MMORPGs – Value For Money?

There’s been a lot of discussion amongst bloggers recently about Dungeons & Dragons: Online becoming free to play (albeit with microtransactions) and generally how the new RMT business models we’re seeing cropping up will effect the future of MMORPGs. It all made me wonder if MMOs were genuinely good value for money.

I’ve never had a problem with the standard monthly subscription model and the idea of plonking down £10 ($15) or so every 4 weeks doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, the only problem I ever had with it was trying to convince my parents to let me use their credit card (they were scared about putting money into the magic-electronic-go-fun-interwebbery-machine) when I was still a teenager back in 1999. Fortunately I got my first credit card soon after (yay to banks for trusting immature students) and have never looked back since.

Personally I think £10/$15 for a months entertainment is excellent value for money and I constantly lock horns with friends and colleagues who refuse to play MMORPGs just because of the subscription model idea. They argue that they don’t want to be beholden to the developers and don’t want to pay for something they “don’t actually own”. Ironically enough they seem to have no problems forking out the same amount for a cinema ticket even though they don’t get to the film home with them. Regardless, this has definitely given me a new perspective as to why MMO developers want to attract people in with Free2Play games. They obviously think that there are plenty of potential gamers out there who consider MMORPGs to be poor value for money.

So thus the microtransaction and RMT model is born. I still feel very resistant to this because I know it’s just going to end up with me spending more money than I intended (incoming! flashback to forking out hundreds of pounds for TCGs). I’m a pretty vain and competitive player so RMT could potentially be very dangerous for me.

Having said that, there are certain types of RMT I like and some I don’t. I like having the option of being able to buy experience potions in Everquest 2, for example, because it allows me, the player, to control my speed of leveling. I’d rather spend £5 than invest 10 hours of game play leveling up an alt through content I’ve done a hundred times. Whether that’s a good thing for the gameworld or not is another discussion. However, I think I’m definitely against buying usable items as it diminishes in-game accomplishments, endangers the game world economy and would also eventually lead me being 50k in debt as I try to become the ultimate Warrior on the server.

I think MMORPGs are excellent value for money as they stand. The future of Free2Play and RMT will certainly be interesting to see. The upside is that we may see better “value for time” as the player is given more options (do it the hard way or pay for it) whilst the downside is that we may up being at the mercy of greedy developers who want us to buy all of the best or good looking items rather than play for them.

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7 Comments

  1. Beej says:

    I really liked Ultima Online’s RMT stuff. You could buy a character that was 80% to the skill cap in 5 skills for around 20 dollars. This meant that players still had to “finish” the characters themselves, but saved, like you said, the hours and hours of going back through redundant content.

    I would pay for something like that, even though I never had the need in UO. New RMT stuff (items and such) don’t interest me nearly as much because they aren’t nearly as redundant and time-efficient as actually starting a new character. If I could, say, buy a WoW Paladin at level 55 for 25 dollars, I’d jump on it.

    Mini-transactions in a game where I am only casually playing might work, but if I were to really delve into a game, then 2 dollars here, 5 dollars there would eventually get old (*cough Free Realms *cough cough*) and make me want something more substantial.

    I think F2P or RMT has its place, but in a mainly casual environment that a lot of MMOs can’t foster. Triple A MMOs (WoW, The Old Republic, etc.) can’t work with mini-transactions as easily as smaller games which would otherwise not have a playerbase.

  2. stargrace says:

    “whilst the downside is that we may up being at the mercy of greedy developers who want us to buy all of the best or good looking items rather than play for them”

    That’s pretty much my only issue with RMT. I don’t mind spending money on video games, it’s entertainment after all and they deserve to be paid for their work. What I don’t like is the idea that everything ‘cool’ or ‘neat’ (ie: new housing furniture in EQ2) will be on an RMT plan when there’s already a subscription plan in place. We’ll just have to see!

  3. Jeremy S. says:

    I’ve been playing Runes of Magic for months now. I really like it and the “Item Mall” they use is, in my opinion, very wise.

    They only sell items that equate, in-game, to speeding elements of play.

