OK so controversy Ahoy on this little wish list post, I haven’t really written about it much because it really doesn’t affect my play but it has been an issue that has been written about to great lengths out on the internets. The funny thing though is that even though it is a huge issue for many, myself included to an extent it hasn’t really been a part of forum discussions. These usually involve “nerf thieves and mesmers” or content X is horrible, or developers aren’t focusing on my needs which leaves these ingrained issues mostly ignored since they are not constantly in your face.
And that brings me to wish list number 3
A Real Cash Shop
The main issues that get a lot of negative press when it comes to a games cash shop is usually about them having a pay to win direction in some way, excluding hobby horses of course which if I played LoTR I would totally buy just to troll people. Buying power has been around for a little while and has revolved around people being able to be better then others can in a certain time frame or at all. It’s an obvious problem that always manages to garner attention but Arenanet have avoided that issue for some entirely new ones altogether.
They had a functional cash shop in the original I believe with minimal garbage clogging it up but here they seemed to have gone for a different approach out of some misguided belief that they should change it based on the larger cross section of the playerbase they were marketing towards. The issue for me is that for the most part the Guild Wars 2 Cash Shop doesn’t really contain.. you know like actual items. While it does have several much needed convenience items like character slots and bag unlocks for the most part it is a collection of mismatched things, boost consumables, and novelty wear that is completely unsuitable to to aesthetic of the world.
One use items with a small time frame can have a place in a cash shop usually but as an accomplice to other items, the shouldn’t be the main attraction or star of the show in terms of purchasing power but there for those who want a quick boost. The part that boggles my mind though is that these consumables for the most part aren’t even needed, leveling in this game is remarkably fast, and end game currencies such as karma really don’t need a boost as you are continuously earning them with gear only requiring minimal patience.
Now I don’t exactly have a problem with these sort of items but the abundance of these sort of items makes the lack of other more tangible items painfully clear. There is not a range of choice when it comes to well produced skins to use when your running around killing things or interesting town clothes sets to overwrite the terrible terrible underwear we have if we don’t have one (looking at you sylvari). I was under the impression that things like clothing and pets should be the main items in a cash shop which get regularly produced and added or perhaps I have been spoiled by TSW in this regards.
So get your designers working overtime Anet as I have dollars to spend on pretty clothing. I have bought and will again but only if they are worth it.. oh and maybe just get rid of the novelty items first… aviator glasses, boxing gloves, and trucker hats…. seriously I know your a Korean company and all (based in America, formed and run by Korean parent) and I expected it from Tera but here?
There is more though, by far the worst part of the cash shop is Guild Wars 2′s quest for real world gold with the black lion boxes.. or really any of the holiday themed boxes and even the dye and miniature packs. To me this is basically an online slot machine, gambling marketed to the masses in search of new items and better shinies and this is where Anet is not just skirting the border of mechanical issues, missing features and messing with peoples expectations but is fundamentally messing with ethical game design. I don’t believe it is ethical in the slightest, conditioning techniques are rather proliferant in mmo’s and gaming and used as a lazy way of prolonging play by repeating content, but here is different, here the aim is on the wallets of gamers instead of their time and I don’t like it.
I am pretty safe in saying that no one really likes RNG, it is tolerated sure and just having it as part of a games mechanics in no way means you have broken any ethical gaming standards, but placing it as part of attaining new exclusive items and then binding it with real world currency is crossing that boundary. Now the devious part was finding these items throughout the world during regular questing and they are a regular enough drop they you work up an excess of them, and then you can’t help but wondering whats inside, have I got one of those rare and expensive pieces?.. it is enticing people to spend through using our own stupidity and curiosity. Massively had a piece about the perils of lockbox type mechanics several months ago and it is still very valid today.
I have succumbed once or twice now with the mystic chests and I even know of people already who have spent hundreds of dollars on them but even then have very little to show for it. This may be ok if either the items your gambling for were a part of the cash shop as well and purchasable seperately or maybe if the drop rate was much much much better but right now the conversion of wealth to anything substantial is missing.. they are a black hole sucking in peoples wealth, a money pit with the funnel heading to those further up the food chain with no reasonable exchange going on.
While you may get the few white whales that spend exorbitant amounts of money on trying to get lucky ( a person I know has already blown over a hundred dollars) most people don’t want such a thing. We want something tangible so that an exchange of currency for an item or service has a value to match. It is the reason why there are 10s of thousands of these black lion boxes now clogging up the Auction house.. people don’t want them and would rather be without them.
The gamble for legendary precursors could be considered rather similar in ways as you are putting up some items in the extremely rare chance of getting an exclusive item but which we usually result in trash. Usually this wouldn’t be too much of an issue since this type of RNG is done with in game items and gold but here it is as because of the exchange rate of gold to gems and gems to gold in game currency has an identifiable value. People have and will continue to buy gems in order to transfer into gold and have the chance at a rare item in order to use or trade for vast sums of gold and this type of design is unethical at best. I am fine with having a rare chance at items and have done dungeon runs over and over again just for the chance at them (I really wanted the Caelia the Stormtouched Robe) but there should be a reasonable amount of time and effort required and short cuts for those with money shouldn’t be as used.
It is quite obvious now that they are not putting these items and mechanics in because they are the nice people and want us to have the thrill of opening something and finding glorious treasure inside or just having it as a neat way of handing out interesting skins. It is gambling, pure and simple, and there is no way you can spin the truth any other way. Disregarding for a second the fact that gambling is a huge issue in our modern world with it impacting individuals families and even whole communities it should be remembered that it is in fact illegal in many states and countries… governments have banded together to outlaw something simply because it is that harmful. And in those that have made it legal are doing solely on the basis of tax revenue, it pulls in large sums of money and that is hard to ignore.
Overall It makes me doubt where the developers interests lie, with the players or with the shareholders and their parent company.. it also tarnishes your reputation which is very hard to recover. I am very comfortable with cash shops in games and have spent money when it is worth it and so far it just isn’t worth it at all, I wish it was as I have disposable cash to spend but I don’t gamble.