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Reader Comments (58)

Posted: May 25th 2010 5:14PM TheJackman said

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Just for the record... World of Warcraft does not have any ingame Cash shop... they do have a online non combat pet/mount store. The pets are complete useless other them some haha moment. And unlike some people think the mount is not added anything extra to the game you still gonna earn the ridding skills and the mount does not give you a instant speed upgrade it only scale with the more speed mount you own!

Unlike Everquest, WoW does not sale armor, xp bonus and other of that stuff! And ones again the store is not IN GAME!

Posted: May 25th 2010 7:19PM Firebreak said

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"they do have a online non combat pet/mount store."

Isn't that the definition of a cash shop? Hell by that definition you could say that City of Hero's and Champions online don't have one either, which both of them clearly do. I think that saying WoW does not have one is a quickly approaching the seeing what you want to see line.
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Posted: May 25th 2010 5:47PM drunkenpandaren said

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You need to remember that there are two kinds of servers for EQ2. One is a normal server where you can't use items bought from the Station Store and the other is a Station Server that will allow you to use items bought from Station Store. Minus stuff like a name change pot or race change pot you can't use things like armor on a normal server.
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Posted: May 25th 2010 5:16PM BrianH said

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Please, i think WoW makes this discussion moot.

Sure, alot of people hate it, me included.

that is a single pay system, for a flat fee, you get everything you could ever want, plus the amazing mounts and armors.

Sure, it has a few flair items, like the celestial steed (stupid imo), but it also has more than 50 other rare and flavour mounts that any player can get without shelling out more cash.

Sure, some items like pets can be bought in the store (like 4??), but there are literally hundreds more in game that everyone can get.

The amount of stuff that you can get via out of game resources in wow are a drop i the bucket compared to what that 15 dollar sub gives you, and that's the way ti should be.

Unless it's a drastic amount of stuff, that's the only time that they should charge a vast amount, like 50 dollars for an expansion (WoW has a huge amount of content in those expansions from the start, and then over the course of a year it is continuously upgraded).

That is how much you should be getting for your money.

And even then, if you are a fan of micro transactions (tip: 25 dollars is not micro) then that's fine.

But a game should be one or the other, it's complete crap to charge 15 dollars a month and then on top of that be pushing microtransactions for dresses and pets etc.

One or the other, not both.

Posted: May 25th 2010 5:28PM Deadalon said

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We will not see the real effects of these latest cash shop mounts until abit later on. What we have to realise is that those subscription based MMOs that have started using "hidden" cashshop features like on mounts and pets - have not just blurred the line. They are now both cash shop and sub based games.

The question is - will the gamers that want to play a sub based game accept this and STILL pay their subs in 12-15 months time when there will be even more cash shop items in the sub based games? Obviously the devs and the investors are ready to take that risk.

The main point in this all is - How will sub based MMOs change after they include cash shop items. In terms of WOW - the pony has already changed the basics of the game. It is an account wide item that gives free mount to all characters. So .. why can you not buy a lvl 80 character for 25 USD ? In the old days it was actually an achivement when you got your mount (I remember those days in WOW). This has been changing over time and is an obvious sign that these changes were planned over long time and will be even more drastic.

What the players have to realise is that you are paying more for less. Its up to them to deside if they want to do so. If not then Im pretty sure we will see many good F2P MMOs. There is no blurred line there. You either pay... or you dont. Compare that to - 1. buying a boxed version game. 2. paying sub. 3. buying expansions 4. buying items in cashshops.

Personally - the quality diffrence in sub based MMOs compared to most free to play MMOs these days is not that great to justify splashing large sums of money into Pay to play games. Free to play is the future - like it or not. The old games are just milking their old fanbase atm - realising that new players will be looking at other titles when they pick their first MMO game.

Posted: May 25th 2010 5:53PM Birk said

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While I don't agree with your comment about "free to play is the future", I'll agree that it certainly seems to be a market that is expanding at a rapid rate. I think a lot of players would still rather just plonk down $15 a month, and achieve content at their own pace, rather than buying items or game-boosting perks through a cash shop.

However, there are companies like Turbine that have done a remarkable job with their F2P games, making the content more episodic in that you have to pay for new content, but the monthly fee isn't there. If you are talking about this, then I think you are on to something.

