Home > MMO Games > Game operator, where are the options?

Game operator, where are the options?

October 16, 2007

When a new MMOG is released here in the Western hemisphere, many people pretty much assume that it is going to be a subscription based game and that it will cost roughly $15/month for unlimited playtime – at bit more here in Europe usually. At least if the game is a fairly high profile title and not an translation of an Asian MMOG, which probably more would expect to be “free to play” with some in-game transactions.

The assumptions are often correct. Either you do not play the game, or you pay a single fee every month, 3 months or 6 months. All or nothing, one size fits all. The MMOG publishers are service providers, providing an entertainment service. But in many other service areas, there are multiple options available because not all customers are the same of fit the same template.

If I get a mobile phone, I can get a number of different deals from one operator. I can select to pay no montly fee at all and pay for every single minute I call. I can pay a fairly high monethly fee, but I can pretty much make as many calls as I want, or other types services I can use with my mobile phone. Or I can have a couple of options in between – get some time for free or some extra services included and pay per usage for the rest.

I can get similar types of variations on offers if I shop see what broadband operators or cable/satellite TV operators will provide me. There is also special offers if I combine different services fromt he same operator of if my household has multiple persons using the services from the same operator.

Todays subscription prices for an MMOG has risen a bit in actual numbers, it was closer to $10 a number of years back. But other than that there is not much change other than that some games use the “free to play” option. Still, there is generally not much choice for a specific game – one size fits all.

I really do not believe that the game companies has done extensive studies and came to the conclusion that $15/month fixed fee is what pretty much everyone is happy with, if they play the game at all – regardless of what the game is and who plays it.

So why not offer multiple choices to use the entertainment services that is provided by a game operator? People may play one game or multiple games at once, they may spend at most a few hours per week at most or may spend as much as a full-time job or something in between. They may be the only one in the household playing or the whole family may be playing. There are lots of combinations and lots of opportunity to make different offerings that can make a customer feel that the operator has something to offer that suits them.

A problem here may be longevity. I have seen some comments saying that a typical MMOG players stays around 3-6 months with a single game. That is probably a bit shorter than people usually stay with their mobile, broadband or TV operators. Would it be worth it to make many different offerings?

If the only offer is a single game, then maybe not. But if there are many different games available chances are that people may stick around to play other games available also.

It has not have to be restricted to just games as well – strike deals with other types of operators. E.g. I set up an account with my mobile operator for a certain fee and get 10 hours worths of play time with an MMOG of choice (from a certain selection). Perhaps I get ring tones associated with the game as well and can hook up to guild chat through instant messaging on the phone. Probably still some time away from that type of synergy, but at least some baby steps here would be nice.

Another problem may be if the support systems used are up to the challenge here. Game companies have been switching from being pure developers and software producers/distributors to being service operators. Versatile support systems for billing and customer management may have not been on the top of the list. I suspect there could be some home grown stuff used here that may not be able to cope with that much flexibility that some applications dedicated for it may provide. But that is just speculation, I’d be happy to be proven wrong there.

A number of years ago the customer base was small enough and the number of games small enough that not too much effort was needed to think about what may be suited for different customer groups. Hopefully this entertainment segment will grow enough that the companies must think more about this – and not just whether a single game should be $15/month or “free to play”.

Categories: MMO Games
  1. Tesh
    January 14, 2009 at 23:30

    This sort of market differentiation should have been happening long before now. Truth be told, it already is in games like Puzzle Pirates, Wizard 101 and Atlantica Online. Our industry makes a lot of money, but the business inexperience is appalling at times.

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