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Ask Massively: Owls, the bears of the sky edition

Eliot Lefebvre
It is important in these troubling times that we understand what things are in relation to other things. Dogs, for example, are very clearly the sea lions of the land. Volcanoes are the ulcers of the earth, camels are the ships of the desert, and hoodies are the kangaroo costumes of the non-Australian. But what are owls? Owls are the bears of the sky, my friend. Inversely, bears are the owls of the land. I hope this makes your day-to-day life significantly easier.

Now that I've gotten one of your major questions out of the way, I guess I can move on to finish up with the rest of Ask Massively, which discusses free-to-play profits versus sub profits and more about our comment system. (For the record, our comment system is the smoke signal of the site, if smoke signals also involved smiley faces and memes.) If you've got a question you'd like to see answered in a future installment of the column, mail it along to or leave it in the comments below. Questions may be edited slightly for clarity and/or brevity.

BlazeNor asked: Do free-to-play MMOs make a lot of money compared to the subscription-based MMOs? And if so, about how much more or less?

Unfortunately, knowing that would require a lot of companies to post actual profit numbers from their games, which most are reluctant to do. Even seeing the net income of a given game is fairly useless; a game that makes $1.4 million for a company but costs $600,000 to operate is doing no better than a game that costs $200,000 to operate and makes $1 million. So there's no way to be sure.

That having been said, there's a certain point at which a game will make more money as a free-to-play game than a subscription game, usually in a game where people do not want to subscribe for an extended period of time but do want to keep playing. Most games that have made the shift have reported an immediate upturn in profits, but the amount is usually only posted on games that weren't doing too well in the first place.

The biggest reason it's becoming so attractive over a subscription model is that no fee removes the barrier to entry, so more people drop money on the game than they would if there were an up-front fee. Even if only half of the people who play the game are providing the equivalent of a subscription fee, you still wind up with a much larger number of total players.
roguejedi86 asked: What does flagging a comment on Massively with "disagree" actually do?
It shows up in our control panel appropriately flagged.

Under the old comment system, people loved the ability to report posts. The problem was that posts were reported for several reasons. Some were legitimate spam bots, some were outright offensive, and some were just reported because poster A didn't like that poster B had a differing opinion. That made moderating a lot more time-consuming because all we could see was that a post was getting reported, lumping everyone into the same category.

If you want to report a post, by all means, continue using the correct flag. We see all of the flags, including when a post gets flagged "disagree" by every other commenter.
Aleria9 asked: Are you the ones who caused EverQuest Online Adventures to close on purpose, so you can suck off our energies?
Actually, we caused it to close by accident. It was sort of collateral damage. The energy-sucking bit wasn't ever planned, but we figured that as long as we had all of the appropriate devices hooked up, might as well use 'em.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!