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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

RE: The P2P 'Hipster Bandwagon'

Posted by MikeB Thursday August 22 2013 at 6:12PM
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This blog is in response to Torvaldr's post in Garrett Fuller's Elder Scrolls Online: Risky Business column. Given the length of the response and my desire not to derail Garrett's comment thread, I am posting it here. :)
Originally posted by Torvaldr
Originally posted by MikeB
Originally posted by Torvaldr

Garrett, I'm sorry but this is just a really one-dimensional pandering article you wrote.  It almost feels like you guys, I read Mike Bs article as well, are hopping on the hipster bandwagon.

What "hipster bandwagon" are you referring to? I must say, I'm quite curious!

Geez Mike, do you have a pearl script running in the background that detects your name and any bait words? :p

The P2P "resurgence" is the new hipster thing.  I'm poking at you a little, because it's only sensible that you would cover the news story of the business model announcement, but they all read like we've stumbled back on the realization that this could be the right thing and we all really like that model down deep and hate the sub-free model.  I felt that it really sort of pandered to what the pro-p2p crowd want to hear.

Although you touched on the risk, no one is looking deeply at why the subscription model has foundered and how it has evolved into a double-dip gouge.  There has been no critical investigation into the flaws of the payment model and how that could affect these releases.  And I felt Garrett highlighted a couple of the worst f2p models without actually looking at good ones or scrutinizing bad p2p models.

As TESO, WS, and FFXIV all tout that they're offering a better experience due to the payment model, no one is looking at how they could be misusing it like so many others have.  No one is asking really hard questions and putting these people to task.

There is a lot more to question other than the risks involved in competing with sub-free game offerings.  So hopefully no offense is taken because none is intended.

No. I just read our forums, you know, that whole community manager thing. ;)

I've written many, many columns discussing F2P and stating my preference for subscriptions. This isn't new for me. I prefer subscriptions, but I'm not ideologically opposed to F2P. If done well, it's a fine alternative, and it seems to be doing well for many developers which is why we've seen it start to become the predominant business model in the West as well.

I've weighed in on the reason behind P2P's failure in the past and even (briefly) as recently in my last column. It's just always been a losing proposition. A certain subset of gamers are willing to go for it (and its hard to grow outside of that group of players) and then you have to deal with the attrition which all sub-based MMOs (outside of WoW, up until recently) experience.

F2P simply lowers the barrier to entry and even non-paying players play a role in contributing to the feeling that server populations are lively. The developers make money and players have options. It's a pretty good deal -- when done right. It's not always done right, of course, and that's where you guys come in to vote with your wallets and let them know. I still prefer just paying my subscription and not thinking about it. $15 is a drop in the bucket compared to what I could spend on other entertainment activities, so it's a non-issue for me.

Still, MMO developers want to reach more players and there are a whole bunch of gamers out there who just won't go for a monthly payment. Period. With development costs only going up, the pressure to expand the pool is definitely higher. It's also way easier to get people to try your game and come back to check out updates with F2P.  MMOs grow over time and judging them forever based on a snapshot in time because you (understandably) refuse to resub and find out if it's really as improved as your friend says sort of runs counter to what makes MMOs cool. Being able to come and go as you please is beneficial to the player as well as the developer.

Can subscriptions work for some games? Maybe? It seems that's what Zenimax, Carbine, and Square Enix are betting on at the moment. The odds aren't really in their favor, but we're also in a different era where F2P is ubiquitous and P2P is the "underdog", so maybe subscriptions can thrive when there aren't as many other subscription games around to compete with.

On the other hand, and I argued this in my last column (and in the past), it makes it even harder to justify a subscription cost to a customer when they can easily cancel and find other MMO entertainment for basically free. In the past, canceling one sub usually meant starting up another one for another game (and perhaps buying a box), so you may have been able to keep unhappy players for longer or keep players who are temporarily unhappy or bored due to some recent change (or lack thereof).

My last column reflected my bewilderment at my realization that the majority of AAA MMOs coming out in the next year or two are now subscription based in light of all of the above. I'm certainly not jumping on any bandwagons. I'm trying, probably like the rest of you, to wrap my head around whats going on here. What I can say is this: if I have the chance to ask any of these folks -- I certainly will! I do know one thing: they are much more business savvy than I am and they wouldn't make this sort of decision lightly.

