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News & Features Discussion  » General: What's for Sale and What's at Stake

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  SBFord

MMORPG.COM Staff

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 12037

 
OP  7/03/12 5:11:06 PM#1

Cash shops in our MMOs are fast becoming the norm whether in free to play titles or in full blow subscription titles. In today's Devil's Advocate, we take a look at the phenomenon and its repercussions. See what you think and then discuss it in the comments.

One path taken by a good number of online game developers these days is the cash shop route, and today's Devil's Advocate seeks to discuss whether there are legitimate concerns to be had in certain cash shop practices. We'll look at some practices that have occurred in recent years, and discuss how these practices have shaped the MMORPG landscape and what you can do to alter the landscape yourself.

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: What's for Sale and What's at Stake.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  User Deleted
7/04/12 8:49:23 AM#2

Devs want money more than anything. Devs realize player will waste money in dumb ways. Devs apply all kinds of mechanics to get more of the said money. Players complain and say they'll "vote with their wallet" only to waste more without any controll. For example, many said they hated SWTOR before launch, only to waste 60 bucks on the game and come QQ to the forums 1 month later and how they made a mistake.

 

Until people start to be carefull with how they spend their cash, companies will keep on rolling.

  jakin

Novice Member

Joined: 7/27/04
Posts: 233

7/04/12 9:03:24 AM#3

The other element of forcing "virtual cash" is that the company ensures they get paid and leaves no recourse for the consumer.

 

Consider SOE's Station Cash.  If you bought a subscription for 6 months with a credit card and the game in question shut down a week later, you would have recourse through the card company to get your money back.

 

If you bought Station Cash with that same credit card, in an amount that would pay for the same amount of time (I know it's no longer available - just an example), and the game shut down, you now have no recourse as Station Cash sales are final.  To the card company you received the goods you paid for - it's not their problem that the intended use for that product is no longer possible.  SOE got paid and the consumer's only recourse would be to spend the Station Cash balance on another SOE product (that they may or may not have interest in) or consider the Station Cash a sunk cost and move on.

 

For that reason, buying "Store Cash" in advance of a purchase (i.e. on Triple-cash sale day or whatever) is just as risky as buying a lifetime subscription to a newly launched game.  You have no guarentee that you'll be able to use the Store Cash for the purpose you intend and you have no recourse if something changes.

 
  Anireth

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/28/05
Posts: 360

7/04/12 9:12:19 AM#4

Overall, i can agree with this article, but the examples given regarding understandable creative or development costs.

Server transfers, name or race changes are certainly not "creative", so let's take a look at the development cost:

Most games that have multiple seperated servers allow you to choose each time you create a new character. Sometimes, like with Guild Wars 2, it's account wide, but still, it's something that happens regularly. In addition, some games, like WoW, offer playing together with people from other servers through the dungeon finder. Besides having an additional menu to let the user actually choose the server, where is the development cost in allowing on-demand server transfers? Literally non-existent. Even without cross-server play it's not that hard to transfer the data.

Now, name changes. Even easier. It's just a string attached to a character. You choose it when you create the character. Some games even regularly change strings attached to a character, like titles. They even allow you to choose with one to display. Wheres the technnical difference to a name? None.

Race changes are probably the thing with the most effort, but still, nothing major usually. The races already exists. The option to create a character with the given race, exists, too. They can basically lead you to the character creation screen, but save equipment, quests, level etc., and give it to your "new" character. While there is a lot of stuff to pay attention to, compared to creating a whole new character, they already save all that information anyways. Additionally, many game alredy allow you to change your race temporarily, either as a skill, like, a werewolf can choose between normal and wolf form, changing stats and skills accordingly, or as an effect during a quest, like you got cursed, or someone cast a veil on you, making you look like race x, so you can infiltrate their base. The additional effort to allow the user to change it on demand is not really high. Certainly not $10 or more, when you can play for that a whole month, seeing dozens of areas, creating several characters, doing hundreds of quests etc. That stuff has to be created, too, but they allow you to have it all for $15.

Enabling users to change the name after the character was created has the same cost?

