The Secret World 'committed' to subs, for now

The Secret World creator Ragnar Tornquist has said while he's "sure" the MMORPG will eventually go free-to-play, for now developer Funcom is "committed" to the subscription model.


Going free-to-play is the hip and groovy thing for faltering MMORPGs to do once interest dwindles, but few super big-budget fancy MMOs are willing to ditch subscriptions entirely and go F2P from the start. The Secret World creator Ragnar Tornquist has said while he's "sure" it'll eventually go free-to-play, for now developer Funcom is "committed" to the subscription model.

"We wanted to go subscription-based because we think that players are happier paying a steady monthly fee to get new content, to get the service, to get all the benefits of a game that has a growing, living world, than to keep charging them for little things," Tornquist toldRock, Paper, Shotgun.

Saying that Funcom has plans to keep releasing new content "for a very long time," he explained that subscriptions are "the only business model that makes sense in terms of giving players this living, breathing world and this constantly upgraded, expanded experience."

Tornquist said he couldn't say whether the model would still be around in five years, but claimed "I think that at least for me and at least for traditional MMO players, a subscription fee is something they understand."

He added, "For the time being, we're committed to this business model, and as long as people are willing to pay us in order to provide them with expanded content and ongoing content, we'll keep that business model."

Tornquist did say he was "sure" that The Secret World would be free-to-play in five or ten years from now, though. Funcom took Age of Conan F2P in June 2011, after three years of subs. TSW already has an in-game item store selling purely cosmetic clothing.

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  • reply
    July 9, 2012 11:00 AM

    Alice O'Connor posted a new article, The Secret World 'committed' to subs, for now.

    The Secret World creator Ragnar Tornquist has said while he's "sure" the MMORPG will eventually go free-to-play, for now developer Funcom is "committed" to the subscription model.

    • reply
      July 9, 2012 11:02 AM

      lol why would you tell people that even if you know it's going to go F2P? now i'm definitely just going to wait

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        July 9, 2012 11:31 AM

        Yeah, I wondered the same thing. There are very few games I need to play RIGHT THIS SECOND, so I can wait until the price drops to zero dollars.

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        July 9, 2012 11:35 AM

        Very odd thing to say. Though clearly the writing is on the wall, the game already supports in-game money transactions. The infrastructure is there. They should have just launched that way.

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        July 9, 2012 12:11 PM

        ... in 5 to 10 years. Enjoy the wait = )

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          July 9, 2012 12:24 PM

          if you believe it'll be 5-10 years then i've got some swampland in florida to sell you

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            July 9, 2012 12:43 PM

            I'm just framing the context he was speaking in. WoW is only 8 years old, and he's talking about times almost-as or longer-than that.

            Waiting for a MMO to go free to play before you try it is stupid anyway, unless you're just afraid of the box cost. Otherwise if you don't like it then dump it after your free month, no harm no foul. If, however, you do end up liking it and they eventually have to go f2p because they can't get enough subs (which if you read the article is the only reason he says they would), then you'll be kicking yourself for not giving it a shot sooner.

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              July 9, 2012 2:02 PM

              it's not that i'm afraid of the box cost, it's more that i'm just not interested enough to pay $50. i suppose you could call that "afraid of the box cost" if you want.

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              July 9, 2012 3:05 PM

              My problems with MMOs have always been your idea of being "afraid of the box cost." I don't want to pay the $50-$60 upfront. Give me the client and then charge me $15 a month from the start. I don't mind paying a monthly fee, but I hate the idea of paying full price and a monthly fee. Clearly, I know, I am not the norm on this.

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            July 9, 2012 12:55 PM

            Disney World

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          July 9, 2012 12:59 PM

          Age of Conan didn't even last 3 years

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        July 9, 2012 12:57 PM

        You are missing out; its quite fun!

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        July 9, 2012 1:05 PM

        ALL MMOs are like this - when subs are no longer viable the game will be F2P. If subs aren't viable for WoW it will go F2P. Why are you surprised by this? I guess the flaw here is that he doesn't choose his words carefully, he definitely could have stated that in a more eloquent manner.

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          July 9, 2012 2:01 PM

          who's surprised? i think basically everyone knew this game was bound for F2P in short order

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            July 9, 2012 2:39 PM

            As far as I can tell, the only people saying that are the ones who haven't played it yet. It's a pretty good game, and word of mouth from actual players is near unanimously positive. Obviously it's not for everyone, but it's a far cry from the failure the peanut gallery wants it to be.

