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Dasha

Pro's and Con's of different pay systems for online games

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I was thinking about the different pay systems for games. Quite a few people seem to hate the Item Shop system, but it seems to be very popular and does well. Which pay systems do you guys think works best? Worst? Which is your favorite? Least favorite? Any pay systems and games that you think just wont mix? Or can every online game out there work well with any pay system? Feel free to explain why you have the opinions that you do. The only ones I can think of are: Subscription Based: Pay once a month, or every few months to get unlimited play. Item Shop: Free to play the game, but you can purchase items for use in game. Hourly based: Buy a few hours at a time. The more hours bought at once, the bigger discount. Free/subscription mix: Free to play, but pay to get access to extra areas/items/skills. Personally I like the Free/Subscription mix one best. It allows you to play the game free, and make you want to pay. While not being obvious and obnoxious about it. I think the subscription based one could be the worst, unless you have very good advertising and a large fan base. Otherwise I don't think players would want to try out a game if they know its going to make them pay eventually and it might not even be that good.

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Item Shop would be the worst pay system if there's any pvp. It would also divide the player base. I'd rate this as the worst pay method since it actively punishes players who pay less than others.

Free/subscription mix could also divide the player base if there are a number of expansions. But it has its own draws. It seems to be the most value for money and would appeal to new players (provided they aren't in a hurry to catch up to their friends).

Hourly based would put pressure on the development of new content or make the game unattractive for hardcore players.

Subscription based is somewhere between hourly based and free/subscription based. It would need more content development than free/sub but that could draw in the more hardcore players.

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Subscriptions have the advantage that it costs the subscriber real money if you ban them, and they can't come back with the same credit card (assuming you ban the card number), which is an extra burden.

This is pretty much the only deterrent you have against obnoxious players or (supposed your game is successful enough) gold farmers. Banning accounts on a free-to-play game is pointless, and banning IPs does not work.

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I think every MMO needs to have at least a free trial - I'm completely uninterested in paying for a game I haven't played at least 10 levels of, it might be crappy. Beyond that I personally prefer free to play with item shop games as long as the game doesn't release game-breaking cash items. The ideal cash-shop item is a prettier but functionally the same object of something which can be bought in-game; also, dyes for altering colors of objects, and possibly rare-drop crafting ingredients which are possible but really irritating to get in-game.

It's also nice if you can trade the cash currency for the in-game currency - I liked this in Perfect World except the auto-auction system was a bit weird and the fact that they charged a percentage of cash currency to sell cash currency was awful. Aside from game-breaking cash shop items, an item shop can suck if a game has a policy that items bought with cash can't be resold. Allowing resale of cash shop items makes cash players and non-cash players happy because the non-cash players can save up game currency for that one cash item they really want, and cash players can quickly get game currency by selling a cash item, and since this game currency is gotten from another player it doesn't unbalance the economy the way simply selling game currency for cash does. I have to wonder, though, if the same game makes anywhere near as much money with a cash shop system as with a subscription system.

F2P+subscription tends to be the worst of both worlds for me - you feel like you're getting less for your money than if it were pure subscription, and the non-subscribers constantly whine about being unable to subscribe and beg others to pay for subscriptions for them. o.O Also there is usually some sort of level cap on free stuff, and so a huge % of the in-game population never advances beyond that level, and subscribers under that level can't find same-level subscribers to play with, and guilds either restrict recruitment to people over that level cap and don't help small people, or they have poor return on their help because most low level players never make the leap to become subscribers.

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Quote:
Original post by samoth
Banning accounts on a free-to-play game is pointless, and banning IPs does not work.


Banning accounts that are higher level isn't pointless. For lower-level accounts it seems to work pretty well to just not let low level characters use regional or world chat, and to automatically mute any character who says the same thing three times in a row. You can also give players the ability to report spammers and auto-temp-mute anyone reported as a spammer by 10 or more people, while also dumping a log of that person's last several comments to a mod who can glance at it and click a ban button or an unmute button. While some f2p games like dofus and maplestory are filled with spammers and hackers, others like Perfect World and Gaia Online manage to have even less spammage than WoW.

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Unless I was filthily rich and totally bored, I would never play a game where the good items can only be bought for cash. I want to achieve my in-game status in-game.

I've tried subscription/hourly based games. I like a combination of subscription/hourly best (as in Ragnarok Online):

- Subscription during times of heavy gaming
- Hourly when I play only a few hours per month

But I'm fine with a purely monthly subscription based model, since 10-15 € per month is a moderate price even for only a few hours of entertainment.

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I personally don't play mmo's much anymore mainly because I play so rarely that its not worth the monthly subscription. That said, I do still like to play some (Champions online currently) and I would like to see this sorta thing taken into account (hourly pay perhaps).

I would like to see something like the usual subscription but then something like pay x% of normal subscription but be limited to y amount of hours per month. Make it cheap enough as to not be a rip off for the hours but still high enough that just for a "little" more you can just play 24/7 for the month (ie normal subscription).

I'm not a fan of item/shop based games but I spent alot on battle forge (buy cards which you use in game) so it definatly does work.

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Moving. Pro's and Con's of different pay systems is a business topic, not a game design topic.
If you were employed as a game designer at an online game company and were wrestling with this question, you'd have to discuss it with the business folk to get their advice and opinions.
Moving to Business*, where pay systems have been discussed before.


*(Don't look for Business under B for Business, look for it under T for The Business.)

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Are you talking about an MMO?

I actually think that different subscription methods have different success rates depending on the TYPE of MMO.

Like, if it's casual, you need to make it flash or java based with a free to play, subscription model.

I've seen several online videos about selling MMOs, so you should do a search for them on the internet!

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Item mall business plans shouldn't be ruled out totally, whilst there will be some players that are put off by this it could still prove lucrative. Theres a couple of articles here about it.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4046/what_are_the_rewards_of_.php

Some info here about the earnings of the makers of Perfect world

http://www.pwrd.com/html/en/ir_er_pr_list.html

Theres a list here of the "top ten" profit making games some of which may be a little surprising?

http://gigaom.com/2009/02/01/top-10-money-making-mmos-2008/

[Edited by - Hoody on December 24, 2009 4:00:22 PM]

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