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Turbine:  Lord of the Rings Online  Revenues Tripled As Free-To-Play Game
Turbine: Lord of the Rings Online Revenues Tripled As Free-To-Play Game
January 6, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

January 6, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

Turbine's massively-multiplayer Lord of the Rings Online is bringing in three times as much revenue as a free-to-play title than it did as a subscription-based title, the company has revealed.

Turbine Director of Communications Adam Mersky mentioned the revenue increase in an interview with the TenTonHammer podcast, where he compared the results to those for Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online. That title saw revenue increase 500 percent shortly after it went free-to-play in 2009.

In the same TenTonHammer podcast, Executive Producer Kate Paiz also pointed out that the free-to-play revenue model has increased the player population and level of activity in the game world.

"We are super-pleased with how so many of our players have responded fantastically," said Executive Producer Kate Paiz. "We're getting so many new players in and the world feels alive and vibrant."

"This really echoes a lot of what we've seen throughout the entertainment industry in general," she continued. "It's really about letting players make their choices about how they play. People are like 'I own my choices. You give me the power and I'll decide if you're cool enough for me.'"

Lord of the Rings Online switched to a free-to-play model last September, after launching in April 2007 as a $50 disc with a $15 monthly subscription.

Just one month later, revenues for the title had already doubled, Paiz said in a GDC Online panel, and that increasing revenue trend has apparently continued since.

In its current form, Lord of the Rings Online players can purchase a la carte quest packs and items to expand the core free-to-play game, or purchase a monthly VIP subscription for unlimited content.

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Ernest Huntley
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Non-spam comment #1:

I thought this was a great idea on Turbine's part from the moment they switched DDO to a free-to-play model. I know, first-hand, 4 people who decided to play LoTRO because of the free-to-play switch. The game is great and the world certainly feels alive now!

Rodolfo Rosini
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Great but what about costs? No point in crapping out press releases saying that you tripled your revenues and that you are super-pleased [sic] without mentioning what happened to profits, how much money you are losing etc. Avoiding that bit of info means 1) you are still losing money and 2) the model is not really viable and you need PR and growth or you will shut down the service.

Andre Gagne
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Good point,

Not to try and put down Turbine but tripling is a lot easier if you weren't making that much to begin with...

As to whether or not they're at the point of sustainability or profit is more interesting to me... What about churn? or return rates of players?

Rob Pait
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It's all about a la carte purchases now. Social games are thriving under this model. The model is highly viable and is probably the way forward for the entire industry, including console.

Aaron Truehitt
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It gave an extra boost to these two. Turbine was good about being brave enough to try it. It's not going to last forever of course, just a little boost towards the end. Turbine needs to plan for the future now, as in, Where is their next game? That haven't announced anything about one yet have they?

Christopher Thigpen
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I have to commend Turbine for making their titles (LOTRO and DDO) free to play. In doing so, it allowed me to explore the content and play the game myself. In doing so, I found the games to be solid, fun, and have the support of a good community. Because of that, it compelled me to make some ala carte purchases for a new class. I was happy to make the one time purchase for the excellent game. I just had a sense of ownership into what they put together. I am glad I made my purchases and look forward to doing so down the road. My hope is that SOE will go for the same model. I want to play SWG, but I do not want to pay monthly for it.

Wake up devs, the old business model is a dinosaur and only those niche companies can keep turning profit for a monthly subscription.

Kudos Turbine, I appreciate and applaud your courage to move in the right direction for your fans.

Thank you.

alex anders
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Actually, its pretty clear to me that this is the direction the industry will eventually be going. I can see why LOTRO is bringing in 3x the revenue for Turbine - and not because it was making so little at first (although I am sure that is partially true), and not because their overhead has increased.

I joined LOTRO because it was FTP but quickly started purchasing the extras simply because they enhanced my playing experience. After only a month I realized i was actually paying more as a non-subscriber than i would if I just subscribed - which I did. The game is excellent, high quality and has better graphics than that "other" one. It was very clear that the designers spend a lot of time creating the detail and storylines. The holiday events are much more charming and well-planned than others I have played, and the skies alone have astounded me in their detail. I found myself driving home the other day and actually thought "OMG this is the same sky as in the Shire!"

However, it's also clear that they have developed a pretty saavy business model, as well.

Now, as a subscriber, I pay the monthly fee -PLUS still purchase additional extras that continue to enhance my playing experience - such as skill upgrades or better mounts or even instant travel buffs. One of my biggest frustrations with WOW was the endless, unproductive travelling I did that simply wasted time. It became clear to me that this was in Blizzard's best interest - it slowed my progress in the game which prolonged the amount of time it would take me to max out my character and possibly quit the game out of ennui. I would much rather pay a small extra fee to travel where I want to go instantly and continue actually playing the game.

I don't regret the additional money spent - it's completely my choice and I could spend game time instead to get those items, but churning out hours and hours of my valuable time for elements of the game that I have little interest in does not appeal to me. I tailor my gaming experience to what best fits my taste, and Turbine reaps the profits.

If the game wasn't a quality game then I could see this FTP model eventually failing or fading out. This is a win/win for both the game designers and players. They make more money off us (and we happily give it) and they are forced to give us better quality games. Keep watch. The other companies will soon be following Turbine's lead. If Blizzard could make $25 a month out of us rather than just $15, no reason they shouldn't try. However they may have to raise their bar a little bit...

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Great news, LOTRO is an underrated game.