MMO Subscriptions Price Fixing

To pay a monthly charge for an MMO is now going out of style, so maybe the argument I'm about to make is already pointless; but if I didn't like pointless arguments I wouldn't be on an internet forum.

I think the current rate of subscription charges for MMOs constitutes price fixing.

With every other product, especially tech based systems, as the number of people adopting raises the company starts making the initial money invested back and then they can start cranking out more kajiggers for less money. They then lower the cost to get more people to adopt the product.

DVD players used to expensive as hell, but as more people abandoned VCRs (which were insanely expensive in their day) the prices lowered to the point where you can now buy a DVD player in freaking gas stations. PCs, TVs, LCD monitors, etc. all started out expensive and are MMOs fit right in that wheelhouse. It's simple.

As a side note most entertainment technology that has started at a high price (VCRs, DVD players, and the like) have actually utilized pornography to move units out (and in, and out) to lower the cost to the point the non perv community was willing to pay. So maybe porn in MMOs...huh? World of Whorecraft. Star Wars The Old Re-pubic. Just sayin...

Back to the point; I realize you are paying for a service with your subscription but it is part of the product, so I seem them as the same thing.

I'll call it out right now; the justification that it takes $15 a month per player to run the game is straight up bullsh*t. I think that they started charging subscriptions because the cost to build a massive game is far more than a regular game. So they rely on the drawing factor of their huge product to pull you back at least a couple months so they start to head back toward breaking even.

The gaming populous has been used to buying a box with a game in it for around $60 bucks so if they actually tried to charge what the game cost up front, no one would buy it.

If Star Wars The Old Republic had a box price based on what they spent on production cut up among pre-order sales, then it would have cost around $120 bucks. That is using the baseline of 1.5 million pre-orders and a production cost of $180 million. That is on the high side of pre-orders and middle of the road for production cost numbers that I have seen.

Even if the pre-order numbers were 2 million the game would have still cost $90 a pop.

How well would that have gone over with you internet?

I was in the closed beta since the end of September, so I would have paid it, but since subscription based MMOs still have no form of demos most people probably would vomited from that sticker shock. In case you were wondering, no I do not count “open beta” as a demo. I have theories for MMO demos...which I have coined “deMMMOs,” but that is a different conversation.

Back to my point. I will continue to use DVD players as a model but switching to an established game, the MMO mack daddy, World of Warcraft. It is absolute that Blizzard has made it's money spent on production back. They actually admit that they built a bank out of money to keep their money in...Okay, they didn't admit it, but when you see the CEO in his car made of $100 bills driving on a special raised highway made of silver and gold you assume that is where he is going.

Of course it's a business and they want to make money, but bear with me as I go all “greater good” on your asses.

Once a game company has well passed the threshold of subscribers needed to operate your game they should lower the price of subscriptions. Your company is being lifted into the sweet yellow sunlight of the gold dipped Earth that normal people don't even know about; you at least owe them the damned courtesy of showing some appreciation to the people who support your game with their (or their mom's) hard earned money.

Now follow me, companies. Lowering the cost will more than likely get you more subscribers for two big reasons. 1. The number of people playing shows that your product is good and popular. 2. You display that you are not a greedy bunch of dicks. People like dealing with “not dicks” in almost every scenario outside of bedroom situations.

That is all I have to say, I haven't scoured the internet to see if someone else has written the exact same thing, so if they did...I'm glad someone else is smart.

You seem to be working on the assumption that each game (and not necessarily MMOs) is priced to make it's money back, rather than to make the most profit it can for it's owner. What's a 'fair price' is a balance between what the owner wants and what people will pay, and people are paying at the moment. It seems odd to say "the model is broken" when there's clear evidence that it's working.

I'd also say that the price to number of players is likely not linked, WoW isn't the entirety of MMOs, and there's a lot of variation in the market in price charged, how many are subscribed/regular players, and then there's different regional tastes. If anything I think WoW should be excluded from most general MMO discussions as it's an abberation, not for the usual "WoW is crap" reasons you'll hear on the internet but because it's such an outlier.

