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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Station Access Price Rise: Part II

Why a part II? It seems I missed a major element in my discussion two days ago. While I don't have any issues with my analysis of the Station Access subscription as a multi-game concept, I completely forgot about the additional EQII character slots offered. What's more, I had no idea so many people paid the extra money for the sole purpose of additional character slots.

But judging from the comments to my post and a quick glance at the forums, it seems like there are a lot. I'm starting to think that a significant portion of the Station Access subscribers (if not the majority) are in it for the extra alts. If you view this as an extra feature, it's a positive to the package. But if it's your sole goal in choosing that subscription, it makes the price rise a bit more negative.

I have a friend who refused to subscribe to anything other than basic cable. Then the Mets got their own network and my friend decided to subscribe to the "extended package" which covers hundreds of channels for the sole purpose of seeing Mets games. Okay fine. But when the price of that "extended package" was raised, he was doubly upset as the people who had it to enjoy a range of channels.

You see where I'm going with this. The people who only paid for the extra character slots are going to be doubly upset at the price increase as those who had the subscription to play multiple games. An extra $7.00 a month for four additional alts is already a bit much. But $10.00 is outrageous.

I verified my theory by talking to people in game who don't know I write this blog. It was an admittedly small sample, but the ones who played other games in addition to EQII were only mildly annoyed by the price rise. Those who used it for alts were pretty mad. That's speaking only in general. Some multi-game players were angry too. Bandit, who I know plays EQII and Planetside gave his opinions on his blog.

Now, some of this is just an unhappy consequence of the way people used the package. SOE originally intended the Station Access subscription as a multiple games concept. The character slots were added as a bonus. But when the bonus becomes the main purpose, things change.

This all makes me think perhaps it's time for a different business model. You do want people to play alts because it adds to the replayability of a game tremendously. People who start new alts could be starting other games. But I also think it's fair to have some limitation on the amount of character slots available.

So how about an optional charge of $1.00 or 50 cents per month for additional characters beyond 6 or 8? Would that be a more palatable option? I think it's worth some serious consideration by SOE. It might kill the subscription list for Station Access, but if people aren't interested in the multi-game concept, it should be killed anyway. I still remain marginally interested in the multi-game approach, but I now realize I may be in the minority.

One positive did arise. The Fallen Dynasty Adventure Pack will be free for Station Access subscribers. If they could have announced this a day or two earlier, the price rise would have gone over at least a tiny bit more smoothly. Or maybe it's the "hit them with bad news than spring good news to make them forget the bad news" approach.

Of course, I say throw in the expansion software as well, possibly if you purchase a six-month Station Access subscription. You should have some bonus for people who purchase a longer subscription period. If you do a six month EQII-only subscription (as opposed to re-upping monthly), you're saving $11.95 (rates here). So where are the savings for the Station Access crew?

And hey, what about Gods and Heroes? I'd like to check it out when it launches. Add that to the lineup as well. I know SOE is only co-publishing, but I'm sure they could work a deal out with Perpetual that would be mutually beneficial.


Blogger E. Swartz said...

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11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just doing a little math in my head--

Right now someone paying $15 per month for 6 character slots is paying about $2.50 per character per month. If SOE decided to offer extra slots for a "per slot" charge, I'd be really surprised if they offered them for less than that. It seems like undercutting that price would remove the incentive to get a second account if you anticipate having several alts. Why not pay $6 for six more slots, rather than buying a second account with all the expansion upgrades and then paying $15 per month?

And at $2.50 per slot, 4 slots is $10. Anyway, $50 per month to play EQ2 (my wife and I both have an account) is a little more than I want to shell out. We started out on Station Access originally because we didn't want to part with our EQ1 characters. The extra slots kept us on SA even after we realized we weren't going back to EQ1. The price increase just gave us a good excuse to reassess our situation. We both found 4 characters we could live without (or recreate on Test for occasional play). Now that $30 per month is looking pretty attractive.

As for anyone actually playing more than one MMO...how do you find the time?? (Please don't say you learned how to get along without sleep...I'd really miss sleeping ;) )

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to be honest i think it is downright petty to complain over an extra $3 for ENTERTAINMENT purposes...if you can afford a pc to run eq2 and you can afford station access for the sole purpose of a few extra alts odds are you can afford a slight price increse which as a matter of fact comes down to a few extra pennies a day. and in case people are forgetting test server slots DO NOT count against regular server slots but then again that would mean people couldnt bitch about live updates not being tested if they actually bothered to log into the test server and oh i dont know actually test them?

1:49 AM  
Blogger April Joy said...

