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The Lawling: Of Laughter and Monsters

An eccentric, sometimes stubborn or unorthodox analysis of massively multiplayer games, their audience, and the philosophy of entertainment.

Author: Lawlmonster

Cash Shops?

Posted by Lawlmonster Wednesday October 10 2012 at 8:47AM
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Recently I posted a response to a little thread you can find here, regarding the inherent state of F2P cash shop games. Agree or disagree, here are my thoughts and the post I wrote:

 

The overlying problem with cash shops isn't that they're an unethical platform for providing profit or stabilization, despite several instances in which they've been presented that way, but that they manifest artifical obstacles for developers to program buyable solutions to bypass. How that makes you feel depends entirely on how you perceive your time playing games and what it is you're looking for, but I'm an art before commerce kind of guy. I like the integrity of a project to be wholely based upon the process of creation, without the necessity to design for financial success. That doesn't mean the two are exclusive from one another, or should be. It's fairly obvious that most studios are forced to blance the two, so I wouldn't dispute that budgeting and management are a large fraction of what promotes success.

Subscription games have their own problems with monetization and artificial obstacles, as many of you would be sure to notify me. What's in it for a developer to provide constant updates for content or technicality when they've a fixed income at the end of every month? In order to maintain subscriptions, developers are forced to produce to keep players interested. I'm fairly certain there are cases which this isn't true, but when looking at games like WoW, AOC, or Rift -- especially Rift -- it's proved to be in the best interest of designers of subscription games to constantly find new ways to make the experience worth the price.

Now consider that  F2P games can thrive on a minority of frequently purchasing players, which makes the retention of membership or long term expansion less vital. What do designers create in this situation, to prompt the continuation of profit? Content isn't necessarily as important if maintaining players can be placed on the back burner, which doesn't mean it's completely ignored, so how do they convince players to spend money? In the istance of games like Allods, which is probably one of the most unethical forms of implementation for a cash shop, designers hinder the experience of players who aren't paying by removing helpful features, or creating artificial obstacles like reduced experience gain and inventory space, while conveniently providing priced solutions.

So when I say F2P games are inherently flawed, I'm not saying they're bad, or particularly unethical. Guild Wars 2 seems to be doing the cash shop model of B2P with respect for the player experience, which I can appreciate. More options is always a good thing, but F2P games are flawed from conception. That is to say, any game designed to provide a frustrating or less adequate experience which can be removed by paying, particularly under the guise of being "free to play", was not designed with the player in mind, for the player. And again, this all depends upon which side of the art versus commerce debate you've seated yourself. Obviously, a game or project designed with flaws to frustrate or coerce players into paying was not designed specifically with artistic integrity in mind.

 

How do you feel? What do you think is more important for game studios to thrive: attention to art, or attention to commerce? Or do you believe something else entirely? Let me know in the comments below!

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