with your uber-character. A subscriber decked out with at-level gear is probably worth three or four non-subscribers, especially once you reach level 12 (with access to greensteel weapons).

That non-subscriber can grind Turbine Points to get access to Vale of Twilight, where greensteel weapons are made, which mitigates some of the issues, but the problem (if you see it as a problem) still exists. One could obviously argue that it's merely an entitlement complex, and the non-subscribers are just jealous of the equipment that subscribers have access to, but I -- like the anon -- see it as more of a game balance issue than anything else. On one hand, the inner loot-whore in me loves the fact that the loot is so crazy overpowered in those adventure packs, but I'm also kind of annoyed at how much of a Monty Haul experience it is, too. The game becomes a joke once you acquire sufficiently powerful equipment, like the aforementioned bruiser who wields greensteel weapons at level 12, alongside his gimpy friends, who are still using +1 longswords and such.

Re:Unbalancing (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | more than 2 years ago | (#36546224)

Completely free MMOs exist. They're called MUDs.

I look at it this way, for pay as you go, DDO offers a lot of content. I like the idea of pay as you go content because I don't play enough to justify a monthly subscription fee. They are a business, not a charity. They have to make money somehow and anyone who faults them for this is just ignorant. They make new adventure packs and you're free to buy them or not while still having access to all of your previously purchased content.

Re:Unbalancing (1)

alostpacket (1972110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525304)

Anarchy Online did this recently too. And while they maintained that same ol' song that they aren't going to make it a pay to win game, they effectively created a loophole for someone to buy credits (currency in the game) with real life money.

I think evenitably they just cant hold back the bean counters who are asking why the new outfits aren't bringing in enough money. It's like feature creep but with power/value to purchased items.

I think their subscriber numbers took a huge nosedive as the players saw through it all. But that's just biased speculation on my part. I think it's sad to see the industry innovating more ways to extract money with in game purchases and DLCs rather than creating good products. But I guess that's a sure sign the Gaming industry has really become mature and lucrative.

Re:Unbalancing (3, Insightful)

ZosoZ (1603973) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525478)

It's hard to define how you "win" in a MMOG anyway, but if you mean reaching maximum level or getting the best loot, in the vast majority of games skill has always counted for far, far less than time invested (and sheer dumb luck, in some cases). Fighting other players in PvP then skill (and teamwork) is more of an issue, but if it's a DIKU-style level-and-gear-based game then time invested is still a significant factor.

For an achievement-centric player then the ability to buy the Sword of a Thousand Truths for cash rather than having to kill hundreds of Orcs and hope one happens to drop it might devalue the entire game, but if you're playing because you enjoy exploring the world, or getting together with friends to go on an adventure it's much less of a problem, and "pay to win" is as much of a nonsense as the idea of "winning" in the first place.

City of Heroes is particularly notable as it's much less about the "phat lewt" in the first place, in keeping with the superhero setting. For years there was barely anything resembling an economy, and though later patches have developed that side of things I don't think it's the defining factor of the game. PvP was always something of a sideshow (again, not present at all at launch), it's been a while since I played but the players seemed to prefer Heroes and Villains grouping up together to face common foes rather than fighting each other.

"Free to play" isn't inherently good, it's quite possible to end up with something resembling an arcade game where you have to keep shoving in 10p coins to continue (probably £1 coins these days, been a while since I was in an arcade), but it offers a flexibility that's missing from the subscription model if you'd like to play a couple of games once or twice a week.

Let's see how they implement it first (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526272)

Much as I love leaping to conclusions as much as anyone else, I'd say let's wait and see what they want to do there.

For a start, from what I hear so far, it's less like free to play and selling l33t items for cash, as just having an indefinite trial account if you don't want to pay. If you're on a free account, you can't join a supergroup (think: guild/clan/whatever), you have only 2 character slots you can play, you can't use any endgame stuff, can't use the AE, can't have epic archetype characters, can't have mastermind or controller characters, have restricted access to the auction house, etc. They still expect to make their money from subscriptions, not from selling items or anything, but basically are giving everyone else an extended trial account that never expires and lets them play some basic version of the game. If you want more than that, you need to buy a subscription.