Ayulin writes:

Something to keep in mind, Mike, is that simply having "other options that are F2P" isn't automatically some kind of "problem" for P2P MMOs.

 

If someone's not interested in a MMO (or any game), they're not going to play it. If they check it out and find it not enjoyable, they're not going to stick around. It doesn't matter what the cost of entry is.
 

I've tried a number of them, and none of them have kept me. Either the game was just too boring, or the game was interesting, but the way the games were designed around the Cash Shop, using all manner of tricks (subtle and otherwise) to "enticing" me into a sale was a turn off.

 

I've never had that issue with Subs. Ever. Not once. I'm in the same boat as you there. Just let me pay my sub, and then leave me the hell alone so I can play, experience and enjoy the entire game without all the distracting virtual shopping mall crap.

 

And speaking of being able to just log in and play the game without having to deal with the cash shop crap, you can't underestimate just how appealing the idea is of being able to avoid all that by playing a simple flat monthly fee. For me, it's like the difference between popping in a DVD, dimming the lights and settling in for a couple hours of uninterrupted movie goodness (P2P), or sitting down to watch the same movie, "edited for TV" on some cable channel, with ad-breaks every 10-15 minutes (F2P). It's not only a money thing. It's a "quality of experience" thing as well.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that bit, because it seems to be overlooked a lot when people talk about "how much competition P2P MMOs have due to F2P". The only competition any game has, is whatever other game someone would be likely to play in the first place, regardless of its revenue model.

 

Thu Aug 22 2013 7:59PM Report
Ayulin writes: Ugh... horrible writing in that post. That's what I get for trying to type while having 2 conversations at the same time. Doh! Thu Aug 22 2013 8:00PM Report
Nephelai writes:

The whole P2P thing is a "feel" like you're paying thing only. 15$/4 ($3.75) per week is pittance to most adults with a job. It may as well be a free to play model.

 

Personally I'd like to see games that charge $15 (or more) per week then we can really demand quality for our few hours entertainment per week. I go to the movies every week and spend about $20 to experience something new where as in so called P2P (or any) MMO's I get endless hours of the same stuff for $3.75. I really wish they would change their model, up the price and supply more unique fresher content and reduce the player volume.

 

 

Thu Aug 22 2013 8:25PM Report
Rockniss writes: Agree with Mike here. Wanted to add too F2p is fine so long as I have no desire to play the game. You people that want to foolishly squander your money at free will on f2p titles can have at it. The problem is when I see a game I might have liked to play, but then it launches f2p and it's a total turn off. F2p is fine, so long as its not part or becomes a part of any games I am playing or want to play. Thu Aug 22 2013 8:29PM Report
orionblack writes: I think everyone above gets it.  Thu Aug 22 2013 11:33PM Report
Myrdynn writes:

I was a huge sub guy until recently, after being scammed out of box prices and subs only to see a game go f2p within 6 months to a year I am sick of it.  ESO and Wildstar will likely follow this pattern, as their numbers decline, switching to a f2p option shortly after launch.  After they collect our 60$ and 15/month they will tell  us that they want more people to be able to enjoy their product and we will now be considered founders or some other fancy name, with a few little cash shop perks.

After trying some games that I purchased in the past, RIFT, TERA, and seeing their f2p models, I know that this is what I want.  As a hard working father, my time is limited, I generally I get about 5-6 hrs a week to play.  Sometimes I'll get a free day to play more, but why do I need to pay a sub, and buy a box, to play that little.  I make enough money to do so, but honestly, I always felt that when I had a sub, I needed to make sure I logged in daily to get my moneys worth.  Now I play f2p games that have non pay2win shops, primarily RIFT, I will buy some exp boosts for when I got a couple hrs of free time, I bought my 130% mount, I've used a couple payed soul walks when there is an event boss and I dont feel like running back, and I have purchased the extra expansion souls.

