A View from the Road: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Microtransaction

A View from the Road: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Microtransaction

More MMOGs should embrace microtransactions, if only as a Convenience Tax.

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The problem I so often find with F2P games supported by micro transactions are, like he said, that users with more money can 1up normal players...
Still, though, one of the things that irks me so is that for a competent character with the decent gear from the cash shop, you wind up paying between $10-15 a month. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if it were a matter of which game you ultimately choose to play, but people view the "F2P" name as an excuse for a game to be a lower quality than its subscription-based counterparts-
something I find unacceptable.

From experience trying out a lot of F2P games, it tends to be remotely balanced between the people who pay and the people who don't. Though I'm a fan of the belief that I just hit the right games.

Overall, most games tend to balance out as I've seen. In the start, most of the microtansactioned gear looks really amazing, but by the higher end of the game, it begins to look really balanced when compared to the gear people work for. The problem is, in whats becoming a really casual game crowd, they tend to be looked at from the low end, where its either pay or lose.

Microtransactions keep Nexon alfloat, but they can't find a good middleground. For Combat Arms, The buyers have much better stuff, but for Maplestory, they don't, and all the stuff is pruely cosmetic. It doesn't make sense to me.

This is very interesting to hear. As a soon to be ex-WoW player (subscription runs out this month, not renewing), I've considered microtransaction games as a much more annoying way of paying 15$ a month, with the added risk that someone else who pays 30$ a month will be able to kick my ass just because he pays more.

But that isn't the picture Funk paints. Maybe I'll re-evaluate some of these games and see if they're worthwhile. After all, I'll have a little free time when WoW is gone. Any recommendations of games that follow this Convenience Tax model? (Aside from Exteel)

Really it's not that different from subscription games. You have the freebie trial guys, and the people that actually pay to get the good stuff. Of course in terms of gameplay it's pretty stupid that money = success. But that's just an inherent flaw in the design, and someone that was only making free accounts on WoW obviously wouldn't be succeeding in anything.

Really, the subscription method just makes more sense to me. It seems fundamentally wrong to say a game is free to play, but then withhold all the good stuff for those willing to cough up the money.

HeartAttackBob:
This is very interesting to hear. As a soon to be ex-WoW player (subscription runs out this month, not renewing), I've considered microtransaction games as a much more annoying way of paying 15$ a month, with the added risk that someone else who pays 30$ a month will be able to kick my ass just because he pays more.

But that isn't the picture Funk paints. Maybe I'll re-evaluate some of these games and see if they're worthwhile. After all, I'll have a little free time when WoW is gone. Any recommendations of games that follow this Convenience Tax model? (Aside from Exteel)

Some companies are just bad, such as Nexon in terms of not finding a middle ground. Personally, I deal with the Ntreev side of games, and they tend to be balanced, though again it happens more at the upper tiers of a game that you have to actually work for, while the people who pay will always have it easy.

I like how that game he is talking about works. That's why I like Combat Arms. You can usually save up for something like it just a little bit worse. Specialist are a huge exception to this rule though...

I didn't even read this, because I just have to ask. Why is the "Dr. Strangelove spinoff title" used so damn much?

ElArabDeMagnifico:
I didn't even read this, because I just have to ask. Why is the "Dr. Strangelove spinoff title" used so damn much?

because ITS AN AWESOME MOVIE >:|

but yea, after seeing the title I had to read it again.

What turned me away from micro-transactions were games like War Rock, where no matter what, you wouldnt be able to play without having something other than the starter weapons, and the fact that you can buy them with in game credits doesnt help either since you get considerably LESS money from games, so the best thing to do is spend 10 or so dollars every month to keep your AK or Steyr-AUG, which sucks. Now if games had an actual way for players to be as powerful as kids who get their moms to buy them points people who have too much money to spend, I might re-consider, but untill then, I enjoy paying a base fee every year to play a game.

In the real world people with money get private lawyers who get them out of jail while poor people get court appointed attorneys that want to send them to jail because they have eighty cases and they don't care about plaintiff 12131654361321465.
Rich people get new,fast,safe cars and poor people get used cars with rotted out brake rotors.
Life sucks and games imitate life.

Micro-transactions are just plain bad, it ruins any sense of competition in a game and costs heaps of hard earned real cash, it also gives the "games are bad" crowd extra ammo ("ooh, they're wasting real time and money so they can emulate life").

