The thing is, Tribble has taught us that getting enough dilithium, even with the discount token, can be quite hard and/or time consuming. You'll never get people to subscribe if they feel like they haven't had a good time.
And if their impression of the game is that they have to grind, they won't have a good time.
I think giving a free token for 2 ranks is a good "hook". Then they get to Captain, and they're like "darn... do i want to grind, or just subscribe?"
Did sdangelo just say they'd adding free ship tokens for gold at all tiers besides Vice Admiral?
I think this is half of the equation.
The other half I'd proposed is scaling C-Point rewards at every vet rewards tier through 1000 days. 100 points for 100 days, 200, for 200... All the way up to 1000 at 1000.
That's 5500 C-Points total.
Putting it on a different reward interval from monthly stipends and having it ramp up encourages loyalty and retention. It's a backloaded loyalty rebate. It increases the value of an LTS by $70, balancing the math more, which equals out to 4 of the cheap VA ships and some change or a couple of the more expensive ones and some change. It doesn't leave Cryptic on the hook for more unlimited lifer rewards though either.
It also gives people who have been supporting the game a nice influx; it means existing players who never lapsed would be hitting F2P with 2800 C-Points and an anticipated 2200 in the next year, plus stipend. And if you've been subbing constantly and buying ships, that initial 2800 C-Points backlogged from your first 700 days would spend quite a ways in addition to your stipend.
I can see where many prospective replacements for the VA token might make a lifer model more unprofitable but the "C-Points = vet rewards"plus sdangelo's proposed ship token for all pre-VA tiers would make the game veryplayable, justify the value of Gold membership over time, and retain the value of an LTS.
Think of it this way: The value of an LTS should be a clear cut $300 over time, preferably without accounting for the stipend since monthly players get that.
Probably around $120 to $130 would get a Silver all the unlocks of a gold account. Factor in my proposed $70 in C-Point stipend. Then you just need the total value of the vet reward items to be roughly $100 worth of stuff and then the ongoing stipend becomes a fair perk, with the break even point forlifers becomes 1000 days, ignoring stipends, and factoring in stipends, remains roughly what it always has been.