Thursday, 16 April 2015

Playing Hard To Get: Wildstar

So, according to the rumor mill, Wildstar might be going F2P. Or B2P. Dropping the subscription anyway. Maybe.

Apparently Australian game stores are the canary down the coalmine when it comes to payment model conversions. They start pulling boxes and packing for returns and that's the end of your exclusive club. This is based on...well, they did it just before ESO de-subbed so, proof!

Also Omeed Dariani, the gigglesome frontman who jumped ship from SoE to Carbine even before Daybreak was a thing, he said so on someone's Livestream. Sort of. Well, he said they were thinking about it. Bartillo told us so in the comment thread over at Keen and Graev.

Anyway, Wildstar's China launch is due soon, if you call the end of the year "soon". It could be next year. Before EQNext, anyway, I think we can count on that much, at least. They don't do subs in China so it's sure to be free there, which means they must be doing the conversion anyway, so it's inevitable here too, right?

No, I'm the cute one!

Syp thinks the recent re-focus on vanity pets and character customization presages a cash shop. He even plays Wildstar sometimes so he should know. That makes him the expert because for sure no-one else around here is playing it.

Yes. Well. Fine. But as Keen told me "it’s really not the subscription keeping you from playing, it’s the fact that the game isn’t good enough to justify the subscription". And he's right. Although he isn't.

I pay my subs. I'm paying Daybreak for All Access on two accounts. One of them we don't even use. I just logged it in this morning to claim the 500SC and five packs of Legends of Norrath cards and that'll probably be the last time it gets an airing until next month. (What's happening to Legends of Norrath anyway? Wasn't the last new pack Drakkinshard back in 2013?).

Wildstar is a fun game. I was interested in it when it was first announced then I went off it. That's the trouble with MMOs. They take so long to get here that by the time they get to where you are you're not there any more. /wave Black Desert.

So I wasn't even going to try it but then everyone else did and there was open beta or some such so I tried it and, yes, I liked it. The combat was frenetic, the tone was iffy, the colors were garish, the audio was jarring but the important part was...I really liked my little guy. That made up for an awful lot. Enough to get me to pay a sub, possibly. If...if...I also had time to play.

So, was Wildstar good enough for me to sub or wasn't it? I guess it wasn't because I didn't. I didn't even buy it and play the "free" month so obviously I didn't like it as much as FFXIV or TSW. And that's true. I like both of those games quite a lot more than I liked Wildstar.

Willpower. Willpower...

But I didn't sub those games either so, by Keen's logic, they weren't good enough. Maybe they weren't. I'd say FFXIV was and Wildstar probably wasn't but that wasn't why I didn't sub them.

In both cases the primary reason I didn't sub was that I couldn't foresee fitting them into the time I expected to have available. I was - am - already playing MMORPGs I'm committed to, at least to some degree. A day only has so many hours. A new MMO could even be better than the one I'm currently focused on and that still might not be enough to make me move: it would have to be a lot better to replace one I'm still enjoying.

The secondary reason was that Mrs Bhagpuss also didn't like either well enough to keep on playing. It's not like we are joined at the hip when it comes to gaming but it is more fun when we play the same MMO at the same time.  She tends to stick to one and I like to spread out a bit, so I play lots of MMOs that she doesn't, which is very easy now they're all there and thereabouts free, but it does makes a difference to which ones I'll pay to play.

Currently that's EQ and EQ2. I'm playing and she's not and I am willing to pay for the benefits of a subscription, apparently, even though I'm not sure I could tell you what those benefits are. I think I just like giving Smed money, that's probably it. I've been doing it so long it would feel weird to stop now.

Getting back to the point, and I did have one, I imagine, there are more reasons for deciding not to subscribe to a game than that game not being good enough to justify the cost. Once the subscription goes away, though, all those reasons go away with it.

Track now playing: EQ2 Warlock

I "play" a lot of MMOs. From memory, I am currently "playing" all of these:

GW2, Everquest, EQ2, Allods, Istaria, The Secret World, ESO, City of Steam, Project:Gorgon, WoW (free version), Eldevin and Neverwinter.

You have to define "playing". I have, at the very least, logged into all of the above this calendar year. I consider myself to be on hiatus from, but still not not playing, ArcheAge, Landmark and LOTRO. Added to which I have recently downloaded STO and logged into Guild Wars. There will certainly be others I've forgotten that, if you reminded me, I'd also claim to be "playing", even if only metaphorically. Or is that metaphysically? Something meta at any rate...

