Cash Shop Dreams and Nightmares (GW2)

Set off once again, the Guild Wars 2 communities are going manic over the PC Gamer article that misinterpreted ArenaNet. PC Gamer thought they heard that microtransaction dungeons were confirmed and ran that “exclusive” pigskin to the freakin’ endzone.  Except there was clearly a failure to communicate, and it turned out to be the wrong endzone. Still, all manner of speculation arose over how much allegedly game-destroying products would be for sale in the cash-shop. The biggest culprit? The terrible XP potion. (This is going to be a long one.)

An XP potion, or whatever name given to the item, gives a boost to a character to aid in the progression of things that require experience. I’ve seen some XP potions give a percentage boost for a period of time. I’ve seen some XP Potions extend the rested XP bar. I’ve seen some XP potions that just give straight XP. They are better called XP boosters.

Most of the XP boosters I have seen are not even cash shop items. They are gained by playing normally in game. Lord of the Rings Online has a mechanic to raise the rested XP bar by paying an in-game currency called destiny points. This gives the character double the XP per mob kill until the rested XP bar is filled. Warhammer Online gave Collector’s Edition players a Libram of Insight that gave a small XP boost for 2 hours per use (max. 3 uses). Finally, ArenaNet’s own Guild Wars has a swath of XP boosters as rare drops or bought at the merchants/traders. They give a large XP boost per time, but they have many different conditions on how the time is based. For example, the Scroll of Rampager’s Insight gives the party two times experience gain until the party fails to kill an enemy within [a rolling] 30 seconds.

Are Guild Wars 2 fans not even concerned with ArenaNet already bringing over the plethora of XP boosters already available? Or, is it that allowing players to spend their milk money on the XP boosters instead of in-game gold equates to slaughtering that sacred cow? Right now in Guild Wars it takes less than 5-10 minutes of activity to buy just about any one of those XP boosting scrolls. In other words, their in-game value is menial at best.

Furthermore, ArenaNet is already making character levels a variable entity in Guild Wars 2 rather than a race to godhood. For example a max level (80) character entering a level 20 event area or dungeon will have the character’s stats brought down to an approximate level. Sure, the max level character is still going to be more powerful than the up and coming level 20’s, but ArenaNet’s goal is to keep the content entertaining and challenging rather than allowing a player to close her eyes and press AoE skill buttons.

Yet, there is a slippery slope, and this is the reason I think so many are scared of cash-shop XP potions. All games begin with Progress Quest. There is an theoretical progress bar that goes from start of the task to accomplishment. Character levels requiring XP just happens to be one of the gold standards of progression in RPGs. Still, when devs speed up that progression for real money, what other progression boosters will they be willing to sacrifice to the shareholder gods? That is the scary part because ArenaNet has been pretty elusive with telling Guild Wars 2 fans what exactly are the sacred cows.

Earlier this month, Lead Designer Eric Flannum said pretty bluntly, “[w]e’ve already said what our leveling curve is like, so we’re not going to turn around now and say we changed our minds and will be selling experience potions and scrolls. We’re not going to do that.” However, in response to yesterday’s outrage ArenaNet came back to say “[a]s to whether or not there are going to be items like XP boosts available in the in game store I can only reiterate what we’ve said before (and will continue to say) that we’ll release details on it when they are available and that our core philosophy–of not requiring you to spend additional money to play the game and not making the game difficult or painful to play in order to encourage you to buy things from the store–still stands.”

This confusion and obtuse marketing speak gives many fans the impression that there are still some sacred cows staring at the nail gun. ArenaNet says they won’t make the game difficult or painful to play to get us to the cash-shop, but will they make the core mechanics of the game more fun if I drop a few bucks each game session or so? Recent NC Soft conference calls praising microtransactions and Turbine’s success in the Western MMO markets with their two flagships going cash-shop based compound the fears.