Rigs83:
In the real world people with money get private lawyers who get them out of jail while poor people get court appointed attorneys that want to send them to jail because they have eighty cases and they don't care about plaintiff 12131654361321465.
Rich people get new,fast,safe cars and poor people get used cars with rotted out brake rotors.
Life sucks and games imitate life.

True, but why the hell would you play a game that emulates this part of life? Honestly, get a life, if it's up to grinding and making real money/success and grinding on a computer game that is just as shit but lower quality ... ah ... what kind of an introvert would you have to be to choose the former?

Lets get to the biggest issue here: Micro-transactions (and subscriptions to an extent) are inherently evil. They are not using that system because they have to (OK, mmo maaayyyyyyyybe), they're doing it because they're greedy *****. This may not be entirely accurate (2years old) but the average spent on micro-transactions is about $300/month (please tell me this is wrong, else I've lost hope in humanity). I'd spend this much on games every YEAR. Also, WoW for a year is what, $360? That's the cost of 7 games, what ... a ... rip. But that's just personal opinion ... and financial logic.

OK, if you want the real world you LIVE, if you want to get AWAY from the real world you play a REAL game. I like competition, what is the point of paying money to increase you're strength/influence? It reduces the game to PHYSICAL money instead of skill or intelligence, especially MMO's with micro-transactions which seem to hate the latter two with a vile passion.

Looking forward to Infinity: The Quest for Earth, which will have neither and looks infinitely (hehe) better than the competition, especially EVE. I'd rather spend my money on better things than to pay for a worse life than can be found in reality while having to live in this one as well, I play games to escape reality, I don't want to end up in a worse place than here.

The term "convenience tax" implies that the players who don't pay will have to go through unpleasant, bad content. If that is the case, why would they play at all? And if they won't play, then you might as well charge everyone up front. I can't help but think that such a game is inevitably low quality and inhabited by players with low standards.

I think the MMO industry should look at alternative ways to *play*, offering attractive bits of the games individually. For instance, I'm not about to waste my time grinding up characters in WoW even if it was free of charge, but I'd be willing to pay something for it if I had access to a permanent "tournament realm" where every new character you create is max level and has the best possible PvP gear.

I like the idea of the Convenience Tax. It is a good compromise between regular players who can't shell out wads of cash for a game and those who want the big stuff now and can afford it. I have feared the day that DLC for any MMO or multiplayer game would create a drastic curve between bigspenders and tightwads(I fall under tightwad, but for good reason). There are some who might view the Convenience Tax as avoiding the ugly grind. What's ugly grind to someone else, is prime training ground to me. Someone might shell out bunches of cash for elite weapons that others would have to work for. But during the time the others are working for those elite items, they are also refining their strategies and techniques. Strategy and technique puts the flame on the sword, not money. Money doesn't make a noob a pwner.
Unless it buys you a nuclear bomb, but even those can miss, as I remember with chagrin in a couple of early Starcraft runs....

Agreed! Not only would it work for people who don't have the money, but more importantly it would hinder the efforts of gold/gear farmers who would then have to sell their things for less than the already existing price for people to consider it worthwhile. Since people are doing it already, why not compete with them? This is from a WoW point of view, mind you, so I'm not sure how it might work elsewhere, but I'm just saying, it could be viable. WoW gold farmers sell for fairly cheap at the moment so it might be tough, but worth trying.

Sorry but I find this a terrible idea...

I played WoW at the endgame for a number of years and now only play casually and see what some of the changes Blizzard is making to the game are doing to it. In the past the only way to get equipment was to toil though all the content that everyone else had to catch up and it remained this way for a long time. There was no alternate way of getting equipment than through raiding and that's just the way it was. These days it is much easier to gear up. As soon as new content and gear is released last patches best gear becomes easy to obtain, taking comparatively few hours for casual players to obtain. This has created immense uproar already from the hardcore community simply because people who put in 20% of the effort of hardcore players can now get 80-90% of the gear. However it is still acceptable and people have learned to adapt and overall it looks like Blizzard have made more friends in the casual community than they have lost amongst the hardcore followers.

Now just imagine that those casuals could lay down an extra 10-15$ a month and be the SAME not just close but the same as the hardcore gamers... I wont say the game would collapse but I think some troubled times would be ahead.

I'm very okay with the idea painted in the article. If you can pay up and skip the grind, albeit for noticeably different looking gear, power to you.