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              July 9, 2012 2:42 PM

              who said anything about a failure? you guys are getting pretty defensive over nothing. going F2P does not mean a game has failed. it just means the game has gone F2P. it's a very viable model for most MMOs.

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                July 9, 2012 2:57 PM

                This is true and false. Going F2P means the game has failed to achieve a critical mass of subscribers, and they are resigned to switching business models to retain maximum profitability. Name one AAA MMORPG that has launched F2P. There is none. GW2 is the closest thing, and they still charge you the box cost, because they can. The game is good enough that people will pay it.

                That doesn't mean a F2P game can't be great, like LOL or DOTA2. But I still haven't seen a MMORPG that was designed and launched as F2P that was great, or even better than average, really. They certainly don't get the content updates that say, Rift gets. Using Rift as an example because it isn't a P2P behemoth like WoW, I'd say it's fair to think that a F2P game could have similar profits. That being said, being P2P doesn't guarantee frequent updates either.

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                  July 9, 2012 3:24 PM

                  Name one AAA MMORPG that has launched F2P

                  I don't think this is really a fair metric. F2P hasn't been a thing for long enough to get a sample, given the years and years it takes to develop an MMO. Even The Secret World began development before F2P really started to become big.

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                    July 9, 2012 4:17 PM

                    I'm pretty sure the Secret World began development before my 8 year old was born.

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                    July 9, 2012 4:58 PM

                    But many F2P games have been released over the years and people keep saying "THIS IS THE FUTURE." At some point, it needs to happen.

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                      July 9, 2012 6:33 PM

                      I'd argue that it already has. I'm not sure what else you're looking for beyond a huge number of games switching to a F2P model and becoming sustainable and even thriving using that model. Five years ago, LoL would have been a pay-to-play game, no question. Today it's F2P, it has millions of players, and Riot is doing very well with it. F2P is already here. The reason you haven't seen too many MMOs come out of the gate as F2P is exactly what I stated -- MMOs have much longer development timespans than other types of games, and F2P is a relatively new monetization concept that MMOs releasing today weren't designed for when initially conceived.

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                        July 9, 2012 8:11 PM

                        I said MMORPG specifically. LoL is an entirely different genre.

                        My argument against games that switched from P2P, is that they wouldn't if they didn't have to. You even acknowledge this by saying "becoming sustainable." And despite glowing press releases of more players and heightened revenue, we lack perspective to know just what their playerbase and profit margin now is. Is this number higher or lower than the highest point under the subscription model? If the game could have kept players as a P2P would it be more or less financially successful than as a F2P?

                        F2P MMORPGs have existed for over 5 years, maybe about 10? I'm not really sure on the number. We've seen a large number of F2P games in the last 3+ years though.

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                          July 9, 2012 8:29 PM

                          I think there's a marked difference between the dime a dozen MMOs that are F2P but are not even remotely AAA titles and are played by a very small audience at any level beyond "Hey what's this game?" and the bigger MMOs that've been moving towards a F2P model once their subscriber base becomes too low.

                          There are clearly those cheaper, less popular MMOs that were designed from day one to be F2P...and most of us will never play them. I've tried out a few over the years, and they've rarely been worth the time it took to download them. On the other hand, you have things like LOTRO, AoC, CoX, etc where they launched with a P2P model and it eventually became necessary to switch. I know that at least for LOTRO, it's worked out pretty well. I'm not sure how others are faring though.

                          That said, it's not even close to a realistic foregone conclusion that every new major MMO is going to be F2P anytime soon. I know TOR was one of the biggest games to draw this sort of attitude recently, and while I would certainly love for it to go that way (because it really is hard to justify casually playing a few MMOs when they run a monthly fee), I really don't think it, or FFXIV, or TSW, Rift, etc are going to be moving that route anytime soon.

                          I would be very surprised if we ever see a major, high-budget MMO game launch with no initial retail cost, even if one were to launch without a monthly fee (like GW2 is).

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                          July 9, 2012 8:33 PM

                          The part that I continue to disagree with is the idea that the failure of the subscription model implies a failure of the game. Just because a game works better with a different monetization model doesn't mean the game is a failure. Why would you expect all MMOs to work best under a monthly subscription model? Is Guild Wars a failure because it doesn't charge a monthly fee? Of course not.

