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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: What Makes Me Monetize

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13468

 
OP  10/15/13 7:51:20 PM#1

Monetization in today's era of the free to play MMO is always a hot topic. In his latest column, Matt Miller takes a look at what he believes makes sense for moetization. See what he thinks before adding your own ideas to the comments.

Free-to-play games are here to stay. There’s no denying the impact they have had on the North American MMO scene over the past five years. Then, of course, there are the free-to-play mobile games and apps that do the best to occupy your time with even more things to click and explore. Of course, we all know by now that free-to-play is a misnomer, a game can’t be entirely free or else how would the company stay in business? The game needs to monetize somehow. It needs to get players to be presented with a point where they feel that giving the game their money is a sound and solid investment.

Read more of Matt Miller's What Makes Me Monetize.

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

  Daranar

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/22/11
Posts: 165

10/16/13 10:29:10 AM#2
Nice way to try to mask Power as Convenience.   When you can outright buy a power item that takes weeks to obtain, that is selling the convenience of....Power!   This, your mindset, is all that is wrong with MMOs since the F2P era and arguably since 2004's rise of the casual MMORPGer.   Like most my signatures say, "If I want a world in which people can purchase success and power with cash, I'll play Real Life. Keep Virtual Worlds Virtual!"

If I want a world in which people can purchase success and power with cash, I'll play Real Life. Keep Virtual Worlds Virtual!

  FrinkiacVII

Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

10/16/13 10:37:38 AM#3
City of Heroes was the only MMO I ever really played, much less paid a monthly fee for, so other people's mileage may vary.   I played CoH  so much when it first came out that I felt the monthly sub was worth it, and I went full bore for the yearly sub to save a little money.  At times when I got worn out on it, I was able to keep my account because I had a friend willing to jump in for a while on it.  Eventually it went F2P and my friend was like "it's free now, so you may as well just take your account back, because I don't really care." so I did.  Within 2 days I had resubscribed for VIP, for a year.  The end of that year was approximately the end of the game (I think I ended up getting like 3 weeks of VIP at the end essentially for free or something, in any event they didn't owe me any money).  Even paying for VIP I didn't gripe about the new cash shop like some VIP people did.  At the time, as now, my position on the subject was this:  I will pay money to support hobbies and games I enjoy participating in/playing because that's what keeps those hobbies and games from disappearing entirely.   Not only that, but there were some really awesome costume pieces you could get quickly that way too.  I think if the cash shop had existed early on, you would have gotten a lot of people buying respec tokens if nothing else.  In fact, they probably would have complained that the devswere only nerfing powers to make you buy a respec again, so maybe it's better the F2P model wasn't in place yet at that point.  Anyway, I dislike the idea of selling awesome powerful items to people as a way of making money, especially if those items aren't available any other way, but I don't have a problem with paying a monthly sub and/or paying for the game install disc at a store and/or a cash shop that sells cool looking extras and convenience items like respecs, server transfers, costume pieces, etc.  I also think that just about anything you paid for in a cash shop or got in-game ought to be sellable on the in-game auction house or whatever (if there is one). 

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  Po_gg

Elite Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 2035

10/16/13 10:49:57 AM#4

Nice summary of the drives behind the model (and bonus points for the LotRO shots :) ) As for the questions:

 

What makes you monetize or buy into into a F2P game?  since all my games turned into f2p / freemium over the years, I had the time to adjust, getting familiar with the new world. First and foremost I buy services: extra character slots (altoholism ftw), unlocks, additional tabs, etc. With that I mark checked your Worthiness section as well, since I buy those only if the game is worthy enough for my money. Second, I occasionally buy convenience and cosmetic stuff as well, rarely, since I like it better if I can earn things in game.

 

Have you ever bought a microtransaction and felt you paid too much? nope, I try to avoid those deals... for example (and I wrote it many times in AoC threads) Funcom charges so insane prices on Trader and Bag slots that I rather drop in 1-2 months of subscription when I go back instead of buying those from the store.

 

Better yet, was there ever a microtransaction you thought was undervalued for what you got?  yep, just check Rift, (maybe the most amazing model from a player's POV), I mean 16 credits for a mount? that's like... 10 cents :) in LotRO the mounts are in the $15-$20 range...

 

  Sovrath

Elite Member

Joined: 1/06/05
Posts: 17219

10/16/13 10:50:13 AM#5

Vanity

Most of my "Turbine points" have gone into Vanity items.