The shining light is vanity, and people are definitely talking with their wallets. Recently we learned from Valve Software that the first 5 non-Valve contributors to the Team Fortress 2 cash shop are getting their first royalty checks for two weeks of sales in the amount of about $40,000 each! That means that the three-year old online game just made over a quarter million dollars off of silly Mann hats. People are talking with their wallets. Sparkle ponies in World of Warcraft, lightsabres in Aion Online, and exclusive cloaks in Lord of the Rings Online. and albino tigers in Wizard 101 have already proven to be cash-shop money makers. Today sometime ArenaNet is also dropping two new Guild Wars costumes: the Raiment of the Lich and the Lunatic Court Finery. These are definitely the two best costumes yet for Guild Wars.

It is up to us, as customers, to show and tell ArenaNet what we want. Telling them what we don’t want is not helpful. Eric Flannum was very, very clear on this point in the above-mentioned PC Gamer article when he was quoted to say “[l]ook at what players want more of and we’re going have to release that stuff, because that’s the stuff that players are going to be willing to pay for, and that’s the stuff that’s going to make our company profitable.” If you buy the two new Guild Wars costumes, you are showing ArenaNet what you want to buy in the future. If you enunciate in a forum post the kind of things you want to see in a Guild Wars 2 cash shop, then you are telling ArenaNet what extra products you will consider. This, I guarantee, is infinitely more helpful than telling ArenaNet you will never buy XP boosters.

a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed

28 thoughts on “Cash Shop Dreams and Nightmares (GW2)”

  1. It depends on the game and the mindset if a XP potion is a viable or unfair or whatever cash shop item.

    Even when GW2 has levels, a thing I really regret… we live in a time where every game seems to become a race to max level, so levelling times will be nothing compared to years ago.
    -> People are probably still stuck in a mindset of a time when levelling really took some time.

    Regarding cash shop items: I am no friend of cash shops in general and will watch everything related to an item store with fear.

    So far (Transmutation Stones) I am quite okay with the state of things. I have seen the attack of the sparkly ponies in WoW and the Galaxy X in STO. What nobody really cared about but what really pisses me off is that non-subscribers have to unlock or rather rent fast travel in LOTRO for one hour only by Turbine Points. I hope they do this differently in Europe.

    Interesting: So far the item shop cash cows were occasional offers of sparkly ponies / tigers / whatever mounts. Dunno how much cash ArenaNet made with the costumes.

    But, pessimist as I am, I fear it won’t stop there. I also would like to point out that the price tags for various luxury mounts were totally out of whack.

    But WE, the gamers, voted with our wallets and bought them nevertheless. I did neither buy a Galaxy X nor a Sparkly Pony out of principle. But recently I bought the (IMO) supreme Excelsior cruiser in STO. Which is 1200 C-Store pts which is roughly 13 EUR… I had some pts already so did not have to pay full price, but nevertheless I agreed to a single ship/class/item being sold for 13 bucks…! I am afraid I did my share to make micro-transactions more macro. :(

  2. I’m a shameless champion of the microtransaction cause, so take this as you will, but I think you are scaremongering a little bit. There is an overwhelming sense of negativity in your language. Slaughtering sacred cows, slippery slopes, and the word ‘scary’ bandied around all too much.

    It seems where money is involved, people are entirely unable to think in a positive manner. How about the fact that we’ve yet to hear anything actually problematic being sold in the in-game store? How about recent cases proving the great profitability of microtransaction games, and the potential this model has for ArenaNet?

    No, microtransactions are all about milking a poor, helpless audience for every last penny by offering power and advantage. Obviously.

    The skepticism overwhelms me, case in point being being Eric Flannum’s statement: ArenaNet will not sell XP scrolls or potions. Mere days later the fact that he doesn’t specifically repeat that fact means it might have been total fabrication?

    I get that we gamers are generally a cynical bunch, but where money is involved that cynicism is inflated to ridiculous levels.

