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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,

Community Spotlight: Cash Shops in P2P MMOs

Posted by MikeB Sunday June 10 2012 at 6:01PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight we focus on the thread "Why are 'cash shops' in subscription based games acceptable?" by Fadedbomb. In the thread, Fadedbomb argues against cash shops in P2P games and opens up the topic to the MMORPG.com community:

Just wondering why people readily accept games that have "Cash Shops" in products that already require a monthly fee AND paid expansions?

Do people not realize that you're paying the developers to create content with your monthly sub only to resell that content you ALREADY PAID FOR via the cash shop? I shouldn't have to buy the box, pay a monthly fee, pay for expansions, AND pay for extra "fluff" content that i've already paid for to begin with!!!

It's like paying to see a movie, and once you're inside they ask you to buy a seat to watch the movie. Sure, you could stand in the back and watch it, but by the time the movie is over your legs are jelly and your face is stuck to that disgusting floor because the movie dragged on for 2hrs.

Don't get me wrong. CCP are one of the best companies running an MMO nowadays. Their product may not be very popular, but they certainly know how to run an MMO. $20 "digital box" price (that's been on sale recently down to $6), $15/month fee, with FREE expansions & they even doubled-back on their planned cash shop for "fluff" avatar clothing because they listened to the players who said "NO!". 

I'm also an advocate for monthly fees over "Free to Play", however that's another box of chocolates :]!

So what are your fellow community members saying on the topic? Read on to find out!

s1fu71 is indifferent, but offers his take on why some accept these cash shops:

I think people "readily accept" a cash shop in a subscription model if they perceive that nothing in the cash shop gives an unfair advantage. In other words, if the cash shop offers fluff, or if it offers things  you can get in game with enough play.

I'm not defending cash shops at all. But, I often see people accept them if this is their perception. Mostly I see casuals say things like, "I don't have the time to raid and get this gear. But, I can pay for it or something similar."

don't particularly care. The only cash shop I used was for DCUO. I'm on their F2P model. I spent a few bucks on getting more character slots. Perhaps that wasn't the best example since I don't sub. But, it's the only example I have. I don't see people in game really complaining or praising the cash shop in game.

udon is decidedly against this recent (and growing) trend:

I could care less if you want to spend a extra 5, 10, or 100 dollars each month on game, however what I do care about is that I can't play the entire game without doing the same.  And yes having access to mounts, apperance gear, potions, etc. is still a part of the game that sub players who don't use the cash shop are cut off from.  I'm paying once for a sub to support the game and get access than a second time for the right to purchase items from a cash shop that the developers used my orginal sub money to create.

I know why the MMO companies do it but you know what I don't own stock in any of the game companies nor do I get bonuses from them for meeting sales goals so I don't care.  I'm the consumer not the company and as such I want the best possible service for the least amount of money.  And in my book that's a sub game without a cash shop.  The only ones left are Rift and SWTOR off the top of my head.

Searias offers an economics-focused take on the issue:

I am fine with cash shops + sub fees. It cost a lot more money to develop an mmo now a days compared to what it did back in the day and also with all the competition in the market and the limited amount of consumers, it's hard to predict if they would make enough money to cover costs. Plus, sub fees has not changed in a very long time, but wages have increased and resources cost a lot more money now than they did back in the day, the money has to come from somewhere to cover that also.

I don't really have an issue with cash shops in MMOs as long as I don't feel like I need their wares to enjoy the game. This is especially true for a subscription-based MMO that doesn't offer a F2P option (such as The Secret World). As long as it's fluff stuff or simple things like XP boosters, that's fine. Items of convenience don't bother me, regardless of the game's business model. However, if the game is balanced around these 'convenience' items then that becomes a problem. An XP booster should let me get ahead of a curve that is still reasonable without it. If the game is balanced such that I feel like I need to purchase these items or face a grindfest then that becomes problematic for sure.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

maplestone writes:

One person's fluff is another person's core goal.

Sun Jun 10 2012 6:26PM Report
stratasaurus writes:

I personally will never play a p2p game with a cash shop in it.  For my business you can either have a cash shop or have a sub but not both(I prefer to pay a sub)

Sun Jun 10 2012 6:51PM Report
Eir_S writes:

Isn't this Tera's new business model?

Sun Jun 10 2012 7:05PM Report
Isane writes:

As long as any game isn't pay to win other than a standard subscription then it's fine.

Sadly most if not all F2P games are not quality and you end up paying more however people try to dress this up. The only really decent F2P games are quality MMOs that used to be Subscription based....

I find it more challenging these days to go back to MUDs, challenging content committed communities far more fun than the MMOs being released today and they are F2P.

Until all the automated features that have replaced variations on gameplay are reintroduced to the genre, and cheap low quality immitation F2P MMOs are assigned to the bin then dark days are ahead.

