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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

The F2P Item Shop Survival Guide 2.0

Posted by Inktomi Saturday February 20 2010 at 2:00AM
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 Hello all,

Addition: I now realize the problem that people are having with Allods online. Concerning the perfumes only last 30 minutes and a stack of 20 lasts 10 hours for $13.50. Thats too rich for my blood. You can read through this blog to the point where I talk about budgetting. Its a little ways out of my budget and Allods is not the greatest game of all time for me. 

In light of recent events concerning Allods Online I decided to practice a little Necromancy. I looked at some of my old blogs and came across one that I wrote for people when the "cash shop vs subscription" was a hot debate. It still is on some blogs and I took a post from last year, fixed it up, updated it and added some cool pictures. 

I really hope this helps some people that are just getting into F2P games. It would be good to also quell some of the rage that has kicked up because of the Allods Online Cash Shop Debacle.

Now on with the show!

The first thing I do is look at the currency: they have a lot of different names according to the game company you use. There are the diamonds, NCcoin, Gpotatoe’s and even the new “cryptic buck” that is going to be used in the soon to be released Champions Online.

Edit: $1 = 100 Gpotatoes so $50 = 5000 Gpots.

They are usually sold in online packages that you can buy as bundles or pre-paid cards that come in $10 - $20 increments and up. These can be redeemed online and used in the cash shop; some are even sold in convenience stores. For that late night gamer in all of us!

Do the math: Like any Foriegn RL currency there is a transfer rate from that currency to ours.
5000 ÷ 100 = 50
So for every $1.00 I get 100 Gpots, doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
1 gpot = 1 us penny.

“How do I buy Gpotatoes?” Most games do take PayPal, most credit cards or offer prepaid cards as I said earlier. If you don’t feel comfy with using your ID online and can’t find prepaid, what I do is go to my local mall and get a gift certificate that comes in the form of a VISA card.

Make sure it says VISA or MasterCard on it, if not then there are other alternatives, usually they will have that stuff listed on the site. The prepaid and GC’s are a great way to keep your ID safe and keep yourself on a budget. I know that I would be dangerous with a major CC tied to a F2P MMORPG, lol.

Edit: I've seen these Gpotatoe cards at Walmarts, Targets and 7-11's here in NY. Ranging from $10 up. There is cards for almost every MT game in the NA market, look around.

Storage: most F2P MT (micro-trans) games have an element built in that limits your storage capacity and sells you the slots (bank, bag, character, content or otherwise) for a time at a fee. I know that many games will put quest items in your physical inventory, along with other stuff you collect along the way. This can quickly become cumbersome, especially for crafters, collectors, explorers and general packrats like me. (I'm a packrat.)

Travel Arrangements: This consists of anything that get’s you from point A to point B. Mounts that fly or not, horses, teleporters, markers, portals etc. This division can get pricey and has items that fall under 2 categories, Travel and Vanity Items. Many times companies will offer you some startup travel arrangements ingame, and also offer sales.

But be careful, I know someone who went nuts over a $10 horse, and that seems like a lot. But if this is going to be a permanent fixture for you and plan on spending the money, make sure that it is going to be a one shot deal. If you don’t want an ordinary mount, then walk it and wait for something that you really want or take a temporary in the meantime.

Vanity Items: Ahh, everyones favorite. Anything that changes the appearance of your character, mount, pet or otherwise and doesn’t change any stats is simply vanity. Just for looks. Even that pet is vanity, that flying mount is as well as I mentioned before. Since it’s all for looks, this is where you ask yourself: “How important is this to me?”

Most Vanity is really cheap, but some isn’t. Changing facial or racial aspects can cost you some money; just keep asking yourself if it’s worth it to you to do it. Armor and weapons are sometimes offered in shops, this is where it gets tricky; if they do actually carry improved stats and are not available anywhere in game it falls under MLH’s, if not then they are strictly vanity items as well.

MLH’s or “Mommies Little Helpers”™: This is the category that has the MMO Society in an uproar and sometimes causes people to take stances and choose sides. This consists of anything that increases the game experience and how it affects your character.

