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Pay gated content has been tried in the MMO space to varying degrees of success. The main problem with it is that the gates split your community, effectively reducing the userbase of your game. As a non-pay example, take WoW (I did Vanilla->WotLK) where Blizzard continuously reduced barriers to entry for content so that a larger portion of the playerbase could experience it. I honestly haven't seen a gated solution where everybody is happy but I haven't surveyed every game out there and gating works well for single player games.

The other issue is that studios generally feel a need to put a carrot on the other side of the gate. At the moment, I'm tracking Warframe and the current update has (essentially) pay gated zones with a reagent drop that drives both additional character progression and player housing. Neither is necessary to complete any of the other content in the game–the game has a mechanics problem where weapon damage scaling is excessive, the relative ease of content clearing is one–and the playerbase is whining about P2W.

My inclination would be something like:

    * Subscription based
    * Sub payment produces in-game tradeable item, time added on use
    * Subscription use suspends X days after not logging in
    * Payment auto-renewal only triggers when 2 days left
    * You start off with X weeks of playtime
This covers revenue, pay to win, real money trading, free players and (IMO) is both transparent and fair to players. It's basically a F2Pish variant of EVE's PLEX system. The challenge then becomes maintaining engagement and having the economy under control meaning that currency remains useful and inflation remains reasonable.

I haven't actually seen it done, probably because it's not a reliable recurring revenue stream like traditional subscriptions and isn't that strong of an impulse buy. I have seen somewhat similar ideas in a game with limited moves per day but from memory (been a while, blanking on the name) they also used the time item as a catalyst for weapon upgrades which for me veered too far into P2W so I dropped.

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