But I think the problem lies in where those with microtransactions have plain better gear is the real killer of the idea for most people. I have long held the belief that the drive towards the endgame is what keeps people going even if they will never reach it due to time or skill available. However putting the endgame behind a fence with a $15 toll on it is a HUGE turnoff.

I completely agree with this article. finding the balance of in game and "out game" expenditure of resources is absolutely essential for a consistent enjoyment level across the player board. Time is just as much a resource as money - so in the same way as people say "they have money to burn", they can come back and say "you have time to kill".

I have had the feeling for a while that many mmo's are designed specifically for a player who puts in an "average" amount of time into the game. As such the levels/dungeons, the progression speed and economy etc, are all designed with this average time allocation in mind. For this reason, many games wont just be able to just offer a time saving alternative. When the reward of achieving a goal is designed to be inherently bound up in the time and effort spent in getting it, then you cant just slap the faces of the people that take this route.

However, i think that a monetary alternative could well be introduced to any aspect of a game in which the time spent in getting a reward is not integral to the experience of the player, IE grinds. And potentially, entire games could also be designed around this ethic - with no "time only" rewards, although the repercussions of this decision may well be far fetched.

Maybe even introduce monetary "tiers", where the player is given the option of paying for items only once they have passed a certain point in the game etc.

An unemployed "hardcore" gamer who plays 10 hours a day. A full-time worker who works 8 hours a day and only plays a couple of hours a day. Who should have the advantage?

Not everyone has the time or even considers it fun to go through the grind of getting prepared for the endgame content, or as some would put it, "the fun stuff". Some people don't want to "play" for 8 months to get to the game they really want to play.

Now, when the premium people gain a distinct advantage over the free folks, at least in a pvp game, all that ends up being is a disincentive for the free folks to play. Indeed, the reverse of the statements above are true as well: just because someone has time but not money, they shouldn't be prevented from from getting to the game.

Basically, the key I see here is that, as a player, you aren't entitled to have things both free and convenient. And that's the way the world works.

IdealistCommi:
Microtransactions keep Nexon alfloat, but they can't find a good middleground. For Combat Arms, The buyers have much better stuff, but for Maplestory, they don't, and all the stuff is pruely cosmetic. It doesn't make sense to me.

Alternative point of view: different models attract different customers. So having wildly different models is just a way of diversifying the playerbase and reaching out to more customers.

I would rather just pay monthly and get a higher quality game that puts everyone on a level playing field. My experience with f2p's is that they aren't as good as subscription based ones. And f2p's attract a lot of players that only play for a little while then quit or only play once every few weeks. However, I like to be able to find a group of people that I can play with on a pretty regular basis... especially so I can know that they aren't retarded and have only leveled that far by banging their head on the keyboard.

I've noticed that a lot of these replies involve concerns revolving around a "level playing field" (or something similar). Keep in mind that this is only one type of the microtransaction we're discussing. As noted in the article -- which I enjoyed, by the way -- there are different approaches to these transactions, and assuming a microtransaction in any game (or, more appropriately, across gaming as a whole) would necessarily affect whether or not there is a level playing field is a mistake. You're talking solely about the kind of transactions that can, and do, have some additional benefits (besides, for example, cosmetic improvements or avoiding days of grinding).

It's extremely crucial, I think, in a discussion like this that we not tar the microtranaction idea with completely the same brush every time. The differentiation made in the article is an important one. While I am absolutely not in favor -- at least in the types of games I play that have a competitive element -- of allowing someone to be able to spend additional funds and thereby gain an advantage over me, there are a lot of circumstances under which I have no problem with these transactions. It should no more be up to me how another person spends their money than it should be up to me to determine how people enjoy playing their games. For this reason, I don't have a problem with microtransactions that are cosemtic or offer no ostensible benefit in a competitive setting to select individuals.

This brings me to another, albiet short, point. Several of the posts above also discuss what people should or should not do vis-a-vis their real and/or in-game lives. I would argue that those points are moot. People have a right to do with their real life or game time as they please, and whether or not you value how they choose to use that time has little place in a discussion of microtransactions. As I said above, we can no more tell others how they should live (unless you're talking about breaking real laws), than we should tell people how they should enjoy a game.

Where I think microtransactions get iffy is where they could arguably be both (cosmetic and/or functional). I've often thought that MMO companies should themselves offer microtransactions to allow customers to supplement their ability to earn in-game cash/loot. However, so many MMOs have competitive elements in them these days that allowing someone to buy extra loot or cash may, in effect, be allowing them a leg up on their competition. One person may be executing a microtransaction to get cash or an item that has no functional benefit, but another person might execute a similar transaction -- for example, buying in-game cash -- which they then use to buy better armor, weapons, skills (or whatever) that do give them a functional benefit. Yes, there are private companies that are doing this anyway -- so there is an argument for why the companies should do it themselves, make more money to support the game, and shut down some of the more questionable business practices out there by exerting greater control over the illicit cash trade -- but if you allow people to buy improvements in a system that rewards those who are competitive, you have a potential for issues. Perhaps the issue is not necessarily that it should be a "Convenience Tax," but it should revolve around several other issues. Is it a competitive game? Can the microtransaction offer a functional benefit? If the answers are no, then why should we care how others spend their money? I don't think we should.

It funny: years and years ago, a friend and I were discussing the future of MMOs and we thought it'd be funny if you had MMOs were players could play for free as peasants but paying players would get to be knights. We laughed about it then and yet here we are, heh.

But honestly, I love the idea of microtransactions because, like Big Johnny Funk here has said, most of us just don't have the TIME to do the grind.

I enjoyed PvPing in WoW very much, but what I didn't enjoy was having to spend the better part of a year acquiring the gear that would make me such a beast in PvP. If I could've dropped $50 and had the best gear there was to have, saving myself 6 months of grinding (x$15 per month = $90) and enjoying the game a great deal more.

'Cos red ones go fasta. We'z proved it, boss, in dat race wiv da mekboyz.

Ahem, I do apologise. Any orky reference is enough for me to go off on one. I've never quite understood the microtransaction system myself. As you say, for half the games out there it oughtn't to work. I personally wouldn't play microtransaction games myself if I had a high quality P2P game to be sinking time into instead, although I can imagine playing a game with the system you've outlined, if only to smite the moneyed nooby ones.

Interestingly, you do get a mild parallel to the microtransaction mentality even in P2P games sans gold buying - that is, the practise of twinking. The de-levelling of the playing field from one character with more resources (a higher level character with more money, or... more money). It does make sense that, given low enough overheads, you could theoretically make a profit straight out of that mentality. Still, in practise I'm surprised it works.

'It wont run any faster even if you rub cheetah blood on it'
Its a touchy issue of making things convenient vs. alienation of hardcore players.
The only real thing i can think of to try to implement both is to have separate servers. Although that would cost alot of money and effort on the part of developers so it seems impractical. Using wow as an example perhaps an ideal micro transaction would be to be able to pay for the rest bonus. The one thing that eventually turned me off of wow was the time commitment required for the endgame.
also nice Dr. Strangelove reference

How can you possibly say that you don't mind paying a recurring fee for programs like WoW that provide no incentive than advancing for the sake of advancing? And say cost is worth it compared to other games? Team Fortress 2, COD4, Left4Dead, these are games that are not pay to play, are updated with new content, and I put forward are immensely more interesting than the bland MMORPG world. (I tried WoW for 2 weeks, after which I went outside and realized everything I was doing in game could be done in the real world and I could get paid for it, a.k.a life)

Actually, modern console FPSes are actually getting increasingly like the pay-to-play with microtransactions rather than subscriptions or what have you. The last time I played Halo 3 (which I got to play with friends) we were stuck in a particular game mode because I didn't have the updated maps.

I don't know the details because I wasn't hosting that session, but it was a very negative reaction all around. Sad, really...

why don't we just skip all this non-sense and have SKILL based games, instead of games where haveing better gear means you beat more skilled oppenents.

To my mind, microtransactions and gold-sellers expose an inherent flaw in the whole MMO system. You are PAYING for the ability to SKIP GAME CONTENT. when you play a regular, offline game, you are playing for the fun of the journey, not the destination. In Mario world, most people don't skip straight to bowsers castle via the star road, they play through the game because the levels themseves are FUN. Any game where actually playing as intended is boring is not doing its job properly.

Sure MMO endgame content should be fun and unique, but there should also be awesome and unique experiences along the way that are not represented in the endgame. There is an implicit assumption in most MMOs that there should be "grind", that at least part of the journey should be boring, perhaps to make the destination seem more worthwhile. Or perhaps the repetitive farming and grind is there simply to pad the time spent in the game; it would be impossible to create unique content enough to keep the hardcore players occupied 8+ hours a day for several years, whereas making them repeat the same quests or gathering tasks many times to gain access to the "fun bits" keeps those $15s rolling in. The only game that seems to break this mold is, to a small extent, EVE, and even them you can only access the cooler content like fleet warfare as a new player if you find a really good player lead alliance with dedicated caretakers and training schemes (which is, to be fair, the kind of emergent gameplay EVE was designed to foster).

