There’s an old adage in sales that relates to razor blades where you sell the actual razor as cheap as possible and then you make it up in the sale of the blades as customers feel locked into that brand. Of course, this is also the same sales principles drug pushers use where the first “taste” is free.
I wonder which one the companies behind some of the biggest massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) is following.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sony’s EverQuest II and Warner Brothers’ Lord of the Rings Online are both dropping their $15-a-month subscription fees. The idea is that you allow users to play the basic game for free, but if they want better equipment, armor, weapons and so on, those will be purchased separately.
For those that don’t like this concept, Sony will allow customers to continue to pay the monthly fee, but that seems unlikely that many people will opt for that idea.
This idea appears to be coming out of Asia where software piracy is rampant, so by selling virtual goods the manufacturers don’t have to concern themselves with the lost sales of the actual games. While this idea had never been seriously attempted in the United States before the past years, but thanks to consumers getting accustomed to buying map packs for games on consoles, and virtual goods in social games like FarmVille, this may be the time to pursue it. Warner Bros. attempted this last year with Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited and it saw the membership climb, and revenue increase.
Not all games are going this route just as of yet, even from the same companies, as Sony will be launching DC Universe Online in Nov. for $14.99 a month. And the idea of World of Warcraft, which had 11.5 million monthly subscribers as of Dec. 2008, changing business models at this stage seems highly unlikely. I would imagine we will see a slow shift in the coming year or two, but I doubt we will see just one model adopted by all MMORPGs.
What say you? Are you interested in trying more MMORPGs if you don’t have to pay to try it out?