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Jumping to conclusions

July 16, 2009

So it has happened again – an MMO developer representative (in this case Jack Emmert) mentions the MT-word in the game forum and suddendly there are loads of pages with people jumping to conclusions what that will mean.

To quote Jack’s post in the Champions Online forum:

I know everyone has questions about microtransactions – what are they, how much are they, etc. I’m sorry we didn’t post something earlier; we’re really heads down in development right now. We’re going to release a WHOLE lot of information in the very near future about not just about microtransactions, but pricing in general. That said, here’s some basic principles about microtransactions to at least answer some of your concerns:

1) Microtransactions enable us to have a larger development team
2) Microtransactions are mostly aesthetic (costume pieces, pets, etc.)
3) If a microtransaction does have any sort of in game effect, then it can be also be earned in game.

I promise we’ll read this thread, note any questions, and answer them more in depth soon. Heck, I’ll try to answer the easy ones today/tomorrow/this week.

The resulting comments include all kinds of  assumptions, including the usual that people do not want to play a game where players can buy the über items or that there will be many many hours of grinding to obtain items that could be bought in the store.  It really does not matter what the comapny actually writes, as soon as the MT-word is included people just start jumping all over the place. When I checked there were more than 40 pages of comments to Jack’s post.

There was also one post which I found a bit amusing that demanded proof that the money from the microtransactions would go back into development. As if people have proof of that when they pay subscriptions, when they really do not have a clue how much of the subscription fee is actually paying for new development. Do you know how much of the money of your favourite subscription-based MMO goes back into development? Or any MMO for that matter? With public companies like NCSoft one can see how much of the total goes back to costs of development and operation, but not for specific MMOs. Others are generally not disclosing that type of information.

MMO companies that choose to use the subscription model are quite limited. They cannot set a subscription fee they would like to have if they want the safety of being able to recover the costs of developing the game in a certain timeframe and with a certain number of subscribers. The market pretty much dictates what the subscription fee must be, if there is one at all. With more MMO competition already established in the market for years what each new game has to compete with the expectations what should be there out of the gate has not really been lowered.

But if the so compaqny much as hint that they want to spread out those costs so that not everyone pays the same amount regardless of whether they are interested in all features/items or not, people lash out.

Personally I would prefer that companies have some freedom to set their own prices on their products, especially since it is not about providing a very fixed feature set to the consumers.  Subscriptions fees will stay as they are unless the market leaders decide to change it, so there is not much freedom there for new games.

At some point in the future perhaps people will not lash out as soon as the see the MT-word, but there will always be new things to jump to conclusions about.

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Categories: Champions Online
  1. Curious George
    July 16, 2009 at 14:50 | #1

    Hmm I had been ignoring CO these days despite being in the beta but if they add RMT to the game it might actually make it more appealing.

  2. July 16, 2009 at 16:09 | #2

    It’s fear and I have to assume people wanting the ability to somehow prove their worth and epeen in a game. If not, why would anyone care this much about how someone else acquired an item? I like MT options for pets, mounts and fluff. The problem is that a development house depending on MT income must include more “must have” items in order to gain the revenue they need which is why they include more than just fluff. Why are people so duh on that point? It’s very irksome.

    CO isn’t anywhere on my radar but I wish them the best. The last thing the industry needs is more wobbly MMOs.

  3. July 16, 2009 at 18:50 | #3

    I guess one reason people would dislike people buying items beside the epeen is if the items would make a significant difference in PvP. But that is assuming that gear actually matters – perhaps that topic has been too infected by World of Warcraft PvP and similar PvP systems. If you look at Guild Wars PvP as an alternative, gear is pretty much a non-issue.

    I do not think Cryptic will abandon the subscription model, but add additional items on top of that, similar to City of Heroes. It has worked well there and since they will compete for the same customers to some extent Cryptic will perhaps do something similar.

  4. Dblade
    July 22, 2009 at 23:37 | #4

    It’s not that simple. The spreading out of the prices isn’t independent from the gameplay, and that’s usually the number one reason why people get annoyed. I don’t think we have seen really any MT based system that doesn’t involve gameplay benefits to those that pay more.

    In F2P it’s not an issue because if you decline the advantages, you can play for free or close to it, or pay less than a sub fee in many games. So the devs can make the cash shop pretty unbalanced and people won’t complain much.

    In a sub game like champions though, everyone pays, and it’s a bigger issue. If there is any gameplay impact at all it hurts more because no one wants to pay and still be gimp.

    So unless a developer can really guarantee that spreading costs around won’t harm the subscriber base’s paying experience, the thread posters aren’t overreacting.

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