Well, I agree that microtransactions are going to be the future of the gaming industry. Like them or hate them, the last 5-6 years have proven that MTs, DLC, Cash Shops, and their ilk are a lucrative business for developers and publishes. So yes, the face of gaming has changed from what it was 30 years ago when I got involved in playing and making games (as a hobby – damn my shortsidedness for not taking it more seriously back then). I don’t agree that the subscription based model is going to go away completely.
Even though WoW now has a free trial, they are still just too big at this point to completely throw out the sub until the very EoL of the game. For the most part, I think we will see fewer and fewer sub based “AAA” games coming down the pike, and that most of what we will see will be the continuation of established niche games like Eve and the classic ones still hanging around. Those games have a much lower overhead cost per player than any games that are released today, so they have an easier time maintaining a healthy profit margin. A few years ago, I would have liked to see more games jump on the Anet bandwagon and do what they did with Guild Wars 1. To me, that is the best way to sell a game (partly because I am old school and believe in paying one up front fee to buy “my” game and play it whenever I want). However, within the last couple of years, we have seen the rise of the pure F2P game, and the switch from sub to “Freemium”, so I think that is where the industry is headed. I see it as a good thing, again because of my old school way of thinking when buying and playing games. It wasn’t until GW1 that I finally broke down and decided to try MMOs simply because it looked like it was a great game I would enjoy playing. It has since led me to at least try many others (a couple of which I still pop in on now and again) and finally land on SWTOR.
I haven’t looked at some of the other big games that have gone F2P recently, even STO, which I originally purchased a Lifetime membership for, in order to compare their offerings and restrictions to SWTOR’s but I do agree that some things are a big puzzling to say the least. I think part of that problem is that what BW is giving for free is the best part of the game and there is no real way to gate that, so other restrictions have to be made, and the fact that it wasn’t built from the ground up to be a F2P or B2P model. Personally, I think unlimited Flashpoints and Warzones would be fine, but allow no rewards to be gained from playing them for F2P players. I don’t agree that only two hotbars are allowed, though you can technically get through the game with just two. Three should be standard for F2P and “Premium” players, with us subs still getting our six.
Obviously my view on P2W is more restrictive than many other players who define the term, but I think what we see in SWTOR, and may be seen in other games as well at this point, is the way the Western Market will be implementing F2P in the future. As several of us have mentioned before – this industry is a business and businesses exist to make money. As such, I think that while the Western Market is much less inclined to tolerate a P2W model (and we won’t see any of the “pure” P2W games like those in the Eastern Market ), we will see more of a tolerance for what we have in SWTOR. Look at how DLC for single-player games was first received. Now, even though there are players who still disagree with it, it is an accepted form of additional revenue for a game. I see this happening as well, partly because P2W is not easily defined and primarily based upon individual feelings of players. Certainly, the industry would view the definition in a more strict way (as I do) in order to “ease” the entry into the model. In the end, I think it will eventually become a necessary evil and if not fully accepted at least tolerated. I delt with the same types of feelings when digital downloads began to become the rage – I prefer to have a physical object that I can hold and call my own when I spend my money, but now, I understand the benefits the new distribution model has to the industry using it. I think it will be the same for the current trend of F2P and Freemium models – eventually they will be accepted as being better for the industry.