Redefining Value

I have changed my mind completely. For most people, MMOs are horrible entertainment value for their cost. This is by design: the mechanics stretch the content across the maximum time possible, rather than deliver the fun in the most efficient and effective way. The money cost is cents per hour, but the time cost per entertainment unit is far larger than in other forms of entertainment.

My marginal cost per book read is approximately $0 plus however many hours it takes to read the book. I have a library, I have an internet full of public domain classics, and I get some free review copies: I could read for my entire life without paying a dollar. Even if I bought every book, though, the major cost would be the time spent reading. I promise you that it takes me less time to earn the money for a paperback than it does to read it. When I decide if a book was “worth it,” I mean worth the time spent reading it. If the author engages in self-indulgent rambling and/or takes 1000 pages when he has only 200 pages of story, more than half my time was wasted, when I could have been reading something where every page was worthwhile.

Sometimes, I am in the mood for that ramble. Maybe I really like that author’s style, or I want to see how she fits the world together. Some people would have been quite happy for Twilight to last another 1000 pages, even without more content, just so they could spend more time with Edward Cullen. And if you are the equivalent of that for MMOs, if you really do like repeating farm-status raids three times a week, killing ten thousand rats, or otherwise repeating the same task a hundred times to get a +1 on your character sheet, great: almost the entire MMO industry is designed for you. Hey, sometimes you want mindless repetition.

Increasingly, I do not want to crawl through barbed wire for my entertainment or spend an hour wringing the drops of fun from the latest time sponge. This does not mean that entertainment cannot be challenging or that everything must be spoon-fed. It means no filler. Most of the spoon-fed content has a lot of filler anyway, and the last thing I need is to spend a lot of time wallowing in the relative depths of an intellectual thimble.

As the first three examples that come to mind, Portal is therefore one of the most time-to-entertainment efficient games ever, Frantic is similarly rewarding, and The Lord of the Rings Online™ Volume Two: Mines of Moria™ does a great job with worthwhile 50-60 content that moves at a good clip. Mines of Moria™ does that one better, having a post-60 game that is the nigh-endless grind for those who really like that kind of thing

I am willing to pay twice as much if you can deliver the same value in half the time.

: Zubon

12 thoughts on “Redefining Value”

  1. “The money cost is cents per hour, but the time cost per entertainment unit is far larger than in other forms of entertainment.”

    You should make a whole series of posts on this. I hate when devs claim the subscription is worth it inherently, and then go on to note the cost of Starbucks or a movie ticket.

  2. Ah.. revelation! Sadly, I have been arguing about payment options for so long to be the equalizer for the lack of content. I have accepted the repetitive grind as the only locked down core mechanic for existing (and upcoming) MMO’s – so was trying to define my “value” of playing them through monetization options instead of fixing the core problem to being with.

  3. The reason why grinds exist is because its next to impossible for developers to create content faster than the players ability to outstrip it. Not in any way and remain profitable, even if they doubled subscription fees.

    It’s just not possible in a PvE game. Even in a PvP game it gets old really quickly, and in a way its worse because of balancing issues and dev nerfs.

    Unless you want all MMOs to become PvP or FPS one where the core mechanic is all that drives people to play as opposed to story or experiences, I can’t see this being good.

  4. Dblade, that’s why you really need to come up with a way to make players *be* the content.

    I still get more for my money out of single player (time unlimited) games, or Guild Wars. I can’t help but think the whole “the game starts at 60+” mentality is killing the genre, precisely because of this notion of suffering for deferred fun.

  5. Exactly. If I want mindless, well, there are lots of free games out there. If I have more time to kill, I mean spend effectively towards gaining entertainment, I will hop on Kongregate and see what the latest 3-star or greater rated game is, or bang my head against the (free) brick wall that is the latest GemCraft.

    I only pay for quality these days, not timesinks with other people in.

  6. Aaron, very nice.

    My take-away has been that getting burned out and quitting is a good thing we should look forward to, rather than even wanting a game that will sustain us for 20 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for years on end.

    You get to the end of KOTOR or Planescape, and then you do something else.

  7. Then don’t play MMO’s, because it sounds like you all are completely burnt out on them. Go play something like Second Life, where it’s all “quality” with no grinding aspect or things you consider filler at all. Or go play online FPS, which get you into the game with none of the hassles MMO’s bring. Because there will always be filler of some type.

    You should ask yourselves what exactly do you want out of MMO’s specifically. It sounds to me like you want them to be offline games.

  8. I think that developers have to pick one camp and stay with it – are you making a good single-player game, or a good multiplayer game? EVE has done this, and the single-player aspect of it is horrendous. Still, it has consistently grown over its history…

    but it’s still not as successful as the ultimate single player MMO, which is WoW. WoW is one big grindfest that can be played solo for the entirety of the game. What’s comical is that at the end of this game is a large multi-player end game. That’s funny since you didn’t have to group up to succeed before, but once you cap out the only thing left to do is join in on the grouping.

  9. Ironically, I just said something like this to a friend last night. (Context: We’re members of a medium-sized group of RL friends who all cancelled our AoC accounts in the last month.) “MMOs are great value for your money, if you actually enjoy the gameplay. You can get hours of entertainment for a relatively small fee. They’re very expensive in terms of time, however.”

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