Cash shops are just another nail in the coffin ; And the dumb masses don't realise it and most have never known any better.

Sun Jun 10 2012 7:41PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

P2P is a dying breed, I think cash shops into P2P games is them trying to make as much money as possible while they still can and testing a cash shop in the meantime for when the time comes to go F2P.

I think wether or not the gear being sold is fluff or not is irrelevant at the end of the day as fadedbomb highlighted the money you paid for monthly subscription is what was used to pay to produce the content that ends up in the cash shop for you to buy, effectuvely the developers are double dipping. You paid the cost of developing what is in thecash shop & then they ask you to pay for it again if you want to own it... the developers and publishers are laughing all the way to the bank.

The players are to blame really, while players will pay a monthly subscription & buy items from the cash shop developers will continue to fleece them.

P2P + Cash shop is developers and publishers taking the piss out of the players, end of story.

Sun Jun 10 2012 8:02PM Report
fenistil writes:

CS are NOT acceptable in subscription games. End of story.

 

Does not matter if it is just vanity or cnvenience or advantage items.

All are bad and inexcuseable.

 

Sun Jun 10 2012 8:17PM Report
Vindictus writes:

The real problem with 'cosmetic' cash shops is that over time there's nothing stopping a developer from adding pay-to-win items to them.

And they do this after you've invested lots of time into the game. They get you in with only fluff in there, then slowly the pay-to-win stuff trickles in. And people who are now invested in the game don't want to walk away, so they become more tolerant than they would have been had they seen the cash shop prior to playing.

This is why any cash shop at all is bad, it will eventually become pay to win.

Sun Jun 10 2012 9:42PM Report
DarkPony writes:

Agreeing with the OP and those who share his view. CS's never stay the same. They are shops. And every shop has cunning people thinking about how to attract more customers to it.

Also I pay a monthly sub to keep my game "real": getting appealing fluff items can be a huge incentive if the source is actually gameplay related. I'll happily grind for hours just for a small drop chance on a certain fluff item and finaly getting it will feel much more rewarding. The same with going to great lengths to craft a stunning set of non-combat clothing.

So CS's actually take away a lot of compelling gameplay in my eyes.

Paying a sub should be a "no CS insurance".

Mon Jun 11 2012 1:02AM Report
shava writes: The MMO market is set up such that retention is such a bad problem, with gamers being such fickle asshats and wanting to jump to the flavah of the month, that models broke down for subscription about three years ago or so, and the market is scrambling in the west for a new model (personallly, I think LOTRO did a damn good job!). You can't charge up front what the game requires for development to current graphics/sound standards per GW w/o a sub or cash shop or both - some long tail revenue. And you know as each new and exciting MMO comes out, you'll see attrition and for every anti-fanboi who ragequits, a fraction of his social graph (assuming the fractious btard has any) leaves with him. So, unless we can improve gamers first, we have to innovate in how we get gamers to pay for games. Gamers want quality, fun, innovative games that use cutting edge tech and work on every kind of hardware config on the market, and every bizarre stupid malwarish thing they've done to their operating system. They expect a wide release of an MMO, a production involving more lines of code than a stock exchange system, and of itself more complex than most operating systems (explain an asset server to a 1990s systems programmer and watch them blanch) - everything's supposed to work perfectly on every piece of crap home computer half of which have Russian botnets taking them under spec even if they are spec out of the box... And in two weeks something else will come out. EA or Warner or whoever has the devs by the short hairs moves in and says, subs (or even pre-orders, if we're still in beta) are dropping! Make it more like WOW naow!!!! And the devs say, but the gamers wanted innovation, we designed this whole feature set! And the money says NAOW!!! So the game gets released and a week later, someone hits level cap and says, no endgame here, wtf? And the devs either quit or bite through their tongues, and go back to the money and say, see? And the money says, No, we were right because without us, there would be no game ever, stfu. Now, if there are more diverse funding sources for games - kickstarter, angel, grants, tax deferments (38 pooched a couple of these for us for a while...;), publishers like EA who are like the old movie studio system, whoever,... and then sub, cash shop, game purchase, in-game ads, merch,... Every revenue stream pries one greedy stupid finger of someone like EA off a game, and makes it more likely that complex games will be able to be creative and fun. Ponder please. Mon Jun 11 2012 9:58PM Report
Fadedbomb writes:

Imagine my surprise this early EARLY morning with a PM saying one of my threads was in a community spotlight. This topic has been something I've talked about with many people in games that have CS's & also charge for expansions & subs. Generally speaking this spotlight has touched on every response I've seen.

Glad people enjoyed it :3!

-Faded

Tue Jun 12 2012 3:35AM Report

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