“LOTRO has another thing going for it with the switch to free. Right now it’s arguably the second best, or maybe lower, subscription MMO on the market. After this it will be the single best free to play game period. They stand to make an amazing amount of money with this as people come running…”
This may be one of the best arguments for why LotRO going to Free To Play is a good thing. While I’m not interested in being a player of the “best” or “most popular” game (completely subjective terms that never reflect the value of a game), it is nonetheless a great point. LotRO goes from being a great game among AAA subscription games, to arguably being the most polished, most refined, and deepest MMO in the FTP market.
Think about it – LotRO held it’s own in the subscription market, maintaining a respectable number of players. So many people thought it was worth paying for that Turbine could have continued into the foreseeable future. It was a game worth paying for in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of players. Now that it’s Free To Play, not only does it rise to the top of the heap in terms of quality, it’s low barrier to entry means that that many more players will give it a go. And more players means the game continues for that much longer, we get more content, and, eventually, we get to Mordor.
Sure, no barrier to entry means that it’s probable that we’ll be seeing some less than desirable characters. However, more players mean more money for Turbine, which means more money for development. If you don’t pump money into your product, your players will leave, no matter what business model you’re using. The “Freeloaders” – those who play without ever paying – were never going to buy, try, or pay a cent for your product anyway; at most, Turbine loses some money on bandwidth. And I honestly believe two things:
- The number of players who will pay something, but didn’t want to shell out for the game and monthly subscription, will outnumber the players who never pay (at least, enough to account for losses due to the Freeloaders). More players = more money, plain and simple.
- For LotRO, if you get someone to try it, they will want to buy in. The game is that good.
I’m not really concerned with “letting in the rabble”; personally, the more players the better in my mind. LotRO’s visual style, gameplay, and story have more impact on it’s audience than the business model. And for the obnoxious players who do stick around, there’s always the /ignore list.