Context in the Time of Microtransactions

It was inevitable: someone disagreed with my opinion that the Mercenary Heroes microtransactions were “fairly priced.” If it ended there, I would have no legs to stand on. Value, especially value of entertainment purchases, is highly subjective. Yet, there are so many objective criteria one can use to argue the microtransaction in to a lighter or darker shade of valued gray. The worst criteria to use is the core price.

The core price mechanism in MMO is generally either content pack (buy-the-box), subscription, or free. Content pack as a basis for the core price is found in Guild Wars and Wizard 101. Subscription-based MMOs are exemplified by World of Warcraft and the darling Rift, and take any pick of free MMOs, like Vindictus. Each of those has a core value, but it can widely differ. For instance, I find Rift’s frenetic update pace to well worthwhile the subscription cost while I do not find World of Warcraft’s subscription fee to have the same value. (As a tangent for another day, this will effect the value of underlying microtransactions.)

Whatever the case may be, the core inherently will have the highest value. It’s engineered that way because most importantly the game developers want players to buy and play their games. Compared to all the non-essential items, the essential core will have a value that blows the extras away. Look at Guild Wars with about 35 armor sets in the core (3 campaigns + expansion) and compare that to a $7.00 costume. The bottom line is the core is a statistical outlier in terms of placing a value on microtransactions.

Good objective talking points are comparisons to similar microtransactions, both in the same game and out. How much use the microtransaction gives is another good benchmark. I would also say nods to minimum wage are fair game. Just stay away from the core, it’s deceivingly shiny.

they now have their own crowned goddess

10 thoughts on “Context in the Time of Microtransactions”

  1. Well, I agree to the guy who said on Twitter that the Mercenary Pack (aka 8 custom hero slots) is highly overpriced.

    You are talking about “Comps”.
    Dusty Monk wrote about that: “Virtual Goods Pricing – In the Land of No Comps”: “A comp is a “comparable product”, and it’s used to gauge everything about the likelihood of success for a new endeavor – from feature set, to how many they think the market will bear to – oh yes – asking price.”

    Be it LOTRO, WoW, whatever – we have seen what people are willing to pay for virtual horses. I already said it before, I could rather afford 5 more subscription MMOs than 1 more F2P MMO.

    Because the prices for many things tend to be rather high.
    GW is still the best bang for the buck I ever had, even with the flood of costume sales and mercenary stuff by now.

    I bought the Merc pack for 34,99 EUR. Basically, I agreed to the price. But I can’t help and think that for what I got it was really expensive. And sometimes I wonder if I should not say NO instead of supporting this trend to massive overpricing of less and less virtual stuff we get for our money.

    1. The high end merc pack is a straight up luxury item though. Just like a sparkle pony or expensive TF2 hat, what you did was reinforce the notion that luxury items are salable.

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing for MMOs to sell some unnecessary items for the masses and some for the hardcore fans willing to shell out more.

  2. while its nice to think that you can’t depend on the “core price mechanism” to determine value, because it is the “worst criteria”, it is the only criteria we have beyond “can I waste money on this?” I think its ridiculous to charge a large fee for a skin. A single skin costs 7 dollars?

    I’d like to see the actual cost to make and implement versus the profit. I’m more than happy to see costs covered, and a reasonable profit made. In the case of the sparkle pony for instance, WoW is already operating at a profit i would have to assume, so charging that much for a skin seems highly unreasonable.

    As far as content goes it is a big price gouge for gw. I am more willing to forgive them since they no longer have any other sources of revenue, therefore a whole other story.

    My real concerns lie with how much money they might make if prices were lower. Someone who jumps into gw because they don’t want to pay a monthly fee seems less likely to pay 7-10 bucks for options they can get in game.

    Comparing to other games, or at least the only other cash shop game i’ve spent money in, Runes of Magic, makes gw seem a bit over priced as well. I had a huge range of looks to choose from, skin wise, in runes of magic, and I could potentially look the way I wanted for around a couple bucks.

    1. What about the fact you got WiK, Hearts in the North, Embark Beach, and will be getting WoC for free?

      I know that I will normally tip more if I get some free dishes at a restaurant. Is this so different? Plus you get a cool skin.

      1. I bought costumes to fund those. The merc pack… I bought it from a sense of love and obligation to support GW2. I’ve never actually used the mercs tho.

  3. The problem with GW’s cash shop is they price stuff about two to four times what they should, and lose far more money than if they’d price stuff reasonably. There is nothing ‘micro’ about ArenaNet’s cash shop. It is pretty bad when many of the F2P cash shop heavy games have better value than what ArenaNet offers.

    Storage panes should be $2.50 (if bought in a 4-pack). But $10 each? No way. Everyone I know says the same thing, they’d have bought 4 if they were $2.50 each, but will never buy any at the current price.

    Same with additional character slots and Mercs, priced at twice what they should be. Ditto costumes.

    I’d really like to throw some money ArenaNet’s way to help support the game. But look what $10 will buy on Steam or (2 to 4 entire games sometimes), compared to the value in GW’s cash shop… not very good. Most of my money that would have gone to ArenaNet instead went to Steam and GoG, like almost everyone else I know.

    1. I agree with you. I too think that they did a poor job at making pricing meet the demand, the basic rule in defining prices for products. They would probably make more money in the end if their products were cheaper. In my guild for example, one guy got the full merc hero pack. If the prices were only half or a third of what they are, it would’ve probably been 5-10 guys, earning ArenaNet more money in the end.

      If I take a look on European forums (Americans are generally a bit less discriminating with game cash shops, but still far more than east Asians, as far as consumer studies say) a lot of of people think the same. Since the biggest fanbase of GW is situated in Germany ( – pretty old I know, but I don’t think that much has changed since then) I think lowering their prices could get them more money in the end. Seeing the reactions in the forums when they had the (time-limited) half-prized storage panels makes me think that even more.

    2. Well said, I believe you are right they would make more cash and have happier customers as well.

  4. GW gets my money on things like costumes.

    It doesn’t get my money for bank slots (even though, ratpack that I am, I desperately want them), or mercenary heroes (which I don’t care about).

    But GW gets my money very much because they have my goodwill.

    That being said, I do think their prices are a little high for some things (like those mentioned above).

    If GW didn’t have my goodwill, if I were just starting to play, rather than having played for 2 years now, I very much doubt I’d drop the cash on their items that I don’t mind spending for account-wide costumes.

Comments are closed.