Conspicuously absent from that list are FFXIV and Wildstar. I would be "playing" both of those if they didn't have subscriptions. I'd be logged in taking screenshots for this post for a start, which is how I "play" quite a few MMOs these days. How much I'd be playing beyond that is hard to guess but I suspect it would be a not insignificant amount.

Would Square or Carbine make any money out of me by going F2P? I doubt it. Well, Square already got the box price and Carbine probably will too, because even if they declare the game is going to go full-on free, chances are I'll grab one from Amazon in advance like I did for ESO (ESO boxes were dirt cheap six weeks before F2P, when I bought ours. I checked yesterday and they are now going for collector's prices with almost none left so best grab a Wildstar box now, I'd say, while they're still selling at way under retail).

Of course you can always just play one MMO to the tune of another.

That will be all they get from me I imagine. I mean, I play GW2 about all the hours god sends and, other than buying three boxes for three accounts, they've never had a penny out of me. What can I say? I'm a cheap date when it comes to gaming.

If an MMO is storming away like FFXIV they can very well do without my custom. Very well. Wildstar, one imagines, can't afford to turn business down. They could seriously do with every warm body they can get.

Oh, there is the argument that an influx of unwashed oiks, shoving and pushing past the fallen payment barrier, fingering the merchandize and sneering at the decor, will spoil it for the last few remaining paying customers. That one comes up every time a game converts.

Having been one of those remaining paying customers I can't say I noticed anything like that. Things got louder and busier for a while. Bustling even. That was generally fun. Then, after the novelty wore off, it all quietened down and went back to much how it was before. Presumably someone made some money out of it. No-one's lands got ruined that I saw. Certainly not mine.

For some MMOs there surely must come a time when there's no point pretending any more. No-one loves you. No-one even remembers you're there. You have to do something or you may as well just shut up shop. We really have no way of knowing if that's where Wildstar is right now but it's where the sentiment is, that's for sure. We're all just waiting for the shoe to drop.

It needs to happen soon if I'm ever going to write another Wildstar post, too. I've used all my screenshots. Most of them twice.

8 comments:

  1. It's always a bit surreal for me to read boxes get recalled, as over here too often computer gaming shops keep games on the shelves for 'normal' prices even when they are incorperated into other games (eg WoW expansions that have become included with the BattleChest base game), turned F2P (eg Age of Conan), or even F2P and then shut down (e.g. Vanguard).

    Personally I feel that's almost tantamount to fraud, but they 'get away with it' by claiming, if you push them, that yes they do know they are basically selling empty boxes but the bigwigs of the shop see it as 'collectables' (despite often literally offering nothing that can not be gained for free).

    As far as subscribing/expenditures goes, I think it also comes down to wether you feel a game/company 'deserves' payment and/or subsidizing its continued existence, and wether the monetization is conductive to one's gaming experience.

    For example, as with other Freemiums's I have played, I have purchased quite some of the special currency of Eldevin despite the shop having very few things that attract me (I don't like the visuals enough to get vanity Gear, the Lockboxes are annoying and about 200% to expensive to be called 'microtransaction', and I'm too Dutch to buy many bags that essentially cost 15 Euro's each - I know I have the currency but I just think it sets a bad example, I'm weird like that) simply because I want to support the game, yet, as was the case with poor Vanguard, the subscription option would actually degrade my gameplay (as was done with Vanguard, it a.o.t. speeds up Character Level XP, meaning you zip through that content even faster than is already the case - which in turn makes Crafting a chore past +/- level 10 as by the time you can Craft your Gear you already outlevel it if you're not very, very careful, and the severely-felt lack of Alternate Endgame Play/twinking/XP-Block means your below-cap Craftables are too often Vendor-fodder) so I 'can't' support it the 'regular' way.

    On the flip-side, in my opinion WoW if anything cemented the 'Kill the Journey, Kill the World, End Game Is All' myoptic view that has laid waste to virtual worlds ever since 'uber Guilds' started to blacken MMORPG's, and has especially since Cataclysm made this worse each and every Patch, and as such with the 6.0 (pre) WoD Patch I decided I had had enough and didn't want to subsidize it any longer. So while it still may have the potential of being a great game to me again (if only because post-WoW games are generally severely lacking in Class and especially Race choices), I refuse to spend another nickel on it till they change things (back) - which realistically speaking will not happen any time soon, to put it mildly.

    (Note that in this I disagree with a common opinion e.g.
    http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/the-destructive-legacy-of-blizzards-world-of-warcraft/ (quoted with others at http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/16953845655 )
    that WoW making MMO's less dependable on critical mass and the logistic nightmares forced grouping brings is what 'killed MMO communities and hence virtual worlds'')

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    1. You still have computer game shops? We have one left in the city I live in and I think they might have two shelves of PC games. Not been there for about a year. By now they might not have any.

