Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Realms and Stores

Free Realms' revised plan to avoid launch day issues for players - don't bring the servers up until launch day is over for most of the country. Ooops? :)

All kidding aside, the launch seems to be going about as usual for a new game - Tobold reports billing issues but notes that at least you're able to log in. I haven't had the time to take a look myself, and SOE is not publishing its transaction prices out of game (as is traditional for the genre) but I'm hearing that the prices on buying a pet are in the $2.50-$4 range. That's slightly shady given that the game markets the pet trainer job as "free for everyone" (you can use temporary rental pets for a small fraction of your time to technically satisfy that statement), but I guess you could think of it as a one-time fee to unlock the class. In that context, it's not the most expensive ever - it currently costs an MSRP of $80 to unlock all of WoW's classes, and you have to level a character to 55 for the Death Knight. (Perhaps ironically, SOE's own EQ2 gives you access to all of its classes and races for $15.)

One thing that is either good or bad is the roll-out of game cards. If you want $5 in Station Cash, you can pay SOE $5 and get $5 in Station Cash, OR you can pay a physical store $5 for $5 in Station Cash AND get an exclusive pet clothing item (no idea what these cost in-game, but you won't get an identical one in any case). They apparently feel they have to throw physical retail stores a carrot in order to get the stores to allocate shelf space to a product that otherwise might not be in their interest to carry - there is no required client purchase, and the store won't get a cut of any future transactions, so they might otherwise be better off NOT encouraging players to play online games instead of offline ones (which they sell for $50-60 a pop).

On the downside, this means that players who want these sorts of items have to go to a physical store to get full value for their money. Stores may not be stocking these things all that consistently, so I could see doing that hunt every time you want to top off your station cash account getting old relatively quickly. Ah, the joys of dealing with the shambling corpse of the retail industry....

2 comments:

Pete said...

I hadn't heard about the card stuff. That kind of stinks. I hate going to retail stores.

Maybe some online retailer will start carrying them with one of those "As soon as you buy it, we scratch the card and send you the code" deals.

Daniel said...

I played it about an hour yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it. I thought it was well done and fun. I really liked the cooking; light years ahead of WoW.

Having said that, I'm going to repeat what I have said before. I hate the micro-transaction business model. So, that's that.