Character Transfer Diservice
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 June 2013, 10:25 pm
I picked a server a bit over a year ago, after consulting with three bloggers who I knew were playing the game.  All recommended the same server and even the same bloggers' guild.  The third party stats sites guesstimated that the server was the number three RP server in the region.  Unfortunately, the guild didn't really work out - all the members seem to have gone off to other games, and I haven't even been able to find people to get guild invites for my new alts, leaving me on a server where I don't know anyone.  I can name at least three other servers where I would rather be playing today, but for the not-so-minor issue of all the time and even money I have invested on the server with my six current characters.

If you really follow my games and guilds closely, you might have guessed that the unnamed game experience described above is in SWTOR.  Most of you were probably scratching your heads, because a highly similar scenario exists in many MMO's. 

SWTOR's transfers
After promising for the better part of a year that character transfers were finally coming - a year which saw 90% of the game's servers closed, including the seemingly healthy one I picked several months post launch - Bioware has announced its paid character transfer service.  Transfers will cost $14-18 per character (depending on how you purchase your cartel coins), and it looks to me like they will NOT be available for resale in the in-game auction house. 

Bear in mind that this is a game that specifically promoted making all of your alts on the same server though the game's legacy system.  My six characters cover all the crewskill professions and each has probably a million credits worth of in-game currency investment in terms of character-specific legacy perks, collection items, companion affection purchased with gifts, etc.  More importantly, these characters share a large array of server specific legacy unlocks, a few of which I even purchased in the cash shop using my subscriber point stipends. 

Despite all of these reasons why I opted to make this many characters in the first place and all the claims that the transfer service would be "legacy friendly", there is no discount for transferring multiple characters off of the same server.  I would either need to leave behind characters - and not get any credit for their future efforts towards my legacy on the new server - or else be prepared to fork over $80.  Even if I did move to a server that's better today (the Harbinger server, home to the Ootinicast crew, would otherwise be a top contender), I'd have no guarantees that I won't be in the same boat in a few months if the new server also goes belly up.

An industry-wide standard
In a related story, Blizzard is running a one-week only sale on its paid transfer services - Azuriel points out that even at 50% off these prices are still higher than the SWTOR prices.  At the time Blizzard announced the service, the stated justification for such high prices was to recoup the development costs for the transfer feature and to deter frequent use of the service to enable antisocial behavior.  Apparently both of these arguments can be dispensed with if it encourages more transfer fees.   Tera also apparently had a window for open transfers that is coming to an end, with a new fee starting next week.

I get that locking players into static servers worked great for the industry in 2004, in part because that's what the technology of the era could support.  It's not 2004 anymore, and I don't think it's reasonable to punish customers for choosing "wrong" months or years ago by charging them to play with their friends in a genre that's struggling to find ways to keep customers engaged in the product.  It's not good for my enjoyment of the game as a customer, and therefore it's also not good for Bioware's revenue when my poor experience leads to less money spent on their product. 

It doesn't have to be this way.  Many modern games offer single-shard or cross realm functions in one way or another (Cryptic games, GW2), and we also have the example of Rift, which offers free transfers between its more traditional servers. Unfortunately, this feedback falls on deaf ears when developers can rake in nearly six months' worth of sub fees by selling a single customer in my position on paying to solve a problem that was not the customer's fault. 


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