[Column] Astellia’s Subscription Trial Should Be Free/Contribute

Astellia Online is launching with a subscription, by which I mean it’s launching with a trial subscription, and it’s a bunch of tat.

When Astellia launches it will cost $40 for the introductory kit, with no word on how quickly the game will go free to play once the market wholly rejects paying up front for what is otherwise a rather generic import MMO that feels like it came out roughly ten years ago. If you’re not interested in the $40 up front fee, you can penalize yourself by spending $10 per month to check out a “trial” version that is otherwise the exact same thing and contains no restrictions. Astellia is not a subscription title otherwise.

Here’s the fun part: Your $10 per month doesn’t contribute to your purchase price, so if you are going to “play it safe” your penalty is that you’ll be paying a 25% premium for the privilege of doing so. If you sub for two or more months, and I can’t imagine why anyone would outside of forgetting to cancel their auto-renewal, well you might as well just call it a day. BarunsOn Studio calls it a “risk vs reward” system, whereas I’ll just call it a “contempt for the customer” system, one where the publisher knows that they have a steep uphill battle convincing a large number of people to buy into a $40 game that looks a lot like the dime-a-dozen Korean MMOs that launch for free by the thousands every year, but there’s no way management is going to open the door to thousands of gold farmer accounts without getting at least a little bit of dosh in return.

Astellia’s business model runs the risk of death by a thousand cuts of apathy, and the whole thing is worse considering it’s been done before. Other games have introduced starter editions that get you into the game at a lower cost, and then allow you to upgrade to the full game if you like what you’re playing. Many of those games (Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, etc) are insanely successful, more than Astellia Online is likely capable of conceiving. They don’t begrudgingly punish people for their skepticism.

Astellia asking players to throw away ten dollars risks immediately creating a relationship of animosity. There is no reason outside of contempt or greed (or some combination of the two) to immediately start your outreach to potential customers on such a hostile note, and no reason that the $10 first month can’t go toward the cost of the game. That would foster a more welcoming image. The number of sales you get from people who pay the $10 and then eat the cost and upgrade to the full version won’t be zero. I’m also willing to bet it won’t be a large number either. Ten bucks isn’t a lot of money, but Astellia isn’t a particularly high quality game. In the grand scheme of things gamers have a lot of other options either through the games that they already bought or through the multitude of free to play MMOs that are of much higher quality, far more content, and already have an established user base.

I’ve seen posts in the forums with people boasting about the idea that this acts as a gatekeeper and that it “weeds out people like you” toward critics. I’ve been writing about MMOs for fifteen years, these are the same people who will be wondering why nobody was willing to give the game a try in 2020 when the announcement comes that the game just didn’t get a good enough return to remain solvent.

All this for yet another game coming out of Korea that promises it will totally never include those crazy pay to win schemes that the Korean version has. Developers have never broken their promise in that scenario, right? At the very least, we can hope that the gold farmers (whom I suspect are at least tangentially related to this lower price version) who bulk-buy accounts to spam chat with advertising aren’t using stolen credit cards. Don’t forget, every dollar lost to a chargeback costs roughly $2.40.

This is where my free consultation of Astellia Online comes to a close. You can have your people call my people for more details.

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