Gamesbrief director and industry analayst Nicholas Lovell says publishers of subscription-based MMOs could be denying themselves additional income.
His comments come as several MMO publishers shift to a free-to-play business model.
“Everyone knows that subscriptions are a barrier to adoption, but what fewer people realise is that they are also a barrier to revenue,” he told MCV.
“The people who really love your game – or any media property – will want to spend money on it just like the way, for example, a committed football fan spends money on his favourite team.”
He added that the average number of players choosing to purchase content in free-to-play titles is currently between one and 20 per cent, but that this demographic is fuelling the current trend of subscription-less MMOs.
“The rapid shift to free-to-play is driven by the fact that it enables companies to make a meaningful business serving a smaller audience,” said Lovell. “Games no longer need to appeal to a mass market audience. You can build profitable niche games.”
Lovell predicted that the majority of MMOs will opt for a free-to-play model over the next three years – with a few exceptions such as World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Past free-to-play success stories include Dungeons and Dragons Online, which enjoyed a five-fold increase in revenue after it made the transition, and The Lord of the Rings Online, which saw its revenues triple.