RMT Growing Pains

The pay shop model is very visibly in the process of learning painful lessons. This is a joke. This is a debacle. Cryptic did a last-minute emergency abort on the planned debacle of charging a subscription fee for a game lacking in content then putting all the new content in the cash shop.

I watched Cryptic pull beta content from STO to add it to the cash shop, and I couldn’t even be bothered to snark on it. Not even “fail.” You just shake your head and walk away, you know?

: Zubon

22 thoughts on “RMT Growing Pains”

  1. Is it fair to say that Cryptic also screwed up the subscription model? Lifetime subs, sight unseen, with extra costs layered on top is, in my book, abusive of the subscription model. Or maybe Turbine, where the first month and then a little is great in AoC (or so I hear), but after that, the game sucks? Or what about WoW and EQ before them, with their unholy grinds that artificially extend pay time? Does their failure make it fair to consign the sub model to the scrapheap?

    I wish people would understand that it’s not the business model at fault (either sub, microtransaction or RMT), but specific company policies and idiotic moneywonks.

    1. Funcom on Age of Conan, or are you meaning some Turbine game?

      I wish people would understand that it’s not the business model at fault (either sub, microtransaction or RMT), but specific company policies and idiotic moneywonks.
      I thought that was implicit if not explicit in the OP.

      1. If you stop and think about it a little, the same sentence applies to any form of payment plan.

        In a subscription-based game, the developer is actively encouraged to design in grindy little timesinks in order to keep you subscribed as many months as possible, and will try and stretch whatever content he has over oodles of real life months. His ideal goal for max profit is to keep you hanging, striving to reach the fruit of perfection, without ever getting there, so that you’ll continue to race the rat race and keep paying the subscription fee, while trying to attract more and more new customers to get hooked onto his MMO. Isn’t that a kind of exploitation too?

        Obviously, a smart developer knows there are limits to how much a customer is willing to accept and will find a comfortable balance point. A really -good- developer also acknowledges that besides designing tricksy gimmicks in the game, building community relationships and customer loyalty by treating them well is a smart long- term strategy.

        A good microtransaction model can find success by hitting a price point a decent number of customers are willing to pay. If they’re selling content (dungeon instances?) /usage / art assets, you might even say that the microtransactions actually encourage the developer to focus their attention on something a player values, to churn out more and more content.

        Of course, it’s easy to fall off the slippery slope into plain ‘you need this item to continue playing the game’ and overcharge for it, but that’s a bad company’s strategy.

        It equally applies to companies who charge a subscription and then leave customers at max level hanging for months with no content updates, buggy raids, and airy promises that never get met.

  2. I feel that’s it’s a debacle, sure. After dinking with Runes of Magic for a bit, and noting that the quests deliberately filled your inventory slots so you’d feel compelled to buy more — pardon me, RENT more — backpack slots — I recalled why I loathe microtransactions: they’re a reason to design a crappy game. Hey, let’s make something stupid, and the player can dump money in our pockets to get around it!

    So, yes, it’s not the business model writ large, but until you stomp on companies that ask players to pay to bypass crappy experience curves/inventory management/DPS/whatever, it will still rake in the dough.

  3. I find EVE’s RMT system to be the most delicious. They provide you with two options:
    -pay your monthly subscription fee to play the game
    -play the game so well that you can trick other players into paying your subscription for you by giving them in-game items

    It’s pretty fair and you can make a lot off it because at the end of the day someones paying for the playtime.

    Sounds like STO doesn’t understand that while RMT is working for some games, it’s only because they built up reputations for consistent free content updates before they started adding paid content.

    1. Don’t forget the third option:

      – pay a lot of $$$ so you can fly around in uber ships murdering lesser players without ever having to grind.

  4. I just don’t understand the whole cash shop. It seems they somehow develop things into the game that require it instead of just making them fluff items.

    I would think people would still buy fluff items, but it wouldn’t piss off the other people who just want to play the game for free.

    Why can’t it just be running buffs, backpacks, AH auction times extended, teleports, houses, pets, and etc.

