Been seeing these threads popping up again so I guess I will add my opinion, experience and future outlook since I have done so in several threads.
Yes, AO subscription is a joke. Not the cost itself, but charging a subscription for this game is a joke. Every game/MMO FC has under its belt right now does not charge a recurring subscription price JUST to play the game. You can argue that AO has a free model, and from an outsider’s point of view it does, but what you are getting for free AO is a whole lot of nothing which I will detail later. In comparison to their other MMOs, you receive perks for being a subscriber and aren’t locked out of content (like raid bosses/zones. Players may be locked out on items but physical places in the world/content, no) because you dont have a subscription nor does your account become locked for non payment if you paid for a subscription at one point.
There is a huge difference in how players/customers experience content/the games in FC’s portfolio compared to how someone may experience it in AO due to a pay wall. They can experience the whole game for free, in AO they cant. Experiencing AO as a free player is just bad. I could go on and on about why but this entire topic is going to be long in general so I will make it quick.
There is virtually no froobs running around to play with. Froob areas and froob content is completely deserted. Froobs are extremely basic and the incentive to pay a recurring subscription to a new player is a lot more alluring with the vast amount of content you get by doing so. The initial experience of being a froob is so disheartening that a new player is going to think that AO sucks.
AO double dips in milking their customers. The game has a cash shop AND a subscription cost. While you can easily not spend any money in the cash shop, the fact of the matter is, is that its there and people do spend money their along with a recurring subscription to keep their account active. You can have a recurring subscription in TSW but if you were to not pay for the subscription anymore you could still play the game fully and not receive the perks for having one and MAYBE spend money in their cash shop.
So to reiterate, with AO I HAVE to pay for a subscription to play the game fully, the cash shop is optional. TSW I DO NOT HAVE TO pay for anything, any money I spend, while playing, is optional. I can play the game forever without a subscription without worrying my account will be locked. This experience is the same for FC’s game portfolio other than AO.
Where the hell is AO subscription money going? Subscription money can be argued as to where it should or shouldn’t go but at the end of the day it is the companies decision to do with it as it so chooses. To me, the cost of paying for a subscription means that this money will go towards upkeep of the game I am playing (upkeep=employees, content, server costs etc. you know things to make it run). Once the money is allocated appropriately, any excess should be used towards other projects of the company or maybe even allocated for a large content patch (IE expansion) for the game. The benefit to me paying is that I get to play the game and eventually look forward to what they introduce in the future.
AO subscription does not fit this criteria in the slightest and hasn’t since maybe 2011-2012 when everything took a nose dive. I say 2011-2012 because content for AO was still being worked on like zone quests, updating areas, fixing things etc. The last “expansion” (technically a booster pack) was in 2009 with LoX. Every piece of content since then has been a flavor of the month instance that probably took an exorbitant amount of time to create. AO has never been one to produce content in a quick streamlined fashion. Since that time I mentioned AO has continued to have a subscription AND a cash shop with very rare and lack luster development.
If you are going to charge a subscription for a game that locks accounts for non payment and locks players out of the full game than (in my opinion) you have to continue developing content for the game.
What is content? More specifically, what is content in AO. In general, content to me is anything that attracts a player to continue playing. New systems, new raids, new loot etc. is all part of content. Even overhauling the whole system (basically what WoW does every expansion) will continually provide a new dynamic to the game. Content, to me, is not the release of ONE new instance once every year. Content, to me, is not a booster pack.
We can say that the money generated by current subscriptions of AO can not sustain my definition. As mentioned, AO takes a long time to develop content because of when it was created, how it was created (the tools etc) and how MMO development has evolved over time. It is just simply not plausible or feasible to create content for AO fast enough to negate the overall cost whether we are referring to now or before, it just never was.
Basically, subscription money for AO is going elsewhere. Why? Who knows. But I think that has had a perpetually negative effect on AO over time.
AO was created at a time when MMO development was in its infancy. The games at the time and the mindset of the developers was that these games are going to BE massive, they are going to BE multiplayer. A lot of content developed for AO required a team/people to either, A. Complete the content. B. Complete the content in a timely fashion. C. Level up quickly. While that mantra has changed over time and AO has become a little more casual/solo friendly I, however, find this due to a dwindling player base coupled with many aspects of the changing MMO industry and maybe some foresight by AO devs.
Raids in the early days of AO required many people to complete and as content was released, characters got stronger to where a majority of the content can be completed with just a few people. This took out the MM of MMO. Why is this bad? Being able to complete old hard content with fewer players is a good thing. While that is a good thing, AO has never had evolving difficulty or a variety of high end new content. What I mean is, is that while character power increased, PvE content difficulty stayed the same so the gap between how powerful a character became and PvE began to get closer. This spiraled out of control with making every raid instanced without setting forth strict guidelines on loot.
“I still dont understand why all that is a bad thing”.
I know you dont, I was just building it up to this next point.
This is why taking the MM out of MMO (in AO’s case) was a bad thing: NODROP item sellers. By reducing the amount of characters required to complete content and also instancing every raid it allowed 1 player (through multiboxing) or a small group of individuals to raid content and sell the items to someone not in attendance of that raid.
Why should I invite someone who wants to participate in this content I am doing only to lose out on selling the item because he won the roll on it? I dont want any competition, I am out to make money. Why should I even bother doing the content when I can just buy it from someone selling it? I mean, I have done the same instance countless times on alts. I am tired/bored/dont like PvE. Why should I join a public raid bot to farm points to get the item which may take me weeks to get enough points to win the roll when I can farm credits faster and buy the item?
In time, this alienated the player base. The forming of teams/raids with random people to do content dwindled. This led to doing content mainly with your Org or a combination of your Org and an alliance of Orgs. The problem with this is that Orgs plan to do certain raids/things at certain times/days of the week. This may not always be the case but in AO’s current form not many people play during the week. You may miss that time, you may want to do that raid sooner and so these reasons lead us back to simply buying NODROP items.
What does this have to do with subscription cost? Many of the things mentioned caused the player base to dwindle which in turn made little sense in continuing to pay a subscription to play AO. Why should I pay to play a game (IN ITS ENTIRETY) when there is no one around? Why should I pay to play a game when I cant do content because people want to sell everything? Why should I pay to play when it takes forever to make any meaningful progress solo? Why should I pay for a game when I am playing solo a majority of the time? Why should I pay for a game that has ceased all development?
I understand that AO is old. So many MMOs have come and gone since AO was released. The market is competitive and the market is vast. Trying to maintain AO as a worthy subscription based game in this day and age and considering what AO is now and still charging a subscription regardless, is simply highway robbery.
FC has had success with some of their more recent Conan titles. I think that is great for the company in order to stay in business. What saddens me is that it does not affect any of their older MMOs, specifically in this case AO. It is without question that doing so is simply not worth the time or the money. It would just be a waste and would put the companies future in jeopardy. Investing in what they have is simply a bad idea.
Knowing this and knowing what they have been doing with their success (investing in future titles and acquiring Zona Paradoxal) it just doesn’t make sense to me why AO should have a subscription anymore in order to experience the game fully.
AO requires change in order to get rid of the subscription model. AO needs to be re-made to where instead of paying to experience the whole game, paying a “subscription” fee only yields various perks and benefits that do NOT lock the player out of the whole game and freezes their account. AO should go completely free, all expansions, everything like FCs other MMOs.
But once again, that requires development, time and money which FC doesn’t want to use towards this game so subscription based AO will be here for a while still.