View from the Road: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

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View from the Road: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Team Fortress 2 has microtransactions, you just don't realize it.

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Ah, a wonderful read, and even better, entirely true.
I've never understood why people look down on microtransactions the way they do. I mean, the people making the games have got to eat too, right?

Quite true. I had this saying ground into my skull when I took Macro Economics in high school (not so long ago), but it applies to pretty much everything.

I do wonder how the profit turns out compared to the traditional subscription format. Because, last time I checked, both WoW and RuneScape are riding high the old-fashioned way. Albeit with nigh-and-day approaches to getting players interested enough to pay, but still both subscription based.

oh, you're supposed to read those ads?

good article, i've been trying to point these things out to a friend of mine.
this has given me some good arguments.

I could go into a long list of things the "free lunch" argument applies to. But that would take many years and cost thousands of lives... Anyway, it's a good point. Well done, Funk.

I like it. But now I want sandviches.

I'm all for the micro-transaction model in an MMO when it's the model replacing subscriptions, as it's a return to an era where if you wanted something, you paid for it, and then you were done because you had it now. Of course they're going to make all sorts of content that you can see but not actually use until you fork something over for it, and of course they're going to make sure it's sitting there all the time tempting the hell out of you, but it's a far cry better than paying a monthly fee irrespective of how often you intend to actually play the game.

On the other hand, I hope more MMOs don't start using this model as I value my free time and depending on the game that might very well spell the end of it, heh! I wouldn't be complaining if the Warhammer 40,000 MMO was micro-transaction supported though.

Brainst0rm:

I do wonder how the profit turns out compared to the traditional subscription format. Because, last time I checked, both WoW and RuneScape are riding high the old-fashioned way. Albeit with nigh-and-day approaches to getting players interested enough to pay, but still both subscription based.

Turbine announced they saw a 500% increase in revenue when they switched D&D Online to this model.

That article essentially just said, "Valve use a cut of the money they generate when people buy games to make new content for TF2" Isn't that just a ovbvious point? I mean yeah obviously people need to be payed to make new TF2 content, but I could never buy another game from Steam, and still ejoy every piece of conent in TF2 that exists and will exists, this isn't the same as a microtransaction in the traditional sense, because I would have to pay to access the extra content, but I don't, it's all there for me once I have the game in my hands. TNSTAFL in my eyes only applys to the person you're speaking to, ok yeah someone is paying for that lunch, but it isn't me, so therefor from my perspective it's free.

Agreed. I've seen a ton of people point to Valve as a developer that does free updates, particularly during the DLC discussions that have been going on around Project $10. A lot of people don't seem to realize that Steam, having such a huge share of the digital distribution market, makes them such an outlier. There's a psychological factor at play that makes people more willing to click through a few ads rather than feel like they're paying for content, even though they're really paying either way - whether it's for the DLC or for the game that they'll eventually buy when they see an ad saying "hey, it's 30% off!"

Very nice.

As I saw the number, I was suddenly curious whether just subscriptions maintained the $136,986 per day. After the number crunching... Blizzard gets $5,500,000 a day, so they have $5363131 per day. Of course, with 11 million players...

My mind always automatically associates "TANSTAAFL" with the whole "gratis" vs "libre" issue... Not that that's applicable in this case.

But yeah, the article is 100% right. Everything has a price, and they're gonna get their money's worth one way or another. The thing is that not every method of extracting that money from you is equally acceptable ('acceptable' is a bad word, but I can't think of a better English word atm...) to every customer. Some people might dislike micro-transactions, others might dislike monthly fees, and others yet would gladly shell out some bucks if it meant they'd have to look at less advertisements.

Just because someone frowns on one form of payment for his lunch, doesn't necessarily mean they think they should get their lunch for free.

I don't mind the micro transactions. If I don't want the DLC I just simply won't buy it. Granted some of them are crap DLC or re touched old stuff. Someones gotta make money though, and they don't do that by making things for free.

I never really saw it that way, puts a whole new perspective on it now...what a sneaky way to do it too!

Does this mean wikipedia is unsustainable when donations dry up? All that info lost would be tragic.

