Own or rent?
And unlike the traditional pricing model, there's no guarantee that you'll spend your $50 month with a game that has any claim to being complete or completed. You are spending a month with a work in progress. Any playing after that will cost you extra. You do not own the game. You have one instance of a constantly changing client that will let you interact with the servers, which is where the game really exists, where it's tightly controlled, and where it's created over however long a period of time as the developers need.
What’s more, the server is kept plugged in only so long as it's profitable and populated. Just because no one was playing Motor City Online doesn't make it any less an outrage that Electronic Arts pulled the plug and those people who bought it have absolutely nothing to show for it. Okay, so no one really bought it either, but the point remains: when you bought Motor City Online, you had no idea whether it would still be around in a year. And yet, because of its monthly fee, you eventually paid much more than you would have for a traditional game. Okay, I know you personally didn’t buy Motor City Online. I didn’t either. But you know what I mean.
Of course, the conventional wisdom is that you're paying extra because you’re getting a special massively multiplayer experience on persistent servers. You're paying for the servers and the bandwidth and the experience of interacting with other humans in a massive online cyber society populated by thousands of avatars in a virtual community. Whatever. When I play, I’m just hunting and doing quests and leveling up with groups of other like-minded cyber-citizens, clustered into gangs of six to ten folks whose interactions consist mostly of bon mots like “inc” and “afk” and the ever-popular “need healing”. But I can do this in Diablo II, where I’ve have been doing it for years, all for the low low price of about $80 for the game and the expansion pack.
Sure, MMOs have clans, corporations, guilds, and other bureaucracies where twelve-year-olds can wield authority over me with their higher ranks. But these groups are more often than not at the esoteric upper end of these games, where famous folks like Thedeacon in Anarchy Online and Mia Wallace in The Sims Online get interviewed by national media outlets just as bewildered as I am by the whole thing.