One last thing - Getting your mount was never an achievement in WoW. Getting the actual riding skill most certainly was. The epic riding skill was 1000g if I can remember correctly; the mount was very little compared to that.

But after TBC and the gold-creep, as well as the lowering of skill costs, the prestige lay more in which mount you are able to attain. I won't waste my breath arguing about the celestial horse - that has been done ad nauseum - but in my opinion a 25$ horse that anyone can get has none of the prestige that can be found through raiding achievements.

It just looks cool!

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Posted: May 25th 2010 10:47PM (Unverified) said

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Birk, that was not the case when WoW originally launched.

"Riding skill" was not an issue (pretty sure it didn't even exist), it was just:

* Normal mount, 100g, level requirement 40
* Epic mount, 1000g, level requirement 60

This led to epic dramaz when the Baron's mount dropped - people without an epic mount would get very angry is someone who DID have an epic mount already rolled need on it - their logic being, it's worth 1000g to me, to them, it's purely cosmetic.
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Posted: May 25th 2010 6:01PM (Unverified) said

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I don't find your argument here very convincing. You seem to be saying that F2P games are innovative because of their cash shops, therefore subscription games that add cash shops will also be innovative and we should applaud that.

I'm sorry, but that's not a valid argument. Aside from the simple fact that your argument is based on an unprovable assumption (any game with cash shop items must be innovative), you're skipping over an important distinction between a traditional MMO and a F2P MMO - the subscription.

A F2P HAS to be innovative, because the only way they get money is through the cash shop. If they don't offer you a way to spend money that interests you, they get nothing. A subscription game isn't motivated by that -- if you don't like the cash shop item they STILL get money out of you every month, just not as much. It doesn't make much sense for a sub game to nickel and dime you like a F2P, they're better off putting out desirable items at the absolute highest cost they think they can get away with.

People who hate cash shop items in a subscription game are going to refuse to buy at any price, and people who can't resist the newest shiny are going to buy as long as the price isn't TOO obscene. So the company is encouraged to gouge, and yes, buying that stupid $25 mount just encourages them to keep churning out more of the same. You have just rewarded the developer with nearly 2 month's subscription value for something that likely took a single artist/animator a week or two to create (at worst). The profit ratio on such an item at $25/pop is astronomical, so even if only a small % of players purchase it, that's still piles of money they didn't have before.

But what's wrong with that, you say? Simple economics. MMOs are businesses, plain and simple. The developers may be gamers and more interested in making a great game, but somewhere in the chain of command is the publisher, CEO, or someone else to whom the bottom line is cold profit. When the businessman learns that a single guy was able to crank out a cash shop item that made millions of dollars for 2 weeks of work, what do you think he's going to do? Hire more people to do more of the same? No, that would dilute the profit potential. Instead, he (or she) will divert resources working on ongoing content updates under the subscription model to create more shiny doo-dads to sell at $25/pop.

Buying into these idiotic $25 macrotransaction items will only encourage companies to diverge from supporting content generation through the subscription to focusing on milking the cash shop for all it's worth. Even if the game developers themselves might want to put that money into further development of the game, you can't know that they even have a say in where the money goes. Your $25 cash cat is just as likely to have financed the CEO's new ferrari.

I'm not saying the company is "evil" for doing that, even if they do. Its just BUSINESS. You sensibly follow the path of least resistance to the highest profit. But it's not business that we, as players, should be encouraging. What have WoW players gotten in return for all their $25 sparkle ponies? I'm not aware of anything. Investing in these items will net the players nothing except more items to spend money on.

I fail to see how that is innovative or helpful.

Posted: May 25th 2010 6:25PM Beau Hindman said

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I am saying that cash shops *encourage* innovation, mostly. This is not an attempt to say that all cash shop games, or the addition of a cash shop, makes a game automatically innovative.

What I am saying is that the choices a cash shop provides for the developers and for the players tends to stir up innovation. The effects of a poor choice are more immediate. If an item is put out and it never sells, that information is easily read. Releasing a major expansion once in a while, along with infrequent major patches, takes time to see how it changes the game.

The sub model is not bad, it is reliable and fits many people. But there is a reason that, in my opinion, the truly innovative games and the games that are truly taking chances with how we play are in the FTP/indie world, normally supported by MTs or cash shops.