Wow, someone else who's read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress! I love that book!

Don't forget constant updates to tf2 bring a lot of exposure to the game. Generally, even large updates might add 3 weapons and a couple of maps, but it usually gets shown everywhere, and more exposure means more new players. On top of expanding the player base, by keeping the player base happy, they have a lot more guaranteed customers for any sequel down the line, or any Valve product in general, due to amount of support they can expect (the entitlement issue bit them on the ass with Left 4 dead 2 though, since Valve fans pretty much expected them to deliver on the first game like tf2, when really they should have been grateful for what they got. But that's another issue, and my parenthesis bound aside will get too bloated if I go on.)

It's an ingenious marketing technique, because I can see clearly what they are doing, yet I don't care. They're still giving us tons of free content, and exploiting it in the best way a company could.

Very good article, and very true. What Valve does is essentially a cyclical built in advertising service. They put out "free" updates for their games, which get advertised on most major gaming sites (and in Steam itself), which pumps up Valve's reputation and draws eyeballs to both them and Steam, which gets people to buy the games they sell, which funds the "free" updates and so on. Like Valve or not, as said, they really aren't doing things solely out of the goodness of their hearts.

Very interesting and entertaining read. But I am glad I met friends in my life who act in generous ways, not selfish ways which seems too common these days.

Good read but it really doesn't bother me my "Paying micro transactions for Tf2" I wouldn't mind if all games came up with a little window once I'm done with them. Providing I'm not forced to read it.

I do hope the thing with Valve and adverts isn't supposed to surprise me.
Good read and all, but not surprising.

elvor0:
... TANSTAAFL in my eyes only applies to the person you're speaking to, OK yeah someone is paying for that lunch, but it isn't me, so therefore from my perspective it's free.

Nah, you're still paying for it by investing your time. Obviously the benefits of getting a "free" lunch versus the costs of, say, fifteen minutes chowing down make that a favorable scenario for you in most cases, but you're still paying in some way (for the most obvious example, people might pay through increased customer loyalty to the restaurant). Imagine that you have to be on a train in five minutes, and it takes you five minutes to eat lunch. Then, you were offered this free lunch. Either way you choose, you pay.

You know, the games that you see advertised every time you load up Steam to play TF2. Or the deals that come up once you're done and exit the match. By constantly updating TF2, Valve keeps players coming back to Steam, where they see the new games and probably buy some every now and then.

The description of this article said that TF2 has microtransactions, that's completely false, all it does is a bit of advertising and not even in a direct way, they're not the same thing, and it's not cool to drag people to the article by claiming they are.

danpascooch:

You know, the games that you see advertised every time you load up Steam to play TF2. Or the deals that come up once you're done and exit the match. By constantly updating TF2, Valve keeps players coming back to Steam, where they see the new games and probably buy some every now and then.

The description of this article said that TF2 has microtransactions, that's completely false, all it does is a bit of advertising and not even in a direct way, they're not the same thing, and it's not cool to drag people to the article by claiming they are.

I disagree entirely. In practice, they work out to being the exact same thing. It's how Valve funds development of TF2.

Very clever Valve, very clever.

And also, Lulzy!

So....what about people who play for free, never buy anything extra, and DONT buy the stuff in ads?

danpascooch:

The description of this article said that TF2 has microtransactions, that's completely false, all it does is a bit of advertising and not even in a direct way, they're not the same thing, and it's not cool to drag people to the article by claiming they are.

As the article stated, no, you're never going to be paying, cold, hard, straight-out-yo'-wallet cash for something in TF2. But a microtransaction can be easily, and correctly, interpreted as any economic transaction that's simply very small. Those advertisements are an economic transaction--you're at least paying with your time (the time it takes for you to scroll your clicker to close the damn thing), and you're almost certainly paying with small amounts of your mindshare.

Even without Steam, updating games for free has the great benefit of making your customers love you. TF2 not only makes users keep coming back to Steam, it makes users keep coming back to Valve.

Stardock, by the way, does the same thing as Valve. I hope it's working for them, because this is a great way to do business.

By the way, I do consider it a free lunch if the 'price' I pay is making me feel good about buying Valve games. It's a win-win situation, sounds like free lunch to me.

