Pricing Psychology

A lot of this falls in line not only with my limited gaming time but also the notion that the subscription is a “game as a service” which is where the unconscious “need” to get your money’s worth comes in. Currently, I don’t have any MMO subscriptions. I casually play three MMO’s — Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, and Champions Online — all of which I have Lifetime Memberships for. Aside from the convenience of never having to update my account page doing the Re-sub/Un-sub dance, lifetime memberships allow me to change my outlook from “game as a service” back to the normal “game as a product” that I grew up with and continue to experience with non-MMO games. I can pick up or walk away from any of those three at any time, never having to concern myself with my account status, never worrying about getting value out of a single month. Are they a gamble? Certainly! One has to look no further than Hellgate: London to see how short a game’s lifetime can be. But I figure $200 is roughly equal to four full-price games for my Xbox 360, which would be $240 (plus taxes or shipping) or six PC games at the $50 that seems to be the average these days. I currently have a stack of 58 games for my 360, only a few of which are “finished,” and my Steam library shows 26 games installed. Add to that all the MMOs I’ve bought, the non-Steam PC games at home, and so forth. Even though a good chunk of those were pre-owned from Gamestop or purchased during a Steam sale, that’s still a large chunk of money set aside just for my gaming hobby. So when I look at the total gaming library I’ve already invested in, $200 doesn’t seem like that much of a worry anymore. The two Cryptic games are pretty much the only chance I have to play alongside certain people like Blue KaeMMO Gamer Chick and a few others, so I can easily place the “reward” of that over the “risk” of the lifetime membership as part of my own justification process.

Similarly, I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops and both it’s map packs ($60 for the disc plus $15 for each map pack) strictly so I could play online with Aaron and Oakstout (even Genda jumped in twice as a bonus). I’m not sure if I’ve ever ranted here on about my utter frustration with Call of Duty games, though both Aaron and Oakstout are well-versed with my oft-profane-laden outbursts of vitriol towards the multi-player game. During my worst tirades, Oak usually breaks out into giggles and I have a suspicion Aaron mutes me momentarily if I enter territory that offends his Catholic upbringing. I’ve had a neighbor knock and ask if things were OK, so yeah, to say Call of Duty pisses me off is an understatement, but it’s also a testament to what I’m willing to put up with for the sake of having fun with online friends. I don’t necessarily approve of the steep price of the map packs, but in a sense the model itself falls in line with Guild Wars where I buy the game and play for free, then buy DLC on top of that to continue support. (Don’t even get me started on Call of Duty: Elite, however…) The only difference being that Call of Duty is a “game as a product” and will be replaced in twelve months with the next annual edition of the franchise as opposed to the continuing growth of something of the scale of Guild Wars 2.

Back in the pre-internet days of GEnie we had to pay hourly for the service itself then an additional hourly fee to play online games like Air Warrior or Islands of Kesmai. That adds up way faster than any F2P game that I have deigned to play, believe me. I don’t want to go back to those days, but I also feel that for myself and others who participate in the myriad gaming choices available, subscriptions just don’t cut the mustard any longer. I don’t want to feel psychologically “locked into” one game to the near-exclusion of others because of the full-price subscription.

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