It was worth commenting on before, but time flies and here we are. DDO freeplay has gone live. Someday I should compose something of a personal postmortem on the game, but until then, we can talk about this development.
Of course, by “free” it’s “freemium,” not absolutely free. There are ways — subscriptions and microtransactions — for players to put money into Turbine’s pocket (and no doubt Atari and Hasbro take a cut, or else they wouldn’t have agreed to the new business model). On balance, though, it does seem that Turbine has made it possible for the absolutely free player to earn access to all of the game’s content. The guy dropping the nickel just makes it easier. Not entirely unlike the latest social network games. But with better graphics.
So what do I think ? It’s a savvy move, even if it’s widely regarded as a Hail Mary pass born of desperation. DDO was never designed (or marketed) to compete with games at the now-traditional $15 subscription. A smaller scope resulted in something between Diablo and a full MMO in terms of content, scope, and investment. We should expect the audience to be able to discriminate value when it doesn’t work in their favor, and Tubine failed that test. D&D players most everywhere prove highly sensitive to price; many believe a $30 Player’s Handbook is overpriced, when the cost per hour of entertainment quickly approaches zero. Finding ways to reduce, hide, or make costs incremental to the audience are all good ideas in this internet age.
Check back in a few months to see if Turbine announces additional content or an expansion (new business model success!) or cuts bait (patience was never their strong suit).