They would make a LOT more money if they incorporated some better looking vanity items with the level of detail that the new Helm's Deep vanity mount and armor has.

  Ender4

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/18/08
Posts: 2094

10/16/13 10:54:19 AM#6

I would never buy any vanity items or any skins or anything like that, those are just a waste of money to me.

I generally only pay for character slots or bag/bank space. If there is some sort of premium package I could see paying for that, like the one month sub for SWTOR that got me their preferred status.

I bought an extra bank slot upgrade in GW2 and extra tabs in PoE.

  CrazKanuk

Elite Member

Joined: 10/06/09
Posts: 1055

10/16/13 11:16:29 AM#7

I totally agree with your list, although I rarely invest beyond convenience. TBH, if there is a subscription option that unlocks everything and gives me an exp boost on the daily, then I'm all over that. Otherwise, I sometimes have difficulty pulling the trigger on things like experience potions. 

 

An interesting aspect that you didn't really touch on that is a BIG deal to me is ethics in monetization. Some may argue that something like SWTOR is an unethical monetization scheme. I, personally, felt like a subscription relieved most, if not all, concerns surrounding that monetization. Where I think that my boundary lies is with these micro-transaction tablet/smartphone apps. I read an article yesterday that Clash of Clans had sold 51% of it's share for $3 Billion!!! I was like "Huh?" Apparently based on stats from April of this year, Clash of Clans was doing $2.4 million per DAY!!! That is arguably more, on a monthly basis, than WoW or any other MMORPG that is in existence today. For a game that, probably, cost significantly less to develop than what it generates on a daily basis. 

 

Do you think that games like Clash of Clans, Kingdoms of Camelot, etc. push the bounds of what's ethical? Or are ethics determined by the individuals playing the games? Personally, these types of games are time sinks, with no real ending or even story for that matter. I think that, when put into perspective, I don't really see any of the current MMOs on the market today being bad at all in comparison to these apps. 

Crazkanuk

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  GrumpyMel2

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/24/09
Posts: 1824

10/16/13 11:18:26 AM#8

I've actualy not yet purchased anything in a F2P game....since I rather dislike that style of monetization. I have kicked some money into a Kickstarter for a game, Pathfinder Online, that is going to feature a version of F2P monetization because I think what they want to develop is worthwhile and I want to see it succeed. So I would say worthiness alone.

For me buying items or bonus'es or "convenience" which I basicaly regard as nothing more then buying power with a marketing spin  as cover defeats the purpose of playing the game or why I like to play them.

Note, I'm not going to blame or look down on the people who do make RMT purchases or the companies that monetize that way. To each thier own and as long as someone is having fun and the company is providing a decent service that's fine. However, for me doing so....it would defeat the enjoyment of why I'm playing the game in the first place.

There have actualy been a couple F2P games that I've played which were decent.... and which I WOULD have been willing to kick the Developer some money for providing a good product.....However I purposefully didn't make a purchase because doing so would have detracted from my enjoyment of the game and would have sent the Developer a message about my monetization preferences that I didn't want to send.

Frankly I wish there had been a "I enjoyed playing your game and thought it was worth a few bucks but don't like RMT or the F2P model....so here's a few bucks for producing a good product but don't be confused about my preferences" button.  I actualy WOULD have kicked the Developer a few bucks if it had been there.

I was a long time LOTRO subscriber.....hated what Turbine did by going F2P...... but I stayed on for awhile as a VIP because it was still a decent game for awhile after that and I still had online freinds there. However I never spent a single Turbine Point.

 

 

 

 

