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Posts Tagged ‘item shop’

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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In Soviet Russia, item shop pwns you.

…and yes, I’ve read reports that the prices for Russians are an order of magnitude cheaper.  Funny, that.  One for the home team, I guess.

Guys, this is not how you monetize a microtransaction game.  I know capitalism is hard, just like math, but this… is an order of magnitude beyond ill-advised.  I thought it was an honest if spectacularly embarrassing mistake, but as it turns out, it’s more like a faceplant.

Ah, well.  I hear WoW is still a good game, for a subscription game.  (Imagine the italics there dripping with disdain.)  All those who have been whining about AO either in-game or on blogs will surely find Blizzard waiting with open arms.

In the meantime, I maintain that the art direction of Allods Online is solid, the core game is fun (if nothing revolutionary in the DIKU mainstream), and the ships and their mechanics look awesome.  The game is good, even great in places.  The business plan… not so much.  (Curiously, my precise reaction to WoW, come to think of it…)

Oh, and I can get a six-man (actually seven-man) ship in Puzzle Pirates for $5, and I can solo it.  Guess who gets my money?

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Postscript:  I’m not trying to be snarky about those who, like BBB, tried Allods Online and found their interest waning.  It really just won’t scratch the same itch as WoW, especially for someone who is used to the endgame and doesn’t want to drag a character up through the leveling grind again.  That’s more a function of the age of games and how we get used to things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My ire here is mostly with the businesswonks of Allods Online, with a small slice reserved by those who are cheering for the game’s failure, including those who are blindly prejudiced against the business model.  This is a failure of execution, not concept.  DDO, W101 and Puzzle Pirates do it right.

The actual game devs have crafted some great work, for which I applaud them.

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Torchlight has a fantastic game mechanic that it borrows from its ancestor, Fate.  Players have a pet that not only serves as a combat companion, but also a handy remote access to shops.  Specifically, you can load the critter down with vendor trash, and send it on its way to go sell the junk.  It will bring back cash and empty pockets to start the cycle again.  You need never leave the dungeon whilst adventuring to take care of the “inventory management” vendor dump timesink minigame.

I want a pet like that in these MMO things that I play.  In fact, I think they would be a perfect Item Shop sale.  It’s an anti-timesink mechanic, so subscription games won’t likely bother (WoW’s vendor mounts and Jeeves being the obvious exception, though notably only present now that the game is older), but for nonsub games that monetize via convenience and vanity items, it strikes me that these convenience/combat pets would be a hot seller.  Games like DDO already sell bigger backpacks, so the philosophy of monetizing the inventory management minigame is there.

So, icanhazpet?

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