LoTRO hatred?

Syncaine posted a rant on LoTRO and F2P. Much of what he said is true… but at the same time, I don’t get his hatred of Turbine and LoTRO.

Yeah Turbine made some mistakes, but why single them out for an F2P rant when many other games have come after and gone F2P even quicker (Age of Conan, Fallen Earth, Secret World, SWTOR, RIFT, ESO, etc) – many of those were AAA titles that didn’t last half as long as LoTRO did (as sub games).

LoTRO made it 3 years as a sub title, April 2007 to June 2010. AoC didn’t. Fallen Earth didn’t. TSW didn’t. SWTOR didn’t. RIFT didn’t. ESO didn’t. And unless Wildstar keeps afloat and charging subscriptions until Jun 2017 then it too will not offer a lesson in “how to be a sub game longer than LoTRO”.

Rant about a poor product in relation to an eventual F2P conversion? LoTRO made it as a sub game longer than any of those titles did.

LoTRO is going to hit 8 years this April, so come back in 2022 and if ESO (for instance) is still around then you can talk about how crappy LoTRO did.

Besides, LoTRO isn’t exactly the poster child of F2P misery when it is approaching 5 years as an F2P title – outlasting the entire existence of WAR, for example. And come Nov 2017 we can see if SWTOR, Syncaine’s “best example of F2P non-failure”, makes it 5 years as a F2P title, in order to fairly judge the “LoTRO-levels of failure”.

LoTRO is facing some challenges that most other MMOs don’t have to deal with – IP licensing for instance. If they are forced to shut down in 2017, then LoTRO would have made it for 10 years, which would be longer than Star Wars Galaxies and its 8.5 years, another title that had licensing issues hanging over its head. If LoTRO stays alive past Nov 2015, then it won’t be last place in the “MMOs that had to deal with IP licensing” category either.


Add Star Trek Online to the list of MMOs that didn’t last as a sub game as long as LoTRO did: 2 years before STO went F2P.

It occurs to me of the 3 “successful” subscription games – WoW, EVE, FF14 – two of those three had an existing 10+ years as a game studio producing non-MMO hits. There was a time when Blizzard only churned out hits like… Warcraft (the RTS game), Starcraft, Diablo. And Square Enix had years of success making the Final Fantasy series. So those two studios had an existing fanbase of players earned through making games for years, before going into MMOs.

In this respect, CCP’s success is amazing. They didn’t have a decade of other games which built up their fanbase before they rolled out EVE Online.

FF14 is unusual in that counts as a success AND a failure. The original game was very poorly received, it suspended subscription after 2 years and then was shut down… coinciding with the relaunch of its replacement, FF14: A Realm Reborn. It’s even more complicated as the subscription was restarted to help cover the costs of the relaunch. So basically if you only played FF14, you got to pay a sub for 2 years, had it go F2P on you, then reinstate subscriptions, and then shutdown when its successor launched.

So even FF14 didn’t make it as long as LoTRO did as a sub game. Granted, another game rose out of its ashes and is doing well, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to happen very often.

12 thoughts on “LoTRO hatred?”

  1. It’s not so much singling LotRO out as an exceptionally bad F2P MMO (its bad, but its on par with EQ2, AoC, and a slew of others), but rather rejecting the idea that LotRO is somehow an example of why F2P works. A studio being gutted and the game most likely being kept online due to an IP contract isn’t my definition of success.

    And like my post said, look at how far the game has fallen from 2007, and think back to what people thought it could be in 2006. AoC, Aion, Rift, even WAR didn’t have nearly the expectation or setup for success (years later SW:TOR is almost a repeat of LotRO in many ways) that LotRO had.

    As for Turbine, eh, long story.

  2. As a big f2p LOTRO fan I am intrigued about this rant…

    For bad f2p models please open a (ANY?) mobile android game…

    I like the f2p model LOTRO has and I find die hard sub only MMO fans a bit of an ‘old school elitist clique’

    Will check the rant out and report back 🙂

  3. OK I think LOTRO the game gets a bit too much hammering but I strongly disagree with its f2p payment method being the cause! (I left a huge comment on the post…wonders if I will regret it?)

    1. I think you got it exactly correct with your post on Syncaine’s blog – about cause and effect. I think there were issues that caused a slide, the studio looked at another game in their portfolio that went F2P and did better (DDO), so they implemented that for LoTRO.

  4. Well no one really understands Syncaine’s array of hatreds. You just have to roll with them.

  5. You make a good point, but comparing ‘years’ of having a sub or of ‘being F2P’ is a bit simplistic. Not sure you can call the past few years a ‘success’, but then I would not attribute the problems of the past few years to F2P either.

    1. True, but there isn’t another OBJECTIVE measure of these games that we are privy too, as none of these studios release player numbers or detailed financials. Something a little better than “Syncaine doesn’t like it the most”.

      Thus we are left as “years surviving as a sub MMO” as the only thing we can look at, imperfect as that may be.