I agree with Scratched. These arguments need to exclude blizzard as they are an anomaly. They are charging $180 for starcraft 2 (the first campaign was $60 anyway, so I assume the other two will be) and people are paying it. On the flip side, they are giving D3 away to people paying for a years worth of wow. Millions would be paying for a years worth of wow anyway and anyone stupid enough to pay annual wow and not play it, is essentially paying $180 for D3 (there's that number again, odd).

Anyway, point being. Good argument and I agree with you, but leave blizzard out entirely.

What Scratched said: you're ignoring economic reality. Prices are always based on what people are willing to pay, not what it costs to create the product. It's not being greedy to charge what a product is worth. If people are unhappy with the price, no one is forcing them to pay! Price fixing is when the government enforces an established price or a group of companies collude to set a specific price. Obviously, neither of those things is happening here, since there's no government regulation of MMO pricing and MMOs are going free-to-play regularly.

Further, I would actually argue the opposite: MMORPGs are priced too cheaply. For the amount of entertainment time received, MMOs are a fantastic deal for the customer. Their closest competitor in terms of time, television, often costs subscribers more than $100 per month. The cheap price creates problems for major MMO developers, because it necessitates gaining and retaining huge numbers of subscribers in order for the game to be profitable. This in turn leads to broken "solutions" like shards and time sinks, along with the utter foolishness of comparing MMOs and defining success based on the number of subscribers.

I think you lost me as soon as you used the word "price fixing."

An MMO is not a single product but several different ones that share a same descriptive term.

Also, price fixing implies collusion. Do you have any evidence that Blizzard and other companies are conspiring on price? You present no evidence that they are.

Enix wrote:

I think you lost me as soon as you used the word "price fixing."

An MMO is not a single product but several different ones that share a same descriptive term.

Also, price fixing implies collusion. Do you have any evidence that Blizzard and other companies are conspiring on price? You present no evidence that they are.


Plus I think that people who are worried about paying 15$ a month for a luxury activity need to just not do it.

There's a laundry list of things i spend 15$ or more a month on, and have absolutely no problem doing it for an activity i enjoy.

If developers made mmo's (why are they being singled out anyway?) with the purpose of earning a living wage and not a profit, we surely wouldn't see such great effort put into making the best game possible with available resources, nor would they have such healthy competition.

Thank god for capitalism!

These are for profit companies and that is going to drive the decisions.

Look at the games that were not profitable and see where they are now. Compare continued development on warcraft vs a start up that failed.

As someone who works for a living:

These people put in a lot of hard work to make a lot of other people happy. They better be earning more than enough to break even. Their employees, too, should be earning as much. I see want ads for these MMO developers from time to time, offering all kinds of jobs from live customer service rep to programming features that connect their games to their sites, and beyond. Yes, like any persistent service, MMOs do require customer service. Otherwise, who will hear our complaints about the inappropriately named troll causing havoc on the roleplay server?

The lowly customer service rep deserves his paycheck, too.

It all comes down to "do our customers (or potential customers) think that it US$15 per month is good value for the entertainment they will get from playing this game". Also known as "value-based pricing".

Compared with other forms of entertainment, it would seem that US$15 for a month's access to a good quality MMO is generally perceived as value for money.

Subscription prices have come down. Way down. They used to charge by the hour and people would pay hundreds of dollars a month. Now most of them are free, with a la carte purchases. It's only the high-demand ones that still charge the premium.

I disagree on the "price fixing" term as well since the cost of a subscription isn't fixed; a subscriber can pay anywhere from $15 down to about $8.50 per month.

As was already mentioned by Aetius, MMOs are an incredibly cheap form of entertainment compared to just about anything else in the world today. I have no problem whatsoever giving $100 to a company for a year's worth of rent on their servers.