Tom Chick on the Firing Line:
How much would you pay for all this?
The day after tomorrow, Star Wars Galaxies will go live, four days before the end of a fiscal quarter, ready or not. And it's not. I can attest to that. A lot of the beta testers can attest to that. In fact, even developer Kevin O'Hara can arguably attest to that. He wrote the following in one of his final beta updates: "We will be in stores in one week and one day. Notice how I'm not saying we will be "done" in that time." He qualifies his statement by elaborating on the usual stuff about how the game will continue to grow, how they'll keep adding content, and so forth. To his credit, he even admits they'll still have to fix bugs and work on the balance.
Granted, O'Hara would probably make a distinction between "ready" and "done", a unique facet of MMOs, which are constantly labeled "ready" well before they're "done". In fact, the conventional excuse for MMOs is that they're never done, something I first heard Richard Garriott concede shortly after Ultima Online was launched five years ago. But even though you won't be getting a completed game if you pick up Galaxies on Thursday, you'll still be paying the price for a completed game. Actually, that's not true. You'll be paying more than the price for a completed game, which used to be $50 for something you could play in perpetuity. But now the industry is splitting into two pricing models.
Traditionally, games cost $50. After Origin introduced the whole charge-for-an-expansion-to-complete-the-game with their voice packs for Wing Commander, games could cost up to $80 by the time you were done buying them. Now, games with sequels-that-are-really-expansions can run up into the $100 range by the time you've paid in for the whole kit and caboodle. But at least you know that's the end of it. You buy it, you got it for good. It's yours. Cool. Install it, play it, get sick of it in an hour, come back to it two years later when it's a classic. Whatever. You paid. It's yours.
But there's a new price tag in town. The initial $50 investment only gets you a single month of play. If you buy Galaxies and play it for a year of $15 monthly fees, it will cost you $215. Or $245 if you go for the collector's version with a lead figure, art book, and ingame wearable doo-dad like an eyepatch or a funny hat that no one else can wear, except for the other people who also buy the collector's edition.