The SOE Copykat – An Honest Question

Lolcat

This entry craved a lolcat.

When Blizzard released the sparkling pony of doom I mentioned that I wanted a convincing argument and I’d stop criticizing MMO companies for going down the overpriced RMT + sub route. With SOE jumping on the bandwagon, giving the critics more fuel for their already very hot fires, I’m going to ask the question again. Last time I mostly got people agreeing with me, and only one “they are a business, they want more money” which doesn’t really make it any better.

The second the new prowler mounts (or “copykats”;  thanks, Ark) went up in the Everquest 2 item shop, both Beau and Cuppy praised it. Beau jumped straight in and bought one. So I know there are MMO-bloggers out there that support this. I am looking at you guys, and the people that share your opinions on this, to give me the answer I am looking for.

In short, the question I want answered is this:

- In what way is adding a mount to an item shop, and charging extra for it on top of the regular subscription fee, good for the consumer?

I really want an answer. I am ready to be convinced. We mostly get to hear the critics (because, let’s face it, we’re pretty loud), now I want to hear the people that support this development. Give me a reason, a reason that I can believe in and agree with. I won’t flame you, and I’ll of course delete any comments that do.

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21 comments

  1. For me it boils down to what the developers do with the cash. If they funnel it back into the game to sustain it and create new content, then great but if it’s just going into the pockets of the money-men at the top, then no thanks.

    • Petter says:

      I’m actually working on an entry where I write down my theory on why they are doing this, so I’ll get back to that. But yes, simplified: I agree.

  2. Stargrace says:

    http://nomadicgamer.com/2010/05/20/my-little-pwnies/

    I support their RMT – and explain why on NomadicGamer.

    • Petter says:

      Thanks for the input, and that’s one of the things I will address in the entry I mention to Gordon above. :) The reason why they are doing it is quite clear to me.

      But yes, that realistic approach to the whole phenomenon is one of the better reasons why this might be a good thing. I still would criticize the price point, as I believe it is off the charts, and fear for the future and how this will work out for us in the long run.

  3. Longasc says:

    I have nothing to say in support of this development. I right now ponder to stop reading blogs of RMT supporters and pony owners.

    ArenaNet sells “costumes” in Guild Wars 1 by now. This costumes for this special appearance slot can only be obtained in one way, through the item store. This starts a bad trend, I fear for Guild Wars 2.

    But people always find ways to justify everything:
    “By buying such a costume you show your dedication and monetary support to the development of the GW franchise.”

    … oh my god. :(

    But at least GW has no monthly fee and a very reasonable pay for content model (you pay for one or more of the three campaigns and then play forever) – for EQ, WoW and Cryptic/STO it is just grabbing as much money as possible from the customer on top of the monthly sub.

    Guess where the “premium” content will go in future. We will soon ride horses like the Knights of the Coconut. The best gear, the most fancy gear – that will all be reserved for the store. This makes Cryptic selling ship skins and races that simply should not cost anything extra for a few bucks in the store almost look good… this is just wrong!

    I can already imagine a quarterly “pet” or “mount of the month” club: With uncommon, rare and very rare steeds. 5, 15 and 125 bucks respectively. For 133,70 you get the whole gang.

    Everyone who bought such a steed influenced the future of gaming in a very bad way.

    • Petter says:

      I think that’s taking it a bit too far, actually – it won’t really help anyone, except becoming more grumpy and alone. ;) If people like it, then good for them! They will be even happier in the future, probably! I won’t, but that doesn’t make me think less of any of them – even Beau, who is Mister RMT himself. I just dig him too much. :D

      It’s still early. The slope is still slippery, but we have yet to fall headlong into RMT-hell yet. My eyes are on Turbine, I guess they would be next. And I’d love to sit down with Smedley or any of the Blizzard hot-shots and actually talk about this.

    • Beau says:

      Long: Have you ever paid for a Limited Edition, or a server transfer, or a name change or any other digital purchase above what the game offers?

      And you do not see your Guild Wars example, and your claim of “very reasonable pay for content model” as exactly what I am describing? Oh, so since YOU think it is a decent pay model, so should everyone else? But when a player thinks that buying a mount for 25 dollars, THEIR opinion does not have the same carrying power?

      Again, I find it fascinating how easily geeks split their opinions up. “Oh, THOSE digital purchases are OK, but not THOSE.”

      Beau

  4. Beau says:

    Well, I answered this on Twitter the other day. It is just like ______ that you spent a good amount of money on that now sits on your shelf collecting dust. Surely you have an action figure, or something similar, that is worth nowhere near the price? Now take that action figure down and put a saddle on it. Done and done.

    This is not a complicated issue, I assure you. This isn’t a sign of doom or of EQ2 copying WoW. You know what this is? This is SOE selling a cool item.

    That’s it.

