The Mythical Free MMO Month

MMOs are a slightly different beast as far as video games go. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, the gist is that the game is more akin to a service that you have to subscribe to. Ideally you and potentially thousands of other players subscribe to the game and your subscription fees pay for stuff like server upkeep, content generation, and stuff like that. There are, of course, exceptions, but we won’t bother with those today.

The thing is, though, that you’re not going to really know if the game’s going to be worth your time unless you play it first. Of course, you could just jump headlong into the game and see if you like it, but then you’ve wasted a month’s worth of subscription fees if the answer’s ‘no’.

The solution is, then, is to offer a token amount of ‘free game time’ for you to decide if you’re going to like the game or not; one month is the norm.

But, here’s the thing. That free month isn’t actually a free month. Who says so? Math says so!

Let’s take the current darling of MMOs, World of Warcraft. As of this writing you can get your very own copy of the base game from Amazon for $20. Now, your ‘free’ month of gameplay is worth $15, so if we subtract that from the cost of purchasing the media, we end up with $5 for your copy of the game and $15 for your ‘free’ month.

Or how about that other MMO that’s making waves right now, Aga of Conan? You can get the for a scant $50(!). Subtracting the $15 worth of fees of the month that you’re being ‘given’ leaves us with paying $35 for the ability to use the trial, which is over twice the value of gametime that you’re using. Suddenly the free month doesn’t really seem so free anymore.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you have to pay something to use it, it’s not really a free trial.