Friday, 20 May 2011

You get what you pay for?

There's been another kerfuffle started about RMT/micro-trans-whatsits and basically, I'm not going to chuck my hat into the ring in the specific case of WoW's 'premium' cross realm dungeon feature. Mainly because the blogsphere is full of pro and anti posts and you'll have already read a fair number of them by the time I get round to publishing this.  And also because *cough* my sub runs out on 21 May.  Which coincidentally is when I'll actually ascend as part of the Rapture.  As opposed to ascending as a Guardian. Or not.  Who knows?  *shrug*

Anyway - I guess what I was planning to write semi-coherently about is not the inherent good vs. evil of micro transactions but rather what players would be ok about paying for.  From the posts and comments that I've read people seem to fall into two broad camps. 

Firstly, we have the camp that is happy for RMT (which I'm going to use from hereon as I can't be arsed to write micro-transactions every time. Yes, I know that there's a difference, I live with a mathematician, come statistician, come economist - Himself has a broad and impressive intellect, but RMT is measurably quicker to type) to be part of the game as long as it's for, what could simply be described as 'vanity items'.  The sparkle-pony, or the pandaren, or whatever.  Take your pick.  If it's just done for the sake of looking at pretties that not everyone has, it's cool. If it affects 'game play' it's not cool.  The trouble is that people's view of what 'affects' their game play is as broad as the player base. For some people, the mobile auction house gave certain players an advantage.  I can't see what mobile guild chat would do to your advantage (except keep you awake if you could read it during interminably boring meetings at work) but it's a premium service none the less.

The other camp doesn't see an issue with any form of segregation - as far as they're concerned, you get what you pay for.  No issues with paying for additional raid content.  No problems with paying to play with the people you like, rather than putting up with Mrpwnstarr.  Want to have a max level character?  Pay $20 and you can have one. Hey - EQ2 is considering it.  What about wanting more skill, or better PvP?  GuildWars is cool about selling you thatAllods will sell you gPotatoes (yawhatnow??) which you then use to purchase seemingly everything in-game.   However, both GuildWars and Allods are free-to-play.  There's no subscription. And that, for many people seems to be the rub.  Should games be both?  I don't know the answer to that, I'm afraid.

But, unsurprisingly, I've deviated from what I meant to write about.  I was going to discuss what I'd pay for.  Ahem, which is a bit moot, admittedly, but let's say that the sub price went down to, oh, I don't know, £5 a month. And let's not think about a specific game, but rather a 'generic' MMO, which, for the sake of ease, I'll call Pilfkin Online (scary thought, innit?!)

[Disclaimer:  I don't pretend that any of this stuff is earth shattering, or new, ok.  It's just my thoughts!] So, for your £/$/€5 a month you get all the basics that enable you to play the game.  You get six character slots per server, and no strictures on faction/race/class choice.  You can play through all content on the basic subscription, with the exception of raids (that'll cost you extra).  You'll get a ground mount when you hit the requisite level, but that's all.  Want a speedy mount?  Buy it.  Want to fly?  Buy it.  Want a sparkle dragon of pwn?  Buy it.  Want to PvP?  Ok, let's make battlegrounds free, but arenas chargeable.  There are no vanity pets in-game.  There are many to purchase.  In-game currency is for show only.  You earn 'token' gold but everything is available to buy outside of game.  If you want to skip the levelling game then cough up and have a max level character, in 'entry level' raid gear. 

Thems is the basics, but for me there would be a few more things that I'd pay for. Not vast sums of money, but I would pay (a one-off charge) regardless.  Wanna hear them?  Of course you do!  I'd pay to play on an RP server with heavy moderation and a big ban-hammer.  Not to have RP enforced, heavens no: if, like many, you just want to play quietly, without your eyes bleeding from 1337 speak, that's fine.  But if you're talking in public channels in an inane string of half formed, misspelt letters and numbers, boom!  You're gone.  If your character is called Mrpwnstarr and your pet is called ChaseyLaine, boom!  C'ya. You get the gist.  I'd also pay for something that Rift has done for free (I'm sure they're not the only ones either) which is a character wardrobe mod.  What your character has equipped as clothing (for the stats) and what you see (for the image, as it were) are different things.  I've set up an expensively-dyed clothing set and now when I get an upgrade I equip it without changing her looks.  Simples.  Small thing that makes Pilf a happy player. 

Of course, I'm me.  There would be other things that other people would pay for.  So come on.  Give it to me baby - what would you pay for?  Or would you not purchase anything.  Ever.  Period?


