(or how I learned to stop worrying and love RMT)
This is a complete 180. Yup. Yessiree. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It came to me as an epiphany. No, I didn’t have to bang my head on the toilet and come up with a flux capacitor. But it was close.
I, like many many others, used to be quite opposed to RMT in more or less venomous terms depending on the situation and the company. I never hated the concept in itself, but I did have a lot of mistrust built up towards it. Years and years of seeing systems used and abused by the userbase will make one a cynic about promises of rainbows and pots with gold. That’s how it is.
But now? I saw the light, one might say. RMT is an inevitability, that’s where we’re heading. I knew this, but I also knew I didn’t have to like it. However, that changed. Count me in. I’ve seen the future, and it’s lined with silver thread. RMT is good, if you design around it well. I am now a firm proponent of RMT. How? Why? Read on.
Ask around your guild, or your gaming friends. Hell, if you feel adventurous enough, ask in the forums of your addiction of choice. What is the main concern we as gamers have regarding RMT? What’s the most common answer? The one we shoot from the hip with?
“I don’t like RMT because the game then turns into who has the most real money to spend on it. I don’t want real money to enter the picture and give some people better performance than others, just depending on how much they spend.”
The answer might change a bit in the wording, but the sentiment is the same. That’s what we think of, collectively and almost instinctively, when we hear RMT. I mean, if players that have vast amounts of time to hardcore it up in any game are bad enough (in the eyes of the general, more casual playerbase at least), imagine what they can do if we give them the tools to amplify their performance even more by being able to buy more powerful gear, better potions, more advantages and all that jazz.
I think it’s a valid concern. However, I’m also here to tell you about my epiphany, and how RMT doesn’t have to be related to any of that.
What’s the answer, then? Let them buy fluff. I mean, if you think about it, it does have a ring of being so utterly obvious… “If the main resistance to RMT is giving players the ability to increase performance with money, then the solution is not to never apply RMT altogether. The solution is to unlink performance from RMT”. Problem solved? Possibly.
The situation: Devs (or publishers, rather, in most cases) want more money. However, letting players buy their gear and items would give some people an advantage over others, using an element that’s not strictly game related, and that creates a really nasty vibe with the community. The solution is to still take those players’ money (after all, if they’re willing to spend it, we should be willing to take it), but not to let “performance” or “advantage” enter the picture at all.
An example: One of the most common and most desperate cries of the way too often underestimated and ignored Roleplaying micro-communities in your games of choice is that they’re simply not given enough tools with which to play the game the way they like to play it. Common bullet points? “Not enough fluff items”, “Not enough RP clothes”, “Not enough emotes/character actions”, “Not enough props”. Of course we can’t, under common player wisdom, introduce RMT to let people acquire ‘power’ items because it’d be bad(tm). But if we let people buy fluff items, then who cares? Where’s the damage? There’s no gain of performance and there’s no undue advantage obtained there.
Player housing? Sure, let’s include basic player housing since it’s always demanded. That ships with the game (ideally!). Every player that plays the game, just for being a regular paying sub, has the right and the priviledge of being able to own his own game house. That’s not in discussion. But that’s also where the rights stop – the houses come unfurnished. You want furniture? RMT for it, honey. Look, here we have the most basic, rustic collection of furniture for your dwelling. It all blends together, see? Cracking fireplace, bear rug, rustic chairs and charming wooden table. Get the set at the game store for only a dollar.
What’s that? Your character is a noble and doesn’t really go for the stuff the unwashed mobs of the realm go? No matter! Look, here we have the castle set. Now we’re talking! Get your stone walls, long dinner table and chairs (candles included), fine art to hang on the walls and a regal bed to die for. Only five dollars at the game store!
Not enough for ya? You want the absolutely top of the line collection? You wanna have a place to really impress your online friends and roleplay it up like the jet set every night? Then look no further than our “designer collection”, full of luxury items. No modern home can afford to exist without the style these props drip. We’re pimping your player house, one dollar at a time, and this deluxe set of awesomeness costs only ten of those dollars I know you’re just dying to give us.
Why stop there? Sure, let mobs drop useful gear if you want to. But if you wanna look good, then look no further than designer clothing (with no stats or benefits), available only at our game store. We also have the latest in jewelry and accessories, fine clothing for men, formal occasions. We also have a pet store a mile wide, specialty ales and wines and select dyes for your clothing… and all these in-game stores will gladly take your real money!
The sky is the limit. Wanna change your avatar’s haircut? One real dollar gives you a token to drop by your favorite in-game NPC barbershop – complete with quartet – to get that poor pixelated bastard feeling good about himself again. If the setting allows, you can also get plastic surgery: a complete makeover of your avatar’s appearance. The token for that is only worth ten clams at the store.
And so on.
At no point in the examples above any player gained any measurable, by the numbers increase in performance over another. At no point any item was acquired that gave one player a game advantage over another. Performance was not touched. At all. Yet the money comes rolling in anyway. And that’s the epiphany: Widespread opposition to RMT is not about RMT itself, but what RMT usually sells. What, you think people wouldn’t fork over real cash for items that really have no tangible, measurable, actual in-game performance? Think again. Need I mention Second Life? Habbo Hotel? All the other games/apps that swim under the surface of our AAA gaming, which have userbases the likes of which any of the big guys would kill for?
Repeat after me: It’s not about RMT. It’s what we sell with it. Start selling them fluff… fill that market need for fluff… and you’ll see even the most stalwart of RMT detractors quickly switch their tune, for the simple reason that there’s nothing to complain about anymore. I changed my tune, and I don’t mind admitting it at all. Bring me RMT for fluff please, and keep it out of performance. Everybody wins.