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Archive for March 9th, 2010

Rog started this line of thought a while ago, and I’m just following up on it a bit.

Much fuss is made over microtransaction and item shop games “nickel and diming” consumers to financial ruin.  What about those little chunks of time that games eat up?  Do we value our time enough to worry about five minutes here, ten minutes there lost to time sinks?  How much do they actually cost when we’re paying for time, not content?

Richard Aihoshi mentions health regeneration (recovery downtime) in passing (the rest of the article is good, too).

Syp notes that the lack of respecs tends to force altitis, which is a significant time sink.

Nels reminds devs of the command:  Respect Thy Player

When time is money, say, under a subscription model, how much do these (sometimes) little inconveniences and time sinks cost?  Because there is no monetary fee assigned to them up front, do we ignore them?  How much does each griffon ride cost in WoW, in real money?  How much does it cost to die (repairs, corpse runs, etc.)?  How much does it cost to get Exalted reputation with a given faction?

Of course, the cost changes depending on playstyle.  Players who play more will wind up paying less for each death or ride, which is one advantage of the subscription model.  Even so, there is a cost.  I don’t have good numbers to run with, but just ballparking it, let’s say that an average WoW player plays an insane 20 hours a week.  (A lot of time gaming, clearly indicating some level of addictive behavior, but I digress.)  How many times do they ride a griffon, zeppelin or boat, or how much time is spent in corpse runs?  I’m going to guesstimate that maybe 1 hour of those 20 are stuck in such pure time sinks.  So, 5% of the player’s time by one unscientific guesstimate.  5% of their monthly $15 is a mere 75 cents.  Five nickles and five dimes.

It adds up.

Of course, with something like Allods Online’s knuckleheaded perfume mechanic, time again costs money.  We’re just changing the numbers around a little, and charging in bits and pieces rather than in a lump sum.  When you see up front how much it can cost, though, suddenly the little gamer white blood cells get all riled up, causing an allergic reaction to the business model.  It seems to me that if either business model can be accused of slipping charges under the radar, the sub model is more pernicious about it by simply making the coin of the realm time, one logical step removed from charging money… a logical step that many players don’t make.  We’re already paying the $15, so it’s free, right?

Neither model really makes me happy.  I don’t like paying for time.  The item shop model is ideal for players with little time to play per month, and subscriptions are ideal for those who play a LOT per month.  I firmly fall into the former category, but even there, I don’t like paying for time.  Any time that devs are monetizing time spent in-game, the game design will incorporate stupid time sinks to try to cash in.

I’m perfectly happy to pay for content, though.  That’s why Guild Wars, Wizard 101 and DDO work for me.  To each their own, to be sure, but don’t forget to look at all the costs when you’re doing your value calculations.  When making accusations about business models that weren’t made for you, remember that your model doesn’t work for someone else, and it might just be because there are some nickles and dimes tucked away in the dark corners, and the coin of the realm may not be minted in metal.

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