I am not going to be suckered in to spending 100$+ on Wildstar and ESO, just to see it go f2p down the line, cause you know they already have that transition ready

 

Thu Aug 22 2013 11:43PM Report
TheCrow2k writes: Subscription no longer represents value for money. People need to realise it doesn't cost $15 a month for server costs & we shouldn't have to pay $15 a month for bug fixes for a title we paid a box price on. We also shouldn't be paying $15 a month towards development of new content which then has to be purchased outright as expansion packs. If a developer offered subscriptions alongside a roadmap of I going content rollouts (not outright purchase expansions, then & only then is sub justified IMHO. Otherwise I think most MMO's should stick with B2P + paid expansions. Lastly, box purchase + sub + cash shop ? Get a clue. Fri Aug 23 2013 12:51AM Report
Torvaldr writes:

I poked the bear so it's only fair I get brought to task and also that I respond.  First, thanks for being a good sport Mike. I'll try not to write an entire blog post either.

Let me say that I don't think there is anything wrong with offering a subscription only game.  I think the model works great for niche titles like EVE that offer something in a way that no one else does. It seems reasonable to expect a smaller customer base to shoulder a heavier cost per account. The EVE players must agree because it seems to be doing well.  I think CU could easily be very successful as a sub title if they deliver on their intentions.

So my beef isn't with a game being P2P.  My beef is how the revenue model is misrepresented and the problems that drove it to disfavor are downplayed or ignored.  In all these announcements no one has asked the sorts of questions we used to ask when P2P games came out.  Questions how the game design affects the monetization.  All those things (good and bad) that are easy to see in F2P can be easily hidden in a p2p model like the time sinks, grinds, drop rates and all those other things that devs used to use to keep us subbing and paying longer.

Let me contrast FFXIV, WS, and TESO.  Squeenix knows its customers in my opinion.  They have a long history with their XI players, not to mention the console base.  I think they've done the math and know what they're getting into with a sub.  I think they can do at least as good with XIV.  While I think a sub-free model would have been better, I won't fault them for knowing themselves and their customers and going with that.

Next we have Wildstar and TESO.  Both of those games are fine I'm sure, but what exactly do they offer that games like GW2, Tera, Rift, and pretty much any other themepark don't?  Carbine has said they don't plan on trying to match the ANet content cycle. So for a sub price they aren't going to deliver as much and will still sell in game gold via game time digital tokens.  They also have a fallback plan for a cash shop.  Essentially it appears they're going for the cash grab now and preparing for the end of the honeymoon period.

TESO is even more confusing and and much more of a blatant cash grab.  Firor claims they're going for the sub model for the integrity of the game and the players, offering premium customer service, and then talks out the other side of his mouth and says they'll also have a cash shop.  He goes on to say that the sub covers the basic game and the cash shop is only for fun stuff and account services like name changes.  If that isn't a cash grab then nothing is.  This makes Cryptic's Neverwinter cash grab seem amateur by comparison.  So which is it Matt? Full service with a sub or sub and pay for all the extras.  At least Trion had the class to include account services like server transfers for the price of that sub.

Both games have box fees which essentially are DLC packs. What exactly is the sub paying for with these games?  When I played Lineage that sub covered it all.  The entire game.  Even though I don't like renting my games, I at least saw the value in a one fee system.  We don't have that anymore with subscriptions.  There is always something else be it plex, gold, cash shop, or dlc/box costs. There is a lot more hidden costs in todays sub-based games than ever.

Subscriptions aren't what they used to be.  The have evolved to incorporate more revenue streams, the same type in sub-free games, yet have shown no sign of shedding any of their horrible attributes that drag out the sub time.

I wish the entire gaming media stream (not just mmorpg) would put them to the same task that sub-free games are held to and not pander to a vocal crowd of nostalgists.  Well, I failed at not writing a blog length entry, apologies. :p

 

Fri Aug 23 2013 1:47AM Report
Kickaxe writes:

Now come on, Torvaldr, we know that mainstream media is overly positive and gushing when it comes to reporting 'news' on big money products.  It matters not whether they are reporting about free-to-play, buy-to-play, or pay-to-play games.  The triple-A games are only ever going to get a superficial level of criticism from sites like Massively, IGN, and this one.  There is no double standard.  It's just business as usual; hype the big publishers' products.

This is not meant as a shot at MikeB, either.  I like MMORPG.com, but I try to keep in mind its limitations.

