At the beginning of the MMORPG era developers and publishers used monthly fee as the main source of income. Users were paying tor their time in the game and for a number of years this model was hugely successful. Later however F2P allowed gamers to get the product mostly for free and to pay for bonuses, skins and other virtual content. Today online-games face many challenges and not everyone is ready to overcome them. A number of great F2P and prepaid games closed recently. Xsolla tried to figure out what causes MMOG to drift into obscurity and what can be done to stop it.
January 24, 2014 marks a dark day for Sony Online Entertainment. The company announced the closing of 4 interesting MMOGs: Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and Wizardry Online.
These products closed because of the widespread disease infects many online-games — lack of users. Clients leave games for various reasons. Sometimes this happens because the general quality of the game is low. Sometimes they don’t understand the gameplay and sometimes there’s simply not enough content. But the most common reason for quitting is money. Users just don’t want to pay for monthly access or for virtual goods. Only big brands like World of Warcraft and Everquest have the power to keep the player inside game ecosystem.
This year we have only a couple of big MMORPGs coming. One of these games is The Elder Scrolls Online. The Elder Scrolls series took the first step into online world. ZeniMax Online Studios finally decided to make a game fans were asking for a very long time. This year you will be able to explore Tamriel together with your closest friends. However this game doesn’t rely on F2P-model. You have to buy the boxed or digital version and you need to pay monthly fee to get access to the whole game. The Elder Scrolls has a huge fanbase so we expect this game to make a huge impact on the market..
Of course The Elder Scrolls Online is not the only MMOG that is coming this year. There are also Black Desert, Gloria Victis, WildStar, Destiny and others. We’ll just have to wait and see which of these games will be the most successful.
F2P-market is very crowded right now. It’s getting harder to publish big budget free-to-play games with IAP. Production is very expensive and great gameplay is really hard to create and realize.
F2P shooter Firefall from Red 5 Studios (division of The9 Limited) was announced in 2010 and yet developers weren’t able to launch it. Red 5 Studios has all the necessary resources and best programmers, artists that money can buy. But their game still failed to launch after the testing. Recently The9 Limited sold 20% of their share to Shanghai Oriental Pearl Culture Development Co. They received $23 million to finish the development in 2014.
Challenges and competition caused developers and publishers to introduce new marketing programs that give users more value. For example Sony Online Entertainment will launch in April a new All Access service that costs $14. You get access to all F2P-products from SOE, including bonuses, discounts and virtual currency. Maybe this marketing step will help Sony to increase its profits from the online-sector.
The future of F2P and pre-paid games depends on marketing, clever business models and reasonable prices. Without these advances online games are bound to fail.