Just because an MMOG is free doesn't mean you're not paying for it, and it turns out that the cost isn't too far off what you'd pony up for a conventional subscription MMOG.
Free online games usually offer optional "upgrades" to players willing to pay for them, typically in the form of items that aren't necessary to play the game but greatly enhance the experience. The amounts are most often minuscule but earlier this month Perfect World International, a free Chinese online game that's attracted over a million users since setting up shop in North America in September 2008, decided to offer a rare "Ancient Boa" mount to gamers for $50, and according to MTV Multiplayer, "People paid."
It's simple enough to write off people willing to lay out fifty bucks for a pretend snake-horsey as a statistically insignificant handful of particularly dedicated fans - ie., weirdos - but Pacific West Securities analyst Evan Wilson said there's more to it than just that. He noted that while World of Warcraft charges $15 per month in subscription fees, players spend an average of $10 a month in the Perfect World marketplace buying items that, like the Ancient Boa mount, are entirely optional.
"The size of the market is pretty incredible and WoW is also successful [in China]," he said. "I would say that there are certainly lots of people who would be willing to pay for this type of content both here and around the world."
I'm not sure I'd be willing to fork out the dough for this kind of stuff myself, but the fact that a game like Perfect World can survive and grow without regular monthly subscription fees make me look at the flood of failed and failing MMOGs in the Western market and wonder if we're taking the wrong approach. Do the assumed differences between the Chinese and Western markets actually hold water or are we just missing the boat on a new, and perhaps better, way of doing business?
Source: MTV Multiplayer