Just to be clear, I prefer sub-based models.  But you're speaking the truth, Torvaldr, when you suggest that there are certain unscrupulous intentions and designs that are potentially in the mix when a developer/publisher announces that they are using the P2P model.  Just as there are when they announce that they're going with F2P or B2P.

Keep fighting the good fight, Torvaldr.  But there is no double standard.

Fri Aug 23 2013 2:51AM Report
Shaike writes:

well what more can be said? you are all right!

I will stick with FF XIV: ARR - only 23 more hours and 12 minutes.

at least there i know what i am paying for, and i know there will be no cash-shop

Fri Aug 23 2013 5:18AM Report
meddyck writes:

I have no problem at all with players preferring subs over F2P. I personally prefer B2P but hey people have different opinions. That's life.

What troubles me is when this site and others trumpets that such and such game is going to have a subscription and pretends this is some amazing new development or trend. In reality most AAA games in the West come out with subs. And most of them experience massive population drops in the first year then add some way of playing without paying a monthly sub. The list of games that have gone this route is well known and it's disappointing that this site pretends not to know about this and acts like F2P at launch has been the standard payment model until TESO and Wildstar.

Fri Aug 23 2013 6:43AM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

"

I dont mind paying money for something, I just dont want to pay for nothing.

I would rather take my $15 a month and spend it on Indie games &/or kickstarter where at least the money funds developers who dare to take  risks..... something no MMO really does anymore.

Fri Aug 23 2013 7:26AM Report
SpottyGekko writes:

Even though I far prefer sub-based payment models, I don't automatically and blindly buy and play every AAA subscription MMO just because it's AAA and/or sub based.

 

I do my research and make a decision accordingly. But I've yet to find a F2P MMO that satisfies my gaming needs, whereas I have played 3 sub-based MMO's that did give me what I wanted (SWG, LOTRO, EVE).

 

I will be watching the upcoming sub-based games carefully and will make an informed decision later. Until then, I'll be playing FFXIV and enjoying my full game access for a monthly sub.

 

Fri Aug 23 2013 7:36AM Report
GrayKodiak writes:

I do not understand why no one is looking at the more obvious reason a title would release as p2p and sub, to recover expenses quicker while the product is hot, in fact it seems like Wildstar and ESO both are putting in the mechanics for a F2P conversion down the road.

Call it what it really is, an early adopters tax.

Fri Aug 23 2013 7:57AM Report
DMKano writes:

There is one very basic thing that most are overlooking and not taking into consideration -

P2P costs *much less* to implement as you are only taking monthly payments in your platform/billing system

F2P/B2P + full cash shop takes takes a robust platform and billing system that keeps track of every cent spent for every player. Also you need a monetization team to manage the economy. Integrating microtrans into a game = lots of extra Dev work, usually 6 months and $10mil to do right.

 

Bottom line P2P is simple and requires no additional funds and Dev time that F2P/B2P with cash shop require.

So take that into consideration - P2P is much cheaper and easier to do.

Fri Aug 23 2013 9:28AM Report
Sephastus writes:

DMKano, so you are saying that F2P games are harder because people have to work more intently at pulling out my wallet to get my money? Not buying it (pun intended).

 

 

We all have to remember that what is driving all this is revenue, not a real concern on what the players think. Yet they have to do this without alienating the player base, but trust me, if they could find another method of taking money from players with more efficacy than what F2P games do now, THAT is what they will go for, and this discussion would be about how that new method is the new norm, while P2P and F2P are just hipster fodder.

Fri Aug 23 2013 9:49AM Report
Torvaldr writes:

Sephastus, I think DMKano is talking about implementation expense. It is much simpler and less expensive to implement a simple billing systems that takes one form of payment and charges it recurringly. When you add additional systems the expense increase and implementing a full blown shopping cart, especially when you're considering affect on the game, is much more expensive.

For example, a simple account system that takes credit and debit payments with your bank costs X to implement.  If you want to add PayPal, there is another layer of expense, even if it is relatively small.  Adding a shopping cart inside your application costs a lot more.  There is just more infrastructure to build.

It is more complex to create and it is harder.  I don't think they meant that makes playing the game harder.

