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 acronyms...so 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.