It's different with additional items, especially skins. You can copy and paste an item and switch some stats around, change the name..at least, if done right, so that the weapon/armor is balanced, that the lore fits etc., it's more effort then a name change. And skins, if it's not only a new color, certainly take a while, and if they are only there to be sold, the price is somewhat justified, as it is not paid for by the subscription.

Stuff like character or inventory slots though. It's a convenient way for the developers, and it's something the players like, but if the system is done right, it's only a number. The extra data that needs to be stored due to having more slots does not really cost much, seeing how cheap storage is, and how much data already needs to be stored.

It's even more stupid if you can actually gain even more storage cheaper, like when a character with 20 initial and up to 80 slots total with bags that can be acquired with ingame money is cheaper then an additional bag slot for an exisiting character, or if a whole account is cheaper then additional bag/and or char slot.

There is a development or create cost attached to stuff in the cash shop, but most effort is usually the cash shop itself, not the items and services you can buy.

I'll wait to the day's end when the moon is high
And then I'll rise with the tide with a lust for life, I'll
Amass an army, and we'll harness a horde
And then we'll limp across the land until we stand at the shore

  maplestone

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

7/04/12 10:09:47 AM#5

Psychologyofgames is a deeply depressing journal to read.  Not for the accuracy of its observations, but for what it represents: the utter dehumanization of the customer down to a calculated manipulation of reflexes.

It's hard to argue with publishers taking money that's sitting on the table.

It's hard to argue with customers feeling angry about being treated as a mark to be milked.

  mgilbrtsn

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/14/09
Posts: 1062

He who fights and runs away... misses out on the loot

7/04/12 10:24:41 AM#6
Originally posted by maplestone

Psychologyofgames is a deeply depressing journal to read.  Not for the accuracy of its observations, but for what it represents: the utter dehumanization of the customer down to a calculated manipulation of reflexes.

It's hard to argue with publishers taking money that's sitting on the table.

It's hard to argue with customers feeling angry about being treated as a mark to be milked.

The gaming market is no different, than TV, Movies, Stores, Airlines..... etc in that they market to a certain demographic.  It seems to me that Gamers seem to think we are a special breed, and shouldn't be part of that commercial chain, but we are.  We are absolutely no different than any other group that gets marketed to, to such an extent.  You can find products out there(legal) that have all kinds of restrictions that they have emplaced to reduce who can market and use products (Cigerettes, and Alchohol come to mind) and in some cases it is justified.  

 

So there are some logical routes we can follow.  Regulate the crap out of MMOs, this way it will severely restrict the commercial chain, somewhat restrict the chain, remove the chain altogether (I doubt most people will vote for that onee), self regulate the chain (Vote with your Wallet), or most combinations of these.

 

I tend to believe in self regulation in the chain as my preference.  I get the max possiblities of game types/payment types/rating types, and I can leave whenever I want and move on.  I will make some mistakes, and I'll have some winners, but I am in control.  I personally, am not an advocate of more 'Draconian' methods.

 

Like you said, it is perfectly legit to be angry about how you are treated, but you know the industry, you know your options, It's not mandatory, so you can choose to just not participate, and as a general rule, you don't do harm to yourself or others.  Obviously, if you're 'addicted' is something differrent, and are outlyers.  

 

Vote with your wallet... is not just a flippent answer, it's the best way of satisfiying the needs of market economies.  Now if you wanted to go a more restrictive case, we can have long lines for a single loaf of bread, and all complain together... It has happened.

They are coming for you!

  rwyan

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/24/03
Posts: 388

7/04/12 10:34:06 AM#7

I'm really enjoying TSW.  Though, I feel like the cash shop is a crux.  Its almost as if they gimped the in-game clothing variety for the sake of selling a bunch in the cash shop.  I could understand having some options only available via the store... but it is a bit underwhelming.

 

  victorbjr

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/13/10
Posts: 152

7/04/12 11:01:35 AM#8
Originally posted by maplestone

Psychologyofgames is a deeply depressing journal to read.  Not for the accuracy of its observations, but for what it represents: the utter dehumanization of the customer down to a calculated manipulation of reflexes.

