Alternative revenue streams

A post on the EQ2 forums (by jake08) sparked a thought about alternative revenue streams in gaming. So far, the onslaught of advertising so prevalent in modern society seems to have been kept at bay. But with so many games converting to F2P, and the potential for a large slice of the population to pay next to zero to keep paying in some form, what will companies do to monetize their game beyond the subscription?

Turbine led the charge on sub-to-F2P conversions with DDO and then LoTRO being converted to their “freemium” model. Since then they have added the slightly controversial lockboxes into the game, chests that contain nice items but that need a key generally bought on the item store. Star Trek Online and Guild Wars 2 have a similar system as well (In GW2 these keys are also rarely turn up when you open a chest). So appealing to the gambling instinct, the “what’s inside” curiosity is one option.

SoE have added clothing into Free Realms with real-life brands on them, such as Walmart. I don’t see this as necessarily being a big deal for Free Realms, but if it were to come to other more simulationist MMOs it could be very immersion breaking. Heaven forfend that J D Wetherspoons open a chain tavern in Stormwind or a Marcus and Spencius stall opening in Freeport.

MMO developers need to cover costs and make profits on their games in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Advertising and brand-sponsorships is a pretty untapped area for this genre (compared say to sports game franchises). I wonder if this experiment from SoE will pay off, and whether it could become more widespread?

There’s a *very* subtle version of this in Rift’s coming expansion, with Storm Legion each of the main distributors (Steam, Walmart, BestBuy etc) in the US have a special in-game cloak design themed on one of the elements. So your decision of who to buy through becomes potentially linked to your asthetic preferences in game. Will people end up saying “oh so you bought through Walmart” because of the cloak you are wearing?

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