Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 May 2013, 4:39 am
There has been some heated discussion on win conditions and Pay2Win business models here and elsewhere. The core issue is that if you play a game competitively and believe yourself to be winning over somebody else, you don't want that person to be able to pull out his wallet and pay for an advantage over you that makes the richer person the winner. So far, so good. But very few games sell outright wins. Even the famous "gold ammo" in World of Tanks, which gave a small but measurable advantage to those who use it, has now been changed to be available for in-game currency instead of only for real money. Most games operate on similar principles, making sure that the same equipment is available either by grinding or by paying, so that arguably paying only saves you some grind and never gives you an advantage that somebody who doesn't pay can never have.

But multiplayer online shooters or MOBA games are relatively simple in that one game only lasts minutes, and the winner and loser are very clearly determined at the end. The matter gets a lot more complicated in a MMORPG, where outside certain forms of PVP battlegrounds there is never a screen that tells you that you won. Instead of that there is a multitude of personal win conditions, very often existing only in a nebulous form in the player's head. You feel good if you overcame some challenge, whether that was beating some raid boss or collecting 100 pets. You feel as if you "won".

The tricky thing in that is that in spite of your feeling that you won, this nearly never causes somebody else to feel as if he lost. And that is important when discussing whether a game is Pay2Win, because paying to win is not really a problem; paying to make somebody else lose is. If I could buy an unbeatable tank in World of Tanks for $1,000 and win every match with it, the problem would be all the players who lost to my tank, who now feel that the game isn't worth playing any more unless they'd be willing to put up an equal amount of money.

And that is how we should judge things that are being sold in a real money shop for a Free2Play game: Can you buy something which makes somebody else lose? Because otherwise, if everything can be a win condition, then everything can be Pay2Win. You might consider selling hats in an item shop to be perfectly acceptable, because hats do not figure in your personal win condition. But what about the player who collects hats competitively? Wouldn't he be complaining that selling hats makes the game Pay2Win? There are certainly people in World of Warcraft who collect pets and mounts competitively, and Blizzard does sell pets and mounts for real money, but does that make World of Warcraft a Pay2Win game?

Ultimately it comes down to a simple squabbling about "my win condition is superior to your win condition", where some people claim that whatever win condition they set for themselves is more important than the win condition some other player chose for himself. Thus Blizzard selling items that affect raids would cause more of an outcry than them selling pets, but only because there are more people whose personal win condition relates to raids in some way. But personally anything a game company sells that doesn't make somebody else lose the game is all right in my book. If a game isn't Pay2Lose, it's okay.
Tobold's Blog

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