    If you don’t like the item, or think that (as you said) it was a “waste” of developer resources (this blog only took you a half hour to write, is that a waste because of the time involved?) then YOU are making too much out of it. In fact, I am most surprised at geeks and nerds (c’mon, we all wear that title! lol) who poo-poo a mount, while spending ridiculous money on action figures, limited editions, tickets to movies (19.50 anyone?) or any other number of geekery.

    Oh, and how is it good for the consumer? It makes SOE money and allows people like me, who don’t want to pay 2 plat for a 25 percent speed mount, happy. If you think I am in the minority, wait until they talk about how many they sold.

    What you really need to ask is why you think that YOUR opinion (which this is) somehow makes the item what you think it is. Obviously it is not. For example, Bhag said on my blog that it was ugly, essentially. I told him that perhaps he needs to consider that it is not. Of course, I was not trying to say that he should *think* it was not ugly, but to remember that obviously many people did NOT. Same thing here. You need to consider that this is a much simpler matter, and not some sign of the end times.

    Let me remind you, once again, of players being perfectly OK with Limited Edition goodies, and all sorts of other forms of RMT that they participate in without blinking an eye.

    Of course, YOU have never paid for a limited edition or enjoyed the benefits of a digital purchase above what the game normally offers, right? hehe

    Beau

    • Petter says:

      About the limited edition thing – I see your point, but the ones I’ve bought I’ve bought mostly for the actual box. Had it been the same price, but only included the regular box + a pet (for example), I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole. I guess that I, despite my fascination with MMOs, still make that difference between virtual and real. :)

      Sure, it makes you happy. That I already knew, and I suppose I can buy that. I don’t agree, the thought of more stuff getting added to the item store while still charging subs doesn’t come across as very “good for the consumer” to me. At all. I didn’t mind the stuff in the SOE store, when it came with reasonable prices. $25, for a lot of people, is a lot of money. I believe that they are over-charging. Sure, people that buy it thinks it’s worth it – you obviously did. I say that the price-point, together with the subscription, is bullshit. :)

      I know it’s my opinion. I think this is the wrong way to go, that it could easily spiral out of control considering that companies are companies. MMO-players constantly go down the path of least resistance to gain rewards. Companies go down the path of least resistance to gain money.

      I don’t believe it’s a simple issue. It might have been when Blizzard put up the pony for $25 (which I don’t think it was even then). Then SOE, just a few weeks later, does the exact same thing (but with three different options, which absolutely is in SOE’s favor!). It’s hardly a coincidence, it didn’t just “happen”. At least I’m quite sure that it didn’t. This is a huge deal. The more this happens, the more stuff is put into sub-games’ item stores, the more the landscape will change.

      Mind you, I don’t think Blizz or SOE will start charging for equipment, or stop making expansions or anything like that. I will get back to why I think this is all happening. I should have started there, I realize now. :)

      • Beau says:

        You make no sense, man. lol You are OK with Limited Editions (despite whatever reasons you bought them for, you still bought them) and do not think this will lead to lack of content, and have no problem with people enjoying the items.

        Yet, you think it is not good for the consumer, after taking part in the consumption over and over?

        Nothing personal, but you can see why I used “crazy” in my blog title. Just admit it, man. Just admit that this is sort of like a political discussion. That’s cool. You feel like the selling of these items somehow takes away from the “old school.” I get it.

        But understand, like the retirees here in the States that complain about government health care (and how evil it is) WHILE they are on Medicaid (government health care) it just doesn’t add up.

        Either you ignore the virtual item world and do not participate it, and you never use any items that could be considered “virtual items” like SWG booster pack loot items, or you are OK with it. You can’t have it both ways.

        Beau

      • Petter says:

        Ha ha, no. I don’t agree – I don’t think the small virtual things added into a Limited Edition are the same as a mount sold at a high price point from an item store. I don’t have issues with the loot cards in LoN or SWG either (my only issue with those card games, and the reason why I don’t buy boosters, is because I want real physical cards and don’t see the fun in only owning virtual ones).

        Look what I wrote about SOE’s item store above. I don’t mind it. I didn’t, and still don’t, have issues with the pets available in Blizzard’s pet store. I don’t, since I believe it’s a pricing issue at heart. I wouldn’t have had an issue with the sparkle pony if it had been cheaper, or with prowlers if they had been cheaper.

        Hey, RMT is here to stay – just like DLC on consoles. I pay for my Xbox Live sub every month, yet I have to pay extra for all the other stuff they sell. I didn’t really care, until Activision Blizzard decided it was ok to charge 1200 MS points for a map pack of five maps. Prices go up, the amount of content bought for these prices doesn’t. It’s the same old stuff, but developers are starting to take levels/maps/etc that were supposed to be on the disc, and then sell them to the players later.

        Or, in the case of Bioshock 2, actually ship the game with the material on the disc and then charging extra for it.

        Get what I’m getting at here? The fear is that content will be removed and priced at a much higher price point. By showing that we are willing to pay that much, developers have incentive to take away more and more that initially were going in the game, then selling it to us. It’s already happening on the console side, it might just happen on the MMO side too. All this while we’re already paying $15 a month to play, plus box cost.

