Friday, January 26, 2007

Turbine Tries something New

Turbine the maker of the new upcoming Lord of the Rings MMO is offering some surprise subscription offers for those who sign up early with their game. One of their options is a 9.99$ a month subscription plan which is the lowest MMO rate I've seen since about 2000. The other plan is even more mind boggling since its a lifetime subscription for just 199$. Both offers require you to sign up and probably pay before release but guarantee you a spot in their open beta in March. Also noteworthy is that they will move your beta characters to the live server in April when the game is released.

I don't like the idea of beta characters getting a head start over everyone else but with Turbine wanting a monetary commitment before release I can see a need for the punch and pie. And believe me, when you start doing the math of how much your spend on an average MMO their offers start to sound really good. Especially, the lifetime subscription offer which could allow you to move from new game to new game while still maintaining a presence in Lord of the Rings. Most casual gamers aren't going to pick up on this offer but I think every hardcore gamer who tends to stick with a MMO for over a year just had an epiphany.

Turbine is thinking smart with this lifetime subscription plan since it basically guarantees a constant population of hardcore gamers in Lord of the Rings. Most big subscription MMO games charge around 15$ a month which puts a yearly charge of around 180 for playing. Hardcore gamers are going to see that the game will keep them entertained for at least a year and drop the dough for the plan. Then as expansions and new patches are released for the game they will keep coming back since their is no barrier of having to re-subscribe.

So why is that important? Well the hardcore might not make the most amount of money for MMO companies but they have a habit of making or breaking any game release. Their reviews and word of mouth tends to spread through most internet forums and gathers huge anticipation for games from the general gamer population. If enough hardcore gamers become lifetime residents then Turbine can see this digital word of mouth spread very fast for their game and any future content for it. Of course this could be a bad thing if they start turning out less then stellar content but so far reviews for the initial game look good.

Of course Turbine has had some rocky history in the MMO world and has never really seen the wild success of a games such as DAoC, Everquest, or Final Fantasy XI. Their most popular release to date was the original Asheron's Call which hit its peak of around 125,000 subscriptions back in 2001. Since then they have had the lackluster launch of Asheron's Call 2 and the slow growth of Dungeons and Dragons Online. Still the company does have at least three MMO games under its belt and every one of them went over 45,000 subscribers. No Auto Assaults in their history. If practice makes perfect then maybe Turbine might finally be ready to really grab a large share of the MMO market.