Time Value

Item shops have done us the great service of asking, “How little do you value your time?” Putting a dollar value on what you are grinding for establishes that yes, you really are willing to do something you don’t especially enjoy for a reward worth a few cents per hour.

I mentioned League of Legends referrals lately. For each person who gets to level 5, you receive a 4-game IP boost (cost $2.23, although given the exchange between RP and IP, the value is about $1.00, so I assume people tend not to but those), and at 10 referrals, you get a free champion ($7.50). So a referral is worth about $1, maybe $2 if you can get 10 of them. You should put more effort into getting a free taco. Ah, but here is where it gets fun: people make multiple accounts and refer themselves to get the free champion. How long does it take to get to level 5? Not too long, I’m sure, and playing a few rounds of very low level LoL might even be fun, but people are going through that effort for the equivalent of $2.

See also: entering contests and drawings, where you can computer what fraction of a cent your expected value is. If you drive somewhere to pick up your lottery numbers, the gas you burned was probably worth more than the expected value of the ticket.

: Zubon

Item shops also helpfully raise the question of why you are paying to play a game where, given the option, you might pay to avoid playing (parts of?) the game.

10 thoughts on “Time Value”

  1. I think we’ll definitely see this in Diablo 3. Lots of people are going to put a lot of time into this for a very small cash return.

    1. I’m also expecting lots of people paying a ton of cash to skip most of the game (buying a near-maxed character).

      RMT does a lot of things, but chief among them is to display just how silly gamers can be.

  2. Agreed on item shops helping us to question the value of our time as related to our dollars, and if we enjoy the activity of playing the game itself, aka “but is it fun?”

    I sat around calculating Spiral Knights various item costs to see if they were sane prices before I paid RL money for their in-game currency of Energy.

    Turns out 10 energy was approximately equivalent to 3 cents, or one floor’s worth of gameplay, whereas 4 or 5 tier equipment were about $1.50 – $3.00 each. Which seemed sane enough to commit for me, personally.

    I wonder if your LoL example is entirely relevant though. For people who enjoy playing LoL, even at low level, they could see it as being paid a bonus of $2 for doing something they would have done anyway for free. Of course if they don’t like doing the activity, then they really should be questioning if it’s worth the effort.

    Certainly one thing that will happen more often as item shops become more commonplace is the in-game trade of goods/services between those who have no money but plenty of time (eg. younger kids with a limited allowance) and those who have money and too little time (eg. those who are obliged to keep a regular job IRL). Which can only be a good thing as both parties have a reason to keep playing the same game.

    It may lead to increased burn out for those who force themselves to grind something they don’t enjoy, especially for an extrinsic reward, the consideration of which does a number on intrinsic motivation factors like ‘fun.’

    And as mean as it sounds, a gamer population that slowly becomes more educated (through hard knocks, burnout or otherwise) as to what they like or don’t like, what they will, or won’t put up with… can only be a good thing in the long run.

    1. Even better if we allow those people to trade with each other (ala Diablo III) and take a cut. If only they didn’t use that as an excuse to disable offline play.

  3. You pre-empt my inevitable objection to your thesis with the link to the previous discussion on good and bad grind, so I’ll leave that aside.

    Instead let me throw this into the ring: many people gain satisfaction from saving money, even when the actual saving is negligible or even imaginary. The example usually quoted is of the driver who spends more on the fuel he uses to drive to the cheaper filling station than he saves on the fuel he buys when he gets there.

    Prior to the introduction of cash shops players had a simple choice; grind or go without. The point at which “grind” passed the point at which it could be said to be “worthwhile” was somewhat nebulous. Putting an actual monetary value on items or services within a game could be said to offer an objective scale for grinding.

    If grinding “saves” you $5.00 it might seem more attractive than it did when it saved you nothing but just lost you time.

  4. Item shops where not the only one to raise that question, it came up the first time people used bots to level their character. If you rather let a program play the game you paid a subscription for, what does that say about the entertainment value of the game?

  5. It all boils down to time. For instance, I am a diehard Team Fortress 2 fan. When Deus Ex: Human Revolutions was available for pre-order on Steam, a week from launch they introduces 8 Deus-Ex themed items on the store. One of them was The Machina, this kick-ass new sniper rifle that did 15% more damage and could go through someone to hit another player behind him. I had already ordered Deus Ex on the Xbox 360, so I didn’t want to dole out another $44.99 for one stupid rifle. The rifle itself was in the Mann Co. store for $1.99. After trying my luck for about a half hour on the trade servers, I gave up and simply bought it, because it was a clear case of time vs. money, and $2 was simply not enough money to spend hours on trade servers trying to acquire the item!

  6. Great post in general, but I especially agree with the final point: If your game is such a chore that I want to pay to play less of it, then there’s really something wrong.

    I’ll happily admit, I’m a snob in many ways. In my hobbies I strive to be an aficionado – I try to understand what goes into making the things I enjoy, what makes a given product good or bad, and I focus my money and attention on products that are high quality.

    Personally I’d rather spend up front money on a game which is designed flawlessly, rather than play (even for free) a game which has been designed to be just slightly bad – in a way you can circumvent by paying, of course.

    I mean, there are so many astounding games that you can support which don’t hamstring your experience in this way. I don’t see why I wouldn’t give them my money, rather than rewarding some F2P game for making a purposefully flawed experience.

    Not to be too judgmental about how others spend their time. Sure, I play TF2 and LoL because friends play, and I have a ton of fun – they’re both truly excellent games 98% of the time. But whenever I hit one of those 2% spots – like when new items come out in TF2 – I just can’t bring myself to drop 5 or 10 bucks on those items, when I could use that money to buy Bastion or Rock of Ages or what have you.

Comments are closed.