It's hard to argue with publishers taking money that's sitting on the table.

It's hard to argue with customers feeling angry about being treated as a mark to be milked.

Hey There!

 

Victor here. Just noticed your comment, and I think we're on the same page with the knowledge gained from the blog (in that it can be depressing to read), but I find myself feeling empowered and hopeful through reading the information.

Part of my studies in college and grad school involved Media Education and Media Literacy, which basically discusses, to paraphrase Wikipedia's definition, the analysis and evaluation of how messages are created in a wide variety of media modes, genres, and forms.

The Psychology of Games blog provides a great resource to augment consumer knowledge of the ways in which media messages can sway them. Knowing how one can be swayed helps a person to resist the impulses they normally have.

I think it's all about having an informed decision. You can choose to follow the path you've already followed, or make a different choice based on new information that's been made known to you. That's what being a Devil's Advocate is all about, I suppose. :D

 

Cheers!

A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

  victorbjr

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/13/10
Posts: 152

7/04/12 11:07:41 AM#9
Originally posted by Anireth

Overall, i can agree with this article, but the examples given regarding understandable creative or development costs.

Server transfers, name or race changes are certainly not "creative", so let's take a look at the development cost:

Most games that have multiple seperated servers allow you to choose each time you create a new character. Sometimes, like with Guild Wars 2, it's account wide, but still, it's something that happens regularly. In addition, some games, like WoW, offer playing together with people from other servers through the dungeon finder. Besides having an additional menu to let the user actually choose the server, where is the development cost in allowing on-demand server transfers? Literally non-existent. Even without cross-server play it's not that hard to transfer the data.

Now, name changes. Even easier. It's just a string attached to a character. You choose it when you create the character. Some games even regularly change strings attached to a character, like titles. They even allow you to choose with one to display. Wheres the technnical difference to a name? None.

Race changes are probably the thing with the most effort, but still, nothing major usually. The races already exists. The option to create a character with the given race, exists, too. They can basically lead you to the character creation screen, but save equipment, quests, level etc., and give it to your "new" character. While there is a lot of stuff to pay attention to, compared to creating a whole new character, they already save all that information anyways. Additionally, many game alredy allow you to change your race temporarily, either as a skill, like, a werewolf can choose between normal and wolf form, changing stats and skills accordingly, or as an effect during a quest, like you got cursed, or someone cast a veil on you, making you look like race x, so you can infiltrate their base. The additional effort to allow the user to change it on demand is not really high. Certainly not $10 or more, when you can play for that a whole month, seeing dozens of areas, creating several characters, doing hundreds of quests etc. That stuff has to be created, too, but they allow you to have it all for $15.

Enabling users to change the name after the character was created has the same cost?

It's different with additional items, especially skins. You can copy and paste an item and switch some stats around, change the name..at least, if done right, so that the weapon/armor is balanced, that the lore fits etc., it's more effort then a name change. And skins, if it's not only a new color, certainly take a while, and if they are only there to be sold, the price is somewhat justified, as it is not paid for by the subscription.

Stuff like character or inventory slots though. It's a convenient way for the developers, and it's something the players like, but if the system is done right, it's only a number. The extra data that needs to be stored due to having more slots does not really cost much, seeing how cheap storage is, and how much data already needs to be stored.

It's even more stupid if you can actually gain even more storage cheaper, like when a character with 20 initial and up to 80 slots total with bags that can be acquired with ingame money is cheaper then an additional bag slot for an exisiting character, or if a whole account is cheaper then additional bag/and or char slot.

There is a development or create cost attached to stuff in the cash shop, but most effort is usually the cash shop itself, not the items and services you can buy.

 


Hi! Just wanted to say that your analysis is very thorough. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! :D

I think I had an error in wording though, so I apologize.

For myself, when I wrote the article I was thinking about the team or individual in charge of switching all of these different things for hundreds of characters daily. Whether they're part of the main support team for a game or just a fellow who has toinput code or somesuch, I have no clue.