    1. What am I scaremongering though? The fact that there are some things that I, and the community, do not want affected by the cash-shop?

      Is pure damage a sacred cow? Are you okay with ArenaNet selling a +50% damage booster?

      This is what I feel ArenaNet is being really “cagey” about. Everybody has their own “sacred cows.” In GW2, I could care less if they sold XP boosters in the cash shop. Others do care. So people assume the worst, like you said.

      Also, I love how you gloss over the fact that “mere days later” ArenaNet completely withdraws from an earlier stated position! They go from ‘no XP boosts’ to ‘we haven’t decided about XP boosts.’ You don’t think that confuses an already upset community?

      Also, sorry you seemed to have missed my last two paragraphs, where I am on your side.

      1. “Also, I love how you gloss over the fact that “mere days later” ArenaNet completely withdraws from an earlier stated position! They go from ‘no XP boosts’ to ‘we haven’t decided about XP boosts.’ You don’t think that confuses an already upset community?”

        He went from a statement specifically about XP boosters, to answering a question about XP boosters and *other similar items*. The blanket vague response was standard strategy: Avoid commenting on anything uncertain. The fact that he didn’t single out XP scrolls again shouldn’t be seen as any kind of backtracking.

        Your last paragraph is certainly very reasonable, and I agree with your conclusion. Still, it doesn’t change negative rhetoric featured throughout the majority of the post.

        1. Oh, I think we talk about two different things. You are only talking about Eric Flannum, and I am talking about Eric Flannim in PC Gamer followed by ArenaNet (Regina) on Guru.

          I guess all posts can’t be double rainbow. I do call the community “manic”, take a jab at PC Gamer, talk about naysayers “milk money”, and so on. I don’t feel I just negatively assault microtransactions. Thank god it’s Friday though, eh? All blogger sins are forgiven.

  3. But we have to be cynical. The alternative is being a fanboy or a corporate mouthpiece and how does that help the game? How does that help the games to come? And more importantly, how does that help us?

    This is specially true when talking about microtransactions (which I also support, with some caveats). clarifying/not clarifying/whatever they’re doing… call it “communicating poorly” on this issue raises flags and those are flags that should be raised. We’ve already seen what an out of control store looks like in Allods, we’ve also seen that you can’t go nuts and sell core things your players expect to see built-in (Champions and the respecs debacle). Hell, we’ve even seen Turbine first saying “no power items in the store” and lo and behold, F2P hits and there they are. Nobody says anything, everyone forgets they ever said that.

    I’d be happy as a clam if I didn’t have to be cynical and vigilant of what they’re trying to do, but I can’t. I have to be cynical. The alternative is worse.

    1. “But we have to be cynical. The alternative is being a fanboy or a corporate mouthpiece and how does that help the game? ”

      The alternative to being cynical is being objective and reasonable.

      In a similar tone to Ravious’ last paragraph: If people spent as much time describing what they would like to see the microtransaction service offer as they do speculating on its many evils I believe ArenaNet would be getting much more useful feedback.

      1. Has asked? It’s a serious question. Have they actually gone and asked their fanbase “Guys, just what do you want to see at the store?”. Or have they gone by metrics, focus groups, etc.?

        If you’re not going to engage your playerbase in a clear and unequivocal manner, and if you’re not prepared (for whatever reason; technical, philosophical, don’t feel like it) to implement what your players want to see, then you can’t fault the playerbase for becoming reactive and cynical. It’s the natural response.

        If all you offer are tidbits, and not only that, you’re also seen as backtracking and not communicating clearly then what do you expect? The times of giving devs the benefit of the doubt are long, long gone.

        To be objective and reasonable you need information. When information is absent or unclear, cynicism – not blank checks – should be the default position. Why? Because history backs it up.

        1. “Why? Because history backs it up.”

          This is going to sound sarcastic, but please believe it’s not: What history are you speaking of? I’m really curious, because I feel like I missed the news about some evil game that’s sucking everyone’s wallets dry. I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like a jerk, sorry again…

          Anyway, here’s what I know of:

          Zynga. Well yeah, evil company that makes bad games designed to make people addicts is evil. This would be true even if their stuff didn’t have RMT/DLC and just worked off advertising revenue.

          Everyone seemed to think Allods was fine until they revealed their insane pricing structure, which was, granted, insane. Did it ever get fixed? Didn’t this blatant abuse cause the game to tank in the west? It just fell off my radar, I honestly don’t know.

          Everyone goes on and on about how terrible DDO and LotRO are, but aren’t more people playing them now than ever? Are these people just not bothered by the RMT? Are they not sophisticated enough consumers to see they’re getting bilked?

          Do we actually know how their “playerbase” is looking post F2P? Or do we just know the profits are up?

          For that matter, look at EvE – the in-game economy is impossible to disentangle from the out-of-game economy, and it works great – doesn’t it? I never hear anything bad about the economy, while the stability and cronyism…

          STO and the other games from that developer do seem to have major issues, but everything I hear about that studio echoes the idea that they’re money grubbers, who just try to churn out as many MMOs as possible to cash in on people with too much money. Again, they’d still be operating in bad faith (“evil”) if they sold an expansion pack every few months, it doesn’t have to be DLC.

          The problem with this entire DLC debate is that whether a DLC is good or bad value, a ripoff or a good faith business model is ENTIRELY down to the exact, specific context and implementation of that DLC. You could have the worst thing in the player’s imagination (hiding classes or skills behind a pay wall? Items that make you do double DPS?), but make them 10 cents a piece or stack in lots of 10,000 (for a dollar!) and suddenly there’s no real problem. It would be a lunatic design of course, but the point stands – without knowing price, availability, and everything else, we can’t even begin to have the conversation that so many forum goers have already finished in their minds.

          1. “What history are you speaking of?”

            The recent history (I’d say 4 years back) of games attempting to nickel and dime their players to death. You cite some examples.

            I don’t frame my opinions in terms of good and evil when it comes to this. I realize everyone is out to make a buck. The only two entities that come close to “evil” in my book would be the aforementioned Zynga and EA management. The rest? They’re trying to make it. Sometimes better, sometimes worse.

            I fully realize that the distance between “Hey, cool stuff” and “You’re trying to nickel and dime me” is short and entirely subjective. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, nor does it mean each person doesn’t have an internal barometer, which is different from everyone else’s, that pops every time there’s a feeling of ripoff.

            The ultimate question and preoccupation for me (and I say this as a proponent of micropayments, game stores, DLCs and the whole shebang) is the sad and increasingly depressing realization that we’re doing it wrong. We started it wrong, and save for a couple of good implementations here and there, we’ve been doing it wrong.

            Here we have this wonderful aggregation of technologies that allows us to expand our games in so many ways, but we’re still unable (or unwilling) to use it in a way which benefits those who -should- be benefiting from it, which is the players.

            Microtransactions are increasingly becoming anything but micro. We’re seeing more and more items being sold over the $5 price point and how exactly is that “micro” if we’re pairing them to $9.99 subs? Call me a communist all you want, but I’m of the opinion that if you -have- to charge over $5 for something at a game store to recoup some money then you’re either:

            a) doing it wrong, because that content should have been folded into the game from the get go to add value to it.
            b) you know exactly what you’re doing, there was never any hurdle to prevent you from folding it in, and you’re just trying to gouge people.

            Neither is good. We should be using DLC and game stores to supplement income (which is always good) and as a way to offer players small bits of ultra-tailored content for a ridiculous price to let them customize their experience. But what are we doing? Designing backwards. Prices for “micro” transactions are increasing, and sometimes nonsensical even when compared to others within the same store. We’re starting to design games for the store, instead of the store for games and that’s always disastrous.

