Money and value-loss PvP
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 February 2014, 3:42 am
Now this is going to be a difficult post to write, because however carefully I'll choose my words I'll be accused of just having an anti-EVE bias. But what I want to talk about is actually a post from a pro-EVE blog looking at the losses at B-R5RB. The facts are that there was a huge space battle recently in EVE Online. In that battle a large number of very expensive ships were destroyed. In EVE Online one can if one is inclined to do so buy those very expensive ships for real world cash, via an intermediate of game time cards. So it is possible to express the value of the destroyed ships in real world currency numbers. And while there is some confusion about the exact number, the battle at B-R5RB is said to have destroyed $300,000 (give or take a hundred thousand).

Now the Nosy Gamer suggests a different "currency", time. If you express all that value lost in PLEX and don't count the dollar value of the PLEX but the time value, you get about 1,500 years of subscription to EVE. But all that are just attempts to quantify the scale of the losses. In reality the losses were a mix of lost time and lost money: People paid for months of subscription, played the game, and suffered losses that set them back X months of progress and virtual earnings. As during those X months they also had some amount of fun (hopefully) and gained some amount of skill points that they didn't lose, you can't even say they completely lost those X months. But however you turn the calculation, obviously *something* was lost during the battle.

Regardless of which game you play, and regardless of which business model a game uses, there is a large number of games out there where if you play them for some time you will at the end have spent some combination of time and money for some amount of virtual progress and virtual wealth. People attach a value to that virtual progress and virtual wealth. They don't just consider the fun they had playing as sufficient return for their investment of time and money. They tend to get upset when they lose virtual progress and/or virtual wealth. And the clearer the link is between having paid real money for that virtual progress and wealth, the more problematic it becomes when losses occur. For example Marvel Puzzle Quest recently nerfed some characters that the developers considered overpowered. Normally one would think that this is a pretty normal part of a developer's role in maintaining a game. But as people had spent a mix of time and money to attain those characters, and sometimes a lot of money instead of a lot of time, there was quite an uproar.

Now there are many different forms of PvP. And in some of those forms there is never any significant loss of virtual progress or wealth. For example in World of Tanks even the losers usually make more money than their repairs cost, and everybody gets xp, just that the winners get more than the losers. But there are other games in which PvP destroys a lot of value, or even allows one player to capture value from another player. And the more players attach monetary value to virtual progress and wealth in their minds, the more problematic the destruction or theft of that virtual wealth by other players becomes. If other players could for example destroy or steal the sparkly ponies one can buy in World of Warcraft, Blizzard would presumably sell a lot less of those. If players pay big bucks for the right to build virtual castles in EQ Next, it would be foolish to have game elements which then allow other players to burn down or capture those castles.

Therefore I believe that the future of PvP is loss-free versions of PvP in which no or little virtual value is destroyed. Most game companies would shy away from headlines proclaiming that players lost $300,000 in a battle. That sort of news only attracts a certain niche kind of players and isn't really suitable if you are trying to go for a mass market.
Tobold's Blog

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