hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

PAX 10: LOTRO/DDO make free-to-play actually work

7:00 PM on 09.11.2010 // Sean Carey

When talking about MMOs in the US, free has become a dirty word. Despite the fact that microtransaction driven business models have achieved a large degree of success in Korea and other Asian markets, the “F” word here continues to denote a failed game in the eyes of many. This is not a fickle perception -- for most western MMOs in recent years, the conversion to free-to-play has been a signpost clearly indicating that the end is near.

However, the fine folks over at Turbine feel that with Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online, they’ve found a way to break the cycle. What’s been under-publicized here is that the evidence so far bears them out. DDO has not only increased the number of active players since adopting a modified free-to-play model, but has also generated much more revenue in the process. They’ve got great hopes that LOTRO (which adopted the same model effective yesterday) will see similar success.

I talked to a few members of the Turbine team during PAX and got some solid insight into what it takes to make the “F” word attractive to western gamers, along with a few glimpses at what’s in store for LOTRO.

In terms of a business model, Turbine recognizes that "free" often translates to "bad" in many gamers’ eyes. So they were quick to state that the point of their model is not to make the game free, but to offer players more choice in how they invest in their games. If someone wants to play through either game without paying a dime, they can, but microtransactions or subscriptions are also available for those who want to accelerate parts of the process.

Aside from lack of flexibility in the payment model, Turbine determined that another one of the big turn-offs for potential players is the inclusion of artificial gates. When players are forced to pay to access an area or advance past a level cap, they’re much more likely to rage-quit. No one likes being treated like the Balrog (i.e. “You shall not pass!”). As such, LOTRO and DDO both remove all of these barriers, and new players are responding very favorably.

You can reach any level or area from the get-go. There is unique content that can be unlocked in each of these areas, but it is easily accessed no matter what payment approach you’re taking. Subscribers get it from the get go, whereas microtransactors or totally free players must use Turbine points. Unlocking all the content in a new area runs in the area of 500 to 1000 points on average. This would cost roughly $5 to $10 to purchase the requisite points, but a totally free player could still acquire the needed points by completing between 80-100 quests.

The final ingredient that makes this model work for Turbine is the make-up of their community. While there is still a vocal minority of players who have been opposed to the changes, the vast majority of current subscribers have been welcoming to newer players, choosing to view them as a positive influx that keeps their game alive rather than as a bunch of carpetbaggers. The developers credit the source material here -- long time fans of D&D and LOTR tend to be older and more mature, and as such more welcoming both in and out of the games.

It’s easy to turn a skeptical eye towards all of this, but the proof is in the porridge you eat at elevensies. DDO has not only jumped from the 7th to 3rd most played MMO since their conversion to this model, but more impressively, they have also doubled their number of paying subscribers despite making all the content in the game free to access. That speaks volumes to me, and I’m very curious to see if LOTRO can duplicate that success and join the fellowship of the cha-ching.

 



Sean Carey,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

MeeGhoulz avatarMeeGhoulz
Playing UNTIL DAWN 1st time:I'm alright with QTE,but an option to use direction as choices instead of buttons poppin' on screen would be welcome!Also:NO SHINY ITENS TO INDICATE CLUES!LET ME DISCOVER THEM!All in all,it's fun enough...
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
If I was to play through the NES library, besides being madness, what order do I do it? Alphabetically or Release date-wise? Whats the Dtoid universe think?
Gundy avatarGundy
Maybe someday I'll finish Natural Doctrine AKA Natty Doc...
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
You've got guts, a powerful soul You've got guts, sweet and sour You've got guts, do the guts A man sweats, he really does, go!
Flegma avatarFlegma
Finished Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time in about 107 hours. Got tired of attempting to clear as many sidequests as there were left available. Maybe in NG+...
techsupport avatartechsupport
Woah. I consider myself a nerd and all, but the trophy hunting community is next level. Is there a biopic about the people at the top of these leaderboards? I'd find that very interesting.
Paul S avatarPaul S
GeoHolmes [img]https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/ntf3p5PqS2GteYfXUH33[/img]
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
I have no idea what this game is about but if this isn't the best goddamn cover art ever, I don't know what is. [url=http://imgur.com/3yw3G8S][img]http://i.imgur.com/3yw3G8S.jpg[/img][/url]
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
#thanksnintendo.
Shinta avatarShinta
Xenoblade X limited edition on Amaxon now. Will probably sell out very fast like usual. http://m.neogaf.com/showthread.php?t=1103729&page=1
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Just got a Vita with a 16GB card for super cheap. What games should I be looking out for?
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
So the XCX Special Edition was marked as in stock for 20 seconds and I got a copy! I am disproportionately excited considering what it comes with. Hopefully the art book and packaging are high quality. WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Surprise, Xenoblade Chronicles X Special Edition has already sold out on Amazon.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Just a heads up, the Xenoblade Chronicles X Special Edition is up for preorder on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Xenoblade-Chronicles-Special-Edition-Wii-U/dp/B014LNTVGK I think it'll be available elsewhere but you know. Nintendo. Love em but hard to find.
Clicks Clacks avatarClicks Clacks
Picked up Valkyria Chronicles for $5 in the Humble Store, figure I'd advertise that for anyone that doesn't have it yet. Sale ends in less than 42 hours after this post yo. https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/valkyriachronicles_storefront
gajknight avatargajknight
My copy of National Geographic came today. Best subscription I've paid for, worth it for the lovely pictures alone. This one has a story about elephant poachers and ivory tusks with spy chips in 'em. James Bond shit man.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
If someone used the blog reply feature to just divide a somewhat long blog into easier-to-digest chapters that could be consumed at the leisure of readers, would that be kosher?
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
[youtube]https://youtu.be/7bzKWOeSVn4[/youtube]
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
@Barry Kelly It looks like it will get pretty difficult later on. It even has instafail stealth sections according to @Chris Carter #neededanexcuse to #tryouttheatfeature
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I hope MGS V manages to have some sort of challenge to it. I just replayed MGS 4 for the first time since release and wow that game just practically plays itself. And that's outside of the long sections it is playing itself!
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -