For doing what you are saying, the better way is using an MMOG like game, a browser based game or something similar.
Hehe don’t worry Rom, I love talking about this stuff, so I could go all night.
I have to say though, that I really don’t like the pay to play model. I was a big fan of all those Blizzard titles leading up to WoW, but I’ll never hop on the pay to play train. D&D Online, Ultima, World of Warcraft etc. none of them has been compelling enough for me to dole out $15 a month, and I know I’m not alone in my aversion to this type of business plan.
For one thing, MMO style games are predicated on the assumption that developers will be regularly putting out new content. In an RPG or a RTS game thats relatively easy to do, but on a TBS boardgame with set rules, and a set look, that’d be a total joke. What sort of materials could they expand upon? Not to mention the fact that the main issue with that model for an A&A style game is going to be droppers, which you can account for in RPGs and RTS games, but which would turn into a complete nightmare for a game like ours. Even on gametable and tripleA, droppers are already a huge problem, even with a rather small player base. No, pay to play is not the way the go for this thing. Not yet anyway
What we need first is a starter set with a single payment up front, augmented by sales of expansions. The multi-player component is critical, but not to the point of making it exclusively an MP game.
To use your example of the Warcraft/Starcraft franchise, before they ever even considered going with the MMO strategy, they already had like five best selling titles under their belt. Warcraft, Warcraft 2, Diablo, Diablo 2, Starcraft etc. They had a built in market to target, one that was already broad based and proven profitable by sales of their SP/MP games. I’m not saying its impossible to do something similar for the Axis and Allies franchise eventually, but if we wanted to take an incremental approach, that would definitely be putting the cart before the horse.
That said, I’m still heavily in favor of digital distribution, and online key checks vs cd key checks. I’m all for building a web community, providing support for MP play online, and doing all the other things, I just don’t want to pay X dollars a month to play. If for whatever reason, they did decide to go with a pay to play MMO structure, then there needs to be a heavy emphasis on end user customization: unique player profiles, unique map graphics, dice graphics, uniforms for your units, things of that sort. And honestly I’m not sure how you could create enough variety to keep that many paying members hungry for more. I suppose an alternative would be to go the MMO route, without the pay to play aspect. The most successful game of that sort in recent years was Guild Wars. But again the differences between that sort of game and a TBS board game are pretty dramatic.
I don’t know though, they might be able to convince me to subscribe for an A&A MMOG, but it would have to be really impressive. I mean they’d have to offer a lot of unique features, serious support for international tournaments, a way to differentiate your player profile from the thousands of others floating around etc. It would have be damn good is the point I’m trying to make.
I would easily be willing to make a one time payment of $60 for a self contained game (either on the PC, or next Gen Console), but take that same dollar amount, spread it out to $15 a month for 4 months, and you will have lost me. My enthusiasm for this stuff comes and goes in waves. If I’m going to fork over that kind of cash, then I want to own the game, and not just lease it. Especially with a game like A&A, I’d like to be able to put in on the shelf for a month or two, and know that when I pull it down again that I’ll still be able to use the program.