I'd like to throw an idea out into the ether to see if I get any bites on this. First, I have been playing EQ2 nearly since launch and have dabbled in WoW, EVE and more recently LOTRO and Vanguard. Now for the sake of keeping things simple, let's just ring up a hypothetical monthly bill for this activity.
Station Access (EQ2 and Vanguard): $30/month
I consider myself a 'casual' player. I log maybe 4-8 hours per week of game time.... and yes that is exactly the reason my one and only Everquest 2 character has yet to reach level 70. However, when you consider the price tag of almost $1000 per year for gaming (without taking into account the non-mmo's that I Will buy), I feel it looks less casual and more hardcore. I'm in my games often enough that opening and closing an account is more trouble then it is worth. I'd rather just leave my accounts open in these games for quick and convenient access to them when I want to play.
So now comes the idea... Isn't there an opportunity for an entertainment provider to step in, strike an agreement with game publishers and offer players a bundled or a la carte game subscription?
I'm thinking something like a Boston Market meal where I can buy the turkey with one, two or three sides. I'll have the EQ2 with a side of LOTRO and EVE please. I'd feel comfortable paying $30 for this. Someone might be willing to get the all you can eat buffet for some higher price that allows them access to all games. Sony is close with Station Access, but needs to open it up to more non-SOE published games. This is not much different from what a cable company does, is it? I mean, I buy my cable on a monthly basis. I get 90000 channels. I watch maybe 10 of them. The value here is that I'm not paying $15.95 a month for HBO and $15.95 a month for Discovery and $15.95.... Well you get the idea. Someone in the cable sales and marketing departments has figured out that no one person can watch every show on TV all the time. So they offer bundles with choices.
I really think this is the future direction of the MMO subscription model. The current subscription model requires near exclusivity in terms of what game you play from both a time and financial standpoint. This new model would help ease the financial burden in players and I feel it would help an MMO's population staying power. Players would be less inclined to 'cycle' through games as each new thing popped up. At the very least they would not cancel accounts the minute that the 'World of Fuzzlecraft 3000' was released. Game publishers win out by not having to worry about supporting infrastructure, bandwidth etc. This all comes with their agreement with the 'entertainment service provider'.
We continue see an unending supply of new and shiny MMO's which compete with our existing MMO subscriptions. Rather then constantly battling for overlapping player pools, why don't game publishers simply recognize that people would like to play more then one game and work towards a solution that allows players to do so.
This definitely represents a possible threat to the money a direct monthly subscription would bring to a publisher. This model represents more of an invested approach to a player base rather then a quick and easy sale. Sure, going direct nets a nice wad of cash each moth from each player. Is it worth more to the game developer to have lots of $15 cash wads for a year or two or three? Or is it worth more for them to see smaller continuous revenue from millions of subscribers over the course of a much longer time span? Sure, there would have to be a governing authority to decide when a game has reached the end and needs to be bumped out of the prime cable space. But that's what public television is for =).