Second, COH already had micro-transactions, except they were more like buying extra costume pieces and character slots. And by "costume pieces" i mean literally just a mesh and texture. You're not getting some armour of invulnerability +10, because the game doesn't work that way, you're getting simply a funky robe or wedding tux or spandex outfit or funky cape that does nothing else than look cool. It has no stats whatsoever, because nothing else does. All superhero powers are inherent in your character, not in your armour or weapon.

Just abut the most tangible thing you could buy for real money was a jetpack that lets one fly for a month without learning a travel power. But then the same can be bought in game for 10,000 influence (think about the same purchasing power as 10,000 copper pieces in WoW) at any level and as often as you like, or obtained via some quests, or even crafted, flies exactly as fast (and both are slower than getting the normal flight power) and typically lasts you longer. Just about the only real advantage to the bought one is that it looks better than the in-game one, but that's about it.

So even for PvP, frankly, you get no advantage out of those. If I'm to worry about someone defeating me with real money, I'd worry more about the guy who bought a few billion inf from Chinese gold farmers and bought the purple sets from the auction house. The guy who bought a jetpack or a flashy cape from NCSoft, heh, that one's no threat.

Third, there is almost no PvP in the game anyway, and certainly none you need to take part in. If you're worried that someone will use an unfair advantage against you in PvP, shoot, don't go into the arena or the (largely deserted) PvP areas.

"THE" Superhero MMO (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524382)

For those that don't know, City of Heroes is the number 1 superhero MMO on the market. The game has been cruising along for seven years now right along side WoW and EVE and has had a strong, consistent player-base. I see this move as a means to expand the base a bit by giving folks a taste of being "super", without having to invest your social life like some other games. We have been getting free updates on a regular basis for years now under the old pay system and I see this more as a way to get even more.

Re:"THE" Superhero MMO (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524824)

To be fair its subscriber numbers put it a long way behind even EVE or LOTRO and Aion let alone WoW or many other MMO's. It would be better to say it sits right alongside Age of Conan.

Re:"THE" Superhero MMO (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524960)

To be fair its subscriber numbers put it a long way behind even EVE or LOTRO and Aion let alone WoW or many other MMO's. It would be better to say it sits right alongside Age of Conan.

Sits along side!? Well that's an opportunity to rationalize! A new MMO called Age of CIty of Conan Heroes! Flying barbarians with a big sword, big muscles, death ray eyes and a really bad Arnie accent! Who could resist that?

Re:"THE" Superhero MMO (1)

Stone2065 (717387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525442)

Actually... you can make a "Scrapper" class hero that uses a sword and shield, or that just forgoes the shield, and yes, you can skimp his outfit, barbarian style, plus the hair, hairband, etc... Just an fyi, not an ad.

Also, not sure how this will work with say a long term player that HAS been paying all along that decides that he's set, but is tired of playing. Are they going to fuck over/nerf his toon? Will it get "converted"? Will he even have ACCESS to the toon? A lot of questions I didn't notice answered so far...

Re:"THE" Superhero MMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36525986)

Read the news section of the CoH web site, it's all explained.

Ahh, EVEOnline (2)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524398)

All the excitement and action of manipulating a large spreadsheet.

At least the Crimson Permanent Assurance [youtube.com] got to carry swords.

We've got your swords (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 2 years ago | (#36527152)

Broad sword [paragonwiki.com] and Katana [paragonwiki.com] powersets, or if hacking is more your style over slashing, Battle Axe [paragonwiki.com] or War Mace [paragonwiki.com]. Wait, what's that? You want a longsword [paragonwiki.com]? A scimitar [paragonwiki.com]? Or one of the 31 other [paragonwiki.com] types [paragonwiki.com] of swords? Or could we even interest you in two swords [paragonwiki.com]?

Don't forget your shield. [paragonwiki.com]

Re:We've got your swords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36527212)

He is talking about EveOnline, not City of Heroes.

F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524570)

I looked at the honestly very poorly written release that described the new payment model, and this really looks more like a line being cast to snag fence-sitters than any part of a 'march' toward free-to-play. The devs themselves have stated that the traditional subscription model is still their main focus (though soon to be complicated with microtransactions), and there are major limitations to accessible content for free-players-- including being restricted to team-only and short-range-local chat (which makes getting a team difficult) and being unable to join 'supergroup' guilds (often a major social element of the game).

