I want to take a bit of my time to lay out some of my thoughts regarding VIP accounts, and the subscription based model offered in DDO. Why? Well for starters, I'm concerned about the VIP system being inhibitive. And why do I care? Well I bought this game back when it first launched, waaaay back when the level cap was 10, and the end game was raiding tempest spine. I plowed through the game quickly, leveling up two characters to cap, started a third, and well, ran out of stuff to do. I, unfortunately, gave up on the game because while I really liked the cool idea, love D&D, and thought they had created a very cool and unique game play feel with instanced dungeons, filled with traps, and cool D&D monsters, there just wasn't enough content to keep me happy, and I wandered off to other games.
Then back in 2009, DDO went f2p, and I got sucked back, and to my happiness, I found the game had been rather well fleshed out, a maximum cap lifted all the way up to 20, and seemed to have been pretty well established and worked things out, the developers also now had increased incentive to release more packs as their primary source of income is going to be selling us new quests. I got sucked in, and after a while of trying to play for free, was impressed enough to lay down the $15 a month for a VIP subscription.
All was good, but unfortunately, the longer I played, the more I realized, the benefits of being a VIP member in this game are pretty... sad. At the time, every VIP option could be had if you were a premium member, and purchased on the DDO store. Even now, almost all of the VIP options can still be purchased on the DDO store and frankly, there's no reason not to. I offer this advice to players and to DDO bean counters, as free advice. While I don't have access to DDO's subscription rates, and income levels, this is still pretty valuable opinions from your consumer, and I think some consulting company would probably charge a ridiculous amount of money for these observations and ideas. I want DDO to succeed, I have invested hundreds of dollars into this game, not to mention well over three year's worth of free time, and while I've taken my breaks here and there, DDO seems to keep on sucking me back.
So first, let's break down, what exactly does VIP give you, and how much would it cost from the store?
-500 free Turbine Points a month. (okay you can't really buy TP with TP... but 500 TP a month, when the average cost of TP is about 100TP/1$, that's about $5 worth of TP a month, so you pay $15 a month, and that is off set by $5 of store credit a month)
-10 character slots per server (A premium account receives 4 free character slots, you can purchase 6 more for 3750 TP)
-Access to the Monk Class and Druid class (Monk can be purchased for 995 TP, Druid is best gotten through the expansion pack. You do not get access to Favored Souls or Artificers, and have to buy them or earn them through favor)
-Access to the Warforged, Half-Elf and Half-Orc races. (can purchase the half-orc/elf combo for 1795 TP and the warforged for 995 TP. You do not get access to Drow and have to buy them or earn them through favor)
-Access to all Adventure Packs. (The most expensive part, if you buy ALL adventure packs, it will be 14,345 TP, although you can easily get by with only purchasing half of them, or even less, as many adventure packs are not worth the TP, and are often rarely run. Something you can also always invest TP in later, instead of buying all at once)
-Enter quests directly on Hard/Elite without having to run prior difficulties (Cannot be purchased on the store, can be earned by multiple TR'ing characters.)
-Ability to create guilds for free. (assuming you don't have a VIP friend to make you a guild for free, you can purchase a charter for 150TP)
-Shared Bank Vault for free 20 slots (1495 TP)
-Login Queue: Priority (This isn't a real benefit, the game has not yet implemented any log in queue tech, you simply get an error if the server is full regardless of your account type)
-Chat: Unlimited (Same as premium)
-Auctions: officially Unlimited, actually limited to 50 items up for sale (Same as premium)
-Mail: Nearly Unlimited (Not really, you get the same amount as premium account, which is exactly 50 maximum mails at a time)
-Gold Storage: Officially Unlimited, technically limited to about 4.3 million pp (Same as premium)
-Customer Service: Full (Same as premium who recently spent money on DDO store points)
-DDO Compendium: Read/Post (Same as premium)
-Official Forums: Read/Post (Same as premium)
-Beta Priority: High (Mostly refers to fact they are sometimes slow when it comes to putting content packs on the Lamannia test server's version of the DDO Store)
-Idle Auto-logout: Increases to 60 minutes (in case you want to stand around doing nothing in game for 40 more minutes than a premium account)
I would also like to point out, that this list had to be found here: http://ddowiki.com/page/VIP there is no convenient list on the DDO website that clearly lists exactly what you get from being a VIP, there is a lot of vague, CLASSES! And QUESTS! And STUFF! On the DDO.com website regarding VIP information. Also, several of the benefits of being VIP are incredibly vague, like beta priority or misleading, like unlimited auctions and platinum.
So, if decided to purchase EVERYTHING a VIP has access to that is purchasable, it will cost about 26k TP. This amount is lowered considerably if you are a smart shopper, waiting to pick things up when they are on sale, and drops even more if you can live without some of the less played adventure packs. This will set you back a little over $200, but if you take advantage of deals, and buy TP when they are giving out bonuses, you can probably cut the price down to $150. So, if you purchase your VIP subscription just month to month, and pay $14.99 per month, if you play the game longer than 10 months, you were better off stopping your VIP account, and switching to premium and purchasing quests. The one lump payment will hurt, but in the long run you will be better off.
