Monday, June 18, 2012

When Do You Stop Paying?

I find myself in a conundrum as of late. Summer has officially arrived, and with it, the requisite outdoor activities. Gaming time is squeezed because I'm simply not in front of a computer as much. You know, typical summer slump stuff.

When your game time is limited, you find yourself re-evaluating the money allocated to gaming. Why pay for something you're not using? I found myself in such a preponderance this weekend. The subject of much thought: SWTOR.

Currently, my game time is allocated thus:
  1. Still poking around in Diablo
  2. Do some mindless Casteville when I have a few minutes
  3. ???
  4. Profit.
Okay, there isn't really any profit. Four is more like "pay bills." I'm not really playing WoW. However, since Diablo was free, the subscription there still makes sense. Casteville is free. That leaves SWTOR. I'm paying, but not playing.

I've always viewed subscription games like I would magazines. Remember those? When you used to get subscriptions to paper things that had words and pictures on them and were delivered to your door. Yeah, I haven't had a magazine subscription in years. However, I kept paying long after I probably should have called it quits. Why? Well, I liked having the possibility to read. And, in the case of Sports Illustrated, there's always the swimsuit issue to look forward to, right?

Diablo was sort of the swimsuit edition of Blizzard Monthly, for me. A quick, sexy run through. Good to glance at, but it's not like I'm digging into the articles. When Mists comes out, it'll be like the Fantasy Preview SI editions. Have to get the down low before my fantasy football drafts, y'know.

I'm not sure where SWTOR fits into all of this. The awkward Playboy subscription that your "bros" bought for you for your birthday that you have to then explain when your mom finds during a visit? (True story. She was hanging the laundry she did for me. Never let your mother into your tiny college closet. My buddies in the dorm thought it was hilarious way back when. Which really wasn't "way" back for me, but whatever. It was a Tuesday.) I don't have any real issues with the game. It's just not high on my priority list at the moment. I'm not gaming for lengths of time because it's nice outside, and thus I gravitate to games that can be digested in smaller chunks. Hence, Diablo and Casteville.

Maybe my biggest complaint about TOR is the lack of new content. They're being pretty slow right now, if you ask me. Once they get this 1.3 business released, I'll probably be more interested. At least for the month or so it takes me to do what I want to do with it.

And therein lies the problem. The current trend in gaming, at least for me, is to only really read every other issue. Or, perhaps more succinctly, I play one month hard, then take a month or two off. That's how I keep up with content, and I'm just fine with that. I like experiencing multiple games. It doesn't make me angry.

But when that monthly bill comes... it seems dumb to pay on those "off" months. Yet, I want the games I play to succeed, to keep going. At what point have I fulfilled my "obligation" to the game (yes, I know feeling obligated it stupid). At what point have I paid enough that they won't fold up, but not so much that I'm throwing money into a furnace.

The real answer is: my meager contribution doesn't matter. One person doesn't make or break these companies. If I asked them, they'd say "Yeah, keep paying. Heck, pay double! Here's a pony. We lurve you. Bring Money." If I ask my pocket book, it pushes its glasses up the bridge of its nose and sneers, "Pay only when you're getting value out of the game. No more, no less. And three shall be the number of the counting."

I sort of wish there was a way I could unsubscribe for a few months, but check a box that says, "Yeah, I'll be back when you release something new." In today's age of "investor calls" and crap like that, where subscriber numbers are reviewed and decisions are made based on some giant bottom line, I don't want to be a black mark on a game I've enjoyed. I don't want to be just another user jumping ship. But I don't want to pay for something I'm not using either.

So when do I stop? When do you stop?

I'm paid up through August for TOR. After that, I'm going month-by-month. I'll pay for one month when I want to play, and after that I'll let the sub lapse if there's nothing new to do, if I feel satisfied. After my year commitment with WoW is up, I'll probably do the same thing there. I've decided that makes the most sense for me. I used to simply pay the bill for the year and think nothing of it... yet I don't feel like we get a year's worth of content. Over 12 months, in any game, I feel like I'm given 6 months and then a lot of time-wasting fluff. The fluff can be good (like pet collecting and stuff), but it's not for me. When it's nice out, when there are other things to do (like writing novels), I'm just not going to sit down and spend my time on fluff.

Where do you draw the line? Especially, if you're not "rage-quitting," if you want the game to continue to exist. Are we supposed to keep paying? Or is month-by-month just enough?


