Saturday, January 3, 2009

Station Cash was Just a Prelude. Prepare for MT.

Uttering the two letters MT(Micro-Transaction) in association with an MMO and you'll quickly have a flame war on your hands. While there are several honest concerns about MT and the advantages Subscription-based models have other it, players better prepare themselves for the coming future. I predict that in the next few years subscription models will become a minority to an ever larger amount of MMORPGs with some type of MT.

So first, to those clueless about Micro-Transactions, let me explain. Almost all MMORPGs uses some type of system to finance server costs, additional content, and other expenditures. Most American MMORPGs uses a Subscription based model. If you want to play you have to pay a fee every month(generally) . This fee is roughly around $10-$15. A Micro Transaction model doesn't charge a monthly fee. You can play for free for as long as you want. However you can use real cash to buy weapons, armor, mounts, cosmetic items, and other services. Now before you start screaming "Why even BOTHER with subscription?!" there are a few bits of information you should know.

Probably the biggest reason Micro-Transaction games fuels such hate that one sputters the Dark Speech of Mordor is some MMORPGs that use this system allow players to buy actual equipment. By equipment I mean acutal weapons and armor. Why bother putting in hard work and hours upon hours of play time to get an item when someone can spend cash to get said item instantly? Sometimes the items you can get via cash are even better then anything a player could get under normal game play. It almost puts the message in the player's head that no matter how hard you try, no matter how skilled you are those with wealth will surpass you.

A prime example of this(Though this is vastly different than commercial MMORPGs) is the private server WoWScape.(I play on here occasionally, if you ever wanna find me.) Players can donate money to WoWScape(Which funds keeping the servers up, etc) to receive items called "Donor Gear". These items are powerful enough to enable one to kill end-game bosses without any assistance.(Though this can take hours. Note - My char has no donor gear before you ask.) A full suit of donor gear can range from $100-$400. Considering the price you may be surprised by how many people do this.(Take it from me, A LOT.) Items this powerful ruin several key elements of the game.

Using a World of Warcraft PvP server as an example, normal players would have no chance what so ever against people with gear of "Donor" quality. Imagine fighting a Rogue with 10x more hp then you, 95%+ dodge(I'm not exaggerating), and weapons that have DPS(Damage Per Second) well over 500. Now imagine having to fight an entire TEAM of people with gear of this magnitude in a Warsong Gultch match. Only divine intervention would enable you to have any chance. Mind you, I have nothing against WoWScape(I play there as I stated), but using a system like this for an "official" game is insane.

However it's not insane for game developers. There is an obvious demand to purchase in-game items, money, or other such perks. Just recently an EVE Online player spent $19,000 to purchase ISK.(The currency used in-game, you can read the article about the player about spending THAT much money as well as how he got ripped off at So with millions of dollars going out to leveling services, item purchases, in-game currency purchases why wouldn't developers take a piece of this action?

Well for one they already are. Blizzard offers the service of moving characters across servers, changing characters looks/gender, and giving your character a brand new name for a fee. EverQuest and EverQuest 2 has Station Cash where you can buy potions that give a 25% increase to experience gain for a period of time. SOE also releases a constant stream of expansions to the point it might as well be MT for content(Unlike Blizzard, which constantly releases new content for free.) However this is just what American MMORPGs are doing. Companies in the East are almost exclusively MT, and they make a killing. While these games do not sell players such balance destroying items that WoWScape does, they do sell a large amount of cosmetic items.

Cosmetic items are generally harmless little items that really don't do much besides look neat. It could be a unique mount model, items to place in your character's room/house/guild, auras, or even additional models for character creation. This type of MT system is the safest in terms of game play and retaining balance. It's also still a huge cash in for developers. If you don't believe me, ask yourself if you(or someone you know) has ever purchased an Xbox 360 theme, gamerpics, clothes/furniture for PlayStation Home, or things similar to that. If yes, then you have validated that people will purchase items that have no value other than an aesthetic one.

These are just a few reasons I think MT will replace subscription. Add on to the fact that you(the player) can play these games for free will draw in a lot of players. I know that from my time playing a few MT games that I never had that urge that I had to play every day for a significant amount of time otherwise I'm wasting my money.

After Star Wars: The Old Republic's "misunderstanding" of it being an MT system(Read more here.), don't be surprised if more and more triple-a titles jump on this wagon in some way, shape, or form. I think the community has valid points of why they dislike F2P games and MT games, however I find it impossible to conclude that game developers(And their shareholders) won't keep pushing more and more for this due to the financial gain. If done right, would you enjoy a game that you could play for free AND didn't break game balance with what items one could purchase?

1 comment:

  1. Wizard101 does everything, more or less. It has "RMT" gear, purchasable via their unique currency (Crowns, which are purchased with cash), it has subscriptions, and it has "Access Passes" again purchasable with Crowns, that allow perpetual access to pieces of content. It allows for nearly any player with any budget to play.

    That's the draw of alternate business models; throwing upen the floodgates for a more segmented market, thereby earning more players and more money. It's not rocket science, and only the prejudicial mindset of "subscriptions are superior" is holding back the "hardcore" leet crowd.


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