Ask Massively: Something approaching a tribute to Safety Dance edition

Safety Dance was a song released by Men Without Hats in 1982. It is astonishing for me to realize this, but there is now a substantial portion of our audience that post-dates not only this song but the entire decade. So allow me to say right now that yes, the 1980s were a real time, they did in fact happen, and if that video doesn't tell you a good portion of what you need to know about that time period, any further elaboration won't make it clearer.

OK, maybe one further piece.

This week's questions have absolutely nothing to do with dancing, safety, or looking at one's hands. Instead, it's about pricing models for games and the never-ending discussion about where one draws the line between an MMO and something that is not an MMO. As always, you can leave questions in the comment field for next week, or you can mail them along to

Wyzim asked: When you justify the subscription fee because the developers need to be paid for the patches/updates they are working on continuously, how come we have to pay separately for the expansions and don't even get a free month with it?
See last week's answer about the price of a new MMO. Heck, see the reasoning behind a CD's costing $20 new for essentially an eternity. And considering the fact that people continue to buy at these prices, it's clearly working.

Really, the "subscription pays for regular updates" line is one of many cases where the reasoning is not nearly as cut-and-dried as it might seem. Your subscription pays for access, maintenance, regular updates, salaries, and a lot of other things. There's no simple or clear answer for what business model is better from a consumer's point of view, nor is there an easy way to explain a lot of market prices beyond "they charge X and people pay it, so it's clearly not overpriced."
Bramen asked: At what point is a multiplayer game considered an MMO?
I have to admit that I'm tempted to give an answer derived from Calvin's father explaining how load limits are determined, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I would get a lot of eye-rolling from my editors. (More than usual, I mean.) It would be inaccurate anyway; the number of players isn't really the chief criterion.

More often than not, the principle factor that we use on Massively to determine whether a game is an MMO is persistence. The things you do with a character have a lasting effect both in the world and on your character. If I'm killed in a battleground in World of Warcraft, I respawn, but my equipment takes a durability hit and someone gets more honor as a result. If I chop down a tree in Final Fantasy XIV, it's not there for the next botanist who wants some Ash Logs.

Ultimately, there are corner cases and games that could go either way. It comes down to personal preference sometimes.
pcgneurotic said: I think you're being a little too hard on "PIN number" as a whole phrase.
Well I'm not starting riots in the street over it. If I can't be harsh in a ridiculous introduction, then where? Where?
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This article was originally published on Massively.