EA announced earlier today that SWTOR is going free-to-play! It’s caused a lot of hand-wringing in the MMO community, with people instantly declaring this the death knell of the subscription MMO. Frankly, it’s irritating me.
Why has it seemingly been decided that yes, the payment model is the problem with modern MMOs? I don’t get it. We seem to be ignoring the other obvious options for modern MMO design flaws:
- Stop expecting every MMO to be a 15 million player behemoth. WoW was a fluke. Don’t give your development a budget that requires even 5 million subscribers to be a success.
- Stop orienting new MMOs to the most casual of casual players, because they are fickle and will just migrate to the next big thing. That’s fine with a box game, but if you want a stable, faithful community then it’s time to again acknowledge stable, faithful players.
- Stop just trying to make a “better WoW”. Even Guild Wars 2 just seems to have sat down and said “how can we improve on WoW?”. Like, forget WoW! Figure out what you think would be legitimately fun in an MMO, and make that.
If someone made a, say, space sandbox with a goal of having 150,000 subscribers and an active community, my money says it would be successful. The payment model is not the flaw in modern MMOs, but big distributors sure would like us to think it is.
PS: Suddenly yesterday’s podcast on the free-to-play genre seems pretty prescient!