Here's the problem in the long run for the financial health of DDO, the longer I am a premium player, and the more quests and account options I purchase, the less and less incentive I have to resubscribe as a VIP player. This was made even worse by giving away large piles of TP and quests to players who pre-purchased the expansion pack, giving current VIP players a great chance to ditch their subscriptions and purchase the other packs they like.
So here's the conundrum, if all of us ditch our VIP accounts, and go to premium accounts, buying all our content in one lump some, they will have a nice profitable month, and then get no more money out of us, the only income source will be releasing new adventure packs, which will have to come more and more rapidly in order to get us to buy more TP, or else the game will eventually die as the cost of running servers will exceed income generated by the game. This is something I do not want to see happen.
This, is not a DOOM thread, and as such, I have a solution, in fact several solutions and ideas, to help increase subscriptions of the game. Now Turbine did take the first smart step, offering long term VIP packages at discounted rates, but if I can buy a 12 month subscription for $100, or spend $150 and buy everything outright, I'm going to go with that options instead, so while on paper that seems like a nice deal, it is in fact not really a great way to go. You'd be much better off spending that $100 on a big chunk of turbine points and buying up all the adventure packs you frequent the most.
So my first suggestion: Tiered subscription packages.
This one is the big one to me, have three subscription tiers, VIP stays the same, make a more expensive subscription tier that offers access to EVERYTHING (all quests, all races, all classes, all account options, not just some of them) and a discounted subscription package that is like VIP, but does not include access to adventure packs.
Call them the Platinum, Gold, and Silver subscription plans, or some other fancy DDO related thing. But you still have the problem, the low end silver subscription plan, really only has the benefit of giving my non TR'd toons the ability to open quests straight to elite, there's something else we can offer?
Yes, convenience items, I am stealing these things straight from other micro-transaction model games, but things to offer for subscribers:
-Faster fast travel (re-usable teleport and summon rods)
-Permanent stacking EXP bonuses
-Permanent stacking loot bonuses
-Permanent stacking guild renown bonuses
-Group buffs (example: extra 5% quest EXP bonus for having a subscriber in the quest with you)
-TP discount on store purchases
-Free monthly rewards, from cosmetic items, to exp bonus potions.
So here's my idea, obviously accountants and such would be able to look at figures and work out better numbers, but my idea none the less:
Platinum Subscription ($20/month)
-Access to all quests
-Access to all account options, races and classes
-Permanent 15% stacking EXP and guild renown bonuses
-Permanent stacking +2 loot bonus
-Platinum group quest buff: +10% quest xp for all group members in a quest with you
-750 TP a month
-15% discount on store purchases
-Eternal teleport rod, 10 uses/rest
-Eternal summon bracelet, 10 uses/rest
-Free monthly reward
Gold Subscription ($15/month)
-Same benefits as current VIP
-Permanent 10% stacking EXP and guild renown bonuses
-Permanent Stacking +1 loot bonus
-Gold Group quest buff: +5% quest xp for all group members in quest with you
-500 TP a month
-10% discount on store purchases
-Eternal teleport rod, 5 uses/rest
-Eternal summon bracelet 5 ueses/rest
-Free monthly reward
Silver subscription ($7.50/month)
-Does not give access to quests or account options, but can be purchased from the store.
-Be able to open quests straight to elite
-Premium login priority, if that ever becomes a factor.
-Full priority customer service
-Permanent stacking 5% EXP and guild renown bonuses
-Permanent stacking +1 loot bonus
-Silver Group quest buff: +5% quest xp for all group members in quest with you
-250 TP a month
-5% discount on store purchases
-Eternal teleport rod 1 use/rest
-Eternal summon bracelet 1 use/rest
-Free monthly reward
The main thing here is that, still you can play the game as a premium, you will take a little longer to level up, and have to walk everywhere, but you won't be over powered by other players, and if you want you can still augment your game experience by purchasing many of these permanent bonuses and items on the store if you need a nice xp boost. While yes subscribers will level up faster, it does not make them more powerful, but simply reduces level up time, and the group xp buff benefits those around them that are not subscribers.
And if this long post hasn't completely lost your interest yet, one last idea I had, is the idea of subscribers being able to take on apprentices. As a master of the game, you have the option to help new players get into DDO, and as such, you can take on an apprentice. Several rules will need to be implemented to prevent abuse, the apprentice's account can not be more than 3 months old (maybe extend to 6), and you can only have one apprentice at a time, and you must keep your apprentice for at least 2 weeks (maybe extend to a month). Whenever a master quests with their apprentice, you both receive an XP bonus, and your apprentice can join you in any quests that you have access to. In essence this is like being able to give free guest passes to a new player, allowing you to show them the game, and hopefully get them interested in buying new quests or subscriptions once their apprenticeship runs out.
So there you go, my ideas. (the tl;dr version: ) In my opinion, as a consumer of MMO's, and big fan of this game, DDO needs a tiered subscription service, and a reason for players who have gone premium, and purchased all the adventure packs to want to subscribe and start giving turbine monthly checks again, before the game dies.