Growing up, I spent most of my time playing with computers and video games. I had become quite accustomed to buying a new video game, finishing it, then buying another. They were like books to me, with a definite start, and a definite end, and I was quite a scholar! (Yeah, that’s it). This went on for years, until Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGS) became popular and with them a new pricing model: the monthly fee.
I thought it was a dumb idea, but mostly because I didn’t want to pay monthly for something that I was used to getting at a fixed cost. A friend gave me a free 30 day trial of Ultima Online (a completely open-ended game with no way to win), so I could see what he said “was missing in my life.” Those 30 days became three years, and at $15/month was the most expensive video game I ever played at $540. It was worth every penny.
Why? Because the developers made sure that the game was worth at least $15 each month. The incentive for them was to create a product that I never wanted to put down: new quests, newer and better gear for the newer and better dungeons. It worked (the MMORPG industry is worth 2 billion annually).
Now that I’m more mature, and I have kids and a mortgage, I may not be slaying dragons alongside Leeroy Jenkins, but I’m still paying monthly for accounting software, music services, and others, even though there are countless cheap and free equivalents. The reason is simple: they’re way better! Now, they may not have been developed with the same cocaine vending strategy as the MMORPGS I used to play, but because myself and many others like me pay good money every month to use the software, the developers aren’t on to the next big project they’re going to sell–this is it. The incentive for the developers is to keep working on this one project by constantly making improvements, working out bugs, adding new features, and listening to their customers. After a while, you end up with a pretty solid product–one that’s worth paying to use.