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Making Buy-to-Play Worth It

Victor Barreiro Jr. Posted:
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Most everyone at the moment is out on holiday, including the folks at Funcom. That doesn't mean the Funcommians (Funcommittee? Funcommunity? Funcommies? Meh... I like Funcommunity) resting their laurels, however.

As we covered in two separate articles, Funcom's shifted The Secret World from a subscription-based MMORPG into a buy-to-play title with optional subscriptions. For the most part, people were rather enthused with the shift, though some folks were also less than pleased.

One of you did manage to get on my personal nerves by going all “We're gonna sue the pants off of Funcom and take them to hell” in a comment, for lack of a better term, though I let it slide since we were all afraid of dying from a disastrous world-rending cataclysmic event.

Funcom has been looking out for those comments in the community though, and apparently, they did some more post-announcement magic to make it clear that subscribers, whether grandmasters or not, will not be shafted for their loyalty.

The Bylos Discussions Outcome

Joel bylos, writing as Nusquam on the TSW forums, posted a long comment regarding what they'll be doing to address those who've been subscribers.

The overview is simple. Three things will be added to improve everyone's quality of life, but the additions are weighted towards incentivizing loyalty from the subscriber base. The first is the addition of a Veteran Rewards System. The second is a price guarantee for new content for subscribers and grandmasters. Lastly, Funcom will be implementing an automatic purchase DLC feature for accounts.

Let's parse the three, shall we?

Veteran Rewards

Much like RIFT, Veteran Rewards allow players who've been loyal to the game to get more goodies relative to the time they've spent as a subscriber. According to the post, they'll be listing the incentives in January (Vacations first!), but the general idea is that people who've held a subscription will have an additional set of “boosts, cosmetics, and other useful items” available for purchase using points.

I'm supposing they mean Funcom/Bonus points, which is fine. The rewards program should be an excellent points sink for those who want more customizability in their clothing or other knick-knacks, especially if they feel like changing clothes a lot.

I'm guessing their idea is to make people want to revisit the game to spend points, and then top up as needed if there's something especially awesome coming up as a subscriber with an upcoming veteran reward. While I've discussed looking at how certain companies try to use psychological maneuvering to get people to spend money needlessly, I'm not completely against it if the methods are clear.

TSW is a strange beast by virtue of being buy-to-play with subscription and points-buying options. The money has to come in to keep TSW going, and so long as the Funcom accountants and decision-makers are clear in the vision of treating customers as valued clients(which will be evident in the next point), then I can be cool with what they're doing.

The Guarantee

The Funcom price guarantee for DLC is an interesting bit of news for the game. The explanation follows that so long as you're a subscriber (or grandmaster), if a DLC in the future costs more than what they give to a subscriber in a month, subscribers will only pay for the DLC using the maximum number of points they get in a month.

Their practical example then states that if the monthly stipend given to subscribers is US$10 of points, but the DLC is worth US$20, those with subs or lifetime accounts basically only pay US$10 worth of points for the DLC.

The math in my head seems to work fine in this sense, but Funcom need to be more clear on the mechanics. People who have active subscriptions usually pay US$15 for the subscription monthly (less in multi-month increments), so they don't have to worry much about this. If you're a non-subscriber though, the idea might be that you either buy a month's subscription and use the stipend to buy the DLC, or you buy enough points without a subscription to get the US$20 DLC.

Funcom has to make it clear if that's cool with them or not, because otherwise, people will try and maximize the systems the game will put in place to their benefit. The funny thing I've noticed between the synergy of the veteran program and the price guarantee is that by subscribing to the game, you also add a month to your veteran status, which also creates a new feedback loop for spending and adds a wrinkle for those who like getting exclusive stuff. It's a little clever, to be honest, if that was intended.

The Autobuy Mechanism

This last bit is a little contentious in my head, but it seems like such a simple addition to MMORPGs that I'm amazed it hasn't been thought of before. Either that, or I've missed it completely.

Apparently, Funcom will implement a feature that allows people to get DLC without ever visiting the store. This is an excellent addition for those who simply want to use their points to buy content rather than spend it on fluff or for those who have low willpower (like myself).

Details haven't been released yet, but my guess is that it's basically an auto-unlock and points subtraction function more than anything else if new DLC is part of the patch cycle. Now, it's a pretty novel idea for MMOs, but the idea of unlocking content that's on the disc in non-MMOs has been an annoyance for players worldwide. The idea of unlocking patches in a game follows a different sort of idea, but it may become something that some players will gripe about eventually on a rainy, post-apocalyptic day.

Open for Discussion

Bylos ended his post by saying that all of this is up for adjustment, so you should probably make your voices heard after Christmas.

Let the information sink in, let it simmer, and then come up with your own ideas, and put them on the TSW boards (or over here if you feel like it). Maybe Funcom might find your idea a bit of genius and use it! Cheers to all!


Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.