That said, that individual or team also deserves pay for that part of their job, and also, the coder who did the writeup that made the race/faction/cosmetic change possible.

 

Anyway, cheers! :D Hope your day is going well! :D

A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

  maplestone

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

7/04/12 11:30:01 AM#10

@mgilbrtsn - this is not something you can regulate, it's something that needs to be part of the culture (something I accept is difficult to objectively measure).  At some point, if publishers see themselves as predators upon the community rather than servents of the community, the community is going to start to rebel (consciously or unconsciously) and turn to other models of connecting developers and non-developers all passionate about building fantasy worlds.  You can see the growing distrust in how eagerly people have embraced risky concepts like kickstarter, in how much traction indy games like Minecraft with less publisher-overhead have managed to get.

  maplestone

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

7/04/12 11:35:57 AM#11
Originally posted by victorbjr

That's what being a Devil's Advocate is all about, I suppose. :D

 

Indeed :)   (I greatly enjoyed this article)

  itchmon

Elite Member

Joined: 1/21/07
Posts: 1419

7/04/12 1:09:33 PM#12

thanks to the devil's advocate blog for posting probably the most thought provoking article i've ever seen on MMORPG.com (and i've been following you guys since vanguard was in development)

RIP Ribbitribbitt you are missed, kid.

Currently Playing EVE, DFUW

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.

Dwight D Eisenhower

My optimism wears heavy boots and is loud.

Henry Rollins

  Banquetto

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/06/09
Posts: 1017

7/04/12 3:57:38 PM#13

While you have good reasons to be unhappy about the road the Celestial Steed took us down, it's a bit odd to call it a "debacle". Any complaints were heavily muffled by the thick, thick layer of money that Blizzard were buried under - $2 million in a few hours, according to your link.

Surely a "debacle" is something that doesn't work out how you wanted it to - like EVE's monocles?

  rankor2

Novice Member

Joined: 5/30/08
Posts: 114

Do or Do not! There is no try. YODA.

7/04/12 4:24:06 PM#14
The only problem I have with a cash shop and subscription is when a brand new game comes out and there are already things in the shop that should come with your purchase of the brand new game. I'm looking at tsw here. They give you some clothes to choose then they give you an abundance of other choices you can buy with more cash on release day. On top of buying that game you also have to pay monthly to play a game you bought and everything they have designed and programmed is only available to you if you spend more cash in their shop. I can't justify that in my mind for release day.
  Drakynn

Novice Member

Joined: 3/02/08
Posts: 2051

7/04/12 4:37:21 PM#15

To my mind the break down in the market is not on the developers side but ont he consumer side.Dvelopers should be trying to maximize their profits as much as they can but countering that consumers shoudl be trying to pay as little as they can for what they want.This is how a free market is suppsoed to work.The problem these days is that consumers are lazy,wasteful with their money(justifying wasting $x becasue they cna afford to waste it and have no real appreciation for it's worth) and willing to put up with anything to get their entertainment of choice fix.

For example I think TSW is a fine game from what I played in closed beta but not fine enough to put up with a box price+sub + cash shop,It's where I chose to draw the line personally but I doubt I will be int he majority for reasons stated above.

  Zoyita

Novice Member

Joined: 9/30/10
Posts: 119

7/05/12 7:48:13 AM#16

This games that you are mentioning are nothing compared to what i been though. I had played games where you have to upgrade your gears and the items to upgrade them like gems/stones the chances for them to drop in game are scarze. They will sell items to increase your luck when upgrading in the cash shop in a bundle, they will be very expensive (but they make a note that is cheaper than normally without the sale) and they give you some "free stones/gems" required for upgrading. The thing is that we had noticed the sucess chance on the server lowered during the sale, with this in mind most people buy a lot wait for the sale to end upgrades afetr the sale which seem to work but if you run off of the items is bad and if you dont need the rest you feel kinda guilty for spending a lot. The "luck/chances" game are exactly the same as the gambling in Vegas, is not honest, it will make you poor and youll end feeling used and guilty for spending your hard worked money.

