SOE's Smedley: subscription MMOs a vanishing breed


After revealing (opens in new tab) that DC Universe Online is transitioning to a free-to-play model, and that Sony Online Entertainment wanted it that way "from day one," SOE President John Smedley now predicts that the future is free. In an editorial for (opens in new tab) , Smedley expands a bit more on his thinking, and explains why Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the last of the big subscription-based MMOs.

"In our cancellation surveys for EverQuest II," Smedley writes, "fully 40 percent of the people that fill them out list subscription fees as one of the primary reasons they quit. Economic times are hard out there and a recurring subscription is something that glares at you from a credit card bill every month."

As big as TOR promises to be, Smedley doesn't think it will reverse the overall trend away from subscriptions toward F2P. F2P is the world's most widely used business model, and it promises the best ongoing return on investment to developers and publishers. He points out that the upfront cost of a retail game is an increasingly significant barrier to consumers, especially with the quality of F2P games steadily increasing. Furthermore, console gamers aren't used to subscriptions, and SOE actually encountered resistance from console users who resented paying a monthly charge after buying the game.

As F2P becomes more prevalent, Smedley offers three pieces of advice:

  • Let players be able to get most things that you sell in the store just by playing the game.
  • Convenience items are good ways to make money
  • Customisation is a key thing to sell - players like to be different.

Smedley concludes by saying that F2P is "something SOE is taking a close look at for our existing games and certainly for our future games."