      Syncaine argues that an MMO goes F2P as a failure mode, when the studio no longer feels its product is good enough to charge for. Well, that’s fine and dandy but he can’t argue that and then immediately ignore that – by his own metric LoTRO stayed a sub game (i.e. “is good and worth charging for” – as determined by the game publisher who has the real subscription and financial info at their fingertips) longer than every game that has come after it (possibly to be outdone by FFXIV:ARR). Seems like an odd candidate to make his top example of F2P failure.

  6. It’s a silly rant. I think because Turbine was the first to go the hybrid sub/free route that it gets the scorn even though it did it very well. The game as diminished, true, but I do not believe it has diminished because of f2p! If it had kept the subscription model it would have shut the doors by now.

    LotRO is still a tier 1 MMO. All the new things are just pretenders to having a long life. Sure, any brand new game starts off huge because of the horde of players desparate to fine the one true MMO, but give it a few months and the numbers drop down. LotRO is still an old school game, honest. Sure, not as many raids and such, but to be honest most players do not want those as the core part of the game (I hear angry cries from the minority who think they are still the key market segment).

    Many of the rant points are just plain wrong, misinformed, or emotionally driven. There are no items in the store that guarantee winning. There are no “ad spams”. There are indeed still expansions, as in things that come with very large landmasses, lots of quests, and some instances. I mean if Isengard and Rohan don’t count as expansions then nothing can. Implying that SW:TOR is still a success relative to LotRO is absurd.

    F2P players are great for LotRO. We did not get the predicted influx of idiots and trolls and the like. Yes we got noobs but everyone starts off as a noob. We got a lot of people showing up playing for free that are into the lore of the game, we got free players who were into raiding, we got free players role playing, and we got lots and lots of past players who used to subscribe showing up again (hurray for old friends, stop treating them like traitors because they had cash flow problems).

    What does he think “Success” means anyway? A game must live forever to be successful? ALL games will eventually shut down. They all get old, they all have players leave. WoW is the only game that manages to keep people coming back to replace those who leave, but that’s because WoW is the biggest and thus attracts players who want to be part of the biggest thing. Most games fail quickly and so they want to make back their investment in a year or two. LotRO is a success for sticking around so long, and it’ll likely make it to the ten year anniversary easily. This despite the rants coming from the haters.

    And finally, to reiterate what’s been said over and over LotRO does NOT have a licensing problem! The renewal is essentially a rubber stamp, and yet every time it’s up for renewal there are some people who panic. The Tolkien family has nothing to do with this whatsoever, we’ll get the rubber stamp as long as there’s a profit. If they can give a license to a game like Shadows of Morder that stomps muddy feet all over the lore then for sure they’ll approve a game that respects Tolkien.

  7. Hmm. I agree with you that F2P isn’t the (whole) reason that things are not looking great for LotRO, but for me personally the way F2P is implemented in that game (with immersion-breaking shouting advertisements, free store stuff that is cluttering my bags and pay-to-win items) did turn me off a lot, especially at the beginning. I got by by just ignoring the store, and I think the reason the game went down the hill eventually have to do with the actual content: too much grind, old fashioned way of questing, no new quality group content.

    I don’t think looking at how long MMOs are/were successful as a subscription-only model is very useful, though. Back when LotRO started, the thoughts about business models were much different than now. Nowadays, the situation is totally different: it’s pretty normal to go down the F2P road and still be regarded as a top MMO. But back in the day, there was a heavy stigma attached to it.

    1. Yeah, the LoTRO store could have been done better/differently…

      And the whole subscription thing – back when WoW and EVE launched, that was the industry norm for ongoing access to an MMO. Which was established 5 years earlier with UO, EQ, and AC. Now, 15 years after that first generation, pretty much everything has changed. People have more options for subscription entertainment on par with MMO subscription cost (video streaming for one). People are also more used to free/low cost access with in-game shops, on mobile devices to consoles to desktops. And since so many games are still around 5+ years after dropping their subs, I am forced to conclude they are mostly ekeing out a small profit. Otherwise literally nothing else makes sense, from why companies invest money into making more to why so many f2p converted games are still available.

      How long a game stayed subscription is silly, but as I replied to another comment, that is the only metric with actual cold hard public information available. And in light of that, singling Turbine as the biggest error maker in the industry is hard to justify. Syncaine also gets away with a lot of hand waving about “f2p fail” by avoiding any actual business metrics (profit) to development costs pulled out of the air to not liking a game and dissing it (more so if it went f2p). Which is great for him but kind of worthless for analyzing what is going on. Sitting in an echo chamber beating dead horses and chanting “subscription success! f2p fail!” is great and all I don’t think it will lead to any insight. So yeah, these days going f2p may actually be part of the business plan, but that would be a failplan from the start according to him.

  8. Iirc SynCaine actually played LotRO for a time (not casually – always as a group content guy – and e.g. Raiding hasn’t been particularly hardcore pretty much since EQ Instanced its bosses) , hence the hatred. You’ll notice the same with basically every game he ever played.

    In short, ‘Bitter Vet’ would argueably be a better title for his blog, as he’s the quintessential bitter vet. I wouldn’t let him rile you too much.

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