SE's goal for breakeven on FFXI was amassing 200k subs over a timeline spread over several years. Their budget was said to be roughly 25 million dollars, which is extremely low for a game these days. In order to make that happen they had to cut a lot of corners like not having costs associated with setting up and maintaining regional servers.
Not a jab at you, but I find it incredibly hard to believe that any modern MMO could claw it's way out of the red on 50k subs unless they weren't looking to profit for a decade.
FFXI development costs are estimated anywhere from 17-25 mil, so 25 mil is the absolute highest it might have been. At 200k subs, it would have taken FFXI 9 months to completely recoup their development costs and start making profit. Even at 100k subs it would have been well under 2 years. When the game came out in North America, they had 500,000 subscribers before even launching on PS2
. Yes those numbers weren't consistent for the long term, but they stayed around there for at least 6 months after PS3 release. It certainly didn't take them several years to recoup their costs. Even at 50k subs, the game would have recouped the 25 million in exactly 3 years, not the decade you are estimating.
People vastly overstate the effect of F2P. Not sure if you have played any F2P games recently, but for the most part all content remains the same as it would were you a subscriber. The bonuses you get are things like increased inventory space, lower cooldowns on dungeons and the like. Things that are more convenient (if you spam dungeons or have an aversion to using the auction house), but are far from inconvenient if you don't. Probably more than 90% of all things obtained through cash shops these days are vanity items.
That's a bit of an exaggeration. Lotro is one of the biggest F2P games on the market. In order to level effectively (without spending thousands of hours turbine point grinding) you need to buy quest packs, expansions, raid content, etc. Much of the game is roped off to those trying the F2P model. You can't even PvP if you don't pay a sub. Swtor, another of the biggest F2P games, is the same. You can't do any
raid content, you level up slower, you can do 5 PvP warzones a week (which is basically nothing), etc etc. Both games also sell tons of useful gear, XP bonuses, warzone bonuses, etc. in their shops which are definitely not just vanity items. Same goes for DnD. Same goes for a lot of F2P games. Yes, there are also games where most of the cash shop is vanity items, but I don't think it's 90% at all. Just my observations.