        I bought a Transformers t-shirt for my Xbox avatar, for crying out loud. I’m not all against item shops, DLC, RMT and the like. I guess I should have been a lot clearer on “overpriced”.

        (And, as you might know, 2.5 million people bought what I see as the overpriced map pack in the first week. People obviously wanted it, at least right then and there. I still think that companies should be criticized and scrutinized when they try to sell us stuff.)

  5. There is value difference in tangeble items like box sets and action figures and a virtual item you dont actually own.
    Why dont Blizzard and sony just sell us in game currency we could all agree on a value for that surely :P

  6. Beau says:

    Olde: So are you claiming that you set the price for everyone? Should I ask you how much I should value that box, and how much I should value that song (non tangible) and how much I should value that experience I had (non tangible)…what is this difference?

  7. Kal says:

    I for one dislike RMT items like this because they’re visible in a way that name changes, server transfers, et cetera are not. You don’t know immediately that a player has thirty-eight action figures on a shelf in their house, but one look at a player with a Prowler and you know they have more money in RL than you do. It’s similar to seeing someone driving a fancy car on the street.
    But MMOs are supposed to provide escapism, so why drag the economic castes into them? Ideally, every player of a given game should advance via in-game effort. Everyone should have equal opportunity to acquire items and such without reaching out of the game for the means to do so.
    Whether someone is utilising official RMT or illegal RMT, the effect is the same: sidestepping that ideal and giving people who are less well-off IRL the middlefinger.

  8. Kal says:

    Actually, using official RMT is worse because it’s much more visible and distinct than getting powerlevelled or getting extra in-game currency…

  9. Bhagpuss says:

    @beau “You can’t have it both ways. ”

    Of course you can! All moral questions come in infinite shades of grey and this is clearly a moral question, albeit one of arguable importance. Try standing up in the Oxford Union and winning a debate with “You can’t have it both ways”. Next thing after that is “we’ll just have to agree to disagree” and by that point we may as well all just go home.

    On the substantive point of why for-profit commercial companies selling ponies and cats for $25 is a “good thing”, well, we’ll have to debate the value of the late-model capitalist system to explain that. Whether it’s a good thing for the individual company will be reflected only in its balance sheet. Any other measure is irrelevant.

    • Arkenor says:

      As I’ve mentioned to Petter before, I suspect a strong correlation between position on the left-right political spectrum, and feelings on RMT, especially of the sort that gives you an ingame advantage. Which is why feelings are so strong and immutable on both sides.

  10. coppertopper says:

    I understand Beau’s point – its cool in a geeky way so he wants it. But he doesn’t provide any sort of answer to the question – how does he feel about this direction RMT is taking where $25 for a mount on top of a monthly sub of $15 is perfectly acceptable? Considering all the ftp games he has his hands in, he knows what mounts and bag space and exp pots cost in real money. Yet those purchases directly support the game in lieu of charging a sub. Would love to see an intelligent input from him instead of the defensive stance he is taking on his blog and yours.

  11. Chris says:

    This kind of thing is so incredibly subjective, it’s not even funny. That’s why we’re all able to get defensive about it. Beau can say it’s no big deal because for him the price point is worth it. Olde English Gaz can say it is because the value doesn’t add up.

    The fact is, they’re both right. All of the rhetoric getting thrown around here simply clouds the core of this issue. It is, like Petter said, about pricing. Is it worth it? For some people, yes; for others, no.

    Yet, I must admit that considering this a matter of old school vs. new school is a little derisive. It’s not wrong, it’s just a bit petty to to dwarf the views of the opposing side like that. The addition of micro-transactions into a sub. based game challenges what we’ve always accepted a sub. to represent. I’m not surprised that Beau feels differently than many of us, since he’s been much more involved in the F2P scene. I’d wager that he’d probably feel different on a wide range of issues, because that’s what he has a different background.

    To answer the original question, what good does this do the consumer: it answers the need for instant gratification. That’s all. The people with concerns for the future probably have them because they’re worried about the long-term impact. It really evidences a lack of trust in Sony and Blizzard. And, frankly, that’s a good thing. They’re out to make money, not to be nice to us. Making us happy is a means to an end; trusting them not to run away with increased prices is a bit too hopeful for me. It’s like trusting the Oil Companies not to raise gas prices too much, because people won’t be able to pay. People will pay, just like they’ll buy these mounts. And they know it.

  12. I was just trying to point out that if the server gets switched off or I cannot get access to the game my virtual item is poofed as if it never existed.
    At least I can hold a box and remember the cool times had in a game which surely has more worth?I suppose you could keep screenshots of your mount, so you see I am subjective about it.
    I have purchased two mounts in RoM in the last year both on special and cost less than $5 each so i’m not against it prinicple it’s that Sony and Blizzard have seen an opportunity to take people for a ride and gone with it no one can tell me that the I am getting the equal value from 1 mount that is the same price as a full box game. I’m not argueing with anyone here just saying how I feel about it.

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