Free-to-play games catching MMO subscribers’ attention (and wallets)

on May 23 | in Blog | by | with Comments Off

The successful launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic notwithstanding, the business model of mandatory subscriptions for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games seems to be on its way out. A new user survey by online core gamer network Curse indicates that free-to-play games and microtransaction purchases are gaining ground even among subscribers of MMO market leader World of Warcraft.

64 percent of the 11,800 online gamers surveyed by Curse play free-to-play games and 43 percent of those buy in-game items. That’s an impressive number considering that any rate of converting players into paying customers above 5 percent is typically viewed as a success.

The explanation lies in the kind of user Curse attracts. 91 percent of the survey participants currently play a subscription MMO (most likely World of Warcraft, as Curse operates popular community sites that cater to the information needs of that audience). Dedicated players are more likely to pay for in-game extras than the casual crowd, which is why companies like Kabam are focusing on free-to-play games for hardcore gamers.

According to the Curse survey, the most popular microtransaction category is cosmetic upgrades for game characters (52 percent of those respondents who make optional purchases in free-to-play games), followed by virtual gear (21 percent) and experience points boosts (15 percent).

The biggest incentive for still playing subscription games is “overall quality including story and graphics”, as claimed by 50 percent of all survey participants. Their main reason for trying free-to-play is to avoid commitment to a monthly subscription (43 percent) and to try a game out (29 percent) before subscribing to a premium or full-access edition.

Read the complete article by Heinrich Lenhardt


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