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MMORPGs and Monthly Fees - Can They Coexist?

Time and time again I will see people become somewhat interested in an MMORPG, only for them to turn the other way once they hear of a monthly service fee.  Now not all MMORPGs these days have a monthly fee.  Many of them, like the highly acclaimed Runescape and Maple Story, all are free to play and download (of course they charge for in game items or better graphics).  In fact, several MMORPGs that were initially subscriber based have gone F2P, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Rift.

Rift recently went free-to-play

Nevertheless, people cannot seem to wrap their heads around why they should pay for a game after they have already paid for it once.  At one time I thought the same way.  Why should I shell out money to this company for no reason other than to “support” their product?  Especially when I already put down $50-60 on the original game box?  Where does all this money go to?  How will I benefit?  Until you answer these questions, you truly never will know why you pay that monthly fee.  Of course, these are the same people that don’t have any idea how much upkeep it takes to run a smooth online role-playing game.  It is a necessary evil, one that is tough to deal with at first but gets easier to stomach as time goes on.

Probably the number one reason why MMO companies need that $10-15 dollar fee is to maintain servers and the patches that come with them.  When dealing with thousands of people, or even millions if you are talking from Blizzard’s perspective, you need a strong hardware line to support all of that data.  Without it, all that work you put into building your character would be as dust in the wind after a week or so.  Even with all that money that Blizzard gets (hundreds of millions per month), they still continue to struggle with lag issues and other maintenance problems that come up after every patch.  Technology has advanced quite a ways in the last few decades, but we are still not at the point where complete lag-free online game-play is possible.  It will only become possible if people continue to donate to the cause.  It may seem lame at first, but paying a monthly fee for a game you are enjoying shouldn't be that hard to swallow.

Another thing people take for granted is the amount of time they are giving to these games.  Now, a simple question.  How long does your average video game last these days from beginning to end?

Ten hours? Twenty hours?  Maybe thirty to forty at most if it has a decent multiplayer setup or a simple, repetitive premise with lots of replay value (Star Fox 64 comes to mind).

That is absolutely nothing compared to the amount of time one puts into a “single” character within most of these MMO worlds.  After playing both Asheron’s Call and World of Warcraft for years I noticed a shocking statistic.  The average amount of time per character was between fifteen and twenty days played.  Now multiply that by 24 hours and you might think of some of these people have problems.  And even though that may seem like a lot of time, that is nothing compared to what some of these MMO junkies put in.  It just annoys me to see people complain that they are bored with a particular MMO, when they don’t realize they have put in between 600-800 hours into it.  Man, if I put that much time into a game I’d probably be bored with it too!  The difference is that you are spending a hell of a lot less money by playing an MMO than you would with the dozens of short single player experiences in this day and age.

Almost 1000 hours played?  No big deal in the world of MMOs

I believe that people have just become ungrateful and have taken for granted the amount of enjoyment that an MMORPG gives them.  The genre may not be for everyone, that is a given.  Some people don’t like grinding out levels for hours or running the same quests over and over again to get that one unobtainable weapon; especially when they realize it will become obsolete by the next expansion pack.  Those that play MMORPGs are players that enjoy a great story, have a broad imagination and enjoy playing with other people.  Sure some online games may have a crappy player-base, but those couple of people that become your “allies” in these games more than make up for it.  Some of the players that I befriended throughout my MMORPG times have actually become my friends in real life.  Amazingly enough, people have even met their future spouses in these games.

A lot of people will defend the free-to-play model solely because it seems to be the direction a lot of companies are going.  In fact, World of Warcraft is pretty much the only MMORPG that can really get away with it these days.  World of Warcraft revolutionized the modern MMO, transforming the genre from an empty sandbox into an exclusive theme park.  While I don’t agree with a lot of the things Blizzard has done over the years, one can’t help but give them props.  The problem is that too many developers are trying to copy the WoW formula.  Companies that jump into this market need to realize that if they want to use a subscription based model, they have to do something innovative; a concept that is becoming more and more foreign these days.  It is because of this oversight that Bioware and many others have been forced to go free-to-play.

It’s funny that many people seem to think free-to-play games are the cheaper option, when you will ultimately be paying even more under this model.  MMOs that are truly F2P don’t just charge for cosmetic items, but key features as well.  Additional levels, better quality armor and weapons, and even improved level experiences are all being offered for deceptively low prices.  A lot of people think they won’t purchase these things, but people will allows value convenience if it’s quick and cheap.  F2P games also tend to lack a strong community, especially if the game has both a subscriber and F2P model.  Doing business like this tends to cause unrest among your player base, which happens to be the very foundation of an MMORPG.  This is where you have to ask yourself: “Which type of paying service is giving me the better deal?”

Free-to-play huh?  Being the best requires an investment.

In the end, great MMORPGs can paint a pretty picture, but it cannot get there without the paint and brush; two things that the player and the host company must provide.  Just remember that there are hundreds of MMORPGs out there, some free and some not.  Each one gives you a trial period, which can generally last between two weeks and one month; plenty of time for you to decide whether or not it is the game for you.  So ultimately yes, it is worth paying that fifteen or so a month to keep your favorite game running.  Just don’t be like the people on most game forums and gripe about every single thing you don’t like about said title.  If you don’t like the game anymore then don’t play it anymore, nothing is forcing you to turn that game on time after time except your own addiction.  Just take a break every once in a while.  After all it’s just a game . . . that you pay a monthly fee for.

Though it doesn't seem so bad now does it?
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About Calidrethone of us since 5:55 PM on 12.04.2008

What's up D-toiders, the name's Calidreth. I've been a reader and fan of Destructoid's content for years and decided to create a blog over here (because everyone blogs now right?).

I've been freelance writing for gaming sites for about 8 years now, doing both volunteer and paid work. My work has been featured on Gamespot, Giant Bomb and GameFAQs, and I've been a staff/freelance writer for HonestGamers, GamerGaia and Cheat Code Central.

Alongside gaming, my other hobbies include: computer programming, video editing, anime, tennis, poker, and of course, writing.

I also stream on TwitchTV, so come check out the channel when you can:


Currently Playing: Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb (PC), Mark of the Ninja (PC) and Rogue Legacy (PC)
Xbox LIVE:Destinati0n
Mii code:Calidreth


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