If you look at your choice of words like "gouge" and "cold profit" you will see the almost complete skepticism I am talking about. I understand some of that, trust me, but seeing companies like Nexon, Aeria or Turbine doing what they do with MTs and cash shops has shown me that allowing customers to further customize their experience is the way to go.

Beau
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Posted: May 25th 2010 10:53PM (Unverified) said

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One thing to bear in mind, PeterD: I'm not so naive as to believe that alternative revenue streams like $25 horses will lead to lower subscription costs. But I CAN see them keeping subscription costs static in the face of inflation.

Personally, I already find it surprising how long MMO subscriptions have held steady, with virtually every subscription game charging $15/month. Based purely on inflation, we should probably be up to $20/month by now.

Game developers, obviously, realize that increasing their monthly fee would lead to a painful backlash. If they can put off fee increases by selling greedsteeds and cashcats on the side, then I'm a winner - because I'm not buying those cash shop items, but I AM benefitting from my subscription rate remaining unchanged.
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Posted: May 26th 2010 2:10AM (Unverified) said

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@carson

You're right that the subscriptions should have risen already. It's WoW that's holding everybody else back. They're game has got them so much money and it's engine is so old that compared to new releases running there servers costs a dime. Yet they pull a cash store to keep their subscriptions low.

If this continues cash stores will be a norm in almost every MMO. This is a thought I'm not comfortable with. If you think further, you realise companies want to make their cash shop items more lucrative every time. Continue that circle and we Will have more than cosmetic items as a norm in cash shop, subscription or not.
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Posted: May 25th 2010 6:21PM (Unverified) said

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The third option is, games sell stuff in their stores but at a lower price.

Posted: May 25th 2010 6:29PM (Unverified) said

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"If I were to ask readers to comment on how much content that a 50-dollar expansion should deliver, I would see many different answers."

You are right, but no one would say "two mounts".

"And as we have seen with gas prices, the standard price can go up slowly and steadily and we will slowly and steadily adapt. Granted, we will complain, but we will still pay the price."

Video games are not gas prices. Gas prices are set based on supply and demand for oil, as well as whatever market manipulations are carried out (OPEC or whoever). When people realized that the oil companies were artificially inflating the price of gas, they spoke by not buying as much gas. Our method of speaking up is by not buying these mounts. As gas becomes more or less available due to supply issues, the prices go up or down, pennies at a time. Prices in the game market have not fluctuated. The price of a full PC game has been $50 for years. The only exception was when Bobby Kotick got ahold of MW2 and decided it should be $60 on the PC (and all future activision PC games should be $60) because he thought we would pay that price for the exact same (or less, even) content. This is not about new pricing models, it's about a way to get more money out of the same product.

"This is assuming that those who pay 15 dollars a month or 50 dollars an expansion are playing X amount of hours per month or are running through X amount of content per expansion. While I have the latest EQII expansion, I have hardly touched any of its content compared to the time I've spent with the mount."

The true answer to this comment isn't that the mount is worth $25. It's that you shouldn't have purchased the expansion because you didn't make much use of it. I'm sure that Timex could release an "EQ2" watch for $100 and people would buy it and talk about how much use they got out of it, but that doesn't make it worth $100. Plus, if enough people refuse to buy it for $100 the price will fall to something more reasonable.

"Third, subscription-only can punish innovation. If you look at the indie/free-to-play market, you will find true innovation."

PRICING innovation. Which appears to be something you want. You want the ability to pay additional money to get additional advantages (not only pay money to get what you want - which is the case in the free-to-play games you mention). Many of us do not.

"Fourth, never assume only the worse when dealing with developers. There seems to be a standard skepticism that comes when dealing with developers, and I have always wondered why. While we play through their games, and pay their standard fees or buy their standard items, we assume that they are always out to get us."

They are not out to get us. They are out to get our money. They are a business, that is what they do. Sony saw that Blizzard made a ton of money off of selling a mount for $25 and said, "Hey, why don't we do that too?"

There are two problems with this.

1) Until F2P games and gold-sellers, most multiplayer games were all about equality. It was the most equal system you could imagine because you were only limited by how much time you decided to spend in the games or what you managed to do in the games. The real point here is that only factors within the games themselves affected your experience.

