Its an easy question. How much do you expect to get out of your $12, $13 or $15 per month from an MMO?
With the quickly increasing popularity of microtransactions appearing in games such as WoW & EQ2 it is pretty obvious that this is a revenue system that is here to stay. So, why are so many gamers suprised, upset and kicking puppies over it?
It seems to me that many gamers put a high value on their monthly subscription. Perhaps too high of a value. 10 years ago, $15 was nothing to toss at a video game which offered 720 hours of entertainment each month. Hell, even back then, going to the movies for 90 minutes of temporary entertainment cost $30 if you got the extra large popcorn and a soft drink.
Today however, our economy has changed drastically. We're seeing layoffs in every industry on a daily basis. And, the gaming industry is no exception. These companies have to find new ways to generate a revenue that can support the salaries of its employees, maintenence and development costs. That's not so easy these days.
So, what is a marketing department to do?
Today's gamers love instant gratification. How better to create an influx of cash than to sell them a head start or advantage in game? Personally, I've never been one to rush to End Game. But, I do like appearance items and all kinds of sparkly fun stuff. Furthermore, I have no problem typing in my credit card number to get it! And, I'm pretty confident that I'm not the only one.
I understand that times are hard these days. But, seriously, if you are struggling to pay your monthly $15/month and can't afford a penny more; perhaps its time to ask Greg, your manager at McDonalds, for a raise or a promotion to Drive-Up Window.
Keep in mind that no P2P (Pay to Play) subscription based game has offered items that are mandatory in order to enjoy all the content in a game. Most of them are offering fluff items, some boosts in experience gain or customer services such as character transfers and character name changes. Hardly game breaking merchandise.
I'm not a rich man. However, I have spent a fair amount in micropayments. Ok, I've spent ALOT of money on micropayments. Allow me to break it down for you.
Station Cash - $400
Legends of Norrath - $600
Station Cash - $200
Poker Chips - $100 (Ok.. not a MMO.. but just as addictive)
So that's $1200 spent on MMO's in addition to my $30/month subscription in just the past 6 months. Do I have too much money? Not really. I'm a kept boy and proud of it. Luckily, my bread winning fiance is also a gamer. So, my stays in the proverbial dog house are short lived. But, are there others like me fueling this revenue stream much to the chagrin of gamers everywhere who want everything short of a seat on the Board of Directors for $15? Absolutely.
In closing, you can complain about those "slippery slopes" and threaten the mass exodus of players who will quit if microtransactions find their way in to your game. However, there will always be people like me who have more money than you. And, I guarantee the bean counters at the game companies are more interested in my credit card limit than they are your values and ethics. Especially when people like me are spending 100x your monthly subscription in a single click of "Buy Now".
Until next time.. Remember.. if you are in Russia and stand on your tip toes.. you can see Sarah Palin in the shower!
Christopher "SpyderBite" Whalen