S.A.R.: The $25 Article

Hi! Before we begin today, I’ll have to request the $25 fee upfront. Microtransactions are the wave of the future, so this article is officially becoming a Value Added Service. Don’t have the cash? Don’t worry, we can make a deal. That’s an awfully nice watch you’re wearing there.

Just a second, my editor is calling.

What’s that? No, I didn’t get approval–. $25 is cheap, I’m even bartering. The guy has a Rolex. I’m even open to chickens– No. Alright. Right away, sir.

Well, it looks like we won’t be a Value Added Service after all. Until we come up with Lagwar Bux that is. Until that happens though, let’s talk about some things that do cost $25, like horses and kitties.

Now with your choice of plastic wrap

The news

If you haven’t heard, Sony recently unveiled their new $25 mount yesterday. It’s a spiffy little striped panther that will unfortunately fall in the vat of colorful dye you choose And it loves you.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of Blizzard’s own $25 mount for World of Warcraft. The internet pretty much went aflame at this announcement, so it’s not surprising that so many people are up in arms over this.

What’s the big deal?

So, why is this a big deal? It’s just an optional item, after all.

The big deal is that this mount reinforces the precedent set by Blizzard: MMO players are willing to get shafted pay more.

Consider the premise behind the subscription fee in the first place. Why does it exist? To fund the continued development of the game, surely, but also to act as a ticket towards all of the content in the game. It was the answer to Asia’s cash shop model. For years, we have accepted it as the great equalizer among the players of subscription games – pay the fee for the opportunity to be as good as the next guy. That’s it, in a nutshell, and the inclusion of microtransactions blur what it is we’re actually paying for.

Let’s return again to the precedent purchases like this set. As the world around us has grown and prices have risen, fees in our MMOs have remained relatively static. The MMO publishers seemed not to want to break the standard of what we’re willing to pay and receive for our money. Yet, items like these mounts send the clear message that we’re willing to pay a lot more for smaller pieces of content. Consider, these mounts cost 50% of a full expansion pack. Half of Sentinel’s Fate or a cat? And, by all accounts, we’re buying the hell out of these things. Blizzard sold hundreds of thousands of them on their first day. EQ2 will sell lots too.

If you were the business person running an MMO, what would you do with this information? Run with it. If we’re willing to accept it, why shouldn’t they exploit it as much as possible? We’re going to see more and more of these items come up as exclusives. Blizzard has torn down the wall for how much they can exploit player’s love of their game.

Ask yourself this: as long as we’re playing executive, once you see your players are willing to pay extra for little items, what do you suppose you’d do to the subscription fee of your next big game? Let me be clear, I don’t think the sub. costs of EQ2 or WoW are going up. I also don’t think it would be Sony to lead that front. But, when Blizzard releases the mystery MMO we know they’re working on, I’d be willing to bet we see the subscription cost go up. And, just as this new $25 cat shows, once Blizzard does it, it will spread.

Beware, we’re in the last years of the $14.99 subscription fee. It was only a matter of time, and we’ll see it ushered in on the backs of pink cats and sparklingly feminine horses.

What can we do about it?

I’d like to say that we can make a difference. We vote with our wallets, after all. Simply put, don’t buy it. The ship has sailed with World of Warcraft, and it’s full of money, but it may not be too late with Sony. If the players can show that only the biggest of the big boys can get away with gouging their players in such a way, it might send another message to those executives: you’re not WoW. World of Warcraft is an anomaly with how big its player base is, and MMO companies should stop trying to emulate their every move.

Say NO to the Sparklecat and maybe we’ll stem the tide of overpriced toys.

In closing this week, I’ll leave you with this thought: MMO companies are businesses, and we shouldn’t begrudge them for trying to make money. Yet, like all of the world’s markets, it’s up to us as consumers to stem the greed radiating from the dollar signs in their eyes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see my subscription cost go up. I don’t want to see “packages” for MMOs like we have for cable. That is the risk we take when we accept items like these seemingly innocuous mounts.

Until next week, go log in!

Comments

  1. Excellent points Syeric. Syp over at Biobreak had brought this very topic up earlier today and there are plenty of opinions posted over there on the subject. I went ahead and linked your article there quoting your comments about subscriptions fees and what they should entitle us to. Very good article! I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

  2. I can’t afford for MMOs to start charging more for their subscription fees. Charging a lot for extra content is one thing, but raising the fee required to play a game would be going too far.

    So many people are willing to throw their money at this kind of content, and I don’t want MMO companies to get the wrong idea… (that most MMO players aren’t smart with their money and are easy to take advantage of)

  3. For the most part I’m in agreement with you Syeric. BUT, it is the direction every game will and already has been going. The days of the $15 subscription fee only are long gone years ago.

    The problem is, you are the minority. The majority of players are made up of two groups: the casual group who may not even be aware a $25 mount was put into the game, and the rest of the casual players who love being able to whip out their credit card and buy a shiny new mount without any hard work.

    The one good side to this is that almost that entire $25 goes right back into the future content development fund – according to SOE anyway.

    MMORPG’s are dead. Welcome to Massively Multiplayer Online Social Spaces. There is NO challenge anymore. All content is based around time investments (keeps you renewing your subscription) and cash transactions. Put in your 20 hours a week or whip out that credit card, get X shiny loot. Forget hard work, planning, practice, research, and skill – The Burning Crusade pushed what little remained of that out the window when it moved in. And everyone else has been following suit ever since – chasing that green rainbow looking for their pot of gold.

  4. We talked about how this type of transaction would move into other games. I find it interesting that they went with the 25 dollar value rather than say a 20 dollar cat. I have to agree with Tipa over on West Karana. The most disappointing part of this new cat is seeing EQ2 yet again move their content in a WoW direction rather than their own.

    As far as monthly fees rising, it will happen eventually. I think the addition of micro-transaction markets will *buy* us some time but eventually, the fee will go up. I think you are right on the ball that the new Blizzard MMO will be the first. However, they better hope that IP and game are more interesting than WoW or they could possibly shoot themselves in the foot by charging more for something players are less interested in.

    Im also curious to see how that new project will stack up to WoW. Will they take an approach that offers something polished and different? Or make a clone in a new IP. Big things to come.

    Great article :D

  5. The subscription fee itself still annoys me, actually. I’m of an old, useless sort of gamer, apparently, and I refuse to keep paying for a game past the initial purchase. That wall was a more important one for the market than the sparklepony , methinketh. It’s the heart of why people feel like the pony is double dipping (or triple, actually, counting the box price); costs on top of costs don’t tend to sit well.

    Until players just get numb and go along for the ride anyway.

  6. I hate this. Just say no to in-game purchases. This is your brain on in-game purchases —> [picture egg frying in skillet]. We already paid once (the game retail key / box) and are usually paying monthly or for a lifetime sub. Sure these firms want to make more money — who doesn’t? I don’t mind paying for the sub (as Tesh does), because it enables the network and continued operation of the shared infrastructure. However, if you are going to allow fee to play and get in game items, then let me by levels, renown, and other goodies, so I can just run straight to end game.

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  1. [...] 8 minutes late in letting you know! Sorry about that. My latest article is up at Lagwar and in it I discuss the $25 CashCat SOE just dropped on their player base. I have a question for [...]

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