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                July 9, 2012 2:59 PM

                Actually dude, if you read the article that's exactly what it means. He went out of his way to say that the game won't go F2P until there aren't people to pay for subscriptions. Therefore implying that the game is going go to f2p and "soon" is implying that the game is going to fail.

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                  July 9, 2012 3:18 PM

                  the obvious implication is they won't go F2P until there aren't enough people paying for subscriptions to cover the cost of developing new content. if you think they'll delay going F2P until there are zero paying subscribers, i would once again like to offer you some swampland in florida. it doesn't make financial sense to do otherwise. this is a very obvious value proposition.

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                    July 9, 2012 3:25 PM

                    If you think i meant literally zero subscribers you need to step the fuck away from the computer.

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                      July 9, 2012 3:29 PM

                      So you agree with me then? Where is the aspect worthy of "actually dude" that I'm missing? I said that they'll go F2P before they've "failed" and I believe that to be true. The move to F2P is what prevents them from failing.

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                        July 9, 2012 3:31 PM

                        Failure to maintain enough subscribers to create new content is the fail state in question. Ergo F2P is the failure state for the game. Ergo implying that it will hit F2P in "short order" implies that the game will fail and soon, which is where the "actually dude" comes into play.

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                          July 9, 2012 3:52 PM

                          I don't agree that it's a failure state for the game. It's a failure state for the subscription model... which is the whole point of going F2P. A lot of games are very successful (and are able to provide content updates) once they go F2P.

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                July 9, 2012 3:01 PM

                Because as far as perception is concerned, "going F2P" is considered admitting defeat/failure/inability to remain top-shelf, in the eyes of most "core" gamers. From your tone, and posts in this thread, I'm pretty sure you're of that mindset, as well, even though you claim otherwise, or are willing to recognize it as a viable business model.

                And for the record, I'm not being defensive or white knighting the game, I'm calling it how I see it.

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              July 9, 2012 2:58 PM

              Predicting that a MMO will go F2P is the cool thing, haven't you noticed?

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            July 9, 2012 2:45 PM

            Short order? I don't think so. It is a high quality game.

            Again, the developer poorly worded what he was trying to convey but it certainly wasn't "we're going F2P tomorrow!" It is a high quality game, and will be sub based until nobody is playing it. As far as I can tell the game is well liked with great word of mouth, it is not going F2P anytime soon.

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              July 9, 2012 2:54 PM

              I don't believe that quality has all that much correlation with likelihood of going F2P. It's all about market conditions, and it's tough out there for MMOs that aren't WoW. I think Aion is a fantastic, extremely high-quality game, and it went F2P because it made sense to go F2P. If Funcom is smart, and I believe they are, they'll go F2P long before they get to this "nobody is playing it" scenario you just laid out. F2P is how you save a game from getting to that point. You guys need to take a deep breath and calm down; I'm not saying any of the things you apparently think I'm saying.

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                July 9, 2012 2:58 PM

                What you're saying is that TSW is going to be F2P in 2 months. Not going to happen.

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                  July 9, 2012 3:13 PM

                  for fuck's sake creeping-death. you're just inventing things that you think i said. i think we're done here

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                    July 9, 2012 6:19 PM

                    Well, what is short order? Six months? A year?

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                      July 9, 2012 6:26 PM

                      Age of Conan lasted for 3, which I'd consider a long time. I'd give TSW a year on the subscription model before an announcement of going F2P, and then some time to modify the game to work for F2P. If I had to guess, I'd guess the F2P announcement happens summer 2013 and the F2P release happens early 2014. In MMO terms, given the budgets, effort, and timescales involved, that's not a very long time. Creeping-death is just being a nut with this two months stuff. Nothing happens in two months.

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                July 9, 2012 3:11 PM

                Aion is a pretty average game that has a lot of potential that wasn't maximized. If you want to examine the failure of Aion, there are lots of things wrong with it.

