What Does Buy-to-Play Really Say About An MMO?

ESO* is going Buy-to-Play. Yay! I’m looking forward to playing it again.

(Holy jeez those guys make awesome cinematics. I wonder how much of a AAA studio’s game development budget goes into those.)

But philosophically speaking, I wonder what the Buy-to-Play model says about an MMO. After having experienced it in GW2, B2P seems to imply something that’s not a very good thing. The game company seems to be saying, “Here’s our persistent world game, but there’s really only about a month or two of fresh gameplay for you to look at, and we’re probably not going to update it very much, so don’t make any long-term plans to stay in our game.”

This is exactly what Guild Wars 2 provided. It’s awesome that you can go back into the game whenever you feel like it, but from a PvE perspective, once you’ve played with all of the classes and leveled one or more characters to 80, you’re done with the “game” part of the game and all that’s left is basically a 3D chat room with achievement grinds. (Unless you’re into PvP.) The Living Story content updates have been somewhat lackluster in my opinion–not worth charging for, in other words.

It also meshes with my memory of the ESO experience, too. Good content… for a month or so.

My point is that going B2P might be the game company’s way of conceding that their MMO has a really short lifespan and there will probably be a very high churn rate among the player base. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing for the genre.

Still, the model fits my play style perfectly, and from what I’ve observed, it seems to be a favorite among the gaming community.

For the most part, I only play MMOs for a month or two before I get weary of the repetition and want to switch it up with something different, so B2P fits my playing habits perfectly. It saves me the hassle of going to their web site and cancelling the subscription. And when I inevitably want to jump back into the game later and see what’s going on, it saves me the expense and hassle of going to their web site and re-subscribing for a month when I probably will only play for a few days.

See you soon, whatever-my-dude's-name-was.
See you soon, whatever-my-dude’s-name-was-but-I-think-there-was-an-“R”-in-it-somewhere.

I’m looking forward to peeking at ESO again. I’m interested to see the changes they are making in the endgame, and beyond that I thought it was a pretty good game. For a month or two, at least.

* It’s not clear from their site what the official abbreviation is supposed to be. The game is called “The Elder Scrolls Online” on the box yet they always refer to it as “ESO” on their pages. I’m sticking with ESO, because to me, when you call it TESO, you’re secretly trying to relive the single-player game and denying that it’s a totally different experience. Yeah, one letter says all that. Really.

3 thoughts on “What Does Buy-to-Play Really Say About An MMO?”

  1. It doesn’t “mean” anything except in context. Most games are B2P, and we don’t consider the business model to be indicative of the content-to-interest ratio. We simply accept that we buy the game, we play the game until we stop for whatever reason.

    An MMO is always viewed in terms of content simply because it never ends. But if your MMO is B2P and someone buys it, plays it for two months, and then leaves…how is that different from someone who buys a game like FarCry 4, plays it for two months, and then leaves? I submit that technically it’s no different at all, except in the perception of the player.

  2. I don’t mind the model. I don’t necessarily agree that B2P means under-supported with little content, but I do think your sentiments have a lot of merit.

    To me, a good MMORPG should be designed with systems that foster cooperation, creativity, and conflict. You don’t need a steady drip of content if your game is built to create its own just by the way the systems and players all interact with one another.

    Too many MMORPGs these days are just episodic RPGs.

  3. All good points. Looking back at what I wrote I think I sounded more upset than I really was.. it was just an idle thought. Honestly I’d be fine if every MMORPG went B2P.

Leave a Reply