Fri Aug 23 2013 11:35AM Report
rahj83 writes: Asheron's Call did it best. Buy the box, pay the sub. For the sub you got monthly updates with new content. EVERY MONTH. Only two expansions in 14 years. That is what an mmo should do for you if you subscribe. Be like Asheron's Call. No better example exists...probably why after 14 years it's still going with a sub. "You" pay more for those f2p games anyway...you think Sony went "f2p" with all it's stuff because it was generous? It's because they make a ton of money and do less work for it. Will be glad to pay a sub for a complete experience, not being forced to buy character slots, bags, banks, mounts, etc... Would be super happy if someone copied Asheron's Call and delivered on content every month for the sub...I can dream... Fri Aug 23 2013 11:53AM Report
moguy2 writes: Also , you have to take in account that some one has to be there for when you call because you cant access you account. When your credit card is botched. When you forget the secret question and want to sell your account. Paying a sub pays these salaries along with all the other technical crap that goes along with it. People thinking that 15 bucks a month just pays for servers and updates are just smoking crack. Fri Aug 23 2013 3:17PM Report
sketocafe writes: Do they make skinny jeans for fat people? I ask because if, given the choice between p2p and f2p, preferring a sub based model is wrong then I don't want to be right. Fri Aug 23 2013 3:30PM Report
Myrdynn writes: oh for Asheron's Call to be remade into a proper sequel, I would pay 25$ a month Fri Aug 23 2013 3:50PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

"Also , you have to take in account that some one has to be there for when you call because you cant access you account. When your credit card is botched. When you forget the secret question and want to sell your account. Paying a sub pays these salaries along with all the other technical crap that goes along with it. People thinking that 15 bucks a month just pays for servers and updates are just smoking crack."

You don't honestly think any of that cost is more than about $3-$4 (at most) a month per account do you ? Thats provided population is up but even then they scale support staff back as subs dry up. Granted there are other costs involved beyond the main ones I highlighted but if you take a look at the whole picture you will realise they always gear it so that more than two thirds of that sub is profit while claiming it is used for ongoing development which as I previously stated it is cleary not in 90% of titles.

Its fine though, by all means spend your money if you think you are getting value for it. I daresay considering their models that TESO and Wildstar will both end up going sub free within the first 12 months just like SWTOR did after having gotten every nickle out of launch customers.

Fri Aug 23 2013 11:08PM Report
nilden writes:

As a web designer there is no way in hell that converting to F2P costs $10 million and takes 6 months. Any company could have an item shop up on a webpage.

http://www.ehosting.ca/store2go.php

http://www.bizhosting.com/professional.htm?refcd=BHUOWS110706NB01

In fact I bet you could type in ecommerce hosting and find tons of sites. Thing is these are talking about physical products not virtual ones. Unless these businesses are throwing away money you can get ecommerce hosting for $40 a month. That's like saying it would take 1 week and 1 million dollars to put in a button that took you to a web browser that had a ecommerce virtual cash shop.

Sat Aug 24 2013 4:42AM Report
Kyleran writes:

Hmm, how odd, supporting something that worked well in the past and for many years is now considered being "hipster?"

Well then in my case just call me Tragically Hip.  :)

Sat Aug 24 2013 8:20AM Report
shirlnt writes: As far as whether or not P2P is worth $15 a month? Forget dividing out how much it is per week or hour, forget comparing it to the cost of other forms of entertainment, forget whether or not it compares to the cost it takes a company to keep the game up and running....let's compare the "value" of that $15 a month compared to the price of these so called "free" to play.  Leaving expansion packs out of equation, that $15 gets me EVERYTHING the game has to offer....every player races, every class, every area, every level, every mount/pet, every inventory slot, every bank slot, every piece of equipment (armor, clothing, weapons, tools), every quest, and any other content that may be a part of the game (player housing, etc.) and while it may be possible to play f2p games for free, in order to get the same level of content out of some of these so called "free" to play games, a person could easily end up spending over a hundred dollars a month to play.  And I know people will say "but you don't have to" or "you can buy only what you want" or "I've played f2p games and never spent a cent" ...... but the thing is I've made my choice....I'll spend $15 a month and get an ENTIRE game.  (yes, I've played f2p games; yes, I've spent money on "f2p" games; no, I don't have a problem with people who enjoy and want to play f2p games; but please stop griping about p2p games and trying to convince people that p2p is a bad thing) Sat Aug 24 2013 8:02PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

@Firstly Everything in the game OOTB you have generally paid for in the box price so damn straight you should have access to it (this is a bit like DLC included with game which you have to pay to "unlock" another idiotic system that foolish consumers continue to flock to) so you should have access to everything, why do you need to continue paying each month to retain access for something you already paid for ? And then a new area or continent is added in the form of an expansion pack & your $15 a month doesnt get you access to that which leads me to..... 

