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Which business model would you prefer?


#1

EDIT: Thanks for the discussion, everyone!

 
We have decided on the following;

  • Last Epoch will cost $15 to purchase.
  • We will offer a free demo to try before you buy.
  • On-going development will be funded through cosmetic MTX (and possibly t-shirts etc.).
  • Stash tabs will not be sold for real money as that's not becoming of a Buy To Play game.

 
Thank you so much for getting involved! It’s been great to see such a lively discussion.


#2

My opinion, take it for what it’s worth: I come from PoE - that’s where I learned about Last Epoch - so I’d say go with the F2P model. There are ofc a few botters and RMTers but are not a big issue…and the few times I look at chat I see spammers yes, but also players asking questions about the game and other players giving helpful answers, so it’s a mix. Your income would come from players supporting the game for MTXs and whatnot, but also for the fun they have while playing - I for example have supported PoE for a good amount, more than what I have ever spent on any other game, but I feel it’s only fair since I’ve been playing it for 4 years now.

That said, the 14.99$ model is also a good one, you get some money from the start and can still sell MTXs etc in the ingame store for players who want to further support.

Please stick to the f2p [as opposed to p2w] model when considering what to put in the shop…

 

 

 


#3

After playing (and spending thousands of dollars on) PoE, I would say it will be hard for me to go to an ARPG that isn’t F2P with non-P2W MTX. I don’t think I would bother looking at a game in this genre that had a higher price point than somewhere around $30 USD. It’s not completely about the money, it’s more that anything more than $30 I would probably rather give to GGG for a supporter pack or points instead of gambling on a new game being good or not.


#4

Heh. You may be getting biased opinions considering many of us are playing PoE.

I will share that my budget and behaviour for PC gaming has changed dramatically from when I first got into it 25 years ago. Back in the day, the only real medium for PC games was through a box off the shelf, which contained a dozen or so 1.44" disks that would have to be inserted in turn after launching the installer on the first disk. Then came CD-Roms. Then came the internet.

Suddenly, media could be delivered instantaneously through the ether right into my PC via an internet connection. No more physical boxes, no more instruction manuals, no more installation media. My thinking about this process brought about a gradual change in my purchasing behaviour. Because I no longer ‘get anything physical’, I no longer had an impetus to spend anything, as I was factoring in the cost of access to the internet through my ISP as my ‘entertainment budget’.

With the advent of the free-to-play model, suddenly what was traditionally the realm of demos or pirated copies of software, I could now play full-fledged games without spending a cent. Frankly, I haven’t purchased a game with a retail MSRP in almost 10 years. That being said, I have contributed over $600 to Path of Exile, frankly because I was enamoured with what was the only up and coming (back in 2011) that could scratch that ARPG gaming ‘itch’, and because I was involved in the closed beta and had frank discussion about gaming mechanics while the game was still being built, I felt my contributions were having an actual impact on the game I would eventually play.

Over the years, due to their constant iteration and evolution, and most importantly to me, Quality of Life and Polish updates, I have continued to support them, at a rate of about $100 per year, simply because I consider it to be money I would have spent had I had to purchase the game off the shelf.

In contrast with that experience, I was very close to pre-ordering D3 due to the hype, but as I learned more and more about what had changed in the game, and how the mechanics and game changes screamed ‘console port!’ I only purchased it a weeks after launch, and that was with reservations… I did shell out for the expansion, but it really soured my taste for games I have to pay up front for. I still play ActiBlizzard games simply because they have a large house and have adopted free-to-play for a couple of their titles (HotS/Hearthstone/StarCraftII), but I haven’t contributed anything to any of the other titles (Overwatch/D3 Necro) because I no longer believe in the company as a developer with a gaming in mind, but as a for-profit enterprise, which I refuse to support on principle.

I am also turned off by ‘fremium’ games (basically demo with pay to unlock features/additional content that I consider to be part of the ‘core’ game), and games that sell power directly (exclusive $$$ items and/or xp boosts, though over time, I am beginning to see the value of xp boosts in a time-value-money equation, and how it may not necessarily be a power boost, expecially in a game where there is little to no PvP content.

Long story short: Ethical free-to-play model. Hopefully, the game will stand on its own merit and attract a core base of supporters that will both advocate and influence and provide direct financial support.


#5

Love the discussion! Not to worry, we will never have a P2W model. We hate it. There aren’t words enough in all languages combined to describe how much we hate P2W. I myself have sunk roughly $600 into PoE since the game launched and have loved every minute of it. We plan to fully support the game into the future using cash inflow from MTX. We do like the initial price of $14.99 as it allows us to some flexibility at launch that we might not be able to afford otherwise. Also botters etc…


#6

I absolutely love this discussion. I hope more people continue to weigh in on this topic as we are still debating internally.

