However, there will be no experimenting with revenue models at EA Mythic where the subscription model is alive and well. Gamers pay monthly to play its current MMOG Dark Age Of Camelot and they'll pay monthly to play Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning when it is released this fall.
"You know, everyone thinks it's just so cool to say that the subscription model is passé, that it's dead," notes Mark Jacobs, general manager and VP. "They love to talk about their new models and how they are going to revolutionize the MMOG world. But MMOG publishers are spending a lot more on their games than anyone thought they'd be spending five years ago."
"If your game doesn't have the production values of a leading-edge game, if they are two-dimensional and not three, if they have lower system specs, okay."
"But if you're investing as much time and money as we are on our MMOGs, if you need to pay for the servers and the customer support, if you want to make a real profit on your game, subscriptions are the only way to go."
While Jacobs concedes that the micro-transaction model has been extremely successful in Asia where gamers have become accustomed to it, he says there's a reason why most of the MMOGs in the U.S. and Europe are subscription-based.
"The microtransaction guys will say that they are more successful," he argues. "Oh really? I find it very disingenuous when publishers talk about how many people are playing their game but won't talk about how much money they're making."
"Frankly, I would rather have one million customers who are all paying to play than 20 million customers with only one million of them paying to play. I can give them better support, I can give them a better game, I can deal with a better community, I have fewer customer service headaches."
EA Mythic's Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning
As a result, Jacobs say he has no desire to try any other models on Warhammer.
"We already have 700,000 people signed up just to test our game in closed beta," he recounts. "The nice thing about our model is that you can do very simple math with it which is what I like 'cause I'm a very simple guy. If we get a million subscribers each month and we charge 15 bucks a month, that's $180 million a year. There's no need to wonder how many people are going to buy how many micro-transactions."
Regardless how strongly Jacobs feels about subscriptions, he says he doesn't see the MMOG sector agreeing on any one particular model anytime soon. In fact, he expects there will be new models surfacing although he can't predict what they might be.
"Somebody, I'm sure, will come up with something interesting, because they always do," he says. "In fact, I find it humorous that a lot of people on the various MMOG forums I patrol are actually calling for hourly billing. Can you imagine? I thought we got past that. But they're saying, 'Look, I'd rather pay 25 or 50 cents an hour because I only play a few hours a month and don't have the time for more.
"I don't think those people remember when all MMOGs billed hourly," he concludes, "and gamers who got hooked on MMOGs were receiving $1,000 monthly bills. That's what I like about subscription models; I don't have to worry about nickel-and-diming people to death. It's bad enough that the airlines are now starting to charge for your first piece of luggage and for window seats. Can you imagine?"