  SavageHorizon

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/14/13
Posts: 1566

10/16/13 11:21:34 AM#9
Originally posted by FrinkiacVII
City of Heroes was the only MMO I ever really played, much less paid a monthly fee for, so other people's mileage may vary.   I played CoH  so much when it first came out that I felt the monthly sub was worth it, and I went full bore for the yearly sub to save a little money.  At times when I got worn out on it, I was able to keep my account because I had a friend willing to jump in for a while on it.  Eventually it went F2P and my friend was like "it's free now, so you may as well just take your account back, because I don't really care." so I did.  Within 2 days I had resubscribed for VIP, for a year.  The end of that year was approximately the end of the game (I think I ended up getting like 3 weeks of VIP at the end essentially for free or something, in any event they didn't owe me any money).  Even paying for VIP I didn't gripe about the new cash shop like some VIP people did.  At the time, as now, my position on the subject was this:  I will pay money to support hobbies and games I enjoy participating in/playing because that's what keeps those hobbies and games from disappearing entirely.   Not only that, but there were some really awesome costume pieces you could get quickly that way too.  I think if the cash shop had existed early on, you would have gotten a lot of people buying respec tokens if nothing else.  In fact, they probably would have complained that the devswere only nerfing powers to make you buy a respec again, so maybe it's better the F2P model wasn't in place yet at that point.  Anyway, I dislike the idea of selling awesome powerful items to people as a way of making money, especially if those items aren't available any other way, but I don't have a problem with paying a monthly sub and/or paying for the game install disc at a store and/or a cash shop that sells cool looking extras and convenience items like respecs, server transfers, costume pieces, etc.  I also think that just about anything you paid for in a cash shop or got in-game ought to be sellable on the in-game auction house or whatever (if there is one). 

I wanted to read it but i couldn't because it hurt my eyes trying.

 

Vanity items is all i've bought in lotro, to be fare they started out with a half decent ftp model.

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  GrumpyMel2

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/24/09
Posts: 1824

10/16/13 11:30:33 AM#10
Originally posted by Daranar
Nice way to try to mask Power as Convenience.   When you can outright buy a power item that takes weeks to obtain, that is selling the convenience of....Power!   This, your mindset, is all that is wrong with MMOs since the F2P era and arguably since 2004's rise of the casual MMORPGer.   Like most my signatures say, "If I want a world in which people can purchase success and power with cash, I'll play Real Life. Keep Virtual Worlds Virtual!"

I agree with this statement. I don't mind that such games exist or that there are people who want to do this. I might even play in such a game if it's otherwise fun enough and not too egrigious about .....though I won't make any RMT purchases. However, lets not try to pretend it's something other then what it is. Buying an item that gives you an advantage is buying power plain and simple. It doesn't matter if the item is obtainable through other means..... that's kinda like saying a baseball team can score a run through gameplay, so buying a run isn't a form of pay to win.

  jesteralways

Elite Member

Joined: 3/17/13
Posts: 599

10/16/13 11:37:04 AM#11
As always, nicely written article. Even though i don't agree completely with "power/convenience" explanation but i believe an f2p game that does not sell power masking it under convenience won't ever make any money. just look at Rift now, no power selling under the mask of convenience, so f2p players don't feel inclined to buy cash shop items and people who wants to get fast cash selling cash shop item don't feel like buying anything from cash shop. some power items have to be sold with a mask of convenience, otherwise it is a fail.

i want an open world, no phasing, no instancing.i want meaningful owpvp.i want player driven economy.i want meaningful crafting.i want awesome exploration, a sense of thrill.i want ow housing with a meaningful effect on my entire gameplay experience, not just some instanced crap.i want all of these free of cost, i don't wanna pay you a cent, game devs can eat grass and continue developing game for me.
Seems like that is the current consensus of western mmo players.

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

10/16/13 12:22:47 PM#12

I used to buy vanity items in UO simply because, well, that was the only mechanic available to obtain them and I'm a collector at heart.  But there was a year where no new content was added to the game except for a pack of vanity items in the store and it set off alarm bells that caused me to re-examine my entire attitude towards microtransactions, the effect they have on developer priorities and the experience they are actually providing. 

Nowadays, I have a personal rule that if I start to feel drawn to a game's store, I uninstall the game instead.  I feel that in the end I wind up in better games because of this.

  MumboJumbo

Elite Member

Joined: 7/18/10
Posts: 3177

Veni, Vidi, Converti

10/16/13 1:06:21 PM#13

I've just found F2P starts to grate the more games that provide it. It's really nice to shut that off while enjoying a game. So I just pay for really good games only now. If it's not really good it's not worth my time and F2P games usually aren't really good.

Fortunately F2P is thriving in app games so you get to see all the variations of tactics F2P throws at you. There's the occassional GOOD version and that provides access to more gameplay options (eg units in a strategy game) if you purchase them (or even earn in game by-product style). So I think forking out money is only valid for gameplay. The only good thing imo about F2P is trying some gameplay before buying.

  Torvaldr

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 5799

10/16/13 1:07:38 PM#14

Thanks for writing another article Matt.