Miumaru:
So....what about people who play for free, never buy anything extra, and DONT buy the stuff in ads?

How many people do you know who HAVEN'T broken down and made an impulse purchase on a crazy weekend sale on Steam? The fact that a person who played TF2 will be seeing ads for weekly deals all the time, and typically they'll find something they just can't pass up. Because Steam keeps its ads focused on games, it's way more likely to catch the interest of the typical Steam user: A dedicated gamer. Just like with an f2p MMO, the extras are ferociously pushed upon the player whether they think they're ignoring it or not, until you figure "oh, why not, it's on sale" or "Oh wow that looks cool and I want to try it". There might be a person who doesn't have a credit card and thus has an easy time ignoring these special offers, but there is almost always a tipping point for people.

I mean, I picked up KOTOR for $2. $2! That's ridiculous, and that's how Valve convinces the masses to keep tolerating, and perhaps even love, Steam.

xyrafhoan:

Miumaru:
So....what about people who play for free, never buy anything extra, and DONT buy the stuff in ads?

How many people do you know who HAVEN'T broken down and made an impulse purchase on a crazy weekend sale on Steam? The fact that a person who played TF2 will be seeing ads for weekly deals all the time, and typically they'll find something they just can't pass up. Because Steam keeps its ads focused on games, it's way more likely to catch the interest of the typical Steam user: A dedicated gamer. Just like with an f2p MMO, the extras are ferociously pushed upon the player whether they think they're ignoring it or not, until you figure "oh, why not, it's on sale" or "Oh wow that looks cool and I want to try it". There might be a person who doesn't have a credit card and thus has an easy time ignoring these special offers, but there is almost always a tipping point for people.

I mean, I picked up KOTOR for $2. $2! That's ridiculous, and that's how Valve convinces the masses to keep tolerating, and perhaps even love, Steam.

I dont use steam, and I am not involved with steam at all. So I am unaware of such people.

blackshark121:
Very nice.

As I saw the number, I was suddenly curious whether just subscriptions maintained the $136,986 per day. After the number crunching... Blizzard gets $5,500,000 a day, so they have $5363131 per day. Of course, with 11 million players...

Sorry, but I doubt your numbers are accurate here. You need to keep in mind that out of the 11.5 million players, roughly 5 million come from Asia and they don't use a subscription model like elsewhere. Instead, they pay per hour of play, so Asian players are not a reliable source of income. Plus, as Funk mentioned in his article, the figure 136,986 is only for actualy keeping the servers running. There is a whole slew of other expenses that need to be considered.

I am not saying Blizzard isn't making a fair bit of money with WoW. But I think people tend to oversimplify and exaggerate how much money they make and also ignore how much it costs to maintain an MMO of such a magnitude as WoW.

Plurralbles:
no shit sherlock.

If I were Sherlock, I might have an idea whom you're responding to.
I'd make Watson explain first, though.

Miumaru:
I dont use steam, and I am not involved with steam at all. So I am unaware of such people.

Then, using the example of an f2p MMO, most of these f2p games offer shortcuts through cash shop purchaces, seasonal sales, and sometimes offer free cash shop items to loyal players. Once you start making cash shop purchases, it's really hard to play the game without them. In games were microtranscation items are sellable to other players in-game, the players who DO hold off on purchasing items from the cash shop can do so because someone else on the market is doing all that purchasing for them. Like the article said, why trust some 3rd party to go out and earn gold and levels for you when you can buy a desireable item from the company and either use the item for yourself, or resell for in-game currency without anyone else touching your account?

The article pretty much summed up this exact idea: Even if you believe you're getting something for "free", someone else down the line has done something to pay for your experience.

Interesting... I'd never considered the 'free' updates like this before.

Does that mean that their aim is to simply get people to see Steam or that they are simply trying to provide a game of quality which will
in turn get people onto Steam?

Marmooset:

Plurralbles:
no shit sherlock.

If I were Sherlock, I might have an idea whom you're responding to.
I'd make Watson explain first, though.

seeming as I didn't quote anybody.. My aim would seem to be squarely on the article.

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