I was planning on writing a Devil's Advocate piece for this week, but I found out XL Games responded to some interview questions I sent in, reading them at pretty much the same time the folks on MMORPG.com were. As far as I understand it, the interview is more or less a raw output, with no filtering of their responses (and you may have noticed some redundant wording in there to point to that) because the message was clear... and it was a confusing thing to read, all the same.
There's an Adam Sandler movie, perhaps one of his earliest movies, called Billy Madison. The end of this movie had Billy Madison fighting his rival in an academic decathlon and, in trying to answer a question posed by his rival from a set of predetermined topics, utterly fails to anything except... actually, it utterly fails to answer the question and leaves people bewildered.
The moderator of that decathlon remarked harshly after hearing Billy Madison's response. He remarked to Billy, with Billy's rival and the audience able to hear, the following: "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
XL Games did not reach that level of inanity, as I can still comprehend their response, but there were enough holes worth poking in their response to my questions that it felt necessary to explain how utterly disappointed I was in the lack of new or illuminating information in what they sent back.
Clearing the air
To make sure that we're all on the same page, however, I'll be explaining the timeline of events as best I can. This is basically in response to some folks calling this an old interview in the comments.
At 9:06 pm of November 5, Philippine time (GMT+8), I received an email from my editor asking me if I wanted to send in some questions to XL Games to clarify and have them explain some points regarding their monetization system for ArcheAge. Approximately 24 hours later, I replied with the 5 questions used in the interview.
As far as I am able to piece together, there may have been a discussion prior to this in relation to the Mail.ru interview that I am not completely privy to, but my understanding of the situation was that XL Games wanted to state their side regarding this.
I formulated questions based on that assumption. I doubt they would have ignored an that Mail.ru interview as it had far-reaching consequences on ArcheAge worldwide, so my questions were fairly straightforward and twofold in purpose. First, I was hoping they would explain revenue model for ArcheAge by stating how the revenue model interacts with the game world's functions. Second, I wanted to see whether or not these were subject to debate or discussion while asking if the ArcheAge revenue model to be adopted by Trion Worlds would be the same thing they just explained.
The interview questions appeared to have come back on November 27 (Philippine time), a Wednesday. The article went up two days later on a Friday.
Muddying Currency Definitions
I'll go into one of my major concerns now, starting with how part of the reason why some are annoyed is because of the marketing spin behind their revenue model.
One thing I've noticed is a contradiction in terms. XL Games calls it a dual currency system, but that is a little misleading. Currency refers to something that either represents a concept equivalent to money, or is otherwise something used to trade to get something in return. That's why some people think personal information is the currency of the digitally connected world: because information on how you use an app or service can be traded by an app maker for money to the right people.
The point of that example is simple: if you can trade it to an NPC in the game world or to other people or convert it into something else that represents currency, that would also thematically apply as a form of currency. As such, crystals redeemed with real money acts as currency (a crystal represents an actual monetary value). Gold, as traded to NPCs for repair services and seeds and whatnot, is a form of currency that applies for in-game purposes, but whose byproducts (farmed crops, animals, and the like) represent a highly obscured form of real money value.
Between the two of these, arcs represent both a real money rate – the conversion from real money to crystal to arc – and a game world money rate – representing prices for stuff made from the purchase and use of items bought using gold and created over time.
As you can see from my attempt of explaining this – which took 20 minutes to even find a right way of explaining it – it's very confusing, but it boils down to the idea that calling it dual currency is a confusing untruth when you define currency at a base level.
An aside, there are at least three major MMOs I know of that use something similar. Neverwinter has Zen and Astral Diamonds. LOTRO has Turbine Points and Mithril Coins. The third is Star Trek Online, which also uses Zen. I'm just not that sure if it's refined dilithium or lobi crystals that count as the intermediary currency here.