Originally Posted by Nusquam
I respect the framing and the tone of the question.
Unfortunately, Funcom has legal obligations to EA with regards to The Secret World, and for Age of Conan they have legal obligations to Eidos.
It is a problem to transfer between them, unfortunately.
There is a really easy fix here, boss. Understandably given the under-performance of this great game, Funcom is running on less than ideal resources right now, which is, I believe, why the points are originally conceived to be "bonus" points. This is an option that you already have coded and tested that allows you to restrict points to the game for which they were given.
Unfortunately, you have a series of public statements that hamstring you as regards the lifetime subscriber population. Additionally, you have a problem in that the only tangible value for a subscription is a lesser amount of points relative to the money spent. As it stands now there is a clear and distinct advantage to being someone who buys point bundles of permanent points when they are on sale and then simply uses them on the DLC. Someone who does this will pay less than the stated cost for each DLC, and will pay considerably less than the subscription cost.
If I had been a part of your decision making process I would have advocated a 600 point stipend with subscribers getting access to all content updates for free so long as they remain subscribed. For lifetime subscribers like myself the net change would have been a 600 point stipend per month. This would have gotten us used to using the store and you would have changed nothing for us other than giving us a small amount of free points. The likely response would have been overwhelmingly positive and you likely would have seen future monetization from lifetime subscribers who did not previously buy points as once we get used to using the store the barrier to entry is much lower. You obviously realize this since you have chosen a strange setup which is clearly designed to get us using the store. It would have been much more honest to do it the way I'm suggesting instead of trying to obfuscate it by calling it a "choice" and then telling us that you might "slide" on content release and so this way we get something every month even if you miss your deadline.
But here's the catch. If you miss deadlines any more often than very infrequently, this model is going to fail spectacularly. Your entire business is now predicated on the ability to put out worthwhile content updates as frequently as possible. If you cannot do so, you will fail.
Let me explain why. You have chosen to make your subscription clearly inferior to simply buying permanent points. If I were not a lifetime member, I would immediately have cancelled my subscription and laughed all the way to the bank. If I wanted the DLC packs, I would wait for a funcom point sale and buy a large package. Then I would get TSW for an exceptionally cheap price and if it failed I would retain my points to use in AoC if I wanted. You really need to re-assess your value chart because you're weighting it considerably in the wrong direction.
Interestingly enough, Turbine also weighted their system a little too heavily in favor of the person who just buys content. They have one major difference, though. Subscribers get the content access for free so long as they remain subscribers. The longer one subscribes, the more one "loses" by unsubscribing. Once someone subscribes (especially on one of those fancy $7 a month deals you're offering), the barrier to unsubscribing continues to grow with each content addition until finally it simply becomes too much for most people to justify. Furthermore the bonus point stipend really is a "bonus" at that point. Finally, it provides a strong incentive for people to make the lifetime purchase since it precludes ever losing access to the content while also locking in the bonus points and other perks. Since you're giving a year subscription at $7 a month ... a lifetime purchase up front is still something that may be very useful to you as a company. It will be a much longer time under the new system (especially with $7 per month subs) until that subscriber even reaches the "Break even" point and if they continue to pay regularly for that long a time it seems likely they will at some point make further point purchases.
Another benefit that Turbine has with their model is that if a content release "slides" it doesn't kill their revenue. Since the value of subscribing cannot be directly quantified (because of the content being free while subscribed in addition to the perks), there is a lot of perceived value that doesn't simply get broken down into a math equation. As a result they have many more subscribers than I believe your model is going to generate and if content is delayed they don't lose that revenue.
So, all of that said ... here's what you really want to know. What changes should you make?
1.) Make a new point currently (as far as the database is concerned) so that the points you award for being a subscriber do not expire. Whether you change the value proposition (as I will suggest you do) or not, making the points permanent will at least give subscribing a permanent value. It's bad enough that you give $10 worth of points for $15 (for those who cannot afford to drop the $7/month full year payment up front) ... having the points expire seems excessively harsh.
2.) Doing the first thing is probably the "bare minimum" that ought to be done. I would further suggest that you take a page from Turbine's book and adjust your model. Subscribers should simply get the DLC at no additional charge for as long as they subscribe. This completely puts to bed the griping by some of my fellow lifers and adds a considerable amount to the value proposition for someone considering subscribing. In my experience with DDO, I have maintained the $9.99 per month six month subscription ever since their model transition even though I only play about half the time. In addition to that I also bought their most expensive pre-order for the expansion they recently released along with a $100 store point package with the really nice sale they had at the pre-order time. Since they have gone out of their way to make subscribing a good value proposition, they have gotten way more out of me than if they had adopted your model.
2a.) One obvious change that adopting #2 would necessitate is a reduction in the bonus point stipend. I think that every lifetime subscriber would be very happy with this. Considering that many titles, pets, and cosmetic items cost well more than the 600 points I am suggesting, it is probably not an issue to give subscribers permanent points at this relatively small amount. Given that black clothes generally cost a considerable amount more than the less appealing colors and considering your statement that the store is going to get much more attention now I simply cannot imagine a scenario where someone can hoard points and then buy "everything" later on. It simply doesn't line up with your statements.
2b.) Finally, this would give you one more decision. Do you freeze the initial game purchase at the game as is through issue #5 or do you update it periodically to still give new players a good value? I would advocate that you periodically update what you're giving out with the box copy but always have some content (whether it's the last six issues on a rolling basis or some other system you think makes the value proposition work) that one has to either purchase or subscribe to get. Six issues may be too little especially if you do it on a rolling basis and people can simply play the content for free after it has been out for six months. For what it's worth, Turbine gave a lot away but has not really added much since the conversion. As time has gone on, the growing library of content packs has continued to shift the value proposition toward the subscription, which I think is where you ultimately want people to end up once they love the game.
In the end I get the impression that this conversion decision was rushed and it shows. At the most basic level you want the purchase of the game to come with a good and lasting value. Ultimately you want the value of subscribing to be a bit sweeter so that once people commit to the game they are likely to commit to a subscription because of the additional benefit. I think the idea I shamelessly stole from Turbine and repeated here is a really good start in that direction. Ideally you want people to seriously consider the $200 lifetime option since $200 at one time is the biggest purchase at the moment.
Then you want to make the store appealing so that people who subscribe are enticed to spend for additional points because the stipend doesn't cover everything they want. You should be careful to resist the "pay to win" temptation. It will certainly be a challenge to create store content that is both appealing enough to merit additional purchase above and beyond the subscription or lifetime subscription but that does not fall into the "lockbox" or "pay to win" traps. I have confidence; however, given the quality of the game, that you can do it.
I know that this is an incredibly long post Joel. All I can say is that I find this game and your company worth my time. I sincerely hope that you find your customers worth getting this right.