We love the idea of making the game free to play with only cosmetic purchases as we do want everyone to be able to play our game with as little barrier to entry as possible. We know that Path of Exile has done very well with this pay model but we do have some concerns implementing it for LE which are as follows:

  • A part of why PoE was successful here is because they had very bland looking gear and the only way to make your character look epic was to pay for MTX. We want our players to be able to look awesome through the merit of finding awesome, class identifiable gear.
  • Bots and Currency Sellers: As an indie team, I, as the game director, am unsure that we can battle them effectively with no barrier to entry, and as you veteran ARPG players know, the economy is very important to keep stable.
We feel the $14.99 price tag is reasonable, even at a risk if we were unsure of how the game felt. It also keeps bots and currency sellers from spiraling out of control. Our concerns for the $14.99 model + support through cosmetic MTX are as follows:
  • Would mean that a very significant portion of players who may have a slight interest don't give us a chance
  • May make cosmetic item offering feel like a money grab which is not what we want - we know that at $14.99 we would still need some players to want to fund us further to grow the game
It's a tough one guys! I'm glad you guys see both sides of the coin and I agree with every opinion you guys have in this thread so far. The whole team appreciates your insight here and I hope this discussion continues

#9

I tend to agree with Sarno. To be fair, $14.99 in the Steam marketplace would probably be about par for the course (during a sale) for what other independent game developers are using as an entry point. Whilst as a player, I can agree with the sentiment that a ‘box price’ will keep the riff-raff out, I don’t have data whether this is a price people that are already playing a free-to-play game would be willing to pay just for that purpose. They would have to see value beyond that, or perhaps have an expectation that no further payment would be required (short of additional content by way of DLC or expansions). I feel that once an up-front cost is paid, I would consider that to be fair value for whatever I receive, and not that I would/should feel the need/desire to contribute more after.

I must mirror the sentiment that Path of Exile is now the de facto ‘premier ARPG’, so any measurement of a game within that genre will inevitably draw comparisons to what PoE is doing well and what is being criticized. In a manner of speaking, perhaps doing what PoE is not doing would be an avenue for attracting those disenfranchised by what goes on over there.

Presumably, other games like Divinity Sin and Grim Dawn (and D3) have fared relatively well with a retail box price, but after the initial wave of purchases at release, I can’t see any means of sustaining cash flow from a growth and development perspective. Games with box prices tend to follow a DLC/expansion/sequel model, versus an iterative evolution like the way GGG is handling it.

To attempt a hybrid pricing model is definitely a novel idea, but it would likely require a fair amount of education/information to entice people out of their binary concept of PC game costs…

 


#10

I am actually the one that asked on Facebook. Anyway I think the best model depends on the hype the game creates, and the updates frequency.

For example, Albion online was a succesful buy2play game with monthly premium, with a minimum of a $30 dollar pack in order to start playing. But it generated a lot, LOT of hype before release. It was accompanied with a huge investment in marketing. So it worked.

Path of exile generated hype, but not that much. The game didn’t invest a lot in marketing either. Certainly free advertisement like youtubers, analysis from specialized pages, etc. helped. A free 2 play game is more likely to get free adverisement too in my opinion, specially indie games.

The pattern I can see is: buy2play model works for games that generates important amount of hypeand can invest in marketing.

PoE is what it is thanks to the F2P model, but as F2P model, some things was fundamental to reach succes. First, the constant updates. That was and is core on PoE. There are plenty of abandoned F2P games and they are dead because they don’t get updates and new content. In F2P games, content updates are decisive. That’s why PoE is succesful: new leagues, new mechanics, new skills, new items, all very, VERY often. Updates lead to new players, and it attracts old players that left the game, plus youtubers, specialized game pages, etc, are constantly talking about your game and the new things on it. PoE is what it is thanks to the league mechanic too, which gets a “fresh start” and with it: new people, new free advertisement, etc.

If the plan is to have a game like PoE with constant new content then free to play model allows you to get a lot of new people frequentlyl (specially with the “league” mechanic that is a “fresh start” like PoE). And those people are the ones who will buy the microtransactions.

But on the other hand, with no frequently updates, no high controll of bots and hacks… then free to play is not the best option. PoE has more like 100 people working, and that’s why they can handle that amount of people playing (of course they were a little company when they started, but they grew as the game got popularity).


#11

Personally, I find it hard for myself to play F2P games and actually spend money on them. I only really spend money if it is for something that I absolutely could not get any other way. I can promise I wouldn’t spend anything on cosmetic microtransactions, but I’m sure I’m not the norm. A smallish buy to play price and cosmetic MTX would reign in both types of players…


#12

What about paying for more stash tabs for example?


#13

I’ve been thinking about this some more.