I don't know if it's even possible to design a traditional PvE MMO that breaks this mold. WoW and its many imitators are goal based; get the best gear, run the toughest dungeons. If you don't feel like you're building up to something better than the place you are at the moment, will people keep playing?

in conclusion, if you are willing to pay money to skip playing bits of a game, isn't there a problem with those bits of the game?

thedo12:
why don't we just skip all this non-sense and have SKILL based games, instead of games where haveing better gear means you beat more skilled oppenents.

there are lots of these. We just don't call them MMOs, we call the FPS, RTS, racing games, beat 'em ups etc.

Duol:
Sorry but I find this a terrible idea...

I played WoW at the endgame for a number of years and now only play casually and see what some of the changes Blizzard is making to the game are doing to it. In the past the only way to get equipment was to toil though all the content that everyone else had to catch up and it remained this way for a long time. There was no alternate way of getting equipment than through raiding and that's just the way it was. These days it is much easier to gear up. As soon as new content and gear is released last patches best gear becomes easy to obtain, taking comparatively few hours for casual players to obtain. This has created immense uproar already from the hardcore community simply because people who put in 20% of the effort of hardcore players can now get 80-90% of the gear. However it is still acceptable and people have learned to adapt and overall it looks like Blizzard have made more friends in the casual community than they have lost amongst the hardcore followers.

Now just imagine that those casuals could lay down an extra 10-15$ a month and be the SAME not just close but the same as the hardcore gamers... I wont say the game would collapse but I think some troubled times would be ahead.

call me obvious, but you'd notice the two games are very different.
You'd also notice that WoW doesn't have micro transactions for game items... where as exteel does.

You'd almost be able to come to the conclusion there designed around there payment models...
Your argument is akin to saying training wheels are stupid, my car already has 4 wheels why the hell should I worry about it falling over.

I've never played any MMO's except for Runescape (Hey! I quit four years ago! No flaming.) and that was a horrible experience. The free players got so little. : (
I really love the idea that they implemented with Exteel. All content is accessible to free players, but being able to access higher-level content quickly is an awesome way to increase revenue without ticking off the free users. Plus, paid-for and earned equipment is different aesthetically, which means I can get extra iternet points for doing it the hard way!
Yayz.

And now I want to try Exteel

I agree 100%
And I liked the comment at the bottom about red making things go faster. I myself would paint at least half of it blue for obvious reasons!

The 'problem' with MMO's is not that that they are boring and difficult to go through...well...Initially, that is. There is a problem. WoW is quite fun to go through, the first time. And maybe the second and third time too. But there are many players with more characters like that. And then there is grind. Now they have deathknights which start at a high level, but you can only play it once a character of yours already reached a certain level.
Maybe it's useful to allow players to buy basic high level characters if they already leveled one to that point? I think it doesn't even harm the game balance.

The only reason to consider in game purchase that give you an advantage is to undercut 3rd party that often use accounts of their clients to advertise or just rob them blind and disenchant or sell their gear.

However I think you are ignoring something. The developers choose how to build their games. They pick what power ups there are and how the numbers crunch out. The problem is making an online game full of useless/pointless gradations of swag that constantly force you to upgrade or die. Remember when FPS games didn't need more then a handful of guns randomly available on the map? When playing a multiplayer game was about just firing up your machine and jumping into a game with friends? No barriers of entry no waiting to level up to your friends level. Just play and have fun without needing a spread sheet in front of you?

Victory was decided by skill and teamwork alone. Why do I care about that? Well video games as a medium for entertainment have the power to be an equalizer. To be able to bring people together without the usual barriers of normal social separation from wealth or education. Micro transactions take that away and make my virtual fantasy world just another place for people to show off their E-peen and social status.

I come to video games to escape from this BS and it makes me sad to see it change in this way.

No I do not have to play these games and many games do the FTP model in a way that is not completely unfair and it makes it easier for those with less cash be able to access the games without being a pirate. But I see how easily it is going to be to turn this medium into virtual casinos. They take your money a quarter at a time but it adds up fast.

 

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