$omething for Everyone

Thanks to a guildmate I came upon this interesting blog run by David Edery, who has his fingers interwebbed throughout the gaming world.  The post of interest was an argument for “aggressive” monetization of games.  He wrote that Western game developers were wary of Asian games, especially F2P games, where a player could buy everything from functional items, boost items, aesthetic items, and so on.  Edery said that Western games had a much more tame monetization of games.

To be honest, I found the entirety of the post a little vague.  He has some hyperbolic analogies such as comparing F2P games to coin-driven arcades or TV advertising, and it is unclear whether he is talking about true F2P games or something less when he talks about how some developers rope off a portion of the game for later purchase.  Then he briefly brushes past the wildfire topic of “ethics [in a cash shop],” which is a too-big-for-this-post concept that really muddied his best point.  He did have a fantastic point in his post “[a] game with a more diverse array of offerings is going to satisfy more people and earn more cash in the process.”

In other words, the most profitable games will have something in the cash shop for everyone.  They will have functional items for those time-starved gamers that find it more worthwhile to buy a $2 sword than spend an hour grinding mobs to get it.  They will have boost items for the power gamer that wants the absolute best efficiency of her time.  They will have aesthetic items for the gamer that likes to decorate his virtual home.  It’s a very simple concept for MMOs, considering that our genre is based in part on having some kind of gameplay for everyone (e.g., grinding, raiding, crafting, alting, etc.).

Dungeons and Dragons Online, one of my current active MMOs, has possibly the best cash shop I have experienced.  (As a warning, since I’ve avoided most Asian F2P games this might not be much of an indicator of “best.”)  Like a good cash shop should, it has a wide array of items to buy including content.  They are also very good, in my opinion, at balancing the worth of money vs. the worth of time/skill/effort in game.  Most temporary buffs and boosts are a $1 or less, and most permanent buffs are $4-10.  For example, a Medium Collectibles Bag can be bought in-game for the not-insignificant sum of 90,000 gold.  At the cash shop it can be bought for about $3-4.  A player that is feeling lucky and driven can buy a small loot bonus for about 20 cents each instead of trading in-game items for the boost.

Almost every functional item can be earned in game instead of spending cash, and it’s up to each player to decide at what cost will they have the most fun.  More options are never a bad thing.  What is a bad thing, and what I felt Edery was trying to get at with the term “ethics,” is when a cash shop purchase can destroy the fun of another.  Now, fun is a subjective term, and for purists any functional cash shop purchase will destroy their hard-earned fun.  What’s more important to the general MMO populace is to keep a sense of in-game accomplishment intact.  This is an incredibly touchy subject, which deserves its own set of articles, but I wanted to clarify the danger from “ethics” to something I felt was more appropriate.

Anyway, I may be a bit behind fellow blogger Beau Turkey in foreseeing the imminent future, but I believe that the good cash shops that have flourished in the Western market, such as Dungeons and Dragons Online and also Wizard101, will be dissected and copied.  Upcoming games that rely on some form of a cash shop would be stupid to limit their offerings to the conservative degree that Edery envisions Western developers safely designing.

–Ravious
they all become blueberries

4 thoughts on “$omething for Everyone”

  1. I’ve started playing DDO recently (2 weeks or so) and I quite like the DDO store. I only bought the Monk class because hell if I’m gonna grind for that.

    I didn’t -need- anything else the store was offering (32-point builds do sound rather yummy, but they’re rightfully overpriced I think) but I can see the attractive there, despite personally not agreeing in principle with the money for power items philosophy.

    On a related note I have to say how DDO has improved leaps and bounds from the time it came out and I last gave it a spin. It’s actually rather fun now, something that was missing back then. I don’t think the transformation had anything to do with going F2P though.

    The big litmus test for all this will be when LOTRO soon dons the feathered boa and stands in the corner, swinging her little purse. We’ll see what happens. Recessions tend to make hookers of us all. It’d be nice to see an AAA title going that route, and academically interesting to see what happens.

  2. Puzzle Pirates largely does it right, too. Of course, it’s a different sort of game; no DIKU, almost entirely skill-based. Buying their microtransaction currency unlocks some gameplay, but mostly just gets you a bunch of optional and (rarely) marginally useful stuff.

  3. Ha…. you complained about his mentioning then not addressing the important “ethics” factor and then did the exact same thing.

    btw… what examples are there of the “true F2P” games? Y’all are getting your rocks off on the “no-cover-charge” version of F2P but I’m not sure it’s not the ONLY practical definition of the term…

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