Paying for not playing
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 March 2014, 2:07 pm
I am a capitalist insofar as I do believe that game companies are not charities. The overall revenue they get from a game needs to be higher than the cost to produce that game plus the cost of capital. And I am open to different business models. I do not consider "pay once, play forever" to be the only viable option. For example I am quite in favor of DLCs because of what I said about the revenue needing to be higher than the cost. If a whole triple A game would require a one-time purchase cost of $100 to keep up with inflation, I'd rather get half the game for $50, and the other half in the form of five DLCs for $10 each. That way I can play through a shorter version of the game before committing the other half of my money.

I am also in favor of a particular business model which is popular on mobile game platforms like iOS and Android: You get a game for "free", but that game has only a very limited number of levels. After level 5 or so you come to a screen telling you that you unlock the remaining levels for a one-time in-app purchase. That basically is the same as a game you pay for once, with a free demo. I do not share the EU's concern about the misuse of the word "free", although I do support the idea that app stores should have warning labels about "contains in-app purchases" and a list of the most popular purchases to give an idea of the real cost of the game.

I don't mind things like the sparkly pony in World of Warcraft either. As I am not an achiever at heart, and do not even believe that you can "win" a MMORPG, I don't even mind in-game stores selling stuff that could be said to give the player some in-game advantage, and not just being decorative fluff.

Where I am a lot more sceptical is thing like the recently revealed business model for EQN Landmark, where you pay money for the resources that you would otherwise need to spend time in game to gather. Again I am not worried about that being Pay2Win. Instead what bothers me is that you are paying more for the privilege of NOT playing the game. In my previous examples you paid to get *more* content, so you could play the game *more*. If you buy resources in EQN Landmark, you pay money to play the game *less*.

And it is not that I dislike resource collection in MMORPGs. In fact I rather like gathering resources in typical MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. I also am currently playing Craft the World, a game in which you spend most of your time gathering resources. But if you have a regular MMORPG or a game about gathering resources, the game developers have an interest in making resource gathering a fun activity. I'm afraid that in EQN Landmark the game developers have an interest to make resource gathering as annoying as possible, so as to maximize the number of players who rather pay than gather.

In addition to that, I am somewhat suspicious of whether SOE is price gouging rather than covering the cost of development, capital, and some reasonable profit margin. I mean up to $99.99 for access to the alpha version of what is basically a kind of editor for a future MMORPG? Resources being sold already in that alpha version? What we have here is a pricing scheme which would be considered somewhat expensive for a release game applied to an alpha version. Shouldn't such early access come with a heavily discounted pricing scheme to make up for the lack of features and finish?

So if you were wondering why I am not playing EQN Landmark, now you know why. For a game that has "Free to Play. Your Way.®" written on its homepage, I find it far too expensive right now. If it really becomes free to play, I'll probably try it.
Tobold's Blog

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