Thats why i quit all the games related to gambling, and those games that give you a big advantage over other players IF you high upgrade your gears, is just too much effort and hurts your wallet too. Example: FlyFF, Jade Dynasty, AION.

 

Ohh! and if you dont upgrade your gears like other players do youll be in a huge disadvantage.

 
Zoyita Xfire Miniprofile
  Robbgobb

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/03/03
Posts: 404

7/05/12 11:46:40 AM#17

Did not read the comments but here is mine. I calculate how much whatever game currency is compared to the money I spend. I buy the items I want when I get a deal most times (such as double value for my dollar). I know others who don't care. I know that if it is not really cosmetic or a different playstyle (not more powerful) then I am fine with it. I know some companines do expansions for free or just add content and I understand buying new playstyles. I also understand making fluff items that allow people to appear as they want makes a difference to those people but use resources to do. I do like games that allow people to buy with the game currency as well as from the RMT shop.

  Nanfoodle

Elite Member

Joined: 5/23/06
Posts: 2854

7/05/12 12:41:20 PM#18

The world is run by greed. We need to be smart and vote with our money. Its the only vote game companies understand. If you are in a B2P game then dont buy items that are dubble dip or should be dropped in game like weapons and armour. If you are in a sub game refuses to buy items from the item shop. If we dont they will keep taking till it costs to much.

  chaintm

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/02/04
Posts: 973

"Shutting down threads sense 2004"

7/05/12 1:57:15 PM#19
Originally posted by rwyan

I'm really enjoying TSW.  Though, I feel like the cash shop is a crux.  Its almost as if they gimped the in-game clothing variety for the sake of selling a bunch in the cash shop.  I could understand having some options only available via the store... but it is a bit underwhelming.

 

 

I was actually going to buy this game today for a friend said it was real fun, then I seen the promtions to buy (upgrade) the inital purhcase of 50 bucks. Each version adding more and costing more. This would have been fine and dandy till I started reading "for the in game store"? Really in a subscription game. To me, this told me "instantly" , stuff removed to = store items. So this purchase, which I would have done has now become "I won't buy this game ever".

So after I get home from work today, sadly this is the news I will give my friend. I just can't condone a double whammy like this. While games like planetside2 will do this, they will have a monthly and a store option and a bit of both. However, it's free to start. Basicly when I see a company like funcom quading the charge (IE by the game for 50 then more if you want perks) and this is reasoned by the fanbase (well you get the game and some items and 30 days) , does not even come close to the actual cost of what I will loose if I don't participate in the store. Sure, it's cosmetics, but I want to look cool in a game I play, I am there to have fun, if I see items in a store i can't get unless I add even more money to it, I just say "it's not worth it to begin with".

It probably will go ftp at some point or be a hell more cheaper down the road, will I play it then? Hard to call, it all comes down to what I think the value is worth. However, when I went threw to buy this game today, I was actually shocked at the all out money grab and how basicly blunt this company is being about it. It also seems those that did do it, have no problems with it. I have paid plenty into things like Leargue of Legends, but you don't need to pay a cent to have fun. The cosmetics are again nice, but if the game had a front cost then I am sure I would have declined.

Now I know, some of you will say, "well they had a retail box" and yes they did, I bought it, but that intially unlocked a ton of stuff. So that value for me was worth it . Even after, I bought more skins as I enjoy the game very much so. But I don't pay a monthly fee, I didn't pay a huge frontal cost and by no means did the game hold back real content, skins are fun and one can argue clothing is just that a skin, but in MMO's you are playing a part , Role Playing a World, when you tell me "well just pay 5 bucks and that shirt is yours" , I say " I just gave you 50 +15 +15 and now you want 5 more? yea, well enough is enough. TWS lost one sub because of their pricing model.

"The monster created isn't by the company that makes the game, it's by the fans that make it something it never was"

  Silverbranch

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/31/10
Posts: 179

Wherever you go, there you are.

7/05/12 5:10:25 PM#20

The thing that made Pandora's Box so dangerous was the temptation to open it.

Wherever you go, there you are.

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