Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn producer Naoki Yoshida defended the subscription model for MMOs in an interview with USGamer.
Yoshida explained that free to play meant having to come up with a profitable microtransaction model to keep the game going, which ultimately leads to the question of, “Who are we making happy?”
The producer also outlined a specific concern in the free to play, microtransaction fueled MMORPG landscape: diminishing returns on microtransactions. Players usually have to pay to increase inventory space or to get specific items. But what revenue streams are available once the player makes the more necessary purchases?
Bethesda Softworks went the subscription direction for similar reasons. Bethesda’s Nick Konkle explained the company didn’t want players to be held back by pay gates in The Elder Scrolls Online and instead opted to open everything for consumption by forgoing free to play and sticking with subscriptions. Some free to play MMORPGs like Star Wars: The Old Republic render certain loot unusable with a free account while others put additional features and gameplay modes behind pay gates.
Massively’s Larry Everett concluded an experiment last fall to see how difficult Star Wars: The Old Republic was to finish on a free to play account, and the results didn’t yield a happy ending.
Yoshida said he believes some MMORPG publishers focus too heavily on the first few months of the game’s existence to determine what subscription model the game truly needs.
Despite strong feelings for the subscription model, Yoshida said he believes both models have a place in the industry.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has 1.8 million subscribers and over 500,000 daily active users. According to a recent financial report, Square Enix saw financial gains and stability, much of which is credited to A Realm Reborn.
World of Warcraft, arguably the most successful MMORPG in history and Blizzard Entertainment's proverbial cash cow, closed 2013 with 7.8 million subscribers. The 200,000 subscriber gain broke a steady fall of subscribers the game was suffering and indicates subscriber numbers are on the rise.
The free to play model is not all gloomy. Games like Guild Wars 2 and DC Universe Online enjoy free to play success, both of which boast high player counts and praise from both consumers and critics alike.
MMORPG players: Which model do you prefer and why?