City of Heroes Issue 13: Architect - PREVIEW (Business Model Confusion, Conclusions, part 5 of 5)

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Confusion Over What Their Business Model Is

In Mr. Miller’s letter, he also dropped a little bomb that is a continuation of NCSoft’s absolute confusion regarding their business model. They need to make up their mind about whether CoX is a subscription based game or an item-mall/pay-for-extras type game.

Finally, I want to tell you about two “Booster Packs” that will be available in a month or so. Many players have requested the ability to buy the 30 day temporary jetpack that comes with the new City of Heroes Game Cards. Once the retailer exclusive period ends next month, we are making the same jetpack available for purchase for $4.99 (which is the cost difference between the one month game time and the $20 Game Card price). We are also excited to launch our Super Booster I: Cyborg Pack for $9.99. This pack has an awesome set of costume pieces, emotes, auras and a power. We’ll be sharing all of the details shortly.

First, the value of these booster packs is dubious at best. $5 for a 30 day jet pack temporary power? They used to give away powers like this for free on holidays. People begged for years to have a way to EARN things like this in game to make gameplay a little more interesting. And now they want to sell these for $5 a month? And the Cyborg pack is just some costume options and a power? If it is anything like their disastrous Valentine’s Day pack, it will include costume options people discussed for years and never got.

Second, what business do they have charging extra for content like this when the game is already woefully lacking in content? It has arguably the least content of any major MMORPG on the market despite 4+ years of development. When you are already in catch-up mode as far as content, charging extra for new content is a slap in the face to one’s customers.

Third, and most importantly, NCSoft needs to decide what their business model is for CoX. If they want to charge subscriptions, then charge subscriptions. If they want an item mall or pay-for-extras model (that is popular in Asia) then go with that system. I personally believe pay-for-extras is the future, as subscriptions have many flaws that I won’t go into here. But trying to burn the candle at both ends here strikes me as a money grab.

Aside: Way to cut that “exclusive retailer” down at the knees regarding the jet packs. I imagine they would be really thrilled to know that Mr. Miller has told everyone they can easily and conveniently get the perk from those Game Cards if they just wait a month. Mr. Miller is more game developer than businessman, so I imagine he did not even think about that. Someone at NCSoft might want to proofread his announcements in the future.


If you read this far, it is not hard to guess that my conclusions are mostly negative. While some of the new content sounds nice enough, none of the content addresses the core problem that has dogged CoX for 3-4 years. There is nothing to do with your level 50 characters (no end game content), and even for characters of other levels there is nothing new to do. The game continues to follow the same “run another warehouse mission” design, which has long since worn thin.

The population explosions during their double XP weekends show that there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of potential customers out there ready to resubscribe. The developers just need to give them something new and fun to do. But with each issue it is just more fluff and more of the same. That is not the way to recapture customers who simply want more to do than clear another warehouse of bad guys.

City of Heroes is a strange game in that they did all the core things very right: user interface, look and feel, core design, character design, etc. These are things that are hard to get right, and many more successful games did a far worse job on these core elements. But no matter how great things are under the hood, if you only get to drive around the parking lot the scenery gets boring fast.


This is part 5 of a 5 part preview. For the rest of the preview:

Part 1: City of Heroes Issue 13: Architect - PREVIEW (Mission Architect, part 1 of 5)

Part 2: City of Heroes Issue 13: Architect - PREVIEW (Paid Expansion, Day Jobs, Powersets, part 2 of 5)

Part 3: City of Heroes Issue 13: Architect - PREVIEW (Cimerora, Merits, Other Features, part 3 of 5)

Part 4: City of Heroes Issue 13: Architect - PREVIEW (The Management of Expectations, part 4 of 5)

Part 5: You are here.


Michael Hartman maintains a hub for articles about City of Heroes and City of Villains. If you would like to read more of his articles about this game, visit:

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