Shackled by Free2Play?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 December 2012, 7:52 am
A reader wrote me with an interesting observation: Him and his friends are playing Free2Play Planetside 2, and they spent some money on their characters. But when asked whether they would switch servers or factions, his friends declined: They had spent some real money on their characters, and Planetside 2 doesn't have the option to switch servers or side. So to move you would have to restart a new character, and the money you spent would be lost. They didn't want that, although the amount of money wasn't that high.

That is a pretty typical example of loss aversion, the tendency of people to put a higher value on the possible loss of something than they would value the possible gain of it. It is already pretty strong in many MMORPG where people don't like the loss of the time spent to build up a character. But with a Free2Play model where you purchases are bound to a character and not an account, that loss of money can shackle a player even further.

Loss aversion is often not very rational. People tend to forget that sticking to something has a cost too, an opportunity cost. Of course it varies from case to case whether rationally the loss is worth more or less than the opportunity. But I think it happens a lot that people feel somewhat obliged to play a game just because of the money and time they already spent, even if they are way beyond the point of having fun. Loss aversion can end you up playing a game you don't enjoy any more, instead of switching to something that would be more fun to you.

For game companies of course player's loss aversion is brilliant, and frequently exploited in "come back" advertising. It is how free trials work: Let the player get attached to his character and become averse to losing it, and you'll gain a new subscriber. Character-bound real money items are just one more variation to that. Sometimes it is just better to have the ability to let go.
Tobold's Blog



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