Tag Archive for Free

Lifetime Subscription Realms

At launch, I was a big fan of Free Realms.  It was a nice looking, well crafted game, and it was free.  I played it a few hours a week right up until they moved the velvet rope.  Originally, some professions were fully open up to level 20 and other professions were closed unless you paid.  I really liked this because it allowed you to see the game from the bottom to the top, at least in part.  The new model allows you to get up to level 5 in every profession, with further advancement behind the pay wall.  Because of the switch, I quit shortly thereafter, because frankly, even though I was enjoying it, it wasn’t worth $5 a month to play.

Right now and until August 2nd, SOE is running a special, $30 lifetime subscription for Free Realms.  Due to a few freebies and other gifts I’ve gotten over the last year, I had accumulated 2800 Station Cash points, and the store said I could buy the lifetime subscription for 2999 points.  I cracked open the wallet, bought $5 worth of points and bought my lifetime membership.

Sadly, this means that Free Realms technically doesn’t belong in the Freeloading category anymore, so this will be my last post on this game under this heading.

I think the game is totally worth $30.  Especially if you have kids.  Sure, there are still many items in the cash shop, and so your spending days may not be over, but the game will have no fixed costs, which is nice.  And you can always dole out Station Cash as allowance and/or rewards.  Personally, I like the game for the same reason I still like Puzzle Pirates – I like short arcade-style mini-games, but I love that doing them contributes to an overall game and world.  Sure, I could play Bejeweled or other matching games over at Popcap or on Facebook, but they don’t earn me anything.  In Free Realms, when I do well at mining I get ore which I can smith into weapons that I can use in my fighting professions and so on.  Plus, I like running around in huge worlds and seeing stuff.

Now, the only issue I have with Free Realms is their silly 1024 x 768 minimum resolution limitation that prevents me from being able to play on my 1024 x 600 netbook.  Puzzle Pirates is still the winner on that device…

The Failure of the Free Weekend

If you have ever played an MMO, you know what I’m talking about when I say “Free Weekend”.  If not, here’s the run down.  You subscribe to an MMO, you play a while, then you cancel.  Every now and then (about once a quarter) the company will blast an email out to all the inactive accounts and tell them about a “Free Weekend” – a Friday afternoon to Monday morning period – where their account will be reactivated for free!  You can just log in and play like you used to!  This email will also probably include a list of the latest features/changes of the game, and often will coincide with some sort of event for the non-canceled players, like double experience or the beginning of a week/month long holiday event.

One of the things I said in a post last week was about Free Weekends being on your schedule not mine.  This is true, and is the biggest flaw, in my opinion, to the Free Weekend promotion.

There are, in my experience, three kinds of people who cancel a game subscription for an MMO:

  1. Switched to another game. This player may have been playing your game and enjoying it, but something new came along and off they went.
  2. Bored with your game. Not the same as the person above, this individual isn’t going anywhere in particular, they just ran out of things to do in your game and are taking a break.  They usually only cancel after not logging in a couple of months, but eventually they do.
  3. Not enough time to play. This is me.  I’ve got other activities and things like console games and I just don’t have enough time to make paying for the game worth it, or my time is so erratic and there are enough gaps where I’m “wasting money” that I give up the occasional romp in order to keep the money.

The first two types are often best lured back in by patches and expansions that either add more content or fix issues that lead them to quit.  In fact, the guys at WoW can probably give you hard numbers on how many reactivations they get before/after patches and expansions.  Even so, the Free Weekend can work on them as well.  These players still have the time to play, so the weekend offer is there to convince them to give the game they left behind another try, and maybe sign back up for that subscription.

For me, however, I left because my playtime is erratic and scattered.  Nine times out of ten, I get a Free Weekend offer for a game I used to play and then find I don’t have time to take advantage of it.  Monday comes and I say, “Oh man, I missed another Free Weekend!”  For the third player type, rather than just unlocking their account for a set weekend, companies should consider giving out a Free Weekend Key that the player can redeem any time.  Of course, the key needs to be locked in to the specific account to prevent creating a secondary market for selling keys, but this way I could unlock my account for the free couple of days when it works best for me.  No more smacking my head about another missed Free Weekend.  Instead, when I find myself with nothing to do on a random Saturday, I can open the email and select a Free Weekend Key and go play because I have the time to play.

This doesn’t entirely solve the problem, since I would still be unlikely to resubscribe unless my schedule changes, but it would allow me to occasionally dip my toe back in the game and keep it fresh in my mind for when my schedule does change or my budget frees up some extra cash.  But as it stands now, once I cancel and because I miss every Free Weekend, I’m more likely to buy a new game when the time comes than return to an old one I haven’t touched in ages.