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to great fanfare and even greater success. Turbine ultimately elected to stop
charging for subscription and began releasing the games for free, with a new
internal microtransaction model that allowed users to gain access to addi-
tional features, new areas of content, and similar items by making in-game
purchases.
Their first MMO to move to a free-to-play model was DDO , an action-based
RPG game thematically based on the venerable pen-and-paper game. The
game was released for Windows PCs in late 2006, published by Atari.
In late 2009, DDO became free to play. Users were offered three different
choices of sales model. The “VIP” players who continued to subscribe to the
game (or who had purchased a lifetime subscription) were given 500 Turbine
points per month; could access all races, classes, and game spaces; play up
to ten different characters; were granted immediate login at peak times; and
received the highest level of customer service. “Premium” and “Free” players
each received reduced versions of these various offerings, unless they elected to
purchase and spend Turbine points.
With LOTRO , Turbine built a compelling 3D adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's
epic fantasy work and styled it as a subscription-based MMO, sold as a boxed
product through classic retail channels. The game underwent a fairly complex
and turbulent development process and was released to acclaim from both
gamers and the press in April 2007. Turbine released several major updates to
the game, the most notable of which was LOTRO: Mines of Moria . This full-
bodied expansion was sold at retail stores and as PDLC and received critical
acclaim for its story-driven gameplay and attention to the details of the original
source material.
Based on the tremendous success Turbine had in switching models with
DDO , they elected to make LOTRO free to play in September 2010, moving
away from their previous subscription cost of $9.99 per month (with an up-
front $50 retail purchase of the box component). They adopted a tiered model
similar to what they used with DDO . Within a month, the LOTRO player
base more than doubled, and in January 2011 Turbine announced that their
revenues with free-to-play were triple that of their retail and subscription
products. 4
This move was widely noted by the games industry, and soon after,
several other online games companies announced that they too would
explore pure freemium models in the coming years. Turbine took two suc-
cessful games based on popular franchises and proved that they could be
even more successful when they allowed users to choose how much to
spend.
4 http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/32322/Turbine_Lord_of_the_Rings_Online_Revenues_
Tripled_As_FreeToPlay_Game.php
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