            The allure to use this to gouge players instead of giving them more value is too strong, and you can see this in the cases of Turbine and, whom until recently were (in my opinion) doing the best job all around with their stores for GW and DDO… all of a sudden apparently forgetting how to offer reasonable, good and sensible deals in the case of Turbine, and already backtracking and stammering over how they’re planning to use their stores and what they’ll put in them (both of them).

            So I don’t think it’s about good or evil games or companies. It’s about noticing how the concept of stores and DLC, instead of getting progressively easier to accept and work with as we accumulate experience, is becoming more and more of a sticking point because they’re doing it wrong.

            I have to reiterate what I’ve been saying lately about many things: It’s 2010. If you’re not doing it right, given all the information, tools and previous experience available, it’s because you don’t want to do it right. And since it’s increasingly clear they don’t want to do it right, that’s where the cynicism comes in. At least in my case.

            There’s no reason to get these things wrong, other than wanting them wrong to begin with.

            1. Thanks for the long response, your position makes a lot more sense to me now, and it was a very interesting read.

              I still don’t really agree with you about the whole $5 price point being a major issue – given how fees and other operating costs cut into true microtransactions, it just seems unrealistic to be buying a $2 costume or vanity pet. Or, perhaps I should say that while I understand and agree with why you feel that way, my own alarms don’t go off until the DLC/Service crests about 25 bucks (like most of WoW’s “features”).

              Which brings up another issue with cash shop stuff – by its nature it’s almost always a way to support the rest of your business model through super high profit, low investment items. I.E. name changes (does it really cost blizzard 25-30 dollars to do a find/replace on their database? Don’t think so…) and recustomization.

              I think ideally what should happen, is that when a company notices that players are willing to spend a lot (too much) on things that fundamentally don’t cost much to provide, they should go ahead and charge what people are willing to spend (not what the service costs). The important part is that this easy money should then be reinvested back into the game, in the form of free updates and better expansions. The real problem for me isn’t making huge profits on costumes or gender changes – it’s when a company just lines their pockets with those huge profits.

              The problem is, from our standpoint as consumers we can’t really know whether a given company is operating in good faith in this regard – we simply don’t have access to enough information to make that decision. So as you say, at some point you just have to rely on your personal barometer, and make a guess as to whether the 10 bucks you spend on this costume is going to go towards buying the CEO a new car, or if it’s being reinvested in the product – basically the company needs to prove to you that they support the game well enough to make the DLC prices feel fair.

              I think ANet’s record with GW has been quite good in this regard, and has only improved over time, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, even when they make the kind of PR missteps we’ve seen of late. I’d even say WoW has done a pretty good job in this area, but as you say, it starts to feel like a cash grab when you’re already charging a subscription fee, and then start raking in truly enormous profits on top of that, without really having a big increase in support to show for it.

  4. An excellent article, sir.

    I can’t say microtransactions ever weigh heavily on my mind, but your conclusion is certainly the right one.

    I don’t really have many sacred cows myself – gear stronger than max stats & microtransaction development at the the detriment of game development are the only two that spring to mind – AFTER a subscription is off the table; subscription games are pretty much encircled by sacred cows in my mind.
    Elderly sacred cows, with weak hearts and ominous sniffles…

  5. I am ok with cosmetic features sold as microtransactions: costumes, a different weapon/armor skin, etc. I am even ok with +50% dmg as long as the game is balanced for the players not using them. If the game is balanced with consideration to selling items that boost the players’ power, then the game becomes difficult and painful to play without the microtransactions occurring with regular frequency. Congratulations, you built a subscription based game without calling it that.

  6. My sacred cows:

    1) Gear or stats available in a cash shop that gives a paying player a significant advantage over a non-paying player. Even 10% advantage would be borderline. Caveat: I can just about accept speeding up the process of getting the stat if there are conceivable ways to achieve it not-paying, if the stat is capped at a point which already can be exceeded through in-game means, and the stat is not too significant to begin with.