I continue to believe that charging €15 to get in the door is the better option. It gives the company guaranteed money which it can use to finance content updates early on, which would be an important way of earning good will. In a F2P game people might wait to see how quick EHG are to release new content, which potentially leads the game into a spiral of doom where no money is spent on it, so no money exists to enable content updates, which means nobody feels reassured that investing money in the game is a wise call.

That might mean other changes - perhaps fewer, but larger content updates which the company could, ahem, “subtly” mention are made possible by the MTX. While that would lead to a worse ratio of content to MTX releases, which some people will look at, there’s no denying large, meaty updates being attributed to the MTX would be a bit of a PR win.

Judd pointed out that one risk of a B2P model means people never giving the game a chance. This is what I’ve been thinking about most - and honestly, the longer I do, the more I seriously begin to question how large a factor it would be. If you look at Path of Exile’s supporter packs they go as high as $480 - and the cheapest one is $60! GGG release new supporter packs for expansions every six months. Typically there’d also be supporter packs for the current league, cycling every three months, for $30-60 as well - though for Abyss they made a bit of an exception. You’d want to spend more than $15 on stash tabs in Path of Exile to play it long-term.

If you look at other established ARPGs there’s Diablo III which cost more, had a B2P expansion, and even the Necromancer class DLC cost $15!

Grim Dawn doesn’t really sell cosmetics (a single exception proves the rule). The cost of the base game and expansion are fairly comparable, and while there are some content patches for free, there’s also the Crucible Mode DLC & expansion which cost money to play.

I think fans of the ARPG genre, somewhat starved of attention as it has been, are probably willing to part with €15 for a new game. If that helps keep chat spam-free, get updates out sooner after release, and keep the botters under control then those will be early victories which word of mouth will bring back to other ARPG communities. No matter how you slice it, €15 compares favourably with the competition.

I think your main competitor is Path of Exile. Realistically, pursing its playerbase will be difficult because of its business model. People have spent so much money on the game that they might not want to leave. When Last Epoch is released, most ARPG fans will be playing Path of Exile. It won’t be that the two games are released at the same time and people view them the same way. Fans of PoE will be mindful of the sunk cost of having played the game previously, which will bias them toward staying in the game / community where they’ve lots of MTX, supporter titles, and so on. The challenge isn’t getting them to spend money on your game, but to leave PoE. I don’t believe that your game costing €15 would matter to them much (if at all).


#14

Pay to play. 15-40$ for the full game.

Microtransactions for continual support, cosmetics exclusively.

If you got with “F2P”, that opens up for selling “QoL” things, should not do this if you have to buy to play.


#15

We are still debating these options internally. I think one option that many of us really like right now is this:

  • Free to play demo experience. This would include the first little bit of the game, probably up to level 20. It would also isolate you from trading with anyone to prevent exploitation. We might restrict chatting in some way to avoid other unwanted behavior.
  • $15 up front to buy the whole game with all of the content and power available.
  • MTX for cosmetic upgrades and maybe minor convenience upgrades (extra stash tabs being on the extreme end).
With this method we would be accessible to anyone who wanted to try before they buy. We wouldn't be vulnerable to massive botting accounts. This would also provide us with the revenue stream to continue producing content, balancing existing content, keep the servers running and fixing bugs.

#16

[quote quote=1672]Our concerns for the $14.99 model + support through cosmetic MTX are as follows:

May make cosmetic item offering feel like a money grab which is not what we want – we know that at $14.99 we would still need some players to want to fund us further to grow the game[/quote]

A valid concern, as I’ve previously noted.

And this is how you realise the aforementioned concern.

I wish you folks all the success and money in the world. But you do have to understand that when you decide on a business model you’re also deciding on how potential customers will see you. A B2P game having additional stash tabs in a real money store runs the risk of being seen as having hidden fees.

Across ARPGs, MMORPGs, and other genres I have never seen a game selling extra tabs which seemed to have a sufficient number for free. I think people buying the game only to feel they need to spend more on it - regardless of how justified that feeling is - would be received incredibly badly.

Please. If the plan is for people to pay €15 for the game and another €15 on tabs, just sell the game for €30. In the age of the lootbox™ and when season passes are expected, people just want to feel like devs are being straight with them. If people review your game and object to a B2P selling stash tabs, if early word of mouth is critical of that - and it will be - this will be a self-inflicted wound you could struggle to recover from.

Battleborn was ostracized for having most of the characters be unlockable in a B2P game. And you unlocked them by simply playing the game. It didn’t matter. People spent money to buy Battleborn, and this was viewed as nonsense unbecoming of a B2P game.

In an update they later removed the need to unlock the heroes. Want to know what people thought of it? Nothing. The reviewers had moved on to new games. Reddit’s attention was elsewhere. Battleborn was judged based on its initial impression, attempts to turn it around went unnoticed, and ultimately Gearbox announced that they had ceased development on it.


