Tuesday, September 20, 2011

About Tomorrow

Microtransactions have won. And it hurts. It really hurts me to see it, but it's obvious. There are many players nowadays who think that microtransactions are good. Sure, there are also about as many (perhaps a few less) who hate them, but the problem is that those who love microtransactions don't like subs in return. There's 'balance'.

Given the choice, the companies go for the more profitable business model and that's microtransactions by far. The really popular games can still have a sub and box costs – but in addition to microtransactions!

There are people out there who think that they can actually buy fun with microtransactions. I read those comments myself; it's not second-hand knowledge. Ironically, they are right. I mean, buying stuff does make people happy. And it is the dream of every businessman on earth to sell a virtual pink hat that people buy because they get fun out of the shopping itself instead of the actual hat. Which soon gets replaced by the virtual black helmet, and put back to storage, where the player collects his treasures. We could call this storage Gollum's cave.

As a consequence I will probably have to give up my resistance against these games. I will probably have to play them if I want to play any AAA MMORPG at all in the future. If it required any more reasons to assume that capitalism doesn't always gives the best answer to consumer demand, here it is. Which doesn't mean that I have a better system in mind, of course.

What will be next? I have an idea! What about a game that has a cost for the box in addition to a monthly and yearly sub? Yes, why just one sub? Those who play more should pay more! Totally just, don't you agree? Then we add microtransactions for content, power, vanity, style, .. everything!! And we add a hourly rate! Brilliant!
This completely obfuscated business model allows us to keep every single transfer really low! And so far there are no regulations for the small print in MMOs, as far as I know! What about a choice for the consumer between eight different payment packages – including a credit-based financial solution; just in case you don't have the money, but also want to buy the next three games in the series for a special price (they haven't been released yet).
Of course, all the prices depend on the supplier's best guess about what you individually would be willing to pay. They have statistics! – welcome to the future: Consumer surplus was yesterday!

I get the feeling that humanity is slowly entering Ray Kurzweil's Singularity. It's just that it get's started by humans, not by AI! The more intelligent specimen of humanity, empowered by statistics and a deep understanding of the human psyche, start to take serious advantage of the less intelligent, less empowered specimen. Those less fortunate specimen experience a singularity. They don't understand anything, but they like working and buying.

A world built upon greed, fear and fun; a remarkable innovation!


  1. ...And sub-based MMOs are less capitalist? :D
    as long as we don't see anyone willing to offer pay-per-time mode, one system is as good or bad as the other...

    You have a very one-sided and biased look on F2P, Nils, I'm almost tempted to say haters gonna hate. It was the same in your "The Evil in F2P games"-topic, where I disagree on almost every point you make. you make one-sided assumptions to support your reasoning and many of the points are actually redundant - not to say completely applicable to subs too, so you could switch the title. ;)
    I would actually take more time to explain why, but Psychochild and Tesh have already done that and I can hardly say more than they already have.

    Your basic assumption is always that F2Ps somehow force players to buy a lot of items and clearly the players cannot be trusted to keep track of the money. or that the deals are not transparent. or that no matter the cost vs. personal gain relation, you're always being "ripped off" somehow. I don't know why you think that - or to use another's words: "if you see it as "losing" money, you should not be playing the game in the first place. I see it as exchanging my money for entertainment. I see it as supporting a game, developers, and even a company that provides me with entertainment I feel is worth the price.

    Now let's say buying items does nothing for you: that's cool. A few questions though:

    1) Who says all items for sale are only about fun? I can see a player buy a bagpack to save time, while another likes to quest and grind for it. Is that not a perfect example of ‘good shortcuts’ because they are optional?
    2) While buying items can be fun for somebody, who says the same MMO focuses on this exclusively?
    3) Who says that somebody who buys some items would not be interested in the "other fun" (your fun) just as much? many bloggers (myself included) are proof of this. not everyone is a neurotic buyer just because they buy and item sometime or like to experiment...

    You're dismissive of a wide range of MMO players whom you suspect not to understand just how evil F2Ps are, as if there was only one stereotype of F2P customer imaginable. There is not.
    and no 'AAA+ MMO' can only live by this feature alone, in case you're worried this is what's gonna happen. maybe some people will go wild on the shop in the first two months, but long-term the company has to earn its money via real content.

    I'm also honestly surprised you expected GW2 to only charge for the box. but then - have they even announced that any of the sold items are 'required' for players like yourself? will you care if the game turns out to be a huge hit besides that? ;)

  2. To disagree with all you said would take much too much space, Syl. ;)

    Here's just a subset:
    Only 5% of player pay - often less then 1% in a f2p game. Therefore those who do pay, pay 20-100x times as much on average - assuming f2p games are as profitable as subs. But they are actually more profitable!

    The idea that players can control themselves and keep book on their expenses in such an environment. Yes, about 95-99%. Who cares about the rest?!

    This 'worth it' arguement is non-sense. You know better, Syl! I have no problem with a 100€ a month sub. Hell, 500€ a month wouldn't be a problem for me. It's not about MY money.

    "will you care if the game turns out to be a huge hit besides that? ;)"

    I expect a great financial success. Among other things based on microtransactions. And I will care.

  3. I came across this the other day, in a different context of course, but perhaps still relevant: "globalization is increasingly forcing us to live in an economy rather than a society”
    Claude Smadja, “Time to Learn from Seattle,” Newsweek International (January
    17, 2000).

  4. I'm sorry, but I seem to be part of the others who apparently don't get what your point really is.
    again: what bothers you? if it's none of what I have covered.

    that you pay for freeloaders? that there's a small percentage of players/kids/teens who cannot control their expenses?

    maybe you can try and elaborate just a little and maybe explain how that affects you. because if it doesn't, not today or tomorrow, I find myself in the sort of altrustic (moral?) debate I certainly didn't see coming here, lol! :D
    I'd also STILL love to know how F2P is TRULY worse here than sub.

  5. I'll make a post for you, Syl. Apparently I haven't been convincing enough in the past. Something that always bothers me ;)

  6. > Yes, why just one sub? Those who
    > play more should pay more! Totally
    > just, don't you agree? Then we add
    > microtransactions for content,
    > power, vanity, style, ..
    > everything!! And we add a hourly
    > rate! Brilliant!

    You mean like what telco companies are doing? They've solved it long ago. I think game companies could learn a lot from them. Especially the 2 year roll over contracts!