Let's do some sums!
And by that I mean I will. So bear with me.
From the Wiki on Lord of The Rings Online.
In North America, players who pre-ordered the game were offered a special founder's offer, a lifetime subscription for $199 or reduced cost of $9.99 per month. Standard monthly fee is $14.99 with three, six, twelve month, and lifetime discounts available. European players had a similar program from Codemasters. A Holiday subscription was available in December of 07 and January of 08 for $9.99/month for a 3 month commitment. A one year anniversary addition includes a $9.99/month subscription or a $199.99 Lifetime subscription.
So! Assume about $50 for the game box. $250 for all the LOTRO you want, forever more. But assumuing I am reading that right, that's up front. You had to preorder or drop by at the anniversary to get it.
Now City of Heroes.
I have my 39 month badge which means I have played for 39 months. Normally that'd mean paid for 38, but I'm an odd one.
So City of Heroes.
$50+$30+$0*+($14.99x36)+$10+$10 = $639.34
*=I got a CoV collectors edition code free from a lovely friend. Also the $10's refer to the GvE edition pack and the Wedding pack.
So then... Warhammer is coming. I've pre-ordered my collectors edition quite some time ago. That was $80. I had to get priority international shipping because Amazon are mean like that, plus import fees. $120. We can safely say I really want the game and am willing to spend money on it.
This isn't a blog about how the subscription model is flawed or fantastic or broken or whatever.
Simply this is a matter of math.
If I had betad (is that a word?) Lord of the Rings Online and enjoyed it and had the cash on hand I'd be able to play it for pretty much the rest of its operable life for $250.
If I had been with City Of Heroes at launch (Issue 2 I came in) and had the cash. I'd have saved myself, ohh lets call it, $400 over the last four years.
So then that's the cost of the risk of an MMO. My first MMO Earth & Beyond was shut down after two years. It was only operating as a pay to play for about 75% of that. It's last few months being a long sunset to let subs time out.
If you have the cash around and a game looks like it will go the distance and most importantly it's offered. Well... I think we'd all be fool not to take up such offers in the future.
Sure it's expensive and sure it's a risk. $199 pays for itself in 13 months.
To be the Devils Economist for a second though, that's why Turbine will never stop offering this lifetime deal. They get $200 for every guy who buys the sub and who may leave after a few months. Even if they do, they still will count on spreadsheets to investors as subscribers, possibly making Turbine more money. Not every game in the MMO market will make it big, or even big enough to keep going. Those that do though, they'll always find a way to charge.
$199 may pay for itself in 13 months, but there'll be expansions.
I've paid $640 for my game so far, but it has had 12 free issues so far. I also got a run of a free comic for a long time mailed to me.
Which would you prefer? Give your game a boost of money now, or let them draw on you for as long as you play?
(Ardy doesn't have the cash at the moment to pay for a $199 lifetime sub to WAR so I'm pretty much holding out hope that I don't miss such a deal if one does surface somewhere)