    2) Game design that forces a player to purchase from the cash shop in order to feel or stay competitive or even worse, back to normal baseline. Cue things like a heavy penalty on death, and needing a cash-based item to remove the penalty (or face an hour of non-function), etc.

    XP boosters fall in between the grey line of acceptable or 2). It depends on the game. In a game where level impacts on so many things, like WoW, where a level 50 (not even talking max level) squishes a level 1, I dislike the concept of XP boosters there. I’m not even fond of WoW encouraging in-game twinking with heirloom armor. But you know, it seems to happen anyway, this desire to speed progress.

    In the case of a game like Guild Wars, where level 20 is so close to reach unboosted anyway, the idea is less bothersome to me. Come to think of it, even Global Agenda sells a cash xp booster, and I just shrug it off.

    Perhaps the key is whether those boosted players will impact me in my gameplay.

    In WoW, I can just about predict that boosting will become an accepted norm, and anyone who doesn’t will be derided as a noob. In GW, since I mostly solo with HH, I could care less whether somebody else would scream at me for having an under-optimised build or hero team (I hear this does happen when people try and team up in GW, which makes any paid xp boost in GW2 scary to consider.) In GA, I play at my own pace and am auto grouped with others of the same level, I could care less if a vet boosted himself out of my level range in a hurry. Shoo, go play with others like yourself. Everyone will be happier. :)

    Stuff I’ll pay for:
    1) Vanity costume items whose look appeals to me (given sufficient chance to show it off in-game)

    2) Additional gameplay content that is reasonably priced and value for money. I don’t know if I would have bought the bonus mission pack at $9.99, I got it free by buying other stuff at the store. For the storyline continuity, I might have. $20-30 for a full-on expansion is fine. $2-$5 for a dungeon-sized (2-5 levels) addition is okay. Charge me $10-15 for a dungeon and it better be about half the size of the Mines of Moria (which is available at $30) and chock full of quests and things to do.

    1. To be blunt, I find that most of the people in GW who scream about under-optimised builds lack imagination. “I’ve decided this is the RIGHT way to play, and basically want a human-powered henchman to do my bidding”.

      In practice, most “badness” comes down to poor tactics or not sticking with the team. If you can’t explain in a line or two why *that* skill really doesn’t fit with *this* skillbar, the build probably isn’t that bad and what will matter far more is how effective the player is.

      On cash shops and GW2, I suspect the truth is that ANet is still playing with ideas. To them, the cash shop is NOT core content, so they’re still mucking about with what it might or might not contain. Thus the evasive answers, because they’d much rather talk about the game rather than manage nerd-rage about that little box over in the corner.

      OK, so people are concerned that the little box might take over the game. At this point, we need to have a good hard look at what the unspoken objections are:

      (1) selling power. The game-breakers here are (a) you need to buy boosters to make the game “playable” or (b) some people have access to better stuff than others. (b) only really matters in PvP, and we know nothing about that yet. So far, the only concrete stuff we have on this yet is the example of GW1, which went out of its way to put a hard power cap so that the primary differentiator was player skill.

      Note that “selling power” has a mirror issue: grinding power. It’s no more “equitable” that the game mechanically rewards hardcore players who are time-rich than those who want to get as much gameplay as possible for their 5-6 hours a week.

      (2) nickel-and-diming: this is where “the price” is not actually what you pay, and the game keeps asking you to “feed the slot” in order to actually do anything. Again, I don’t see any evidence of this.

      I’ve not, thus far, seen any evidence that ANet is planning either of these things.

      1. Your 1(b) – some people having access to better stuff than others – matters a great deal more in PvE than most people give it credit for when these discussions come up.

        For myself, I don’t give a tenth of a rat’s tail if you “need” to buy [hypothetical item] to be competitive in PvP; I *do* care if you “need” to buy [other hypothetical item] to be able to get a spot in a group for [hypothetical late-game content].

