Then again $48 give you one premium sub + 5 invites (pseudo 6 accounts total) + spawning servers whenever and wherever you want in the world. Tell me 1 (one) game of this business model ("freemium" or "subscription based) that is cheaper than QL and/or that gives more to non-paying players the minute they join the game. I'm telling you there is none, but Q3/QL players are used to pirating everything.
About pricing, what I'm saying is the exact opposite. A pro sub gives you hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of benefits, for just $48. You just didn't know.
Well we had events with tens of thousands of people watching QL, you just didn't know, and "e-sports" don't work like you said: it's not about them being legendary (otherwise QW would be the hottest thing) but it is all (and I mean all) about marketing and sponsorship. There's simply no much money nor players involved (both as in millions) in QL so everything is community-made and it achieved remarkable things in QL (it made to eurosports ffs).
And there are about 4m accounts. You won't find many games with that many, or many games with that many active players (lets say 50k to be on the safe side) that are this old (1999) or that much alive competition wise (including online and offline tournaments QL and how prizes are distributed [1v1 instead of 5v5], Q3 and QL have always been ahead CS. You just didn't know.).
And like ShaZe (with a Z) said, if you can't afford $2 or $24 then there's something very wrong and hf with spending money in other hobbies (hint: nothing is free in life). $24 is absurdly cheap for a year's worth of entertainment but you complain like it was a life or death situation instead of just paying.