What makes you monetize or buy into into a F2P game?

My list is very similar if not identical to yours. I buy for convenience, then vanity, and if nothing else I'll throw at least $5 - $10 at a developer if I play enough. The latter is sort of subjective. My thumbrule is, "How much would I have paid for similar entertainment in a single player title?" If I play at least a few weeks and enjoyed the time then I'll spend some money even if the game isn't the greatest. How much I spend and what I buy depends on how much I like the game.

My time is also very valuable so I don't mind buying convenience. How a game is divided up and sold also influences how I spend. I don't mind buying character slots or bag space, generally or content/dlc/xpacs, but if I run into walls where I must buy bag space or other things early on or immediately upon returning, then I'm much less likely to spend at all or even stick around. I found this to be true in LotRO recently. I returned to see a lot I would want to purchase in order to just enjoy the game "as normal". It was off-putting and so I chose to play EQ2 instead which had a much shallower reentry fee. I didn't need to purchase anything at all in EQ2 when I returned and chose to buy the next xpac + a 3 month sub because it was all optional and fit what I wanted to do in the game.

I do buy appearance items because part of my enjoyment comes from creating the persona of the characters I like to play. Since it's a visual game world I'll buy stuff to make my character look the part I've built for him. It's also one of the easier approaches to support the game past account conveniences (storage, slots, etc).

Sometimes I will purchase a power item, but if I can't get that through game play then the game won't satisfy me. It's adventuring, not shopping I want to do. Neverwinter and STO are examples of games that offer a lot freely, but lock the neat stuff in the store. I can play the entire game of Neverwinter for free, but if I want a great companion I have to buy it and that draws a majority of the fun out of the game for me.

One thing I hate the most, and Turbine is the poster child for this, is locking core game mechanics behind the store and over-monetizing every aspect of the game. Like I said earlier, they lost my money to SoE because it became an overwhelming annoyance. I like sub-free and don't mind perusing a cash shop for goodies, but I also don't want to waste my precious gaming time there.

Have you ever bought a microtransaction and felt you paid too much?

Not really. If I don't think it's a good deal, then I won't buy it. Again, Neverwinter is a good example. I bought the $60 pack that included a good mount and a top tier companion, among other things. Additional mounts and companions are very expensive, to me, and I won't justify the price. Cryptic/PWE isn't likely to see more money out of me unless I buy another combo pack in the future. Their item pricing is just too much, but like you said it hasn't been adjusted much so others much not feel the same as I do.

I really like how EQ2, Rift, and Tera price things, especially Tera. EQ2 has very reasonable prices on most things with some options to spend more if you want. As store items age their price usually drops dramatically. Rift offers a ton of stuff at very low prices with a few expensive appearance items. Tera is great because they offer purchases geared for every style. You can rent many items (some apparently like this), you can purchase them for a single character, or you can purchase account wide if you're an altaholic. The other key thing about Tera is that all the functionality you really want from the game is offered free of charge with cash shop purchases or the subscription augmenting the game. It's currently my favorite setup.

Was there ever a microtransaction you thought was undervalued for what you got?

Po_gg nailed it with Rift. I think Trion is undervaluing some items and even though a few cosmetics are rather spendy, most stuff is a little low. One thing I think Rift does well that I failed to mention above is their loyalty reward setup. Instead of outright purchases unlocking things like Auction Sales, it's based on how much you spend overall. A small $10 - $15 purchase (through the sub or store) will unlock those features and this helps inhibit gold sellers and multi-account creators. Still, overall I think Trion could normalize their cash shop slightly. I think they made the mistake of undervaluing the shop items as it is much harder to sell a price increase to your customers than it is a price reduction.

Curse you AquaScum!

  crack_fox

Novice Member

Joined: 7/09/04
Posts: 398

10/16/13 1:43:32 PM#15
With the more aggressive F2P games, I like to apply Sparrow's maxim: 'take what you can, give nothing back". However, if the game does not  go out of its way to antagonise me, then I might occasionally purchase something from the services menu: a rename, a transfer, a redesign. 
  Loktofeit

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 12278

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, Project Gorgon, and Combat Arms

10/16/13 1:51:25 PM#16

What makes you monetize or buy into into a F2P game?

