Or is it the superior business model for MMORPGs?
Star Trek Online is the latest MMO to announce that they are going to go from a subscription model to a free to play business model. Considering that Champions had already made the transition some time ago, this announcement didn’t come as a surprise.
It seems that more and more second tier MMORPGs are making the move to free to play. Dungeons and Dragons Online started the trend a few years ago, and that move saved the struggling game at the time. Since then, we’ve seen Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Champions go free, with Fallen Earth and now Star Trek making the move in the near future.
In the cases of DnDO, LotRO, and AoC the developers have reported significant increases in the number of players playing, and an increase in revenue.
Of course none of the first tier MMORPGs are planning to go FTP anytime soon. WoW and Rift, as far as I know have no intention, and the big up and comers, The Secret World and Star Wars The Old Republic have announced that they will be using the subscription model.
So it seems that, in Western markets at least, developers prefer the subscription business model. And who can blame them? Subs provide a fairly stable income stream, which if you have lots of subscribers can be huge.
But when these games start struggling with subscriber numbers, it seems more and more of them opt to change the model to the free to play model.
So I ask, is this a sign of defeat or does it mean that free to play is the superior business model?