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.
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!