      The only rally major difference I can see between Sub/B2P/F2P is the financial barrier to access. Once you jump over that the actual gameplay seems remarkably similar to me. I imagine it depends on your playstyle to some degree but the move away from subs hasn't significantly impacted the way I play MMOs as far as I can tell.

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    2. To me, a sub implies more of a trust in the Devs producing what you want than is the case with Freemium. 'Pay to pray' if you like. It's probably also a bit of semantics, I agree with you and superior (and others) that with a sub there is more of a feeling of 'having to' play, whilst with Freemium I find it easier to just play for the heck of it.

      BTW, I like your new anti-robot verification, though it does make a tad hungry lol
      Yup, we still have brick-and-mortar computer game stores, as well as e.g. toy shops having pretty extensive libraries (though the later increasingly more console than PC). Nedgame and Gama Mania are two of the bigger chains. It probably has at least somewhat to do with the second hand-market, as over here a consumer has the legal right to sell his purchased game on (as well as making a copy for personal use, though as protection against piracy is also allowed it does get rather murky if you really dive into it).

      Also, with the country being so small and densely populated, popping over to the local Weird Pete (or any conveniance store for that matter) is less of an issue than with more spacious countries, though Internet sales are afaik still on the rise so in a few years time this may have changed.

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  2. I definitely agree that being unwilling to pay a subscription isn't just about the game being not good enough. My dislike for the sub model has little to do with the cost. $15 a month isn't too much to ask under most circumstances. It has more to do with the psychology of it. I play a lot of different games, and I feel like if I'm paying a subscription, any time I'm not playing that game is a waste of money. Maybe it's not entirely logical, but I can't shake the thought, and it makes me feel very pressured to play, which rather sucks the fun out.

    Without a sub, you also get more control over what you spend and potentially more bang for your buck. I understand subscription fees go to producing new content and all that, but really all I see is my money vanishing into the aether with no reward beyond the privilege to keep playing a game I've already paid for. In a F2P/B2P model, I'm immediately rewarded for paying with a fancy mount, a nice outfit, or something else fun, and I can vote with my wallet by only spending on items and content I enjoy, thus subsidizing the developers to continue producing the things I care about.

    It's also something of a fallacy that a subscription means the need for cash won't harm gameplay. Subscription games design with monetization in mind every bit as much as F2P games do. Why do you think WoW is so found of its grinding and gating? I'd rather be given the choice of cash or grind than have to pay for the right to grind as in sub games.

    As for WildStar in particular, I do expect a business model shift soon. If they're not planning one, they're spectacularly foolish. A subscription-only game is a tough (almost impossible) sell in this day and age, and doubly so for a game with an unknown IP and some well-publicized design blunders like WildStar. They've already got a great basis for cash shop monetization with their mount, costume, and housing systems.

    Myself, I have no horse in the race. WildStar just wasn't fun for me, so I wouldn't play it even if it was free. I guess in this case it really wasn't good enough for the subscription.

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    1. I can pay one monthly sub and not get too concerned whether I'm "getting my money's worth" but paying for more than one game that I don't play very often starts to feel a bit, well, incautious. There's literally no end to the number of F2P games I can enjoy not playing though. B2P games I don't play sit very comfortably in the middle along with all the other minor self-indulgences like CDs I ever listen to and DVDs I never watch. I have shelves of them!

      I'm with you on the damage the sub model does to gameplay too. It really is six of one and half a dozen of the other. The hoops that sub game designers like to have players jump through to keep them playing can be more annoying than any cash shop. The problem is, the sub games also have cash shops and the F2P games also have hoops...

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  3. For years I usually sub to only one game and then play some other F2P, B2P or console games. I feel like I do not get my money's worth with the amount of free time I have to game when I am subbed to two games. So for me, a game with a subscription just has to be better to the one game I am currently subbed too.

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    1. Exactly! Of course it also relates to disposable income to a degree but even so, waste is waste.

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  4. I recently wrote about how Sub games aren't really "all you can eat" as they timelock content (dailies, lockout raid times, etc.) and do everything possible to slow your rate of gear and character growth to ensure you keep paying. It's smoke and mirrors. At least B2P and F2P are more honest about it.

    For me, I'm in with WildStar. Not only did I buy the game, I have about 70+ login reward boxes waiting for me. I'm looking forward to playing through the single player storyline, much how I am loving it in TSW right now. I can't wait to unlock more of the secrets of Nexus - at my own pace.

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