    These are things that players would probably spend money on, but not feel required to buy them. I think players tend to spend more when it feels optional, than a game that makes everything feel mandatory and just quit.

    1. I think players tend to spend more when it feels optional, than a game that makes everything feel mandatory and just quit.
      It is, of course, an empirical question. One might also think that players prefer not to have interminable grinds in their games, but they may reward unnecessary repetition with longer subscription times. We can but hope that what we think of as good design is actually what players will reward with dollars.

  5. “We can but hope that what we think of as good design is actually what players will reward with dollars.”

    Most long term MMO players would agree with me that this has not actually been the trend so far.

    Convenience, simplicity and accessibility have been dominant forces in the way games have developed.

  6. Surely these companies need to make money somehow or they just go out of business. I don’t know if fluff items would sustain a popular, grindy game (ala Allods). The bandwidth and servers are going to cost a bit, not to mention all the staff that are required and the development costs.

  7. I still have a hard time caring at all about this. Just like any store I walk into, if something is too expensive I don’t buy it. If I have to pay too much to even go into the store, I don’t go in. If I can walk around and look at stuff and I don’t feel like buying anything, that is fine by me. I just don’t care.

    I am fascinated by all the people up in arms. I can just as easily never play again. I’m not in love with the game so it’s hard to care. They can do what they want and I will make my choice accordingly. I certainly won’t bother to tell them they are stupid or crazy. I just walk away.

    1. But that kind of “I’ll leave at any moment” thinking goes against a lot of what an MMO is build around. The appeal of the design, in part, is to build a community (clan, alliance, server) and get sucked in. Since day one MMO gameplay itself has been average at best, but its the community aspect that makes what you do in-game more fun than doing it offline (even solo players like being online and around others, even if they don’t directly interact). Its damn near impossible to get sucked in if you know/suspect the next patch is going to force you to start spending $30 a week just to keep playing like you did before.

    2. To be fair, being upset about luxury like overpiced extra 6 inventory slots is not the real problem.

      The death penalty that will not go away in dungeons without the use of the “perfumes” you can buy in the shop is the real thing. I am not sure if the dungeons can be finished with this death penalty by an average – good group.

      So if you wipe your group – you effectively cost them money… xD

  8. It’s doubly even more ironic seeing that games before them, like DDO and Guild Wars, Kingdom of Loathing and Puzzle Pirates and probably a million other F2P games have cash shops that go largely unremarked because the prices are set at perfectly acceptable levels. Somebody didn’t do any comparative research. Or ignored it all foolishly.

    Here’s a hint: since you can get for $15 USD a monthly MMO subscription to the biggest kahuna around…

    $10 a one-time purchase or on a per month basis is a very easily rationalized purchase.

    For the hardcore players, you can get away with pushing $15-25 USD a month expected expenditure on average. If you’re greedy, you can dangle more goodies for more bucks and see who bites.

    To drag in the more cheapskate, $5 sounds quite decent. $2-$3 things or less will open their wallet. For these, you sell by volume to make a profit.

    You can see this happen on more than just online games. Steam is a fantastic indicator of acceptable price range, online RPG shops and other such e-books also tend to similar experiences, and MP3 purchases too.

  9. The most important thing we can take away from this is that there can never be a “tried and true” method of determing the value of ones time, especially in a game. Now, the day we stop calling these things games, and start calling them virtual microcosms of real life or fantasy worlds – devoid of any mention of the word “game” – then maybe the industry will be onto something that can be considered a viable bussiness model.

    Could it just be that gamers are still having major issues with reconciling the difference between virtual property and the real world valuation of it?

    RMT: if I had a few million dollars I could rule the(a) virtual online world(notice I didnt say “game”)….bleh.

  10. I would just like to see an MMO being released that charged players by minute or day or weekly play instead of monthly payments.

    IMO the free to plays have a paying playerbase because people can easily jump in and out without worrying about wasting the money they spend. In a monthly subscription MMO people feel compelled to play for a month and if they can’t they will cancel their subscriptions. So why not releasing a game with smaller subscription options?

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