feature post I found confused and unconvincing, Massively OP's regular EQ2 correspondent MJ Guthrie described it as a "gaffe".
The gist of the argument against appears to be that since the new Scourge of Zek addition to the game is big enough to be an expansion it should therefore be sold as an expansion. Well, there's some merit in that, although, as we all should know from a million genre fantasy plotlines, the proper naming of things matters.
There's certainly no doubt it's large enough and sufficiently feature-complete to merit a box fee. If they'd chosen to launch it as a $30 expansion pack I'd have bought it, happily. On the other hand, I'm fully on board with the idea that it would have been more elegant to package up all the features, both severally and together, and sell them directly to non-subscribers through the Cash Shop but that's a road that SOE was always somewhat unwilling to go down and it doesn't appear that DBG is any keener to break that ground.
I think the best take on selling both content and subscriptions that I have seen is the way KingsIsle do it in Wizard 101. There they offer a range of options that include buying access to specific zones individually, then keeping that access in perpetuity, or paying a subscription that allows access to any zone at any time but only so long as you keep paying the subscription. LotRO works in much the same way.
While I would agree that a more flexible payment plan along those lines would be preferable, I don't think there's very much wrong with having content that is only available to subscribers. If you turn the current EQ2 issue on its head, rather than a slap in the face for the Free to Play crowd you might just as easily see GU100 as a hugely generous perk for subscribers. I'm a subscriber and that's definitely how I think of it.
All Access members, such as I, who were already paying our subs, had no particular right to think that we'd be getting a massive content drop like this midway between annual expansions. I certainly wasn't expecting one. This time last year DBG was trying to sell us the much smaller Rum Cellar "adventure pack" for $14.99. That didn't go down at all well so it seems a bit rich to start complaining now, when something several times larger (and better) is being handed out to subscribers for free.
The underlying issue here is not so much whether there was a better way to handle the release - there's always a better way. No, it's more a question of the underlying direction of travel. After five years and more of maneuvering and experimenting, few MMO companies have yet settled on a final strategy where payment models are concerned, but the idea of charging some kind of recurring access fee, something that, for a while, looked to be gone for good, is coming back into vogue.
Of course, there's a natural inclination to try to keep all the income streams flowing at once. Just because a game has a subscription doesn't mean it can't also have an aggressive cash shop as well. Similarly, why give up the potential advantages and synergies of combining business models? No-one wants to shut out potential customers completely, especially when they could be milling around the common areas, making the place look busy and spending some money in the cash shop while they're at it.
The drift appears to be back towards something that looks very much like the old-style subscription model, only this time front-ended by various flavors of extended, open-ended free trials - always backed up with an extensive cash shop. I really don't think any MMO from a major commercial developer is going to eschew direct sale in-game cash shops ever again. Why would you?
The water is inevitably muddied with the various "pay your sub with in-game coin" schemes like PLEX, REX, CRED, WoW Tokens or EQ2's own Krono. Who knows how people are using these, how they fund them, or even how the traded items enter the game? Yesterday when I was questing in Zek someone in the trade channel was looking to buy thousands of Kronos. It might have been tens of thousands. I forget exactly how many he wanted but he claimed to have many millions of plat ready to meet whatever offers came in.
With a plethora of purchasing plans like these I really can't see too much of a problem with gating specific content behind a subscription, not even when that content comes down to something as fundamental as access to zones or dungeons. After all, in the "good old days", if you didn't pay your sub you couldn't log in at all.
In the same way that MMORPGs are always works in progress, operating in an eternal quasi-beta state where nothing is ever final, so it seems the way we access and pay for them will go on changing. We can complain about it all we like - and we do - but in the end it's simple enough: do you want what they're selling and do you think it's worth what they're asking?
Answer "yes" to both of those questions and you're in. Answer "No" to either and you're out. As far as EQ2, GU100 and The Scourge of Zek are concerned - I'm in. For now.
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