Pretty much the same thing that makes me buy stuff at the mall. If I think something looks, goofy, neat, entertaining, etc I'll buy it. The other thing I'll sometimes get is the starter kits or founders packs for when I'm playing an MMO with my son. That usually allows us to have some kind of matching thing between our characters or the game cash to buy a matching thing.

 

Have you ever bought a microtransaction and felt you paid too much?

Nope, but I have found that certain items seems to devalue for me over time, specifically consumables.

 

Better yet, was there ever a microtransaction you thought was undervalued for what you got?

Yes. SMITE... #35 get every character they have PLUS every character they ever release afterwards. http://www.hirezstudios.com/smitegame/sidebar/ultimate-god-pack

 

"And wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia is very reliable. You would be hard pressed to find a more reliable source for these kinds of things." -fivoroth

  Loktofeit

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 12278

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, Project Gorgon, and Combat Arms

10/16/13 1:52:31 PM#17
Originally posted by Sovrath

Vanity

Most of my "Turbine points" have gone into Vanity items.

They would make a LOT more money if they incorporated some better looking vanity items with the level of detail that the new Helm's Deep vanity mount and armor has.

WORD.  I've got a ton of points still sitting around that I'd gladly throw at them for some upgraded art cosmetic stuff.

"And wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia is very reliable. You would be hard pressed to find a more reliable source for these kinds of things." -fivoroth

  rojoArcueid

Elite Member

Joined: 8/13/09
Posts: 5577

"It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver". - Niccolo Machiavelli

10/16/13 2:02:04 PM#18

the question should be What makes me NOT monetize?

 

People tend to say that selling power in a cashs hop is OK if you can get the same item or better in game just by playing. THIS is wrong and needs to change. The fact that we as customers are allowing them to seel power in the cash shop (no matter how little power is in question) we are opening the doors to their greed one step at a time. They are businesses so they will always look for ways and loopholes to make us pay more and more.

 

I will not pay a dime if a game sells power, even if its a little power.

 

a quote from Matt Miller's article,  "If World of Warcraft sold a mount on their cash shop that was faster than any other mount in the game available by any other means, that would be selling power."

That is not selling power, If i buy that faster mount i am not more powerful than you, i still can not beat you any easier by purchasing a faster mount. That is not power unless the mount gives passive stat increase to my character just by having the mount in my stable UI.

 

I repeat. Allowing them to sell "less powerful" gear in cash shop is wrong. That is accepting their ways to sell power little by little and with time that will keep increasing and when that happens, they will already have a reason to say they have been doing it for many years and people accepted it. The blame can only be ours as players and customers for allowing greedy practices.

My endgame begins with character creation and ends with a new mmorpg

  Jaedor

Elite Member

Joined: 8/17/09
Posts: 916

10/16/13 2:31:15 PM#19

I usually support a game I love by subbing for long stretches. After that, I'll buy the game currency when it's on sale - maybe once a year or so, though I may not have a particular use for it at the time.

 

And then I use that game currency mostly for convenience items but occasionally for an upgrade.  Since I don't have a lot of time to play, my characters will always be behind the stat curve so I don't have a problem buying items as long as they can also be obtained in game.

 

The only time I've ever crossed that boundary was buying the sparkle pony in WoW, because I'd always wanted one.

  jakin

Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/27/04
Posts: 237

10/16/13 2:45:30 PM#20

Personally, I've only ever paid for one thing  -  Content.

 

In DCUO for instance, F2P up to a point, but then bought the DLC packs as they came out to have more things to do.  In GW2 I bought a character slot as I wanted to try a 5th race and I had already used up my initial 5 slots.  Expansion packs would be fine too (as long as there is something worthwhile in the pack).

 

Frankly, I'd probably be ok with paying small sums regularly for content patches.  That would give me the option of buying the content I like while staying away from the content I don't.  Though asking the consumer to make constant value judgements might be ego-bruising to the development teams.

 

As a player, I simply don't understand most of the 4 things listed in the article though.  If a game is purposefully inconvenient to the point where I would feel the need to buy something to make it less painful, I simply wouldn't play that game.  Same with the power argument - if I was so underpowered using the items the game supplies that I feel it necessary to buy stuff just to play; again off to the junkpile.

 

Vanity items particularly perplex me.  I just cannot for the life of me ever see myself paying actual cash for a virtual item just for the purpose of having a good looking avatar in game.  Just does not compute.

 

 

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