Cracking Open the Cash Shop: Part 1

So this shit has got to stop. I’m so very tired of seeing this same argument spewed forth constantly within the media and across the interwebz by gamers blinded with greed and some sort form of temporary insanity…hmm, we can only hope it’s temporary. A subscription is not evil and a micro-transaction system has many MANY flaws as well. FtP isn’t even a proven payment model yet as we really haven’t be able to see its long term efficacy in the west in terms of titles designed and released with this model in mind.

So lets stop spreading this stupidity… please.

OK, so what brings this out now was a recent article by Massively that Mr Murf guided me towards which really confirms what I’ve thought about Massively lately and their apparent crusade for the righteous FtP. The stupidity it has become when you’re peddling such disingenuous and poorly thought out arguments as some sort of dogma that the industry must abide by in order to gain success. There are so many other models out there, suited better to individual products and even styles of payment and options that haven’t been explored yet. Not to mention the undeniable truth that mmo’s don’t, nor have ever failed because of a subscription. It is perpetuating some sort of agenda of creating an entire genre of easy to play and access games when, this would (and might already) be the cause of an industry crash. This has happened before in gaming and could easily happen again, flooding a market with cheap crappy easy disposable products looses consumer faith and is actually rather harmful.

Subscription is not a risk factor in the industry; peddling the same mmo mechanics with a different coat of paint is. Trying to create these experiences to be everything to every one with the bloated budget to match is the problem. Falling prey to the same tired tiered progression is. Tor failed for many reasons, the subscription was not one and if you want a decent criticism of why they go have a look at Hardcore Casual’s many posts relating to it Just because there are apparently more people playing now doesn’t make this less true…. the quality and quantity of the title wasn’t worth it but apparently it’s good enough to play for free… sorry, but that’s not a very good recommendation or example against subscriptions.

ok let’s break down this stupidity one part at a time.

The Paywall

MMO’s and the companies running them, and, to a certain extent vocal players seem to be forcing down a ridiculous ideology on every game within the genre. It’s like a payment highlander, “There can only be one” style for everyone and every game when this is a ridiculous premise. With how much this keeps getting repeated it has, and is further creating a sense of entitlement to all these mmo’s, every game must be free for me to play otherwise they are going to fail when its this sort of mass delusion that is going to hurt the industry

I just don’t get the argument of a box price and subscription being a considerable barrier to entry for mmo’s. We are already spending 100s to thousands on gaming rigs in the first place to gain access to this medium and compared to other daily expenses, popular mediums and hobbies it is a surprisingly cheap medium to enjoy. A cost to entry and maintenance is not, and never has been a barrier to entry to someone that enjoys a medium and the product they want to play.

I see it constantly, so many people lamenting that certain games have subscriptions …yet AAA games are still selling for a large initial price plus have a wealth of DLC, map packs, premium editions… Would someone tell me the profit margin on GTA again. FtP is the anomaly within the industry for everything but the mobile market and I’m sorry but I’m would loath if our genre devolved into that sort of development cess pit. Oh, but I want to play for free you say.. well, most if not all things in life aren’t free. You are paying far more in many cases and if not, you’re paying with your time and sanity. Probably already sold your soul to these companies in order to out level all the content.

Which brings forward my next point. With a wealth of free to play options in every genre free to play is no longer the draw it used to be in regards to enticing people to play, they have many more options now that such a distinction is becoming pointless. It didn’t used to be when there were a handful of ftp titles amongst the subscription behemoths but now the standard of the industry is this low barrier to entry model it doesn’t stand out as much.

Personally, and I’m not alone in thinking this, but the biggest restriction against a player is the time and investment factor. Just playing a single mmo is a huge investment usually with the weeks to level and learn the systems and then the dedication required to progress and reach towards certain goals. Most people can only ever play one or two mmo’s at a time because of this so then it really comes down to finding the right mmo for the player in terms of theme, features and gameplay.’

Calculating the Cost

OK and now lets argue about the cost of FtP itself. Now I’m not going into the changes in development style and the inclusion of certain features, or how it can completely change the direction of a game because I already have. No… this time let’s get into the dollar cost.

The entry is free but it’s more like going to a fair, free entry but if you actually want to do anything and enjoy the place your going to have to pay… and pay a lot. This is how are MMO’s are now presenting themselves, and it seems to have lured many into the mistaken trap of “free”. Many of these games are front-loaded in regards to payments in order to capitalise on the 3 month or less appeal. A wealth of restrictions to unlock in just about every facet. Character unlocks, customisation, bag and bank space, boost items, map packs, quests added and so much more stupidity.

You could easily spend more than an actual box price just getting a functional game, Fuuuuck… it usually costs you more to remove all these restrictions every month as well as gain access to the content, cosmetics… needed boosts and buffs to progress at a reasonable rate and yet, you will still be missing out on many features. We are, and have been paying more for a lesser experience in most cases. I actually joked on twitter about how people these days are more likely to pay a sub in order to remove restrictions than they are to pay to play a game without them in the first place. A joke at first but yet it’s entirely true and that’s truly sickening to realize. Somewhere, someone has manipulated the masses to accept this stooooopidity yet, in the same breath attack the alternative, and it seems the better option.

Yes, I get that the base experience is “usually” free but it’s all those little bits of fluff that make this genre so enjoyable. The customisation and clothing options; the creation and personalisation tools are what strengthen bond and create an experience that’s more than the average RPG but too often these are locked behind absolutely ridiculous cash shop prices.

I’ve been playing Star Trek Online recently and really enjoying it but looking t the prices and they seem completely out of reach; $20 or more for a sexy space ship. A wealth of unlocks and customisation that could put you in the thousands. They even had a new update recently and within this was the Legacy of Romulus pack… going for $160. Is that some kind of joke. OH no, $150 a year for a mmo subscription is way to expensive but lets accept AND pay this much for what amounts to a quarter of the content available in a regular expansion. That’s fucking ridiculous and that shit needs to stop.

It’s this predominance of harpooning a few whales rather than appealing to the general playerbase that needs to die in a hole, preferably buried with the person who developed and is propagating such a thing. It’s this idiotic capitalistic mindset that needs to end, yes I get that the rich should pay but in the end it’s everyone else that’s getting screwed. Communism isn’t a dirty word, work together and we all benefit… share the load of a sub so we can be rid of this bullshit.


Considering how much time we get out of these mmo’s for the price; 100’s of hours of play available and a connected experience with other people for a small monthly price. If your one of those people who doesn’t or can’t play much a month then well, it gets repeated a lot but there are other better experiences out there that have better rewards for limited play… not to mention being far better stories, worlds and RPG mechanics. You don’t need this genre.

If you can’t play much that month well, that’s where I think there should be more options available. Why there is this all or nothing approach astounds me as it’s just poor business. China has been charging people for time on these mmo’s for years, and it works really well for those with sporadic periods of play. Why can’t we charge for a week, or two… Why is 15.99 the standard for everything? Hell, why not make decent trial periods; more time and levels or maybe have it so people can completely skip levelling in order to play with friends, autoleveling to match during this time. So many questions regarding options that aren’t ever acknowledge and seem like the better, more sustainable alternative yet let’s scrap that and go on crippling these games for the apparent greater good.

Lastly I’ll just give you one more choice quote from the article.

It is much easier to jump into a game if you don’t feel pressure to like it;

That.. that is a whole other giant barrel of rant juice just waiting to boil to the top but since this post has over stayed its welcome I think I’ll leave that, and the rest of that ridiculous article till next time.


#FtP #MMO #ArmchairDeveloper

15 thoughts on “Cracking Open the Cash Shop: Part 1

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and I had a minor epiphany that made a lot of the things that didn’t really make sense fall into place. It’s this:

    Games, gamers and gaming are no longer the focus. Shops, shoppers and shopping are.

    Shopping is a vastly more widespread leisure activity than gaming ever will be. The potential market for companies providing what we could call retail entertainment, by which I mean providing people with a pleasant environment in which to browse and purchase goods or services that they don’t need to survive, must be orders of magnitude larger than the potential audience of people who just want to buy games and gaming-related services.

    MMOs are fast becoming another portal for online shopping. The “game” part is little more than the shop window that draws the customer in and the shopfloor where they browse for things they’d like to buy. As the concept of owning virtual possessions continues to mainstream the number of people both able and willing to pay for intangibles will increase enormously. Companies that have for the last couple of decades been forced to concentrateon making games for a relatively small audience to play will move to making virtual items that can be owned and displayed in a quasi-game context for a much, much larger market.

    This is why they *have* to be F2P. You don’t want to be charging customers just to step over the threshold of your shop, now do you?

    Doesn’t matter for MMO fans and gamers. Not a jot. Means no more than the massive commercial success of manufactured pop groups means to a hipster buying indie on vinyl. We’ll just move to a niche market that caters for our peculiar, retro tastes where I’m sure we will be much better-served than we have been by the corporates these last few years. And yes, we very likely will be subscribing to play those.

    We can wave goodbye to mainstream MMOs in anything like the form we’ve recognized them over the last fifteen years, though. I think we’ll be very glad entry to those will be free because I doubt we’ll find much we’d want to pay for.

    • Hmm that’s an interesting point and I can definitely see that sort of marketing and design within games lately. Even though the purchase of digital items is far more accepted I don’t think that will ever take off too much, you need some type of long term investment in order to justify that sort of thing. If we compare it to fashion or electronics your going to be using those for months and years.. you can’t really say the same with virtual item purchases. If they do want to compete then the really need to drop the price.

  2. F2P gets a lot of people to play a relatively niche game. That provides content.

    The adage that if you’re not paying, then you’re the content applies.

    I like Neverwinter. Would it have even half the playerbase if it was subscription? A quarter?

    • sorry but I don’t think Neverwinter or many of these ftp titles are Niche. Having a million or more people playing for months on end is actually pretty good for the industry. It doesn’t beat those giant blockbuster, several million sold type games but then, not many do

      The really niche mmo titles are the ones like Wurm, Xsyon, Darkfall and such and yep… those are subscription.

  3. Nail, meet Hammer. I believe you are spot on. I think it’s also worth noting that the way a game is monetized will always change how that game is made. We may be in a bit of a honeymoon period where games are made like they used to, and then monetization matches. But we’re seeing more and more that how these games are designed, made, and marketed is more and more being changed to fit this new approach.

    Many current MMO gamers may herald F2P as a godsend now, but give it another generation so we can see if the games the model ends up supporting are actually worth a damn or not.

    • yeh, i think here will be a bit of a crash coming up, it’s not going to remove ftp but at least we might get better options and subs will lose that stupid stigma they seem to have now.

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  5. “A cost to entry and maintenance is not, and never has been a barrier to entry to someone that enjoys a medium and the product they want to play.” It has been to me and my guild. Entry not so much but maintenance (sub) yep. It’s the main reason we all avoid World of Warcraft and other subscription based games. TESO to me looks damned appealing but I will never play it if it’s subscription.

    I don’t have a problem with however anyone else wants to pay for their games. They want to subscribe? Cool. They want to cash shop? Fine. Just saying that there are some of us that just play along for free without ever purchasing anything (beyond entry on some occasions).

    • never is a very loaded word and sorry but makes no sense to me. I have budget restraints as well but if I like a game enough, or it looks appealing enough then I’m definitely going to get it.. just skimp on other areas.

      I was also referring to how people spend thousands on many other hobbies… I remeber spending hundreds.. maybe up to a thousand on my WH40k obsession.

      Just seems very selfish to say I’m never paying for the work developers have done regardless of its merits

      • Oh wow, WH40K! 😀 Sorry, yeah I know the pain of that one too *shakes fist at Games Workshop*! What army did you field? I had Tyranids… Sorry for going off track! Obviously I don’t have the selfish guilt thing because if they wanted money, they can just make it a subscription game. I’m one of those that takes the “play free forever” quite literally. ^_^

      • had a 3000 point elder army.. very mobile with tanks jetbikes and swooping hawks

        i also started a tau army but it ended up just being a pack of kroots, some fire warriors and that mecha commander

        oo and I had a small undead army. My zombies were the pride and joy, made it so they were mostly coming out of the ground with tombstones on some of the squares.

        There’s a few pictures on the webbie here if you search for warhammer.. nerdy bookah post

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