Recently, Star Trek Online made an announcement that I found…well, interesting, anyway.
It was nestled in a post about their new “Elite Starter Pack”, which sits in the C-store for 1500 Zen. It includes stuff like bank slots, retrain tokens, credit cap increases, a character slot, stuff like that. In other words, all the stuff that would unlock if you were to subscribe for a month. They would stick around forever, so a lot of people would subscribe for a month, and then cancel and reap the benefits of having all the unlocks.
Cryptic/PWE seems to have finally noticed it, and effectively scrapped monthly subscriptions in favor of this starter pack.
It doesn’t do anything to current subs; they can keep on with whatever plan they’ve got-but the only real benefit they’re gaining at this point is access to vet rewards as they reach the usual 100/200/300/etc day marks. (Oh, right-and the stipend of 500 Zen per month. Can’t forget that.) Lifetimers are in the same boat, except they don’t have to worry about time-gated vet rewards, since they get them all immediately upon taking the lifetime sub. The big thing, though, is if the monthly subscriber were to stop subscribing at any point…they can’t re-subscribe. There’s no more monthly sub to subscribe to.
On the one hand, it’s a little baffling. Why get rid of a revenue stream? I mean, sure, they’re having to give out 500 Zen per month, but that’s countered by the fifteen dollar monthly sub fee (well, possibly less if you had gone with a different plan-discounts happened for subs in blocks greater than one month at a time). And it sure doesn’t impact the lifetimers in any way (yet). This also kills the vet reward program entirely for any new players. Are the devs considering the vet rewards to now be lifetimer-exclusive? It sure seems odd.
The only thing that makes sense to me is that they’re planning a new revenue model. And that’s where the misgivings begin, because I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be worse than what was there. I can’t believe that they plan to continue to exist based on Zen sales alone; even with the lockboxes, they can’t possibly be getting enough to balance out the lost monthly revenue stream…can they? If that’s a true statement, then that implies they’re looking at monetizing something else. And I’d bet you that it’ll be revealed just prior to or just after the Victory Is Life expansion. (That sort of strategy worked so well for Star Wars Galaxies, didn’t it?)
I don’t know. I have a sense of dread on this sort of thing-maybe it’s needless. But I just don’t see an upside to Cryptic/PWE on stopping the subs without having something waiting in the wings that they think will earn them oodles of money. They have a couple of “Gamma Packs” with goodies on sale that go live with the expansion, but I can’t figure on the influx of cash being quite enough to counterbalance the loss of the monthly revenues.
Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve often said that what the monthly sub gets you wasn’t worth doing long-term, and maybe a lot of other players agreed on that. Maybe they aren’t really losing anything by doing this. I don’t have access to the account books. But something is still a greater value than nothing, and that’s why this whole thing puzzles me.
Stay tuned. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about things before summer ends.