I really like the idea of having a separate per-month fee for extra character slots. While I would love the extra slots (altaholic alert), I don't use SA because my husband and I both play and we already have to make budget cuts in other areas to afford subscriptions for both of us. However, with the expansion coming out this winter and the chance to start an alt in Kelethin, I'm going to be torn over which of my current characters to delete. I would happily go for an extra $2 or whatever a month in that case. Oh, and the extra Test server slots don't help me because, uh, I ONLY play on Test...=/

3:41 AM  
Blogger Karnatos said...

In response to Anon-poster #2:

While I do not think of myself as petty, I choose not to subscribe to SA because I need to save wherever I can.

I already have to justify my EQII basic subscription to myself by reiterating that I cannot afford to go out to see movies, hockey games, etc... and if I am to pick the cheapest (cost) entertainment for my buck, I am happy to make it EQII.

I don't consider myself in-the-money because I happen to own a PC that can push EQII either; I require a someone decent (and its only marginally decent) machine for my day-job as a programmer.

If I *had* decided to put aside the extra cash for extra character slots (I don't play the other games) and an extra $3 charge was added to my bill, I'd be rather upset because I'd have to really think about the worth of $10USD/month for extra characters in a game. I had a hard time convincing myself that $7USD was worth it, and over 18 months of play, I'd not managed to convince myself it was worth it - at $10 I now *know* its not worth it, not at all.

Anyways, I just think the painting-all-paying-players-with-the-same-brush is a bad idea; not all people are in the same boat financially.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Rotacidare said...

Ok I have a question. If you have station access when the adventure pack goes live you have access to that adventure pack. But what happens if you cancel station access the month after? Do you lose access to all adventure packs?

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you lose access to the adventure packs when you cancel Station Access. At that point, if you want to use any of the Adventure Packs you have to buy them.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Mr.X said...

The whole idea of paying extra for character slots is repugnant. It stinks of finding the easy way to soak the players.

Each character is perhaps a folder full of data with some additional entries in tables. And for this I'm supposed to shell out money ? Every offline RPG I ever played had unlimited character slots. All the other MMO's I've tried were effectively unlimited.

There are 24 different classes in game currently, and only by making and deleting can you have any chance of experiencing the entire game. A lot of the fun gets removed when you limit players without reason in this fashion. And to my knowledge they've never admitted why they limit the number of characters; there were vague references by Moorguard to heated internal discussion on the matter but nothing beyond that.

The idea that MMO's would charge you more based on how many characters you have, would do quite a bit to dampen my enthusiasm for the whole concept, and send me back to single player games. I even quit EQ2 for a while over this issue.

What Sony should do is make the slots closer to unlimited; my suggestion is 24 which might be 6 characters on 4 servers. Alt-a-holics are happy, you can attract more of them, albeit at the cost of another hard drive.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I agree that they should have several options for players.

1. Those who want more player spots
2. Those who want to play multiple games.

Have to agree with Mr. X: just give 10 slots (or more) to everyone and make SA apply to expansions and other games.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Twodragons said...

Less slots than classes is a sensible business model. Make the product desirable, yet limited. Then, when the consumer wants more, you charge them for it.

Too bad it sounds like a drug dealer...

2:44 PM  
Blogger SecrAtive Girl said...

i was disgusted by the price increase - my only reason for subsribing to station access was for the extra character slots as well. but i like your suggestion. i would be much happier paying an extra 50 cents or even a dollar per character and purchasing the adventure packs as they come out. i don't think SOE would loose money by doing this, since i'm sure there are many people who currently do not have station access who would pay for extra character slots.

as it stands i have to cancel my account. i've been so busy in RL lately i hardly have time to play anymore, but i didn't want to cancel. however the price increase has changed my mind which stinks. who knows what special items i might miss out on collecting while i'm away! *sniffles*

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Melime said...

I originally got Station Access because I was playing EQ and EQ2 at the same time. Later it became useful as I quit playing EQ1 and only played EQ2; it was the only way to go past the - what is it, 4 - character slots the game offers.

Sony really needs to up the base # of characters an account is allowed to have, without penalizing people through extra fees. Four is ridiculous.

The 'All-access' encouraged me to give Planetside and SWG a try, but I didn't enjoy either, and now I'm going to be paying an extra chunk just so I can have a few extra alts. *sigh*...

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Xalmat said...

Well, I think I found one possible reason for the price increase on Station Access: Vanguard Finds a New Home

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they should separate the costs because, even though I know I'm in the minority, I don't give a rats ass about EQII; I just thought it was a good deal for a collection of old games, esp. SWG and PS. So it's a better deal for the EQ2 folks to be able to buy their alt slots if they want them.

Oh, and I totally agree that it's a fallacy to still charge for the clients for these aging MMOs. Offer a download option for those who don't care for a retail box; it's not like there won't be a 3 hour patch anyway.

10:17 AM  

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