During an interview with Eurogamer, Blizzard's Mike Morhaime admitted that the free-to-play model infiltrating competitor MMORPGs like Age of Conan and Star Trek Online still isn't a right fit for Blizzard's own subscription-based revenue monster, World of Warcraft.
To some degree, the studio has already caved in by offering an unlimited "demo" with a level cap of 20 and other limitations. Yet there's no sign that Blizzard will succumb to pressure from other games in the genre switching teams by offering a F2P option alonside its current subscription service.
"For us, and even for EA with the Star Wars game, I think that the value that you get for the $15 a month is just unmatched," he told Eurogamer. "I don't think you can get that amount of entertainment value anywhere. I'd put the $15 up against anything."
He added that there's currently an underlying, fundamental assumption in the industry that publishers and developers make more money by charging less... an assumption he claims isn't true. "It doesn't necessarily make for a better game," he said. "I mean, everybody likes free... I think that definitely, players have seen a lot of really great quality free-to-play experiences, but I'm not sure it's the best model for us right now."
Sony Online Entertainment boss John Smedley said that he understands why some developers might choose the F2P model from the start, as gamers are more forgiving about the experience because they've paid absolutely nothing. Still, he believes that Star Wars: The Old Republic may be the last large-scale subscription-funded MMOG to enter the market.
"I think it is a very difficult market to compete in, I think it's very expensive to make these games, especially if you're expecting people to pay a monthly fee just to play the game," he told Eurogamer.
"And so there are very few companies that can compete at that high level with those types of budgets. If you're not charging anybody, they're going to be a lot more forgiving about the experience they have."