Now you're introducing another factor direct from developers: how much cash you're willing to spend. Some people view that as a good thing. They figure they can balance a lack of time to play the game by throwing more money at it. But, then again, there are plenty of people that have an abundance of time and money. So all this does is introduce another element external to the game that affects the game itself.

And yes, I realize that these are only mounts. But that's time you would've had to spend farming for a mount that you can instead spend developing your character (and all new characters you create) in other ways. In EQ2's case it also sounds like it has a direct benefit while playing since you say that it helped you to do your collecting a lot faster than you could before.

2) You're placing a price on a product that has always been bundled in the past. It's similar to ATM fees. Once one bank decided they could make money by charging an extra dollar to withdraw money at the ATM, all banks started doing it. Then the prices slowly climbed until they reached equilibrium at the point where banks were making the maximum profit possible (not the maximum price or the most consumers). The one thing you are guaranteed of in the end is that you now have to pay an additional price for a product that was part of the bundle before.

Also - good comment Deadalon. Check out APB's price structure. I wonder if that won't initiate a shift in MMO pricing in the future.

Posted: May 25th 2010 6:49PM Beau Hindman said

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"You are right, but no one would say "two mounts"." --this has nothing to do with the fact that the content would still vary per player. You did not disprove my point. I am saying that if every player would admit to wanting something different, some different level of involvement or some different form of involvement, then why is the price the same for everyone?

Again, I did not say that the "all inclusive" option was *bad*. I am saying that when it gets down to it, allowing developers to publish as little or as much content in any way they want, and trusting that they are trying new things because they have out interests as heart, allows for more room to try new things.

It's a simple math, anyway. Can they try more things at one expansion per year, along with several smaller patches, compared to selling anything they want to at any time? DDO sells chunks of content, Mabinogi sells all-inclusive content packs that act sort of like a sub, and other games sell single items or perks. This means that they are able to do more, quicker, and to experiment more. If a patch goes bad, they need to fix it over several months with several patches. If a cash shop content items goes over poorly, they take it out.

And using "how much cash you're willing to spend" is exactly what you do in as subscription based game. Add up how much you will spend, with the box price and the sub price, over a year. That's cash. Without spending that cash, you would have nothing. At least in a sub game they don't ask anything up front. You lose nothing if the game goes sour. This actually makes FTP developers job harder, being that you have invested nothing financially into the game, and can leave at any time.

And a last side-note: I didn't buy the expansion. It was free.

Beau
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Posted: May 25th 2010 6:34PM markt50 said

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I was going to type out my usual long-winded response as to why I believe Item Shops in games charging 'box+sub+expansion' prices is so wrong. But to be honest I don't really see the point because it seems that most games are going this way anyway.

For those who don't get the objections then I'm sorry you don't get it, of course you're perfectly entitled to disagree, but I do think it is a bit disingenuous to simply write off these objections as people being from the 'Tinfoil hat brigade' or people who are complaining because they have no money . I'll just state that for me it actually has nothing to do with the costs involved, but more the principle around the negative impact it has on gameplay combined with the unfairness of segregating the community in the haves and have nots.

We are already seeing 'Mission creep' on these item stores, in both the cost of items, plus there effectivness. We are seeing $25 'Premium items' which completely destroy's the concept of these being 'Microtransactions'. We are also seeing items on there with gameplay affecting stats, it doesn't matter how minor those stats are, it is a marked move away from the initial position of 'Cosmetic only items'. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is only a matter of time before one of these games starts offering items such as 'The ubber sword of leetness', only $50, but you'll be the king of PvP! Thus destroying the fantasy illusion of the game as it brings into its world the real life financial status of it's players, as those with money smite there poorer bretheren with the swipe of a credit card.

The final point I'd make is that I still believe that all the games company's have singularly failed to explain to the Western customer base why they feel the need to go the 'box+sub+expansion+item store' route, and importantly, how they will ensure that this will not impact negatively on gameplay. This bit is critical, play any of the myriad of F2P games to see exactly how damaging item stores can be for those who refuse to use them on principle, it doesn't take long for the gameplay to become unbearable. Now, I expect much better from a game for which I invest a monthly subscription, yet as far as I know, not one single developer or mmo games studio has ever come forward to address exactly how they will guarantee they will prevent the slide of a subscription based mmo into the horrible gameplay mechanics so common in F2P games.