Most of this consists of potions for increased experience gain or increased loot drops, also any armor, weapons or pets that provide a boost in stats. Very often, companies provide “packages” of these types of items or a subscription style access to the game (The DDO VIPs as an example).

Edit: this is some of the items that has the anti-RMT community up in arms. It does cause some imbalances if you look at leveling speed and accruing money faster. This is also part of real-life, not everyone has the same playing field. I know this is a game, again, you have a choice to 1) buy in and 2) play the game without it.

I also feel that certain types of upgrades to items at MLH’s and come in the form of enchantments or effect equipment in some beneficial way. Some feel that this might provide an imbalance in the game between characters that do and the ones that don’t.

This is a vast topic that is up for discussion about certain items or affects, I am not going to get into semantics here about it. I am just going to provide a loose and open category, if you want to get into particulars, which is your call. That is just my outlook on that, and that is all I have to say on the topic. TYVM

Most MLH’s usually will give you more exp bonus and less death penalty but that varies between games. For some, this can be a very way to really ramp up the meaningfulness in the time you play, or can be abused by some to get a “leg up” on other players.

This all differs from player to player, if you feel that this is not your route, don’t do it. If you feel that it streamlines the way you play, and then put it in your budget. I for one, always patronize a good game with at least 1 month of a package type deal, I feel its good karma, good business and gives back to the community. A lot of times though, I do ask myself “is this worth the money?”

Content: This I feel is the meat and potatoes of a cash shop. This constitutes any playable content such as quests or areas, minigames, characters/races or even slots for characters or content. City of Heroes recently started offering players extra slots for created content using the architect to store new story arcs.

Another example are the racecar and driver job of Free Realms, these have an effect on “what you play” and your meaningful experience within the game. If I was going to spend any money on a game, it would be here mostly, because I want to get the most out of this game and what it offers.

Again, watch your budget.

More on budget: Look at it this way. With a game that costs you $29.99 for the software and $15 a month, you play that for 1 year your are spending over $210.00. There was a recent survey done by Playspan and it stated that the average person who spent money on virtual goods spent around $50, give or take. The higher end spent over $100, but that was only 15% that was tested.

Enough of the boring numbers, if I could play a great game and spend $100 instead of $200, I'm your man. Your problem with it is that is it going to be a level playing field. It really never is. The real factor to me is time, do I have the time to play as much as other people? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It depends on various factors. So popping a couple of EXP pots to catch up on a few levels is sometimes worth it to me.

Specialty Items: These are most items that are only offered for a limited time or tied into an event. One example is the new Thunderbird mount offered in Mabinogi, only offered between July 16 to July 23rd. This is an attractive flying mount that does carry abilities and stats, also boosts your stats as well. This can be classed as MLH, vanity and specialty, if your  playing Mabonogi you might want to consider this. Again, specialty items can vary from game to game and class to class.

I recenty posted this on Including buying expansions one can easily spend over $200 a year. I could get away with half of that, have a great time and walk away at any time. Returning to a F2P game is easy, just update and wa-la! I'm good to go again.

As far as the shops giving an advantage, it might give some a competitive edge with leveling faster. I haven't seen many shops offer OP'd items and equipment. Maybe some of the items to CREATE OP'd items, thats when I say to myself, "Is this worth it to me?" That's the question that many players need to ask themselves when they start playing a game with RMT.

The other question is, "Ok if it is worth it, how much is my budget?" That will give some players a rough idea on how much they are willing to sink into a game. If you can get along with spending $10-$20 a month, then you are right inline with the cost of a subscription based game.

In closing

There are pros and cons to playing games with micro-trans. As a community it is unclear on what is tolerable. I know we (as consumers I say we) are attracted to the "free" word.

This has been a buzzword in many online campaigns, someone actually wrote a book on it.  As a player its up to you to decide 1) how much you are willing to spend on your hobby and 2) do whats the most fun for you and your time. I would also read this article posted here. Its really helpful in putting this "cash shop cunundrum" in perspective.

I hate to be the one to tell you, but its a marketing tactic to get you interested. You have to understand, its a business. Nothing runs solely on handshakes and hugs. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Gimme a bump if you think it deserves it. It makes me feel happy.

Play safe,