Sure you can get two characters to level cap, but there are over ten classes and you can't participate in the actual end game, and the majority of players discover that rolling new characters is a huge part of the draw. Unless a player is laser-focused on one aspect of the game, it's probably going to be cheaper and more convenient to keep a sub running.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525382)

Because if you don't call it "free to play" people won't give it a second look. But catch-22 if you do call it free to play then some players will complain loudly and often that it's not really free. In the Turbine model you can absolutely play for free for as long as you want, and even earn points in-game to buy everything you need (a long grind if you absolutely refuse to pay even one cent, but some players are doing it).

There really aren't any "free to play" online games in existence that meet the definition of some people, they all come with some stuff to spend money on to make things easier. And this is vastly better anyway than some ad revenue generated game (do you really want to see Coca Cola ads in Paragon City, Rivendell, Hogwarts, Tattooine, etc).

Then again, what's actually wrong with the hybrid idea? You say it may be cheaper and more convenient to subscribe (which is debateable). But so what? Of course this is a way to capture more revenue, MMOs aren't charities.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526378)

Actually, there *are* ads in CoH. They have to be enabled by the user (they are opt-in) and the replace certain textures in each zone, literally replacing some in universe advertising with paid advertising (that the game is mostly in an urban environment makes this not terribly jarring -- the less urban areas just don't have ads, because it doesn't make sense for a billboard to be in, say, the middle of a graveyard).

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526722)

I deliberately wrote the title of the post to avoid the phrase "free-to-play," and only described it as an option in the body of the submission. I think the studio is taking great pains to avoid some of the pitfalls of the f2p model, and by making it a hybrid payment system with a VIP subscription option, you can avoid a lot of the nickel-and-diming typically associated with a f2p game and play pretty much as you have for the past seven years if you want. That's the purpose behind the new "Freedom" branding of the game--you can choose what you want your experience to be like, including the "I like how it is now" option.

Personally, I'm pretty stoked about it. I'm one of those people who have been playing for seven years, and over that time, I've seen a lot of people who let their subscription lapse because $15 per month is just too much to invest in a diversion in these tough economic times. I imagine that a lot of them would love logging on now to experience how far the game has come, though, even if it's with just two characters. And a lot of them wouldn't mind plunking out a few bucks every month or two to snag some goodies.

As a side note to the poster above, it's true that City of Heroes has the technology baked in to show real-world ads, and they did for a while. I don't know if the contract with their advertising company went south or what, though, because although it's possible, they haven't actually shown any real-world ads in the game for years.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Stone2065 (717387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525456)

Uh... endgame? In CoH? Really now... I've been playing for years now, and never heard of an "endgame" portion... you just keep going. When you hit 50, now you have Incarnate Shards to give you that little "+1" next to your level, and getting said shards HAS to be done via Task Forces, at least to get you "qualified" for the Alpha slotted stuff. The lastest Incarnate stuff is even harder to get.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525824)

And what do you consider "End-Game"? Raids?

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526930)

See, that's the thing. In WoW, you can go "Oh look, this set of raid dungeons is 'end game'. In 4.2 (the content patch out next week) this other set of raid dungeons is 'end game'."

For a long time, CoX didn't have an end game, per se. Yes, there were certain types of mobs you really didn't fight until you were in the last couple levels of content, but by and large, they weren't horribly different from previous types of mobs. (The exception probably being some of the Malta Groups mobs.)

Now, and this is a fairly recent thing, there are 'end game' missions and raids which you either cannot even start until you are level 50 (the level cap), or that you cannot even start until you are level 50 and have acquired initial Incarnate abilities (the alternate advancement system).

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36527016)

But really, what's the difference between a raid dungeon and a task force? There are TFs at almost every level-range.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 2 years ago | (#36528072)

Task Forces (pre-50) tend to be easier, and since there's really no "phat lootz" in CoX, you don't have the same mentality as in, say, WoW.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36533366)

getting said shards HAS to be done via Task Forces

No, shards can be dropped by any level 50 mob. I got my first several shards on my main while doing tip missions to reinforce my alignment.

Re:F2P a Misnomer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36538396)

The new shards with I20 don't work the same.

Goodbye CoH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36524660)

After 7 years of play in the City of Heroes.. and Villains... its time to call it quits. Frack free to play.

Azurell of Champion server

Re:Goodbye CoH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36533192)

Why?

Personally I like F2P Microtransactions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36524816)

Because I never use the microtransactions. I'm a cheap bastard, and the idea of a game I can just play when I want without paying for it highly appeals to me.