#17

[quote quote=1853]We are still debating these options internally. I think one option that many of us really like right now is this:

  • Free to play demo experience. This would include the first little bit of the game, probably up to level 20. It would also isolate you from trading with anyone to prevent exploitation. We might restrict chatting in some way to avoid other unwanted behavior.
  • $15 up front to buy the whole game with all of the content and power available.
  • MTX for cosmetic upgrades and maybe minor convenience upgrades (extra stash tabs being on the extreme end).
With this method we would be accessible to anyone who wanted to try before they buy. We wouldn’t be vulnerable to massive botting accounts. This would also provide us with the revenue stream to continue producing content, balancing existing content, keep the servers running and fixing bugs.[/quote]

I am playing Path of Exile, I spent maybe 20$ on it for stash tab, currency tab, essence tab.
Seeing the huge sucess that POE has been it’s hard not to consider it.It’s even more odd when you know how painfull and SLOW the begining of POE is when you walk like a snail.
I watched video of endgame content before playing POE and that’s why I endured this begining but I think it wil discourage a lot of players.That’s why if you do a Free to play demo experience, make it so that players have fun right from the begining.

  • I think the offline singleplayer game should be at least 15$ so this will definitely give you some money "instantly".
  • The online game could be a F2P with MTX and convenience upgrades (I only spend money to buy tab and I think this will be your main source of revenue, cosmetics won't be enought !)
I like the idea of the Free to play demo experience, but I think it sould simply be the complete game with the following restrictions removed when players spend at least 15$ or X$ amount of money in total in cosmetics and/or stash tabs :

Againts bots :

  1. No trading
  2. No chat
  3. Limited stack of each currencies
Limite players
  1. Max level 80 (instead of 100 this allows players to feels what the endgame builds looks like)
  2. Limited number of unique/max level items equipped at the same time (or other restriction like maximum damage capped)
The goal is to : - Prevent bots - Allow players to play the endgame and feels how endgame build plays...but not at their full potential - Encourage players to spend at least 15$ or X amount of money

#18

Many people started playing PoE because they saw a video of the end-game. Sure those kind of videos are very good for promotion since they show people what they will be able to do in the game.

I’m convinced that the success of PoE as a F2P game is because their update frequency plus league mechanic.


#19

I feel like going for $14.99 when there are alternatives such as Grim Dawn or Path of Exile isn’t too good. Those 2 games are kind of estabilished already and even though I’m not an economist, I think that it’s easier to get people hooked into f2p game like PoE and then have them spend money on skill/armor effects and other visual things than promoting the game enough for someone to actually spend the money up front and then have them spend money on the game. I also know that the success of PoE isn’t just because it’s f2p, but it’s part of it. If you want people to spend the money up front, you could have some game functions (not limiting as in blocked maps, blocked campaign) but something like F2P = 1 stash tab, 1 inventory tab, 75% exp gain <not sure, something> and when you actually pay those 15$ - 4 stash tabs, 4 inventory tabs, 100% exp gain, a few boxes with microtransactions to get people hooked to it. Things above are just my ideas and I haven’t really seen those (I think) implemented in any other game, but maybe something from this could be good.


#20

As a person who doesn’t have much money to spend on games and a normally F2P player, I feel the $15 gate would a bit of a turnoff to a lot of people trying to play. That said, it is a good idea and a fair balance between pay-to-play and F2P.

Personally, I feel like the free demo up to a certain level, similar to Runescape would be ideal, giving players the chance to experience the game before committing while keeping out bots, spammers, etc.


#21

I agree with Sarno, whether you are being money-grabby or not your reputation will be a reflection of that. The reason why that is important in your situation is because PoE is already out and is a pillar in its own right. There wont be a reason for people to check out the game if they already have a sour taste of a B2P with low stash tabs.

At the same time as you pointed out you want the players to feel like finding an awesome weapon should look awesome, so your cosmetics line is going to be pretty limited in the cash shop realistically. So it might be worth charging more upfront and giving it all at the start. Include the demo and that way people will know what they are getting and are willing to give the game a chance via the demo. Then again not sure if you can sustain the game with just an upfront cost.


#22

So I feel like I fully agree with a lot of people here but I remember seeing we want to see more input so I’ll add my two cents.As someone who never really got into PoE(even after 50+ hours or so), I’m much more on the pay once category and then pure cosmetics.

I feel like the pay once is a good barrier to bots like a lot of people have talked about already. I’ts biggest downside is the wall it puts in front of players looking to get into the game. Maybe the blizz approach of having all of act one or whatever you think is reasonable as completely free to play. That seems to alleviate the biggest downside of this model.

On top of that I feel like selling cosmetics hurts no one and only adds funds to developers which is never a bad thing, PLUS you get to look super fly. It’s only when P2W happens that people get worried.

Ye basically mirroring every opinion here I know. It just seems the best for me personally.