id Software's Steve Nix Talks Quake Live Plans, Future

19
Right before QuakeCon 2010, id Software announced that Quake Live, it's free-to-play, browser-launched version of Quake III Arena, had left beta and would be getting two paid plans with additional content.

As for the free-to-play Quake Live, it's going to stay exactly the same, detailed here in a statement by Steve Nix, director of digital platforms at id Software, released to Shacknews prior to QuakeCon 2010.

"The basic offering that we had in Beta - with over 40 maps and all of the Beta game modes - will continue to be part of the free 'Standard' membership. We are not taking anything away from the players that just want to jump in and give Quake Live a try for free, but now we're offering a deeper experience that we'll continue to expand upon with new content, services and game modes."

At the show, I sat down with Steve, to get a bit more information about Quake Live and the project. New game modes might not be right around the corner, unfortunately, as "a new game mode is substantially more involved than a new map with everything we have to do on the front-end web services and back-end servers." The team at id, however, is "looking at what the community is asking for and some of the crazy ideas we have on the team," with respects to new modes.

Maps, however, should be quick to show up on the service. "We actually have 15 new maps that we're already working on that we'll be releasing," says Nix. "We haven't worked out the schedule, but ideally we'd like to release maps once a month."

Though the subscriptions to Quake Live are low per month--$2 and $4 a month for Premium and Pro respectively--plans are billed on an annual basis. It turns out, this is mostly due to credit card fees. "If you're charging $1.99 for something, but have a $1 in credit card fees it's really hard to make economically feasible," says Nix. "The idea was to find the absolute lowest cost we can keep the services at, but still do it on an annual basis."

With Quake Live based solely upon Quake III Arena, I asked if it is possible to give the same browser treatment to any other id Software titles or if we'll see new products developed in this way.

"We've talked about it and it's an interesting idea. Quake Live has a lot of moving parts from the software, to the worldwide server network, to the backend servers we have in California. It's a non-trivial task to bring another game into Quake Live. It's something we've definitely talked about and some of the mods out there might make sense, but it's a large commitment."

Filed Under
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 16, 2010 1:32 PM

    Has anyone asked them the obvious question about splitting a small playerbase by restricting new maps to premium subscriptions?

    • reply
      August 16, 2010 1:34 PM

      I think it's something that will naturally occur, but obviously isn't an overriding concern for id.
      Obvious questions usually have obvious answers, unfortunately.

      I think their solution is that Pro users can bring in Standard free users, but the idea is to convince those free players to pay. It's how these make money.

      • reply
        August 16, 2010 1:51 PM

        True.

        I've heard that most free-to-play games treat their "free" players as still providing some value just by being in the game, for the paying players to interact with. The random stats I've seen for free-to-play MMOs all look like there is a surprisingly small % of the players that actually pony up any money, and the resulting financial model works out OK.

        I'm sure id has thought about this way more than me, but...

        Well, the Pro perk for inviting non-payers is clever, but rather limited/clunky to work with (and not an option that you get from the more attractively priced "premium" offering). Also I think that -- at least for now -- you can only get a max of 3 non-premium players into a server, rather than 3 invites per Pro player on the server as one might assume. QuakeLive isn't exactly a boomtown so I'm wondering if the premium/Pro players are really going to find enough players for those extra-special maps that they paid for.

        And to get more touchy-feely for a sec, IMO it's a bit of an image problem to charge for access to additional Quake 3 maps. Just in general, as going against Quake-series tradition, and also because many of the specific maps are available for free for Quake 3. I know that QuakeLive isn't exactly Q3, it has some very nice extra bits, but it would feel more "right" to charge for some of those extra bits rather than charging a subscription for the same-as-Q3 bits.

        I'm not all in a lather about this -- don't even get the chance to play QL much myself. I'd just hate to see id try to squeeze this too hard and kill it.

        • reply
          August 16, 2010 2:14 PM

          They could possibly have their cake & eat it too by moving the premium maps into the standard set over time (the "Halo mappack" model) or occasionally rotating premium maps in and out of the standard set (the "League of Legends" model).

          Even if they do want to go down that road eventually, maybe they wouldn't talk about it yet though.

        • reply
          August 16, 2010 2:23 PM

          They're putting money in, so obviously they have to get some money out somehow.

          I hope they do a free week once in a while to give those people a taste of the new stuff, and occasionally move one of the more popular premium maps out to the free userbase on a permanent basis as well.

        • reply
          August 16, 2010 2:39 PM

          I agree that it's an image problem to charge for the maps as can be seen by reading the Quake Live forums shortly after the update. The problem is, the extra bits you describe (hosting servers, providing stats and matchmaking) they provided for free for a very long time. If there's one thing people hate it's paying for something they were able to get for free in the past, whether justified or not. So they brought out this update where you're 'paying for maps' even though that's not what costs them that much money to provide.

          Many, many Quake players would rather just go back to Quake 3 where everything was 'free.' The problem with that is, well, that community died for plenty of reasons, but the biggest being absolutely NO new players were playing it, only leaving it. Quake Live offers at least some chance for new players because of the browser basis and the initially free system.

          • reply
            August 16, 2010 3:34 PM

            If they tacked on Steamworks onto Q3 and let people use the steam server browser there'd be a lot more people playing Q3.

            • reply
              August 16, 2010 3:39 PM

              But then no one would play Quake Live and hey they just put all this time and effort into it...

            • reply
              August 16, 2010 8:22 PM

              That's a pretty interesting idea.

              It wouldn't really make them any money though....

          • reply
            August 17, 2010 12:05 AM

            Funny, you guys still don't get it. It's not about maps only. Once you go premium/pro you're able to host CHEAP servers EVERYWHERE in the world. This is huge.

            • reply
              August 17, 2010 12:24 AM

              I think that is a great thing to charge a subscription fee for. We're talking about the other things they also charge for.

    • reply
      August 16, 2010 2:00 PM

      I can play the premium maps as long as my friend with a pro sub invites me.

      I wan't the pro subscription tho, but ID refuses to accept my VISA. Loads of other people have the same problem, and it still haven't been fixed :(

    • reply
      August 16, 2010 3:40 PM

      IMO there's only one group of people paying for QLive. Clan players. And those players are going to pay regardless of the whether they get exclusive maps or not.

      Free maps would have been a nice incentive to the community to keep playing and keep the game experience fresh. In doing so hopefully generating new players who want to play in clans and who will fork out money to do so.

Hello, Meet Lola