Monetization and Cash Shop Regrets

This thought has been brewing for some time but finally, without any doubt, I can say that the cash shop system in guild Wars 2 is an abomination. I actually admires Tor’s restrictive style more as at least that is kind of honest in its implementation.

What spurned this on is the recent post from black lion profit who once again opened a considerable number of the new chests.. For science. And once again the emphatic response regarding these is don’t bother, save your gold and good God put your wallet back down.

Let’s look at what he got… 1 token for a new weapon skin, an axe skin (recycled), a couple of armor skins (ugly as all  sin) and an abundance of readily available and quite useless crafting items. Oh, don’t forget the amazing boost items. Also remember that all of this is character bound after you use it and the whole transmutation system makes changing anything a rather frustrating affair. Gold was used in this example as a way of gaining gems but if they had used real world currency it would have cost them over 70$.

You would think by now they may have gotten a little better at the reward to crap ratio in these, and while it’s improved slightly it’s still rather disgusting. The only major changes I’ve seen to these is how they are handed out and the improved naming of the chest. It all seems to me like some giant money-making experiment where they are trying to make the absolute most profit from people. Who cares if it really isn’t very ethical, annoys a large chunk of players, and is the worst way to run a long-term enterprise because MONEY.

I support Liore’s recent post about the problems with running an mmo without a subscription. It invariable leads to developers caring more about ways to make money rather than actual gameplay. It’s not just her though proclaiming the dangers of the model lately it’s many, many others.

Games need to make money, that’s a given but the shift in content development and implementation is a dramatic shift. A shift that isn’t a very positive for players in most circumstances. As Wilhelm points out recently it is a development approach that no longer takes into account the broader playerbase but focuses on the smaller market that is funding them…. it becomes a focus away from gameplay and towards selling things to this market: creating new items to sell and new ways to sell them.

I have seen this sort of approach in the development of GW2 with the new events each month being tied to new cash shop items or mechanics  There nearly always seem to be some rng element in them, predominately lockboxes…. Lockboxes that are filled with the same old crap and terrible probability. The events are really the only way they could market these and still conceal their nature. When they used the standard black lion boxes for the Halloween event there was a mini player revolt, yet they just re-skinned it and the issues subsided. They of course make money, that is obvious and probably more money than any other model but it is an approach that alienates a large percentage.

Another reason I think the probability on items is so low is because of the gold to gem exchange. For their business to actually succeed in its buy to play approach they need to make money from these cash shop items. They obviously expect people to use their gold often enough and are aware of the current popular methods of making money and so they inflate the price to compensate. It is designed to take out  large chunks from the market so enough people do have to resort to cash but then this of course affects any real world comparison.

They can’t just make it easy for people to achieve these items with gold and the probability is made so low that only the most hardened of farmers could achieve such things.. which in the end also makes it out of reach to any customers willing to buy them. I’ve been through the comments section on many of these post about lockboxes and there are a lot of examples of people buying around 10 keys with real money, a decent amount really and getting absolutely nothing so obviously this isn’t a system designed for the average consumer. I loved how they implemented these weapon skins during the Wintersday even, the gambling boxes were still there but people could buy these for an inflated cost. Obviously going by the market research they made less money from it, and so here we are again with new items being hidden behind rng with appalling probability.

Wilhelm also had one particular phrase in his article that felt very similar to my experiences now

…the initial experience can be quite positive.  But over time, it seems like another race to the lowest common denominator, that cash shop focus becomes cash shop mania.

At first the experience in GW2 was great, the only things to worry about were one time pieces of convenience but this has slowly changed into something unrecognisable. I expected the approach to change a little as you can’t sell convenience forever but the predominance of lock boxes is a bit unnerving. And now, after 8 months it seems Anet is indeed pandering to the lowest common denominator with certain items in their cash shop.

Tits and Ass, something I never thought would be blatantly sold but here it is. Even with their rather dubious approach towards selling a chance at costume pieces I didn’t think we would reach the standards of games like Tera.

So after all this Anet, I solemnly swear never to purchase a single upgrade, boost, cosmetic, key, or any other item from your ridiculous cash shop. I no longer support your dubious lock box enterprise and deplorable ethical (and social) practices. Even though I felt a little dirty about purchasing things in the past I didn’t think I was going to actively regret doing it.. now.. I’m not so sure.

I know this is all a very emotional response to certain business practices in standard but as others have pointed out our relationships with our games and the companies that run them are primarily bases on our opinions and emotions. I still like the game.. admittedly less and less as game areas of my interest see less and less content and changes as they simple aren’t as easily monetized but I will continue to play nonetheless.. at least only until the next shiny comes along.

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9 thoughts on “Monetization and Cash Shop Regrets

  1. I do find your strong emotion a bit strange, heh. GW2 has many flaws, but I do feel its gem shop is the most pleasant and least intruding one I have experienced in mmo so far. Yeah the lockbox aspect sucks, but it only affects the type of person who likes the gambling aspect of it.

    • Yeh it is lol, I admit that and I know you don’t really have to buy them but still. Personal family issues growing up with gambling and all that. It is, and remains a serious issue for many.

      Because of this I just get a bad vibe from lockboxes and such in my games, especially when they are being actively marketed.