                1) no PVE servers. Lots of people got scared away by the trolls.
                2) no big raid content. 2 years into the game there was only one instance that supported more than 6 people IIRC. It also required your faction to own Divine Fortress so that eliminated it from about half of the population.
                3) fort sieges were underwhelming. Dredgions were touted as a balancing force, yet they were just completely random. I've seen a dredge attack the sole fort owned by 1 faction, instead of attacking one of the forts owned by the dominant faction. There was a boring cycle that went like this: elyos win fights for a month, asmos don't show up for a month, asmos win fights for a month, elyos don't show up for a month. Cue complaints about fort instances and imbalance in gearing.
                4) too long between content updates.
                5) penalizing people for dying in PVP is stupid. Way to make people avoid PVPing because they're scared of losing their AP. This ties back into fort sieges because a lot of the AP ranked didn't want to show up to a losing battle. Can't say I blame them.

                I won't even say anything about it being grindy because I thought that was acceptable. YMMV, I know people who quit Aion at like level 10 because they thought the grind sucked.

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                  July 9, 2012 3:17 PM

                  I'll just point out that Aion has received consistently higher reviews across the board than Secret World has.

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                    July 9, 2012 5:13 PM

                    On Metacritic, they are very similar. I played Aion, but I've never played SW. Something SW has going for it is it isn't another fantasy MMORPG.

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                  July 9, 2012 3:21 PM

                  If you want to examine the failure of Aion

                  there's that word again. i just got done explaining why I think F2P doesn't mean failure.

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                    July 9, 2012 5:09 PM

                    Aion was not healthy in the West at all. Trying to say otherwise is pretty silly, just look at how far their subs had dwindled. I'd also point out that it's not F2P in Korea, its home market. There's a reason for that, it's actually popular/thriving over there. Even NC Soft themselves said something like "we realize Aion is more fun with players in the world and that's why we're going F2P, to keep populations up." There's really no other way to spin this other than the game was failing.

                    I agree that it doesn't inherently mean failure. But generally, as I said before, it means that subs have decreased from a critical mass number that the game previously held.

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                July 9, 2012 5:50 PM

                oh cool aion is ftp? downloading now. any advice on what's fun or things to avoid? :)

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                  July 9, 2012 6:34 PM

                  You can get a bunch of free stuff on the NCsoft store for a promotion they're running now. Also get your free apartment (instanced player housing).

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      July 9, 2012 11:51 AM

      Yes we will certainly go f2p after we gouge you with a box/digital sale, a sub fee and a micro shop.

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      July 9, 2012 12:01 PM

      From what I heard of this game is sounds like it would work well with a system similar to Dungeons and Dragons Online, where certain cases/dungeons would be available for premium players only.

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      July 9, 2012 2:40 PM

      I was going to buy this until I saw this article, now I will wait of course.

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      July 9, 2012 6:18 PM

      All this really means is that they're aware of the future need for MMO's in this current market to go to F2P, but Secret World was designed with the subscription model, which requires a certain level of commitment resource wise post launch. They also know that for a F2P MMO to sustain numbers, and not just peak at the announcement, it means that it needs to be re-designed for a F2P model. Something that times time and money.

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      July 9, 2012 6:36 PM

      Eh, happy to be paying and supporting a good MMO

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        July 9, 2012 8:01 PM

        signed. I feel like TSW is the first MMO to truly step "out of the box" so to speak, it breaks away from the "WoW clone" mold that so many others tried to emulate.

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        July 13, 2012 8:09 PM

        But that's just it, right there on the nose. The gaming market is in a shift right now. It used to be, "you pay for our game". It's changing into "if the games we play are good, we happily give our money to them".

        If you have a game that people are enjoying, then those people will be happy to pay for it either in subscription, one time payment, or an in game cash shop.

        The difference is the level of stability depending on which side of the fence your on. For subscription, the company knows each month pretty close to how much money is coming in, and the player knows how much money is going out. The sad thing about subscription is if someone comes on hard times those mmo's are one of the first things cut out to pay for bills. bye bye WoW at a time when you have the most free time >,>

        For F2P games the company doesn't know how much money they are going to make each month, it can scare a lot of them. Not knowing. There has to be faith in your game being good enough that your games fans will want to give you their money anyway. For a company it can be a tough choice. But for a gamer its the easiest choice. It's 60 bucks... maybe next time. It's free you say? Sure I'll try it... ooh this is fun, how much did those sun glasses cost? And that cape?... And that dragon?!?
        If your happy paying a subscription, why not be happy paying a cash shop. The plus side for the company is there is no minimum. I've seen games rake in thousands from 1 person in a month or two.

        F2P games often have bigger (if not always better) communities who can be loyal as well. Because when hard times do come, they don't get told by a subscription fee they aren't good enough to play anymore.

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