  1. I'll still be playing Warcraft when the servers shut down and they have to kick me out. That one therefore is a no-brainer, but the others are done on a month-by-month basis.

    You hang on long enough, they'll make SWTOR free to play :p

  2. I'm a bit surprised people aren't angrier about the lack of content Blizzard are supplying for annual pass holders. Yes, you get access to D3 but the cost is way high if you're not actually playing WoW.

    So for me, as I'm still liking SWTOR, I don't have an issue with the sub. I unsubbed from WoW last November and honestly haven't missed it.

  3. Even when I've taken breaks from WoW I never completely quit the game so I think I only unsubscribed once. It lasted about a week. I'll play as little as once a week for an hour or so when I'm 'taking a break'. I've only taken two breaks. Once in TBC (real life + game frustration) and once shortly after Cata released (just plain game frustration).
    SWTOR never grew on me so after the month that came with the game I didn't subscribe. Did the same thing with Rift. I guess I just prefer WoW and that is what it is.

    If SWTOR goes F2P then I'll probably re-activate it.

    As for the annual pass I wasn't expecting to get much from WoW itself in the way of new content. I signed up for it knowing that I wasn't going to unsubscribe so I'd take the free stuff they were offering. Me being an altoholic gives me stuff to do even during lulls. That said, this is probably the worst lull, summer + pre expac + D3 I've ever seen. I still have plenty to do. 1) get the warlock to 85. 2) gear the shammy some more. 3) convert the holy pally back to prot. 4)do some heroic raiding. 5)play around with the back-burner projects, a boomkin, fury warrior, holy priest, and elemental shaman.

    So I'm not going to stop playing anytime soon.

  4. @The GM - F2P would be nice. I almost suggested a payment structure where you just pay for the month after a patch. I could get on board with that, too. Only if they keep being able to make quality content though.

    @Spinks - When I signed up, I thought: "Man, they must really be planning to dry up on content." I sort of hoped it wasn't the case, but it obviously was. The year pass was exactly the "bargain" it seemed to be. It's hard for me to be upset when I went in with eyes open. Still, it's nice to have access to both games. How much was D3 boxed? $60ish? That's four months of getting two games for the price of one. Did I take advantage? Probably not. Again, my fault.

    It does set Blizz on thin ice with me (and I think a lot of other people). If they don't deliver with MoP, I won't pay for much longer than the content holds out. I've paid my dues to their coffers. And then some.

    @TKC - I was in the same boat (with never taking breaks) until this summer. Likely I'm just not into gaming as much as I used to be (I've been spending a lot more time writing). A lot of it for me too is that my group of friends dispersed due to RL stuffs. We lost our core. It happens, and I've never been a bit altaholic.

  5. Yeah, the Annual Pass was really a smart move by Blizzard to lock up folks for the whole year, knowing they wouldn't really have a lot of content for them. D3 was a great throw-in game, as well as paid beta access to MoP to sweeten the deal.

    As for SWTOR, I play fairly regularly, but I really honestly can't fault anyone who's on the fence or unsubbed because of lack of content. BioWare's had to introduce so many systems to the game just to get it up to par with other MMOs that the actual content is pretty light. The world event was fun ... but only lasted two weeks. For right now, of course I'm still playing and paying, but if other folks said, "Hey I'll be back when there's more stuff to do" I can see where they are coming from.

  6. Stop paying when you aren't playing the game, or aren't enjoying yourself when you are playing.

    If you don't cancel, you are sending the company the message that what they're delivering is good enough for you. Ask yourself if that's the message you want to be sending.

  7. What if you feel like the content is good, you just want more of it?

    My Day Job is as an Engineer. As such, I probably have a larger than average sympathy for the devs on any game. I know what it's like to be part of a design team, under deadlines, being pressed by management to fill check boxes while trying to come up with a quality product.

    Point being, the message I want to send is pretty complicated. The content is certainly "good enough" and, as an engineer, I'd rather they not rush a half-complete product to market. There's always a healthy medium as far as timing is concerned, but the message I do NOT want to send is "I hope you fail." Which seems to be what investors see in any sort of dropped subscriptions. Hence my point, why can't we just take months off, don't pay while they're working on it, and come back when there's new content... and HAVE NO ONE FREAK OUT. (No one, meaning investors and management types).

    I'm not sure that is possible, because this is big business, and everything is balance sheets. I know how it goes, so I don't expect it to change. As a customer, there's just this disappointing "all or nothing" feel to subscriptions.