        1. You might be right. At that point, 1b and 1a have essentially collapsed into each other.

          In many ways, a relatively low “absolute maximum” (such as GW 1) helps on this. You can spend time acquiring it*, or you can buy it directly, but neither case gives you an “unfair” advantage.

          * deliberately avoiding using the word “earn”.

          What can be done is “awards” – cosmetic stuff. Having different, non-interchangeable awards for achievement and purchase provides options for both paths without stepping on each others toes.

          A low power cap also avoids precisely the sort of snobbishness mentioned by Pardoz. If “item X” is effectively mandatory but not relatively easily available (without real-money purchase or excessive grind), then there’s a 1a problem. Otherwise, it’s a matter of finding groups who accept that there’s more than “one true way” to do things.

          Question: do “do this exact pattern X time” style bosses exacerbate this “one right way” problem? In GW, I notice several missions or bosses require tricks, but it’s notable that almost every player I team with has a different trick.

          1. Honestly I’m not sure One True Wayism can be avoided (at least when PuGging), whether the OTW be people who insist one slavishly copy the “correct” build from PvXWiki or insist one demonstrate a WoW Gearpeen this >< long – at least with the GW approach, "correcting" one's build generally doesn't take more than a minute or two, compared to grinding tokens or rare drops.

            Whether "repeat the exact dance steps N times" style encounters exacerbate the problem is an interesting question, but none of the games I've played to serious levels – GW, LotRO (up through mid/late Moria – things may have changed since I quit), EQ2, CoX – had such encounters, so I really can't say from experience. Intuitively one would suspect that ORWism would be encouraged if there really *is* a One Right Way, though.

  7. Why do people complain about xp potions in the first place? It isnt the potion that is ruining your enjoyment, its the horrendous grind and lack of content that makes you want to buy it. ArenaNet has already established and mentioned that this game wont be something that you grind to death. Yet one ignorant jump the gun reporter has taken all you fans believe to be true and dissolved it. Love the game? Have some faith for flips sake. Nearly 6 years ago you know what was popular with MMOs? 15 dollar subscriptions. ArenaNet didn’t jump on that boat. Micro transactions are popular now, well Arena Net has been doing that the right way for years with steady profits. Breath, think logically, and dont buy into anything you read without confirming sources. Period.

  8. One of the worst things about all this (if not the worst), and I’m talking about everyone, not just, is that everyone knows there is quite a bit of stuff that players, in general, don’t like to see for sale at the store. We know it, the devs know it, management knows it (or they better f’ing know it), marketing knows it. Everybody knows there is a lot of stuff players in general have problems with. Everybody knows there are some elements which become huge sticking points that can make or break the store in the players’ minds.

    These things change a little from person to person, like Soylent Green, but we generally know that:

    – Most players (in the west, at least) have huge problems with power items being up for sale.
    – Most players have huge problems seeing stuff up in the store that they consider it should’ve been folded into the game.
    – Most players have huge problems with inconsistent pricing.

    And so on. There are differences, and this is subjective, but it exists. There is a common set of things players have problems with when they see them for sale in the store.

    So what do we do? What have we been doing? Have we kept those problem things away from the store in order to please our customers (shocking concept, I know)? Have we directly engaged our players, asking them precisely and exactly what they want to see at the store? Or have we told them, truthfully and in detail what we’re planning to offer, so they can tell us if there’s a problem?

    Hell no. We go ahead and build up these stores, in some cases massacring the existing design just to put more things up there. It doesn’t matter if those things should be there, if it makes sense for them to be there or if they cause problems with our players. No, screw it. It’s not about the most appropriate things to sell. It’s not what players want. It’s about tossing more stuff up there and let’s see what sticks.

    And of course then act all surprised when players get upset about the store. And call the playerbase cynical.

