There Are Only 15 Subscription MMOs Left

If you haven’t heard yet, RIFT is headed to the free-to-play realm next month. As one of the last major games to hold a monthly subscription, this is fairly big news. The list of subscription MMOs has been dwindling for quite some time now. Over the past couple of years, a laundry list of once hyped up games have switched business models. Many in that list are huge titles such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, DC Universe Online, and TERA. Even some of the old timers are starting to switch things up like Vanguard.

When we look at what’s upcoming, the list doesn’t look like it will be repopulated much as only six titles are expected to hold a monthly subscription. While that list contains major titles such as The Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, when you look at the other side of the list and the sheer number of free-to-play MMOs coming our way, then you can begin to see the genre shift.

MMO veterans have seen this coming for a long time now. This all started with Runes of Magic, which shattered the belief that every free-to-play MMO was instantly a failure or just a flash in the pan. Runes of Magic was filled with content and had so much effort put in that it really showed gamers what could possibly be done without a need for a subscription. Fast forward to today and we’re looking at games like Neverwinter, Marvel Heroes, Guild Wars 2, and Firefall rivaling what subscription MMOs can do and offer players. Then you have the subscription MMOs that couldn’t hold it together under the massive pressure of the free-to-play shift such as Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest, and Age Of Conan.

The growing focus on free-to-play MMOs has become a hot bed in a genre that once looked down upon them. It’s surprising how radical the change has been.

As for what games are still managing to stick with the subscription model, here’s the list:

  1. Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 (one sub gets you both games)
  2. Astonia III
  3. Dark Age of Camelot
  4. EVE Online
  5. Final Fantasy XI
  6. Order & Chaos (mobile)
  7. Perpetuum
  8. PlanetSide (may switch by the end of June)
  9. Realm Online, The
  10. Tale In The Desert, A
  11. TibiaME (mobile)
  12. Ultima Online
  13. Vendetta Online (mobile)
  14. Warhammer Online
  15. World of Warcraft

Some of the titles in this list are very surprising. Games like Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, and The Realm Online helped pioneer the genre back in the 90’s. Then we have the surviving cast of the early 2000’s in World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age Of Camelot, and EVE Online. These titles are surviving off a loyalty that may have withered over the years but is still strong. World of Warcraft may be losing some numbers but the game still stands as king with over 8 million players.

Then we look to the future and list the six games that are expected to carry a subscription:

  1. ArcheAge
  2. Camelot Unchained
  3. The Elder Scrolls Online
  4. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  5. WildStar
  6. World of Darkness

The list isn’t huge but the titles are. However, when you realize that at least 36 free-to-play MMOs have an expected release in 2013, six big name titles just seems paltry.

The genre has shifted over. The scales have tipped and what has been talked about, theorized, and debated is happening: subscription MMOs are dying. I said in a post back in June 2012 that by 2013 the genre would shift over. While there are some loyal fanbases still holding on, MMOs have effectively turned to free-to-play and kept up the level of quality that players expect. Without giving you another list to read, Neverwinter alone has given players a highly detailed world with everything you’d expect a full subscription MMO to have and that’s a free download.

With the scales tipped and the full eventual death of subscription MMOs, there is a new beast that has taken hold of the player’s rage: cash shops and pay-to-win scenarios. While that’s another article for another day, the complaint so many people had about paying monthly to get into an MMO is nearly gone.

Only 15 titles remain with six on the way but how many of them will still be subscription MMOs after a full year of operation? It took DC Universe Online less than 11 months to switch. TERA only had 9 months of a required subscription. Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has been deemed the most expensive video game ever made, didn’t even last a full year under a subscription. It’s feasible that most of them won’t be.