Do The Secret World’s monthly updates justify the subscription price?

The Secret World

By on August 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I pay thirty bucks a month to subscribe to an eight-page newsletter. “Thirty dollars!” you cry. Pssh… well worth it. The learnings have already gained me new clients for my business. As Darryl Kerrigan said of the police radar in The Castle… “Just paid for itself.”

Monthly subscriptions are controversial, and invite these value choices. While often called outdated, new MMOs keep releasing on the subscription model.

The Secret World is trying to carry the subscription model forward by committing to monthly content updates. Marketing these as ‘issues’ in the style of old pulp fiction comics, they’re inviting you to make the obvious comparison with paying $15 for a monthly magazine.

What you get for your $15 subscription

Issue #1: Unleashed added the following new content to the game:

  • Five new investigation missions.
  • One new action mission.
  • One new stealth mission.
  • New lore-book entries to collect.

I’m not including bug fixes or content that was slated to go into release but didn’t make deadline—like the auction house. Likewise, I’ve also cut ‘hard mode’ reworks of existing dungeons out, for failing to be unique. So… just counting the new stuff added to the game, how much extra playtime does your $15 get?

The tally

The five investigations are the most significant part of Unleashed. Without using spoilers or walkthroughs, they each took between two and four hours to complete. The two other missions took about thirty minutes each. All in all, I got approximately sixteen hours of new solo play.

Good solo play? Well, the quality of these missions varied. The high point—the Hell and Bach investigation—was four hours of excellence, making me grab the old pen and paper to solve it with drawings and notations.

On the other hand, the Crime and Punishment investigation felt akin to spending two hours searching through an infuriating haystack. Still, any mission that sends you to ‘The Mancave’— complete with soiled underwear and old pizza boxes—deserves a thumbs-up. All in all, I was happy with the missions. I’ve paid a lot more for single player games with a lot less.

Is sixteen hours of content enough to keep a subscription?

MMO value is a personal choice. For some, value lies in the endgame, gearing up through repeated raiding. Solo players are happier running missions. Others just PvP all day. The great difficulty in MMO design is making something with wide appeal without reducing to the herpaderp denominator.

The Secret World’s issue updates are aimed at the casual type of player that likes to log in for an hour or two after work—not the hardcore raider or PvPer. Indeed, the game’s director, Ragnar Tørnquist, has stated that the game is exactly for these players, who, in his words—are just like him.

The Secret World’s target customer is probably employed, has money, not a lot of time, and would think nothing of dropping fifteen bucks on sixteen hours of narrative gameplay. If that sounds like you, then likely you’ll find the updates are worth the monthly subscription.

Check out our review of The Secret World right here.

11 comments (Leave your own)

I bought the Grand Master pack before launch, so it’s all free for me.


I think it’s worth at least considering the content that was meant to be there on release but wasn’t – while you certainly shouldn’t be paying more for it, it definitely does cut into the developer’s time. It’s possible that once they’ve settled down after launch issues are fixed that the updates will be bigger or more frequent. It’s too early to really decide at this point.


Sounds tempting…


Realistically though, how long can these monthly updates go on for?


Sounds a lot more justifiable than the SWToR subscription. I cringe every week looking at the patch notes (or note, often it is only a single line) and seeing that they change next to nothing pvp wise. I enjoy the game but the subscriptions just doesn’t seem worth it anymore, the only thing I feel is of value is the fact we get an Aussie server. With guild wars 2 on the horizon and ready to provide some decent, semi-balanced PvP, I’ll be moving to the free-to-play model in SWToR as soon as I can.

Maybe I just got spoiled by the massive patches that Guild Wars regularly released when I played that (especially toward making PvP more balanced and enjoyable) without ever asking for a subscription. To see SWToR doing things like “certain headgears have graphical glitches on miralukas so we removed ALL headgear from showing on them” or “critical hits for the combat tree were not working as intended, but we removed them because the class is performing within expectations” instead of fixing/balancing bugs, just make me laugh at their poor effort to support the game and question what exactly they are changing that matters toward making the gameplay more enjoyable for subscribers.

A large patch every 3 months to fix just a few of the important issues is not enough.


It’s easy to talk up the next MMO as the saving grace from your current MMO, this happens every time a new MMO comes out and then doesn’t live up to expectations as well.

I do things subscriptions are out of date and content for MMO’s should be handled like DLC. All these companies like to talk up the release of regular content when their games come out but they can never keep it up. This just really turns off the customers who say but you said!

Alot of companies need to be realistic with what they’ll bring out and not over hype.

Patrick Vuleta

They appear to be budgeting for it. The Secret World has lower running costs than Age of Conan, and I don’t think they’re doing a big expac model with this game.



It’s a bit different for me though. I’ve been hanging for Guild Wars 2 ever since it was announced back when I played the original Guild Wars. I’ve experienced the way they treat their games after release and the effort they put into enhancing the actual gameplay post release.

Guild Wars done everything right by my personal tastes apart from the fact it wasn’t a true MMO and lacked in the physics department with clicking to move, no jumping ect. I’m just not a fan of all these other MMOs where how much you can grind gear determines your ability to pvp properly which every MMO I have played since the original guild wars does. I’m also a huge fan of the way they designed their instanced missions in the original.

Personally I’d be happy if GW2 just had better movement physics and an enhanced graphics engine, but they’re doing a whole lot more than that, including classes I have greatly enjoyed playing in other MMOs and adding the public quest thing that warhammer had going along with thier own take on RvR which I thought were the best things to come out of MMOs in the past few years. So I think I can be pretty certain that I will enjoy it.

I don’t look forward to it as a way of innovation and something new like others are expecting, I look forward to it because it combines the things I have enjoyed most between all the different MMOs I’ve played.


if any of you guys spend money per month subscription on PC gaming you should all be shot. BF3 is a once off fee and NOT subscription and a great game, TF2 is a free game, NOT subscription etc. MMOs with subscription should be scrapped. Kudos to EA and Bioware for taking to SWTOR in a free to play direction and not compulsory to pay a subscription



One day when you grow up and get a job, you too can afford to pay for these nice things.

I really wish I could’ve stuck with TSW for a little longer, but I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and admit I just can’t MMO anymore. The investigations were great – I haven’t had to think that hard in a game for a LONG LONG time, but in the end I just found the combat underwhelming and boring… and unfortunately, there’s an awful lot more combat in the game than investigations.

SWTOR was the opposite for me – it managed to keep me entertained enough with the combat and shiny cutscenes to pay for 2 whole months before the lack of interesting or challenging content drove me away.

Patrick Vuleta

Interesting comment Ooshp.

I actually had the opposite reaction.

TSW combat is brilliant for me because of so much potential theorycrafting.

SWTOR combat sucked hard because there were like three builds per class.

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