<span com_who"="">Secondly you cannot leave out expansion packs because they are guaranteed to come out and cost money in addition to the sub fees. Ironically the sub fees you paid after launch generally financed development of the next expansion pack which you were then fleeced an additional $30+ so you could own it. Classic double dipping.

 

If sub fees actually financed ongoing game content rollouts (not bug fixes) that didnt have ot then be paid for as big expansions & came out more regularly then $15 a month sub would be good value. Trouble is that is not how the publishers are playing it and ignorant consumers keep lapping it up. Well at least for the first few months after release at which point people seem to leave in droves.

 

Good luck to TESO & Wildstar, I had no interest in TESO since the franchises strongest point is single player story and I dont want that from an MMO. Wildstar interests me because they intend to do some interesting things, however none of it is interesting enough to throw away $15 a month on a sub that does nothing to improve the game experience.

Sun Aug 25 2013 4:49AM Report
Rhazes writes:

I don't understand why people hate F2P. I'll list some of the benefits to educate the simpletons. 

1. 24/7 access to immersion breaking N bombs and F bombs in every channel every 20 seconds because accounts are free and easy to make.

2. You get to spend $200 up front unlocking everything per character  for a game you possibly will quit in a couple of months.

3. You get to be nickle and dimed by a accountant who controls development of the game for the store. This means your playing a high quality Facebook game and facebook games are the best.

4. You can pay nothing and get free access to the inventory minigame at all and run to a merchant every 20 mobs or stop after every kill and search for stuff in your inventory to delete. You get a handful of bank slots which means you get to play the inventory minigame with your bank to. You get to loot chests every 2 minutes that throw a popup on your screen reminding you that for $5 you can buy keys to unlock them. The chests have a large random assortment of items that make sure to take up as much inventory space as possible.

Sun Aug 25 2013 7:08AM Report
kjempff writes:

I think f2p messes with the actual game in a bad way, and that is where sub based have a clear advantage. But how about sub based games just offer options that is not cash shop but will still attract players who wont sub for various reasons ? That way the cash shop will not ruin the game, and it wont scare the sub weary too much, avoid whaling so everyone pays the fair price to play.

 

As an example:

Sign up: free 20 hours of play

Per hour: I am not sure how much or often I will play, or I just want to see what is new. Bill me like a phone, when I play I pay.

Free weekend/free week/free month: all I can play for a weekend/week/month

10 hours playtime: Play till time is spend, and let me refill when I need more playtime

100 hours playtime: even cheaper ...

Other options...

 

Not that there cant be a cash shop aswell, it just has to be actual purely cosmetic and non-intrusive. As long as the pay to play plans are the primary source of income, this would be very possible.

Sun Aug 25 2013 9:55AM Report
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Sun Aug 25 2013 3:39PM Report
someforumguy writes:

Some things I have noticed about how people think about payment models.

 

- P2P is convenient if you don't (care to) compare MMO prices. Reoccurring means you never have to think about should I buy this or not, like in other payment models.

 

- P2P can be annoying if you have to pay a full month's sub to just play the only weekend you have time this month.

 

- F2P can be annoying because you are never sure what new items/content will end up in the real cash itemshop. The sneaky part is that this goes for many P2P games as well, which is often conveniently ignored.

Imo, there is no right or wrong payment model. Just the right payment model that fits a particular customer for a specific product. Atm, P2P has less chance on success. But I also suspect that these companies already took that into consideration and have a backup plan. This is just a normal way to max profit from a business perspective I think.

 

(I had to use double white lines to make my comment show single whitelines, bug?)

Mon Aug 26 2013 8:35AM Report

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