Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Game Design Philosophy: Pay-To-Play Versus Free-To-Play Options -- "Sitcom Model"

Another installment of ideas swirling around in my head.

I was having a talk with one of the people in my Final Fantasy XIV guild, and discussing the negative stigma that comes with a play-to-play MMORPG becoming free-to-play. From the gamer standpoint, going to a free-to-play model is the message from the company or the developers that they've given up on the game or that their subscriber count is too low.

They make it free-to-play in order for additional people to come along and keep the numbers high while spending money on special items, gear, dungeon-access, additional levels, or what have you.


Sitcom Model

Sitcoms usually have a first-run on a highly advertised network, and then get syndicated in reruns or lesser known stations on a one year-ish delay. I kind of used that model for an inspiration.


A dual pay-to-play (P2P) and free-to-play (F2P) model.

How it works:

Active subscribers on the P2P model have their own server. They get new in-game content on a regular basis, and are the first servers to get the new content to tackle and deal with. This includes new raiding dungeons, new monsters, new quests, new classes/races, PvP battlegrounds, and the like.

If a subscription expires and is not renewed (or a subscription is never ordered), characters and accounts are defaulted to a free-to-play server.

Free-to-play players will have their levels/characters intact, but get new content at a one-year delay from the active subscribers. They can participate in instanced content with friends that are subscribers, as long as both have access to the raid. Open-world content will be separate.


In most games, those that adopt a free-to-play model usually get revenue from items purchased with real money. In this model, the main revenue for the game will still rely on paid subscriptions. A year-delay on new content will motivate those to buy the subscription, and those who cannot afford or do not wish to pay can also enjoy the game as well.

Possible Holes in the Sitcom Model:

-Expansion Packs(?)
-In-game open world events

If anyone has any other comments or suggestions, send 'em my way.
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