    They sell EXP/TP potions, clean Fusion Stones, Teleport Runes, and other items that speed up your play.

    There is nothing in the Item Mall, that a non-payer can’t get by working a little harder or taking extra time to get.

    On top of that, they use not just one or two types of currency, but 4, as of now.

    There are also different sections in the Item Mall where you can get many of the same things using in game currency.

    It’s the best RMT model I’ve seen to date.

    Last year, the RMT model(which is a new term to me, I had always seen F2P) was the fastest growing business in video games and was 2nd only to the casual game market. Companies remain small keeping costs down, while they make over 1,000 times more money than a company like Blizzard. This doesn’t mean they are bigger or have more money than Blizzard. On the contrary, it just means the RMT model makes more money in the same amount of time.

    I did a survey on the Fiesta forums over a year ago where only about 28 people participated. It was asking for only people that did use the Item Mall, and every single one of them spent more than a monthly fee with the average being 60$US a week.

    Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed players perceptions. One trip to the RoM forums shows the exact same threads and spam-evolution with the same complaints/demands/threats I’ve seen on any other F2P game forum(then again the forums isn’t a great example to get player feedback from on certain things).

  4. openedge1 says:

    The other view of this is some games do not deserve a monthly. Case in point IS DDO.
    It felt like a small action game, kinda like Guild Wars or a Diablo game.
    So, we were stuck paying for something that did not offer that big world feel.
    Now that it is going to RMT, it seems like a wiser option to go ahead and play. More people will be willing to try it as well, and may get hooked on the RMT..

    And Turbine wins.

  5. Tesh says:

    Subs don’t offer much value to some (like me; I can’t stand them), and they offer fantastic value to others. Different strokes for different folks.

    I, for one, welcome our incoming RMT and Microtransaction (different things, by the way) overlords. The market needs to mature, and different price points and purchase options are way past due (and they should include subs for those who *do* find them good value).

  6. Gordon says:

    @beej Lvl 55 Paladin for $25? I’d easily pay that :) TBH I’d probably pay more. How long does it take to get to level 55 in WoW? Maybe a good 50 hours or so (I have no real idea). That’s the equivalent to a week’s wages.

    @stargrace Yep, it’s my biggest worry. I don’t want developers to suddenly introduce all of the most attractive items as RMT only. EQ2 has lot of nice looking stuff which is StationCash only I think.

    @jeremy I’m happy with buying ‘experience’ potions etc. As I replied to Beej, it would be a lot better value for money than actually leveling up my 5th alt.

    @openedge1 Good point. I think developers have caught on to this and have realised that getting people player for free is better than not at all.

    @tesh What’s the difference between microtransaction and RMT? I thought they were just different names for the same thing i.e. buying game items with real cash.

  7. Tesh says:

    They are different in implementation, but the two have become fairly conflated. RMT is pretty loose, and could actually even include the sub model, since you’re paying for game property (your character, if nothing else).

    In common usage, “RMT” is commonly associated with the gold selling and character selling trade, which has understandably shady connections. It has also been applied to the old “buying power” argument, where players buy special gear in the game with cash. This one is touchy as well, for good reason. RMT is also used as an epithet for anything other than a sub model.

    Microtransactions are typically part of a dual currency model, where cash is exchanged *with the company* for in-game currency that can then be spent in different ways, and each bit of game currency costs a pretty small amount of cash, say 25 cents. It’s also become a bit of a catchall for those games with cash shops, which is where the confusion with the RMT epithet comes in. Thing is, cash shops aren’t all created equally.

    Since the terms have grown to intersect a bit in the cash shops, it’s easy for those who consider RMT to be illegal and imbalanced (understandably so) to conflate the term with microtransactions and just condemn anything that isn’t a sub.

    We’re seeing similar confusion of terms with “F2P”, actually. Some F2P games are indeed messes with unbalanced item shops, but others are like Wizard 101, Runes of Magic or Puzzle Pirates, with very carefully balanced options and ultimately, very different business and game design decisions. Lumping them all under a simple label like F2P or RMT has a tendency to put the bad apples in with the good, and people who just see the group ignore the good.

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