    1. But what is “most players”?

      Understand, I agree with you for the most part, but I also think the comment by ANet in response to this – “we’ll put what people want in the store” – is illuminating. Unfortunately, What People Will Buy is much more important than What People Won’t Like.

      If 60 % of your playerbase hates power items for cash, but 40% of them love them, do you offer them or not? How about if it’s 70-30? And just because you have power items for cash doesn’t mean you NEED to make those the best items in the game, ruining the design to motivate people to spend money. You’d still make a ton of profit just from the people who want a shortcut buying those items.

      The point I’m trying to ramble around to is that while for us, the hardcore, forum- and blog-using MMO intelligentsia, it might be complete common sense that things like power items don’t belong in the item store, if you look at the casual population as a whole, is that really the case?

      Frankly the idea that design should always trump economics in games, while perhaps true many years ago, is simply not the case anymore. I think gaming has become mainstream enough that wanting a “pure design” game that really places emphasis on the quality of design over financial concerns puts you solidly in niche territory – basically every AAA game is a summer blockbuster now, and if you want to play a game unsullied by commercial considerations you need to go to the indy and boutique developers.

      Anyway, sorry if this is rambling, my fever is returning, methinks. As always, I really like your posts Julian, I hope you don’t take my responses the wrong way, I’m not trying to argue with you so much as just flesh out my own opinion in how it differs from yours (or doesn’t).

  9. “I hope you don’t take my responses the wrong way”

    I didn’t. No worries. I like debating ;) Even if you were trying to argue with me I wouldn’t mind. Makes for good conversation.

    1. Heh. Normally I don’t bother offering such a caveat to begin with, since I have no problem with arguing and debating folks if I think a point needs to be explored more (I don’t even need to feel that I’m right or the other person is wrong, just that it’s interesting).

      I think the point I was trying to make through my feverish delusions was that I found my own post strangely directionless – that my response was sort of half-agreeing with you, but not, but maybe…

      Confused about what I myself was trying to say, I think I tried to write something along the lines of “Why am I writing something that’s not really a response, and not really a spun-off topic, but…” and it came out “I’m not even arguing, what’s going on??? Let me sleep now!” :)

  10. @sisphean: Well, crap I meant to reply in the same sub-thread or whatever it’s called, but anyway…

    I’m not arguing to return to the “Design is Law” times. And I don’t buy that it’s design XOR success. I don’t think for a second that somewhere in this whole thing it’s all tied to a zero sum slider where it’s design, crash and burn or mainstream success, moneys and the like all done with crap.

    I’m not even saying “stop innovating with the stores”, or “there’s only so many things you can do with it”. All I’m saying is that we’ve got enough examples already of bad things and concepts put up there, so it’s probably time to stop making the same mistake yet again. By all means, keep going forward. Explore new concepts. Make other mistakes. Expand. But we know power items and the like are a sticking point, why even put it there? Why even try, once again, to generate problems?

    1. Wouldn’t it just be super if the MMO industry developed a collective ability to learn from past mistakes? :P

      You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but it just keeps. Happening. Over. And. Over…

  11. Hello all

    Ahh the Cash store how we love to hate it.

    My take on this is as follows.

    The cash store in my humble opinion makes developers Lazy most games that have this implumented have lacking depth in thier games and purely rely on the public to buy this and that to booste thier proffits.

    Now there are exceptions to the rule. GW1 had a cash store that i didnt know about and i played all the expansions and the main game without any needing the store. (might have been useful to have an extra few charactor slotts at one stage.

    What I say is this , Please Please only leave chas stores for vanity items and exclusive mounts nothing else.

    I would much rather pay for a monthly sescription of 15$ then have content only added by a cash store.

    Personly when i buy a game i like to have all the content in that game without having to pay for things in a cash store. I stopped playing LOTRO after 3 years because of this and i think most people are the same . We dont ming paying for expansions and the accasional vanity item but we would perfer to have all content in the game not on cash stores.

    p.s ( sorry about the bad spelling and grammar.)

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