Posted 21 July 2012 - 05:08 PM
I took your survey and rated them at this:
Subscription to try: 5
30-day trial: 7
Unlimited-time trial: 6
Personally, I'm not that put off by a required subscription to try it out. If it looks really good and I hear great things about it, I have no qualms in paying the price of a dinner to try it out for a month. However, a 30-day trial is superior as I don't have to fork over my credit card information so early. And if I like the game enough, I get to keep the progress I made in the trial, so the transition is quite painless.
Both of these types of games tell me that it must be high quality (or at least, that was the intention. we know this doesn't always work out that way). Unlimited-time trials and free-to-play, on the other hand, give me pause. Even though I'm somewhat likely to try the game out, I'm more likely to consider myself trying out the game for much longer than its non-free cousins (an hence, I feel less inclined to keep playing). The reason for this is to see how the community evolves. With free games, the community is more likely to change, sometimes rapidly. If I feel that I'm just bumbling around in a virtual world where I never see a familiar face, I might as well be playing well-scripted single player games. Additionally, the developers may have less incentive to keep the game interesting and running smoothly. Content updates and customer support would be expected in subscription-based models, whereas there is a much less of an expectation for free games.
After writing this, I noticed something interesting: this is more of a psychological barrier than anything. My perception of how a particular game will play out is somewhat based on similar games that I played in the past. As you can probably figure out, my experiences with free-to-play games hasn't been all great, but if you are around my age, then we both know that the first free-to-play games either didn't last too long or couldn't keep up with the quality of other games. Runescape might be an counter example to this point, as it has lasted for over a decade, with frequent updates. This was likely due to their dual-business model: An area restricted to free-to-play, and additional content available for subscribers. This enabled them to make a significant amount of money and pull in lots of players at the same time.
So, if a game can break the perception that it is lower quality, less kept-up, or has quickly-to-dissolve communities, then it deserves a shot. But really, the entire industry needs to change. This is already beginning to happen with non-MMOs. League of Legends has been immensely popular and very well supported financially. Now we have to wait for the leap to MMOs, but considering that the finances required to build these sorts of projects are so extreme, it could be a while.
All in all, I will pay good money to play a quality game, and that is what drives the business. This generally applies to all types of products: Pay more money, get a better product. If I'm not paying anything, I can only expect so much.
I think it would be a good idea to keep this thread on the topic of tying game design to business model, so I'm not going to talk about the differences in financing each (as I'm assuming you already understand them thoroughly). Here are my thoughts on how each model affects my actions: