Finding the Value of Free

So another day another issue with payment schemes from companies and developers that should know better by now. Or already rich enough that they really don’t need to yet try to milk the most they can anyways

This time it’s from the Blizzard machine, and the Heroes of the storm model which I first read about over at Player vs Developer and then more at reddit. I can’t say I’m surprised but I am a little shocked that they are charging such a premium for the characters and skins within their game and how such a small thing impacts their game in rather restrictive ways.

You can also be paying a lot less (or nothing) if you’re prepared to tolerate various limitations.  The price is that we end up with models where your experience is impacted no matter how much you are willing to pay

It reminds me a little of the issues I had recently with playing and paying for Dead Island Epidemic. Yes you could grind out the in-game coinage to earn characters and such but it is at a rate that often bores or inhibits play. Of course the haves and have nots of a group ended up getting in the way of gameplay with the purchased characters have certain advantages in the particular game modes, especially in pvp.

The bit that rubs me too is that the Developers, and even some players think they are being so generous by providing an alternate route to paying yet don’t realize how prohibitive such measures often are. Usually this is their reasoning behind charging exorbitant prices when they can not understanding that if they were charging something reasonable then people wouldn’t bother to grind as much and visit the shop more often.

Keen and graev have also been discussing payment models and value and it seems relevant here.

There’s a reason why that product doesn’t have a price tag. Find it, and you’ll find the flaw.

That does seem to be the case lately with a lot of the ftp games I’ve tried. There is always something, a mechanic or implementation of cash shop items that impacts play almost enough to ruin the experience but there is never just one complication within each model and it all seems to add up.

The logic we hold is if a game is fun, or well designed enough then people will pay for it. Something that seems to hold true with how people have now taken to the whole crowd-funding kick, with projects getting millions from eager players interested in an idea. So yeh, people will pay not just for a good game just the potential of one.

Value seems to be something we can actively determine when looking at a game or project but where we see value is a little harder to ascertain as there are a lot of factors that tend to influence our opinions. The hype cycle and marketing of game soften influences purchases without knowing if the game is good or not. We Also often take reviews and Youtubers for their word on products quite often without a personal appraisal of value.

Another issue I think with this modern age of gaming and the prevalence of ftp is how we determine the value of in-game items. Most comparisons we make when determining value are to like objects, games to games but it seems when I make comparisons for in game items I make them towards base games as well. My cost analysis is based on what else I could be getting instead within the industry.

It is here I think the ftp system fails a bit, especially when you try charging premium prices for shiny online baubles. Even if you technically have a good game, a fun game and a quality product that perceived value of digital items is still far more tenuous. It’s something that really doesn’t have any value except what we personally give it and with the rate people change games rather pointless as well.

If I see a character or whatever for ten dollars I think about the other indie games and things on sale that I could get instead… And then buy those. It just isn’t worth it to me. Five dollars and I’m going to be thinking over it though.

It is something I don’t think a lot of companies have come to realise just yet. They are price marking based on comparisons to other cash shops. Continuing the same cycle and the same mistakes like they always seem to do without realising how much this has become a value driven industry. It seems everyone is becoming more of a save consumer, finding best prices waiting for sales say and assigning value, and what we have now with ftpmostly doesn’t fit into that.

The funny thing with spending money too is that it often makes us far more invested in a product. If I’ve never put any money into a game because of its outlandish pricing, or refusal against frustration then there is little investment there but the time I’ve put in. Sometimes that can be enough but not usually. The more I put in, the more I might get invested. The more I put in the longer I might play. It is a cycle of purchasing, playing and getting invested within experiences that used to be an important part of the industry. You buy a box game and you get your money’s worth out of it, and as you’re doing that you learn more about the game and the world, you might get more skilled and of course, get more invested. We are now skipping that first step and you can see the impact with how much being a gaming tourist has taken over.

Time for a change. Time to start appealing to the unwashed masses with these items rather than the whales. Time to make games, and their shops so that most can and will get involved more often and maybe create a better overall experience.


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