  1. I'll admit that any game that I've checked out and considered trying.. if it mentions RMT I've left it and not tried it.

    I don't really like the idea of RMT. If I would have to pay extra to access certain areas of gameplay or get gear/raids etc. I'd not be interested. It'd be like buying half a puzzle, then having to pay extra for each piece you need to complete it.

    In regards to WoW, I've used the server/faction change services - but I've not bought any of the vanity items (though a friend did give me the moonkin hatchling).

    I don't mind there being vanity items, but I don't think additional gameplay features should cost extra. Then who's to say when they start charging us for new patches instead of just expansions?

    I don't entirely understand the "OMG they're charging us to play with friends" argument though. Because, unless your friends are on your server - you'd either not play with them at all - or you'd pay (server transfer) to play with them already!

    It's not a feature that appeals to me to be honest, since most of my friends all seem to play Horde anyway *lol* Maybe if they made it into a "Real ID friends, no matter your faction" - but that'd never happen.

    We already pay to play with friends, so I can't argue with that (though I find the price of 20 euros to be a rip-off for what is essentially an automated service). But I do disagree with actual gameplay elements being something one has to pay for.

  2. I too have used the server/faction/name change thingy. On more than one occasion too (my original warlock not only has faction/race confusion but also gender issues now...!) but I kinda remember the drama when that was introduced originally. (I think it was mainly the name change that got people going IIRC)

    I agree totally with the 'charging to play with friends' thing. I tended to have alts on servers that my friends played on... it wasn't *that* complex!

    Basically, I sit firmly on the fence on this one because I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, I do feel that the catering to 'all' player groups simultaneously is proving to be essentially impossible. Balancing a game for both PvP and PvE is incredibly difficult, it seems. Therefore I can, sort of, understand the logic in having 'bolt-ons' that can be tailored to suit the individual. BUT at a very reduced subscription. I wouldn't want to play a game where everything was RMT because Himself would be a) cross and b) broke ;) He did buy me a baby windrider for Christmas though... And we only refrained from buying a talking (gurgling?) murloc because we were in Spain with overloaded suitcases already!

    I think that maybe, just maybe, the writing is on the wall for 'all inclusive' subscription games. I hope I'm wrong, but the player base seems to be splintering further and further apart and getting more vocal in its 'demands'. I think if I was an MMO company, I'd be giving serioous consideration to changing how the game was structured and purchased.

  3. I am very much considering paying for this new feature. As Saga so nicely put it, the alternative is either not playing with the friends or transferring a char to their realms. (I'm sorry, but I don't have the energy to level to 85 from level 1 anymore.)

    I've done both of them - after not playing with my friend for ages, I transferred a mage and leveled with one of her alts. But if I could play $3 a month and play my druid with her... that would be totally worth it.

  4. I guess I can see your point Jen - I think it's that money vs. time thing, and whilst I adore levelling alts, I've done it once under 'level up NAO!' pressure and it was just a grind.

  5. It seems to me that there is a middle ground between micro-transactions and an all-you-can-eat subscription: variable subscription levels.

    So, for example, $5 might buy you the basic solo/5-man game, $5 all the raids and $5 all the PvP arenas/battlegrounds. That way the fear of surprise costs is removed, but people can still opt out of content they don't use.

    In any event, I suspect there would be huge resistance to any form of optional content. As most games stand, the minority of raiders are subsidised by the majority of non-raiders. There may be good reasons for that (e.g. additional cost could discourage people who might enjoy raiding from even trying it), but it remains the case. I suspect raiders would be very cross indeed if someone suggested that they should pay more.

  6. Much as I hate to say it, (because basically I like disagreeing with you!) this: "$5 might buy you the basic solo/5-man game, $5 all the raids and $5 all the PvP arenas/battlegrounds" is actually a reasonable suggestion. Grrrrr. That way you can play the bits of the game that appeal to you as an individual. Dammit, Sven, go back to being mischievous so I can go back to bickering with you ;)

  7. I'm not expecting the cost to go down even if I'm hypothetically only buying the instance package Sven described. This is a way to make as much money as players are willing to pay, not down the price for the ones not playing as much.

    I don't for one second believe the sub+premium in any way will save anyone money, rather the opposite. It's to maximize income, and I've seen alarming amounts of people completely complacent to pay -more- than the sub for actual content, contrary to the model we have right now.

    Why are people not interested in the lowest possible price, which is likely to be what we have now?

    My wallet at least is still in my pocket.