  2. Sing it, sister! 🙂 The best way to curb the trend towards lockboxes and that stuff is simply not to buy anything. And if you encounter a game where you feel you HAVE to buy stuff to have fun… well, then you know it’s not a good payment model.

    Also what is going on in that screenshot?! Can you buy bikini-lady pets in GW2?? What the heck.

    • Haha yep, another dinosaur right here, subscription models will always be my favourite.

      I don’t think I have ever encountered something I had to buy to have fun.. It’s more that having certain cash shop designs makes the game less fun overall and that’s something money can’t fix for me.

      And yes, that is one of the new minis which you can get through the lockboxes but it’s tooootally ok because you can get a guy in a speedo.

  3. I still find GW2’s shop to be well done. It’s not as bad as other stuff out there (Lotro recently introduced a slotmachine mechanic interface into it, with one free spin to day to get your started!.. you can win actual gear and stuff that makes your character better as well (and Lotro has had gamble boxes for years now.) Though I never have liked the gamble boxes in GW2, at least they really have stuck to fluff for the most part (boosters aren’t so fluffy, but I don’t have a problem with them either.) But all in all, GW2’s cash shop is one done right in my opnion.

    And your Tits and Ass complaint.. have you never seen some of GW1’s armor? 😛 Any skimpy-looking stuff in GW2 should not come as a surprise. 😛

    • i really don’t agree that it’s done very well. Most of the interesting pieces of fluff seem to be locked behind these gamble boxes. There is just a lot of ways that the cash shop is tied into so many different systems in order to coerce people to spend. A talked about the bag/bank issue before and why there is an abundance of trash items, tokens, gear pieces, minis, food and such that need to be carried.

      THere is a lot of restrictions placed on these purchases too, only fill certain slots, the town clothes system, the transmutation system is a frustrating mess requiring multiple sets of gear in order to have different loks, and if you accidently delete or transmute over a piece it is gone forever… no little vendor in game this time to keep gettign skins you purchased from. Then there is that near everything is account bound so all those upgrades and pretty things mean nothing if I decide to play a different character. It makes me feel as though I own these digital Items far less then I would like. I bought these, with real money often enough and I really have no control over how and when they are used.

      I have played many other games where I feel the cash shop is done right and it is these that I compare gw2 too, for instance I think the dlc and outright selling costumes approach of tsw is great. Tera does well and even SWToR with it’s rocky start has some nice ideas. GW2, to me feels way below in terms of it’s business style, and even in terms of the quality of these items in the cash shop it is rather poor.

      As for the mini, I know there is already some pretty outrageous costumes out there from gw2 and gw1 but this kind of crossed that invisble line with me, selling a bikini toy is just selling based on sex, more so then they have so far. It’s funny that the whole dead island torso debacle a bit ago garnered a lot of outrage yet this is pretty much the same thing.

  4. I’ve always found GW2s cash shop to be a bizarre beast. For me it is simultaneously inoffensive, absurd, pathetic, puzzling, and frustrating.

    All of which spring from how easy I found it to ignore the whole thing. It either never has anything I want or it places thing I might want behind a wall of silliness that I won’t even approach.

    By which I mean both town clothes and lockboxes of course. Both are dysfunctional systems in dire need of redo AND have also been done much better by other people to boot. I won’t waste words on the town clothes because I don’t think anything needs to be said there, but the lockboxes are a different story.

    I find it truly bizarre that a game that take’s its economy seriously enough to have it’s own economist doesn’t let you sell EVERYTHING that comes out of the lockboxes. I’m sure there is a potential market for every bloody thing they put inside them, even if they are consolation/booby prizes. Why not let the people forking over cash/invested game time profit in some way from the exchange?

    Look at what bloody SWTOR has done. As Greenie posted here (http://playervsdeveloper.blogspot.com/2013/05/rift-goes-pay-for-others.html) the other day, SWTOR has turned their cash shop into a way for monied players with either constraints on their time or disinterest in jumping through the game’s hoops to generate in-game currency without the normal time investment while also allowing people with more play time and less real world money to acquire all the cool shit locked away in the cash shop.

    Or hell, back when City of Heroes was alive their lockboxe-esque system gave 5 items at a time and were guaranteed to give at least 1 rare item per pack and a 95.5% chance of getting 2 or more. Plus the special stuff like the cosmetic skins were weighted to drop more often than the other rare rewards so that people who only wanted said skins were less likely to get totally screwed.

    Both systems are more fair to average players AND promote player interdependence via trading. I just can’t fathom why they would ever have implemented the current system; it only seems to serve short term interests at the expense of alienating people in the long term.

    • Nice analogies to other games, Swtor is gettting a lot better with it’s system.. being able to sell account upgrades you purchased in game is an amazing idea and a CoH type practice would have had everyone feeling more rewarded int he lock box exchange. It is ridiculous that they had an economist on hand during development yet many of these systems are so poorly designed and restrictive to the consumer.. I have to wonder if they were always more worried about gaining the maximum profit from items rather then worrying about the consumers opinion or trust.

      Trust in these products and the company will fall because of these exploitative practices, gradual for some and quickly for others, and when this happens they will have to adapt in order to sell.. maybe it will be too late then as the mmo market is extreme volatile.

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