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Columns: The Trouble with Item Stores

By Shannon Doyle on September 23, 2014

The Trouble with Item Stores

Item Stores are a funny thing. Some people love them, some people hate them. They offer a players the opportunity to get new items, and often even new content. They help keep the world of the MMO you’re in looking fresh. Or they can give you a boost to heal faster, or gain experience more quickly. The item store for The Secret World does all of this and more, and yet…there’s something missing.

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I have a lifetime subscription, this means every month a get a stipend of points as well as a discount on everything in the store. I buy every Issue and every Sidestories pack when they come out. I may not get around to playing them right away but I want to make sure I have them when I am ready. All of that being said, I still have nearly 7,000 bonus points. I’m not spending points fast enough. Why? Nothing is grabbing me.

Long ago, back at the launch of The Secret World I thought I would be throwing money at them on at least a bi-weekly basis. I expected to see new outfits and clothes in the store all the time. Of course since then they’ve gone buy to play and I’m basically getting free money from them. Funcom hasn’t actually received any money from me since the very early days of the game. Something I kind of feel bad about. I want to support The Secret World. Yes, I gave them the initial injection of $265 for the lifetime subscription and then I bought points twice after that. But the last time I did that it was 2012. I haven’t needed to buy points since then because there hasn’t been enough for me to spend the points I have.

I love clothes. Not so much in real life, but in games I love clothes. I adore Guild Wars 2 because I can spend a lot of time playing dress up the dolly. I love doing that in The Secret World too. I often have my character Penny wearing the MMORPG tee shirt for screenshots but the reality is that anytime I start playing a spend a good ten minutes or so picking out her outfit for the day. If we make a wild transition from say Kingsmouth to Egypt, I take the time to change my outfit. To reflect that not only will some time have passed but that Penny realizes the jeans and tank top that worked for her in the Blue Mountains won’t work so well in the sands of Egypt.

The Secret World’s item store does indeed have clothes. And I do find myself buying them from time to time. But the majority I am happy to pass up. Right now there’s a new green dress in the store. It’s a terrible olive green that makes me think of my Grandmother. The style of the dress even makes me think of my Grandmother, the whole thing just screams old lady. Needless to say I will be passing on that one. Another issue with clothes in the store are the color options. Because of the way they set it up you have to buy each individual color you want for each item. Yes, it means more money for them (in theory). But what if you really want a certain pair of boots in white and they’re only offering them in dark brown? You are just out of luck. They don’t seem to ever go back and add more colors to items which, if you will forgive my armchair developer moment, seems like it should be something easy to do. Maybe it’s a time thing. They feel like their development time could be better spent making new items instead. I totally understand that. After all, I want new shinies. But if there were a system in place that allowed players to place their own colors into items…well that opens up a whole new avenue of monetization. They could take a page from Guild Wars 2 and sell colors. Buy the red pack, get Scarlet, Ruby, and Fire Engine Red. It even helps give the appearance of a greater variety than there really is.

Okay, enough about clothes, there are other things in the store too. I never really got into pets. They’re cute and in theory I should love them. Who knows, maybe with my new character I’ll start using them. But until now I’ve never NEEDED to have one. Titles, I….I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of paying (even with free money) for title. And I don’t think I’ve known anyone who has bought one. Maybe I’m just missing out on something. Do you buy titles? Let me know in the comments below. So that brings us to boosts. I’ve never really been a big user of boosts in any game I play. I’m rarely playing a game to get that next skill unlocked, I’m playing to get through the content. This is especially true in The Secret World. So, getting a boost to AP doesn’t really interest me. I know I’m odd in this case.

What would I like to see in the store? More clothes. I won’t even pretend that it isn’t at the top of the list. But I’d also enjoy seeing more weapons, more out of combat items. City of Heroes once introduced a “Frisbee” disc to the game. It was just a neat little interactive toy that people could throw back and forth. It wasn’t a huge success, but other items like the snowballs were something to harass your friends with all year long. And were both adored and hated by the masses.

I want to support Funcom and The Secret World. I would love to see my point balance drop to zero and have to buy points again. I am happy to throw money at studios who I love and want to see thrive. I can’t give them a subscription and right now there isn’t enough in the store that I’m interested in. So they aren’t making any money off me, and that makes me sad.

I just wanted to end this with a quick update for those who will be joining in on the lowbie fun. I have rolled up my character, her name is Sofia “Cyin” Moore. She is an Illuminati Agent and is eagerly awaiting our first play session together. We’ll be start together at Jack Boone in Kingsmouth, just outside Agartha. The Cabal hasn’t been created yet as you now have to be Rank 2 in your Faction before you can start one. So, once more here are all the details:

  • Start Date: October 4th, 2014
  • Schedule: Saturdays at 9PM London Time, 4PM New York, 5AM Seoul (Time changed by an hour to accommodate for Doctor Who.)
  • Faction: Illuminati
  • Server: Arcadia
  • Leader: Cyin
  • Cabal: Coming Soon.
  • Meeting Place: Jack Boone, Kingsmouth. Just outside the door to Agartha.