In the past I have had many discussions over the basic issues with MMOs today. Now I won’t pretend to be a MMO expert. I don’t play that many of them, and of those I do play very few keep my interest for very long. However, I have dabbled enough that I believe I can safely say that one of the biggest problems with MMOs is the lack of sub fee.
Many people take issue with this stance, in fact many gamers LOATHE sub fees. I do stand by it though and I would like the chance to defend why.
1: Sub fees are needed for servers. Sub fees are important to MMOs because servers are expensive to maintain but obviously very key to the experience. While server issues happen in all MMOs I think they have greatly increased since sub fees stopped being standard.
In the days when you had to pay sub fees it was expected that servers would be in good working order. You knew to deal with updates sometimes, and a few hiccups here and there, but over all you knew your game would work. Now though server issues are kind of part of the standard package, you pretty much expect them to happen and gamers have adjusted to this.
I think a good for instance is Neverwinter on console during it’s 2x exp weekend was pretty much unplayable because of all the server issues. Any time players left an area, joined a group, or even wandered around too long the servers would time out and then drop.
To me this is not ok, this fundamentally denotes a bad game. Yet people seemed pretty ok with it because it’s become standard in the world of Free to Play MMOs. Without the sub fees the money going towards server maintenance just isn’t there. Also the expectation that you are paying for that has gone out the window.
2: The market is flooded with seemingly incomplete MMOs. I don’t like to be “one of those people” but I will power through and do it anyway. I remember back in the old days when, a MMO really emphasized the first M or massive. Everyquest could be played for YEARS without exploring all the content. Eve Online is STILL going strong, hell eve WoW was huge and would take months to explore every single thing. You were paying a sub fee because the game never really ended. Getting to “end game” with a character just opened up more post game content, and there were tons of other characters to play.
Add to that but you can also add to the game by experiencing the difference in factions. For instance, the difference between Horde and Alliance in WoW is pretty massive. Not to mention games that large usually had a lot of different quests that were specific to classes and races. There was a long list of reasons to keep playing.
With Free to Play MMOs what often (not always but often) happens is that you play the same quests regardless of what character you pick, with little to no deviation. End game is not nearly as in depth, or even enjoyable. You reach a certain point where you can say “I am done with the game” which goes against what a MMO should be.
Some people might like this fact, they don’t want to keep playing the same game for years. I can certainly understand that. However MMOs are supposed to be something you play for years. They aren’t supposed to be like other games out there. They are in a word supposed to be Massive.
3: Microtransaction. I have said and will probably continue to say that I think microtransactions are one of the worst things to happen to gaming. I believe they are bad for the gaming industry. They present a pay to win formula which is bad. Not only that but there is money to be made from microstransactions which forces more and more developers and publishers to use them. Free to Play MMOs keep microtransaction alive and well, and that to me is fairly unforgivable.
4: They prevent new MMOs from reaching their potential. See now you’ve probably read this and thought “but ___ is a really good Free to Play MMO”. The truth is there are some good ones out there. The problem is the market is so flooded with them that the good ones are washed out.
The other issue is that games that are good with the Free to Play model that could be GREAT with the sub fee model aren’t given a fair chance to try the sub model. I think ESO and SWTOR are the biggest examples of this. Both are very close to reaching that great MMO potential but suffer from problems that I don’t think would exist if they could just charge subscription fees.
However neither were in a position that they could really take the risk. Because the market is flooded with bad MMOs good ones aren’t really able to say “you know what we should charge a monthly fee for this” because there aren’t enough people that would pay it anymore.
I honestly believe that taking back up the model of sub fees is the best thing that could happen to MMOs. It would put fewer on the market, make demands for those coming out to be better, and would be better for the gamers. Of course I also know that such a thing is very unlikely.