I guess for me I'd say that in the West all the games company's are equally guilty of a failure in 'educating' their customers to the 'benefits' of this financial model, other than to say they need more money! Despite how much I detest item stores, I would be prepared to give a game that used them the benefit of the doubt, if I thought the company had explained why I should give them a chance and how they would ensure that gameplay wasn't to become diluted/compromised for subscription only players.

Damn, and there I promised no long-winded response, sorry :(

Posted: May 25th 2010 6:53PM Beau Hindman said

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Ergh, I meant in a *ftp* game nothing is asked for upfront. :)

Beau

Posted: May 25th 2010 7:08PM Bhagpuss said

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If you log into EQ2 now you get a free kitten. Fact.

Posted: May 25th 2010 7:24PM Valdamar said

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I couldn't disagree more with this article and I think it's setting a very dangerous precedent - it makes Massively look like a stooge for greedier Dev teams, trying to gain general acceptance for greed-driven MMO gameplay balance, rather than the impartial reporters you should be.

Personally I won't play ANY game with an item mall, whether f2p or sub-based, because when the Devs can make money out of selling weapons/armour or even utility items I just think gameplay balance goes out the window - it becomes a secondary concern to the Devs' greed to make as much money as they can, regardless of the effect it has on gameplay. I also don't believe relative power levels in a game should depend on who has the biggest bank balance in RL - that just kills escapism and fairness.

If I'm paying a subscription then I'm happy to pay for full expansions and even mini-expansion/adventure packs. I'll even pay for packages of aesthetic content - such as CoH's super-boosters (I've bought some that interested me, but not others) - because it doesn't affect how the game plays (though in CoH it has certainly affected how many costume pieces we get in free updates - we get far less than we used to, and they're all much blander than the costume pieces you have to pay for). In a free-to-play game I'd be happy to pay for extra races, classes or adventuring areas like DDO offers, but again I wouldn't pay for in-game non-aesthetic items and it's very likely I wouldn't play a MMO that offered those kinds of things in their store anyway.

In a subscription game with no item shop I know that the Devs are balancing gameplay with most of their attention on the long term health of the game and fairness to all players - as that's the best way to maintain/gain subscriptions - in a game with an item shop for all I know the Devs are balancing gameplay to try and drive players towards making more purchases in the cash shop, their eye constantly on the bottom line (and it's easy to think the worst). In free-to-play games I don't blame the Dev team as much for this as it's the only way they can make money - but in my experience because of that the gameplay balance is even more skewed towards trying to force players into spending money in the cash shop - gameplay is made a boring grind as an incentive for you to buy experience-boosting potions, travel is made slow to make you buy mounts, etc. - which is why I don't play F2P MMOs much any more.

I guess I'm just really suspicious of microtransactions - I'm happier making the infrequent decision whether to buy a £10-£30 expansion pack, than being confronted by many purchasing decisions for a 50p item here and a £1 item there throughout my gaming sessions that intrude on gameplay and immersion. Big expansions add so much stuff they're almost always good value for money.

Paying the equivalent of £15 for a mount for one character in a game sounds like idiocy to me, even though I have plenty of money to spare and would barely notice it go missing from my bank account. I'm not a fool - I know that's not value for money when I've paid the same amount for entire expansions - it's just a Dev team exploiting the more gullible parts of their loyal playerbase - like they say, a fool and his money are easily parted. I'm not about to let a cynical and greedy Dev team take advantage of me like that, and I'm glad I no longer play WoW and EQ2 - in fact this would have been the sort of thing that would have made me quit those games in disgust. It's clear the Devs of those games are only interested in one thing now - milking their "loyal" playerbase for every penny they can.

I'll stick with the Dev teams that I think are giving me value for money. And if a time comes when every MMO has a cash shop offering in-game items (and I'm sure the genre is heading that way - greed is a powerful incentive) then I can always go back to regular multiplayer games. Heck, I can buy games for £5 on Steam that will give me much better value for money and more entertainment value than spending £5 in the cash shop of any MMO.

Posted: May 25th 2010 7:46PM Beau Hindman said

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This is an opinion column, as stated in the categories up top. So, I am giving my opinion. It can be a little biased. :)

Beau
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Posted: May 27th 2010 5:46PM Jenks said

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Couldn't agree with you more, Valdamar.
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