This past year has made it common practice for many subscription based games to develop free-to-play contingency models after their monthly subscribers fall below a predetermined threshold. This often leads developers to offer lifetime purchases that forgo the user from having a subscription, ever, while requiring a larger upfront investment in the game. While the user gets many benefits, the developer also earns a higher influx of cash flow at the start of it’s product launch which ensures the game will offer continual development for the initial first year,if not longer.
In the case of recent Funcom games like The Secret World it has been a boon to many players who now have access to all updates, monthly store stipends and miscellaneous in-game bonuses. While mostly cosmetic, there are the experience boosts to help leveling, but for the most part nothing creates an uneven pvp playing field that games like Cryptic’s Star Trek Online has been infamous for with its unique transferable ship consoles.
With the launch of the Founder’s Pack available for Neverwinter, it looks as if Cryptic has forgone any game unbalance enhancements for more of the cosmetic, title and early access traits, with exception of a unique companion pet - though it’s value for anything other than beginner levels has yet to be tested. However, unlike Star Trek Online, or Funcom’s The Secret World, Neverwinter is not a game that is starting out with a subscription, in fact there is no subscription option available. Instead players simply will be able to download and play the game. It’s 100% free-to-play from day one, with a cash shop available for experience boosts, mounts, and the miscellaneous items one expects to find in these online stores.
Neverwinter will create a unique experiment since prior to the games launch, for the same price as most lifetime subscriptions, one may purchase a package known as the Hero of the North Founder’s Pack. Priced the same as most lifetime subscriptions, at $199.99, the offer gives players a special title, mount, companion pet, unique starting items, a unique race option to play, as well as early access to the game among other special options. Additional package tiers exist and mirror those in The Secret World, offering unique starter items, though less bonuses and access than found in the primary package.
The additional packages are the Guardian of Neverwinter Pack available for $59.99 which offers a companion pet, mount and some items and then the Neverwinter Starter Kit available for $19.99 which only offers players only unique starting items.
This may come as no surprise given the history of Perfect World’s games being free-to-play with optional cash shops, but it’s definitely a new trend among western, US and European based game developers.
So what do you think?
Would you spend the price of a lifetime subscription for special in-game perks for a purely free-to-play game or do you think we’re at a tipping point with this free-to-play meets pay-to-win online experience? Sound off in the comments below with why you would or wouldn't and what you think of the new free-to-play trend of MMO’s in general.