MMOs: The solution to no-good-games syndrome?

One of the problems you’ll face when gaming is one of your primary hobbies is those inevitable lulls between the games you’re really excited to play. There are so many games out there right now that you never really need to be without something new to play at any given time, but not all games are equally interesting and it’s probably not the smartest financial move to just keep buying and discarding games on a regular basis.

I’m in a somewhat fortunate position where I can afford to buy a few games each month, if anything takes my fancy. (Though I expect the free games and helicopter rides will start flowing now I’m a high flying games journo. (haha!))

[img_big]center,5446,2012-01-11/evolvestyle_full.jpg,Star Wars: The Old Republic[/img_big]

But something occured to me last night while zoning out through a particularly awful movie.

In between the big, exciting releases there’s a lot of temptation to buy other games to fill in the gaps. Sometimes this is just a neat little indie game (or Humble Bundle) for a few bucks, other times it might be the latest Call of Duty for the completely reasonable price of ninety-eight Australian dollars …and then Battlefield 3 for much the same price, when you remember why you stopped buying Call of Duty games.

If there’s a significant break between anticipated titles, or an anticipated title turns out to be a dud, all these desperate purchases can add up to quite a hefty amount while you wait for that next hit. And predictably, since you probably weren’t too interested in those games anyway there’s a good chance they won’t keep you occupied for as long as you might think, particularly when compared to the price on the box.

So I wondered: What if I could just bypass all that? Have something sitting there, waiting for me, that I’m already interested in but don’t always have time for? Something that receives regular updates and additional content and has been specifically designed to be enjoyable for a long period of time, not just the 6-10 hours of gameplay most regular titles shoot for?

What if I just bought a yearly subscription to my favourite MMO?

[img_big]center,8587,2012-03-20/Yaungol_in_Kun-Lai_Summit.jpg,World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria[/img_big]

A yearly subscription runs between $100 and $180 for many of the most popular subscription-only and subscription-optional MMOs at present. While some (like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic) only offer 6 month subscriptions at most, others have special prices when subscribing for a full year and still others offer “Lifetime” subscriptions. Regardless of how it’s divided up, they all end up costing around the same price for around the same amount of game time.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s just look at the $160 mark for a 12 month subscription. That’s where a lot of people would most likely land, either subscribing to WoW or SWTOR, the two big boys of the moment, and it’s at the upper end of the scale.

What do we get for that $160 investment? Unlimited access, all year round, to a game that is being maintained, updated and improved from wherever you first jump into it. Even if you manage to wear out whatever thrills the game holds for you early on, in another three months there’s likely to be a raft of changes and new content for you to explore. Plus, if you haven’t played it in three months you might want to get back in and play as something new, exploring the variety of classes on offer.

What would you get for $160 spent on regular, non-MMO titles from a local Aussie games retailer? With a bit of shopping around you could pick up both last year’s smash hit Skyrim and this year’s Mass Effect 3, with a little extra cash left over for some indie games… (or a bag or three of cookies!)

Both are excellent games and both contain dozens of hours of fun. But if you’re a real fan of gaming you’ve probably already bought those anyway, right? What you’re more likely to pick up is one of the Call of Duty games you didn’t get around to, or maybe the oft-overlooked L.A. Noire or something like Ridge Racer Unbounded.

All wonderful titles, in their own way, but unlikely to get any really meaningful updates. Some games you’re lucky to even get more than one bug-squishin’ patch (or when they do receive a little something extra, it’s five multiplayer maps for $15).

[img_big]center,7463,2012-04-12/rift_fishing_03.jpg,Fishing in RIFT[/img_big]

Last month, MMO RIFT added both fishing and camping to the game. For free!

I’m not saying this is a solution for everyone’s game purchasing and/or playing dilemma. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s a solution for my own predicament. But damn it, I want the option to just go play RIFT whenever I want and if having a yearly subscription also helps decrease my expenditure on filler titles, so much the better!

It seemed a great idea at 2am and after some more consideration in the light of day I think it’s worth a shot. No more incidental purchasing of games, only to leave them in the unplayed pile for months. I’ll still buy the games I’m really itching for but if I find myself at a loose end, I’m going to look a lot harder at dropping some money on a subscription to something I already know I enjoy, rather than gamble on any more unknowns.
I’m not sure whether I’ll save myself any money with this plan but I sure hope to have a lot more fun.

Plus: With a whole year of access to one MMO I might even hit the level cap!

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