WildStar dev likens MMO subscription to HBO

During a time when more and more MMOs are shifting to a free-to-play business model, Carbine Studios' upcoming game WildStar will go the traditional route, charging customers a monthly subscription fee to play their game. It's a risky decision given how saturated the MMO genre is, but it's a decision that Carbine feels is justified.

"We decided to go with the subscription fee because we are a triple-A game," WildStar game design producer Stephan Frost explained to IGN. "We are one of the most feature-complete MMOs to be coming out in the past 10 years. HBO, for example, is premium content. It has great shows like Game of Thrones and True Detective. They don’t charge extra for those things, they’re just charging that sub fee and people gladly pay it because it’s good. If it wasn’t good, they wouldn’t pay for it.

"We’re looking at it in the same way. We’re saying we think there is enough content for you to do and our release plan is also extremely fair: we’re putting in things like new zones, new PvP maps, new dungeons, new raids, month after month after month. You’ll see every 28 days new content coming in at a regular pace," he said.

Frost added that Carbine may do an expansion "at some point in time," but emphasized that Carbine, right now, is focusing on keeping people in the game and happy with new content. "Of the sub models you've seen out there, we're extremely fair and nothing's hidden behind paywalls," Frost said. "What you see is what you get. There's nothing blocking you from having fun and, you can even pay for your fun using your in-game money. We think it's a fair system."

That last bit about paying for the game with in-game money is actually Carbine's unique spin on the subscription business model. In lieu of paying monthly to play, gamers can purchase actual game time through an in-game system called C.R.E.D.D. Short for "Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development," the system is a way for Carbine to combat online gold selling by farmers while simultaneously offering players a "play to pay" approach.

So let's say you need some in-game cash. Instead of going to some random, sketchy gold farming website, you go to the WildStar's website and purchase C.R.E.D.D. You then can convert this C.R.E.D.D. into in-game money by selling it to other players in the Commodities Exchange. In return, the player who purchased the C.R.E.D.D. with in-game money can then turn around and turn it in for some extra game time.

"Yes you have to buy the box and yes you have to pay $15 a month, but if you’re a hardcore player and you play a lot, you can use your in-game money to purchase a subscription and that way you can be playing for free after you buy the box," he explained. "The great thing about it too is that if I don’t play that often, but I come in and I buy some C.R.E.D.D., which is effectively a subscription, I put it on the auction house and somebody buys it for a ridiculous amount of gold, I can then take that gold and buy whatever I want because I don’t play as much as that hardcore player. To me that seems extremely fair for having a subscription fee."

if you're a little unsure of the system, WildStar is entering an open beta tomorrow giving anyone a chance to experience the game. Who knows, maybe after playing it for a while you'll decide it is worth the monthly subscription.