It’s All a Game – MMORPG Business Models


Do you curse at the thought of your World of Warcraft subscription coming due? Do you rush to the store to purchase two more $30 Nexon cash cards? Was that $25 game worth it?

The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.

These things are related by much more than just being ‘games.’ They are examples of some of the most popular business models in the MMORPG industry. But let’s back up a step — shall we?

The term business model describes a broad range of informal and formal models that are used by enterprises to represent various aspects of business, including its purpose, offerings, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structures, trading practices and operational processes and policies.

Simply put – it’s how a business does things. How it markets its products, deals with customers and employees. It covers generally every aspect of a business. Its ‘how you run it.’

Let’s face it: MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) are some of the cheapest forms of entertainment. But what draws people more to some then others? Is it the low easy payments- or none at all? Let’s take a few of some examples.

P2P – Otherwise known as ‘pay to play.’ These games require some sort of subscription fee to connect to the game servers. Or worse yet: you may have to pay for the client too. World of Warcraft sports this business model, charging for connecting to the servers, the basic client and any expansion sets. Greedy, no? But they got rich fast because of it.

F2P – Otherwise known as ‘free to play.’ These games thrive only on donations and the company’s pocket books. They may resort to having numerous ads on their pages. Although many games have succeeded through this model, it was a struggle from fight to finish just to pay for servers each month. Kart Rider follows this business model as well as the majority of Korean games, where they hold 90% of the gamer market. Runescape also follows this model.

Micro – Also known as ‘Micro Transactions’ or ‘Micro Payments,’ these usually involve pay to play games that generate revenue through the purchase of game items for real currency. Either through use of some sort of ‘cash shop’ where one is to buy points in which to purchase items for their look, or the ability to improve one’s character. Maple Story, Gunbound, Drift City and Furcadia are some of the many games that follow this model. It seems to be one of the most effective industry models after P2P.

Retail – Another name for a game that is store-bought. This model refers to the purchasing of a game client. Once someone purchases the client, they may access the servers and play for free. Guild Wars was the first to really pioneer this business model, and has done so quite successfully. It’s impressive, considering it’s Ex-Blizzard employees running the show.

There are even more models that work by combining the above — but what does this mean for MMO gamers out there? It means there is a model for everyone. The casual gamer will thrive on F2P, Micro and Retail, while the hard core revel in that dastardly monthly fee. Is one more successful then another? At this point in time it’s really hard to tell. What is important is the target audience. A casual gamer isn’t going to shell out 15 bucks a month for a game they can only play sometimes. While a hardcore gamer may not be satisfied with games that run off the F2P model due to some companies not being able to afford to hire hordes of programmers and designer, although I think this is an unfair stereotype. Hard work can still produce an excellent game, but hard core gamers may be put off simply due to the fact that it is ‘free to play.’

What game model appeals to you? Will some eventually hit ‘Game over’ soon? All we can do is wait and find out.