Saturday, December 1, 2012

Should You Want To Pay?

Should we as players (i.e. consumers) of MMO's want to pay for our games?  Most people who can count will have some level of selfish desire to pay less, get more, and somehow have the developers not go out of business in the process.  That aside, should you want to play a game where you are paying your fair share?  Equally important in the era of non-subscription payment models and cash shops, should you NOT want to play games that are structured in a way where you are not paying much? 

My complaint about SWTOR's new model - which should not be a surprise to longtime readers since I have raised the same objection to several SOE games that have taken a similar approach - is that I actually want to pay them more.  Bioware does not think it's in their interest to allow non-subscribers to pay for a fully unimpaired experience in their product.  If the only two options are to subscribe or suck up quality of life penalties and pay nothing more once I've unlocked the handful of things Bioware is willing to sell, I may just go ahead and freeload.  That's not really the happiest outcome for either myself or Bioware. 

I would argue that studios have done themselves a disservice by hyping the "free" angle on for-profit products that have to make money somehow.  The games can never be completely without cost, and there will always be one restriction that is the most onerous one left no matter how many things the studio relaxes.  (EQ2 may be running into this wall today after several years of doing the dance that SWTOR is doing today.)  Meanwhile, the dual business model creates a variety of expectations, with most non-subscribers misguidedly begrudging every penny and subscribers insisting that their $15 should be the only money anyone is allowed to ever pay and anything more would be "pay to win". 

And so we have the talk of whales, mounts that have gone from $10 outrage to $25 sparkle ponies and perhaps $50 soon, and the ongoing slippery slope of cash shops as studios claim that more revenue is needed and the majority of players rush to say "not it!".  I'm not about to run out and pay hundreds of dollars for premium stuff, but in general I think that players who are not supporting the product can expect to be disappointed with its future direction.  Perhaps the middle ground was the old world in which everyone paid $15 and the developers did whatever they wanted to with the proceeds, but that ship appears to have sailed.  If the result really is a generation of games whose primary revenue stream is catering to the highest cash store bidder, I don't think anyone (other than that one big spender) will be happy with the result.


Bhagpuss said...

For me it depends just about 100% on whether the developer chooses to cast their whale-net in the oceans of a real virtual world or just in a game. I'm here for the former and I don't have a great deal of interest in the latter.

As long as the free part is a big, open, convincing imaginary environment that uses a setting that appeals to me, they can sell whatever they like in the cash shop and monetize how they please. It doesn't make much odds to me whether it's $50 dollar ponies that do nothing but look pretty or $50 guns that kill stuff better and faster than anything that comes without a price tag. As a virtual sightseer, not having to pay for a visa to cross the imaginary border works well for me.

Whether current F2P models encourage solid, creative virtual world-building is far from certain, but then the subscription/expansion model didn't always do such a great job of that either.

Psychochild said...

I gave up on LotRO long ago, sadly. The transition to free-to-play drained immersion I was looking for, allowing me to take part in Middle Earth through the game. This is just a sad reminder that the game is "not for me" anymore.

I also worry "if/when is stupid shit like this coming to DDO"? :/

Andrew said...

I had no issue paying for DDO before it crossed a real pay-to-cheat line (raid timer bypasses, the best raid loot of six months ago in their cash shop). I bought content, cosmetics and a host of other items and had no issue spending on it (less than a whale but about as much as a subscription).
Now I don't spend a dime on the game and am not likely to short of a major management overhaul.