Obviously for other games this model doesn't work so well, but the MMO market seems to thrive on it (for example, Maple Story was estimated 3rd in profits in 2008 [fatfoogoo.com] ).

Champions Online? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 2 years ago | (#36524908)

Are they seeing a drop in subscriptions since CO went for a similar system?

Don't think so (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 2 years ago | (#36525762)

I don't think so.

Most of us on COH had tried CO anyway. Heck, everyone was awaiting a second superhero MMO like the second cumming of Christ. It just wasn't all that good.

I suspect that someone could move to a game they like less, for the sake of 15 dollars a month. But it can't be that huge a segment of the population IMHO.

"Free" can be pretty expensive. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#36526480)

The thing I've always liked about a monthly/quarterly/yearly subscription model, is that at least the costs are known, and fixed, up front. I always figure "Free To Play" is an attempt to try to nickle-and-dime me for far more money than I'd pay in the subs model. With "micro-transactions", they can try to milk you for more money. Of course you don't *have* to pay it; hopefully most people have good impulse control, and additionally have some sense of whether they're being scammed.

I think Penny Arcade recently ran a pretty good strip exploring this issue:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2011/6/10/ [penny-arcade.com]

The purpose of the hybrid model (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 2 years ago | (#36527028)

I think the studio is doing a good job with this payment model of avoiding that. If you choose to maintain your subscription, you become a VIP and have access to most stuff without buying anything additional. You also get 400 Paragon Points (the currency used to purchase the extra stuff that's not baked in) every month, so if you maintain a subscription, you can just acquire the new stuff without spending anything extra. In my opinion, this is better even than how it is now, with periodic "booster packs" of costume items, emotes, and so on. Right now, you must pay an extra $10 to obtain those things in addition to your subscription fee. When CoH Freedom launches, you can get them a la carte with the Paragon Points you get alotted for being a VIP.

In short, one of the principles behind the "Freedom" branding is that you can choose how you want to pay and play, even if that choice is, "I like how it is now" (but with lots of new shinies you weren't getting before). I will concede that if you're a completionist, you will probably end up spending more to buy literally everything; however, there will be a LOT more to obtain. Although the absolute dollar figure will go up, you'll be getting disproportionately more for what you're spending, which will in theory be a better value. If you're not a completionist, though, you will likely actually end up saving money by being able to pick and choose what you value and acquiring it, instead of being forced to get everything in bundles.

I won't lie, the nickel-and-diming aspect of f2p is what concerns me most about this change, but like I said, I think they realize that and are working hard to think of ways to avoid that, to design a hybrid model that can avoid that if you choose. It really sounds like they are looking to make more money off of the microtransactions of new players who can't or don't want to shell out $15 every month, not trying to milk existing ones.

Re:The purpose of the hybrid model (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36527064)

They saw the value of the Booster packs and realized that they could get more out of them by parsing them out and having them available more often.

Puzzle Pirates, another model (1)

subanark (937286) | more than 2 years ago | (#36528060)

Puzzle Pirates uses a free to play and pay service. The puzzle MMO gives a few puzzles that non-subscribers can play, and allows others to be played on certain days of the week. In order to do a pirate mission you need x number of players doing some kinds of puzzles, the free paying ones will have something to do with other players.

There are 3 kinds of servers, the first is a subscription server where if you choose to pay the monthly payment you get access to everything. The other you can buy special currency that is used to buy a license to play certain games for a period of time (the license decays slower when you aren't playing). These licenses and money can be traded or given to other players. This gives the players a choice between selecting a server where all the paying players are on a level playing field, and one that lets you pick and choose what you want. The final server is a hybrid were each paying player gets a monthly allowance of money to spend (the amount paid is fixed). This server is designed for kids and has a strict language/conduct policy.

Disclaimer: Never played this game.

CoH being F2P has one fatal thing against it: (1)

DiEx-15 (959602) | more than 2 years ago | (#36540990)

That one thing is NCSoft. NCSoft has a penchant of taking a good idea and turning it into a train wreck. Remember Tablua Rasa? Also, they have not created a F2P model that works well. Exteel and Dungeon Runner anybody?

I really hope that they get their act together with this F2P of CoH because it is a good game. However, I don't think they will have much luck if they pretty much force gamers to pay for the normal operations of the game. I would rather they avoid the F2P model altogether if that is the way they want to play.
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