Expensive Means Rare, Rare Means Powerful, Therefore P2W

Dawn of the Dragons had a rather exceptional developer post that circuitously but explicitly said they were planning to balance content by making powerful things more expensive. It has always implicit that you buy power, as in many cash shop-supported games, but the circumstances and the PR-speak involved surprised me.

DotD has always had a lottery and recently added lockboxes. Lockboxes were somewhat controversial, even if they were functionally almost identical to the existing lottery. Notably, the lockboxes contained some rather powerful equipment, as you might expect from a cash shop lottery, particularly a “premium general,” which non-DotD players can understand as “powerful pet.” Premium generals have a special place in the game’s power curve, and this one was only available through the lockbox lottery.

The developers responded to controversy. The line of argumentation was roughly my title above, although replace “P2W” with “it’s okay.” Gamers generally accept that rare = powerful, so they are going to make this powerful thing rare by making it really expensive. They originally did that by making it a 1% chance in a cash shop lottery, and soon they will make it available as a double-priced cash shop premium general.

They presented this as “everyone wins,” and as near as I can tell, players largely accepted that. The lockboxes stayed, just as before. The expensive premium general will not be nerfed. They are taking the opportunity to let the players just pay them directly, in addition to the lottery. More options for the players, more money for the developers, and they promised to be willing to take more money like this in the future. Tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems to have reduced the controversy from the original lockbox release while keeping the lockboxes and adding cash shop revenue.

That’s a PR coup. Find out who was behind it and recruit him/her to your AAA game.

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Expensive Means Rare, Rare Means Powerful, Therefore P2W”

  1. It’s a PR coup only because it’s objectively true. Everyone does win. Well, all the players do.

    If you wanted the Premium General and were happy with the previous system nothing has changed. Keep opening your lockboxes and hoping he’s inside.

    If you wanted the Premium General and were unhappy with the previous system now you have an alternative. Get your credit card out.

    If you weren’t interested in the Premium General before you can carry on along your merry way, shaking your head in a tolerant and amused fashion at those with a less steely will than your own.

    If you don’t like any of those options but don’t find the situation objectionable enough to stop playing you can carry on complaining on the forums only with the added satisfaction of knowing that at least THEY can’t pull the wool over YOUR eyes.

    And if you find any or all of these options so unacceptable you can no longer stomach playing the game at all then the developers are doing you a favor by freeing up some of your time so you can go find some other entertainment worthy of your custom.

    If anyone is going to lose out it would, presumably, be the developers. By most accounts, delivering desired items via a real-money RNG system like lockboxes is considerably more profitable than selling them directly, which is why everyone does it. A really good PR person might even paint this as an altruistic move by the company.

    It’s only the RMT element that makes these stories sound out of the ordinary for MMORPGs. If you replaced “Lockbox” with “very rare drop from Named Mob X” and “Cash Shop” with “also available from NPC Y for 10,000 Special Currency Tokens, which you can get by completing Specific Dungeons” the mechanic is identical.

    Some people see that as an ethical difference, others don’t. As the genre ages and/or matures my impression is that the latter group is pushing out the former and that process is accelerating.

  2. P2W is fine, so long as you don’t lie and try to claim your game isn’t P2W. There are a lot of people who enjoy P2W, for various reasons.

    I play an iPhone game that can be hyper-expensive (thousands per month), where those who pay anything get very significant power benefits over the free players. Yet a lot of players that I play with don’t pay a dime, and they enjoy the challenge of trying to somewhat compete with those who do pay. They 100% understand the game isn’t ‘fair’, but that’s a large part of the challenge/fun.

    One of the keys, along with being open/honest about the P2W, is to also not overly push free players to pay. Sure, there is certainly some of that, but it’s not as spammy as EQ2 or LotRO, and the game itself works just as well free as it does if you pay. They don’t give you a crappier version of the UI, for example. You just don’t have access to the top-tier big-numbers stuff, or at least not as easily as throwing money at the game to get them.

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