DC Universe Online's creative director talks about how his game thrives under a free-to-play model.
When free-to-play really started picking up traction in MMOs, I remember thinking it would never catch on. However, more than a few success stories changed my mind, and today's landscape makes it clear that the MMO subscription model is all but dead. In an interview with Gamasutra, the creative director behind DCUO, Jens Andersen, discussed in further detail how a free-to-play model gave his game a serious boost.
With 11 million registered users, Sony Online Entertainment's DC Universe Online is a very healthy MMO. However, Andersen explained that the early switch from a subscription model to free-to-play came with some serious speed bumps. "We had to figure out a way to adapt some of the conventions of how you progress through a subscription-based game to justify monthly subscription as opposed to going to a free-to-play model with some microtransactions and premium membership strategies," Andersen said, "so it was really challenging, because our content progression, everything was built with a different model in mind."
DC Universe Online is the only next-generation massively multiplayer online action game that delivers unparalleled physics-powered combat set in the DC Universe. This genre-defining game puts the power of the DC Super Heroes and villains into the palm of your hands...
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The team solved this by introducing the Legendary model, which would allow players to upgrade their accounts for a subscription fee. An upgraded account gives players more perks and benefits when playing the game, but does not give them access to any exclusive portions of the game.
"We wanted people to have access to the entire game - everything," Andersen said. "That was important to us; we didn't want to have to say, 'Well, you hit level 14, time to pay now.' Or do this 'poke-you-in-eye strategy' to annoy you until you sub up or give us some money or purchase something." Instead, the guys at SOE aimed at making their game so appealing that people would naturally want to pay for it.
Indeed, this is the very same model that has led to the unbridled success of other free-to-play titles like League of Legends and, more recently, SWTOR. Even RIFT went free-to-play earlier this June. I love free-to-play models, because they allow gamers to vote with their wallets in a much more educated manner, and that can only mean one thing - better games.