It wasn’t that long ago that I posted my thoughts on the removal of subscriptions from Star Trek Online. So I’m not sure why I was so surprised to hear that Champions Online is doing the same thing. However, this hasn’t been greeted with all sweetness and light from the playerbase; quite the opposite, in truth. Why would this be?
Well, it’s complicated.
Star Trek Online’s subscription model didn’t offer a whole bunch of extra stuff for subscribers that couldn’t be gotten from free play. In fact, it was further degraded by the fact that you could subscribe for literally one month to get a bunch of unlocks that wouldn’t go away once you stopped subscribing. So the smart thing to do in that game was to do exactly that. Sure, you missed out on veteran rewards, but none of them are game breaking-not even the free vet ships at 1000 days. In contrast, Champions Online gave heaps of benefits: access to freeform character building, which meant you could mix and match powers. That meant you weren’t locked into a number of freely available Archetypes. You could color the powers, so you could have (for example) blue or red flame powers. You got more (lots more) character slots. You got the ability to open a new character slot when you reached max level. You had more inventory slots to work with. Et cetera, et cetera….
So while STO’s benefits could be conveniently boiled down to ditching subs and created a one-time purchase pack that did the same thing that most of the playerbase was doing anyway, CO isn’t that simple. The pack gets you more character slots, but from what I’ve read thus far, they aren’t freeform slots-there is only two ways to get freeform slots at this point (well, starting on the 7th): either purchase a freeform slot separately, which is overpriced to start with, or buy a lifetimer subscription, which is a hell of an investment at this stage of the game. And that’s one of the reasons why the playerbase is up in arms: for those who are subscribing, it means that if they let their sub lapse, their freeform characters are effectively gone forever. (Unless they pony up the cash that they could’ve used to buy a whole new game with.)
Additionally, it seems that the devs have decided to no longer allow new character slots to open up at max level, and are enforcing a slot limit. The devs claim that the limit’s always been there, but the free slots from leveling bypassed that somehow. I’m dubious. In any event, closing this up is a thumb in the eye for subscribers and lifetimers-that was a significant benefit being wiped out. Of course, you can still get character slots for purchase. One wonders how that’ll work if freeform slots are still just as expensive for either type of sub.
Like it or not, CO is getting ready to undergo a seismic shift in how it does things, and it might just be the last blow for a game where replayability relied upon alts, which relied on character slots-because the game sure doesn’t get new content at anywhere near the pace that many of the modern MMOs do. And as another company I recall could tell, pissing off the playerbase in large numbers that you rely upon to stay afloat isn’t exactly what I’d call a good business model. That sort of thing is why we have Star Wars: The Old Republic now.