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Ca$h Stores and Item Shops

May 26, 2010

Whether it be a Sparkle Pony, Shadow Cat-thing, or something as simple as an hour duration XP potion. Cash shops are starting to enter the “mainstream” MMO market. They are adopting practices that F2P and Indie companies have used for quite some years now. There has been countless arguments, both for and against the cash shop model. For those of you that don’t know there are 4 types of ways that players pay to play games.

F2P

F2P, or Free to Play games are completely free and don’t limit content at all. Most of these are Indie games that may or may not be in the “Released” stages.

F2P + Cash Shop

This is F2P, but not completely. Sometimes they will lock out content until you decide to buy it in the Cash shop. You can also typically buy items (of varying power), recipes, potions, mounts, furniture, costume pieces.. you name it.

Subscription

What most of us here in the States are used to. We pay our $xx.xx/mo, box fees, and expansion fees. With this we expect Content patches in between expansions, and a new expansion every, we’ll say, 1-2 years.

Sub + Cash Store

We are starting to see these pop up now. We pay our subs, box fees, expansion fees.. and for extra you have the option of buying things in the cash store. To my knowledge all of the main developers (Funcom, SOE, Blizzard, Turbine) have all adopted some for of this.

Now, I don’t mind cash shops to a point. Once they start offering players an advantage over other “non-cash shop” players, it becomes a problem. Also, being able to purchase content (ala EQ2 Adventure packs) is just gouging your customers. That stuff should be availiable via free content patches. Hell even F2P games do that.

Being so used to the subscription model, I am a little biased towards F2P. Most of them are cutsey little cartoon games,.. whatever. Not my thing. But I have, in the recent past, played a few F2P games. It hasn’t really changed my opinion of them, but it has made me see that the F2P market shouldn’t be boycotted.

Options are a great thing to have in your games. For example, lets talk Blizzard for a second. The pony, the pets, the mobile AH. None of these give players any real advantage over other players. But are still there for the people who would fork out the cash for them. So I don’t see what the issue is. At all.

Now look at Funcom. They offer to you a “Might of Crom” pack for 49.99 (Don’t quote me, we have dinosaur Internet Explorer here at work and I can’t get to the AOC website.) Anyways, it’s something like 49.99, gets you:

  • A bunch of XP potions
  • Weapon/Armor
  • Pet
  • Ring (plus xp I think)
  • One month game time

There may be more, but I think I covered the majority of it. Anyways. I think it’s a good thing to release things like this AFTER the initial release. Once most of the playerbase has hit the top levels. So what if someone wants to pay to have there alt level faster. Or someones friend who’s brand new joins the game and wants to play catch up. Does it hurt your gaming experience? Not really. For the people who want to pay the price of an expansion, let ’em.

Beau Hindman at Massively.com writes in an article today:

Third, subscription-only can punish innovation. If you look at the indie/free-to-play market, you will find true innovation. Pricing can bend and mold itself to the market, and players can truly send strong messages to developers by avoiding certain cash shop items. Instead of charging one price for a box of content that will be used differently by everyone, free-to-play expansions are almost always free and profits are made instead by players who can buy smaller bits of content as they see fit.

Obviously he is an advocate of F2P and Cash Shop models. But this statement right here is pretty much spot-on. If a developer utilizes a cash store, they can look at the data, and pretty much get feedback from it instantly.

But if we are going to play a game thats Sub+Box+Exp+Cash Shop items.. that’s an easy and quick way to go through alot of money. If this is how the big companies are going to do it, they need to re-evaluate a few things first.

My personal budget for MMOs is $50/month. Not including box fees. So that means I can run 1-4 accounts in multiple games or not, or purchase some things from the cash store. I know some people who would look at my monthly MMO budget and scream. “$50/month to play some games?? I have a hard time accepting that I have to pay $14.99” So something has to change. Cheaper sub rates, free expansions.. something. Then again, Blizzard proved that wrong with the sparkle pony because it was a hit.

But.. what is the outcome of all this? Players get shiny toys and pets and whatnot. Developers get more money. But honestly, it can’t be that hard to make a “XP Potion of awesomeness” or re-texture an already in the game mount, or shrinking a mob to make it a pet. So it’s not like the Dev team spends a bunch of work hours on this stuff. Basically, it’s all profit for the company. The player gets the shaft.

I wont start becoming a full supporter of Sub+Cash Store until we start seeing some changes with all the extra money the Company is getting from these toys. I want faster time between expansions (EQ2 has it right on, once a year), I want more of pretty much everything. But what I want the most of these companies, nay, what I expect (even now) is options. Everyone has a different playstyle. If someone hates levelling.. why shouldn’t they be allowed to have a XP potion if they wanna shell out the cash for it? Cause they level faster than you? Boo-hoo. If someone is tired of looking at their Swift Gray Ram, they can cough out the cash and buy something sparkly.

Put gold on the cash store too I say. Kill RMT. Developer houses could control MUDflation more. I would also say throw levels/characters into the cash store as well.. but that is stretching it. Nobody likes a max level complete noob.

You could very well even tailor “special” content to put on the cash store. Nothing that gives anyone advantages/disadvantages. But for playstyles. WoW could sell a housing patch for $30 and I bet you make a killing. Seeing as how Blizzard just wont give it to us. How about a collector’s pack? Adding new achievements into the game, Hide ‘n Seek mini-games, Scavenger hunt type stuff. Things that really can’t take THAT much resources to create. Throw it up on the store for a price that reflects the content, and let the niche players buy it up.

Nothing that changes the game. Just the way the game is played to that person. Personal options. Something I am not against in MMO’s.

 

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