Why Do We Fuss Over Money So Much?
Why are Blizzard charging $25 for a mount. Why should we pay $15 a month to play EVE Offline? Why is Allods Online charging so much for items? Why have games like WoW and EQ2 started offering microtransactions? Why do we even need to pay a monthly subscription? We, as gamers and bloggers, are obsessed with money.
Remember how I got exceedingly drunk last Saturday? Well, I just checked my bank account today and it turns out I spent £70 (that’s over $100) that night on alcohol, only to expel it from several orifices a few hours later. I’m now thinking that buying a Celestial Steed instead of three double-vodkas and ginger ale is pretty good value for money.
I think our issue with money and MMOs is that for a long time MMORPGs had a single payment model that never waivered and it’s only been recently, within the last 2 or 3 years, that it’s started to, let’s say, evolve. The genre is changing and adapting to new and different needs of the consumer and we have to somewhat accept that.
MMOs have always been a vast undertaking for any developer but now they are immense. Triple-A games have to come with every feature under the Sun from interactive maps to customisable UIs, they have to offer balanced PvP gameplay along with an abundance of PvE content, they have to offer cutting-edge graphics that will still play on a notebook or a Mac, and they have to offer new and innovative features to keep us entertained. When BioWare announced that SW:TOR would have full voice overs for all its characters, I was worried. Not because I don’t think it will be a cool feature to have but because I know that us, the consumer, will end up quite literally paying for it.
8 years ago developers and publishers thought the only way to monetize a MMO was through obtaining a lot of subscription fees but now they know better. You don’t actually need to have the highest number of subscribers to make the most money, you just need to find other ways of making your players pay.
This form of alternative monetization is happening in all walks of life too. Take the movie industry, for example. Even taking inflation into account, Avatar is now the highest grossing film of all time yet Gone With The Wind still sold more tickets. How does that work? Well, Avatar made money because producers discovered that by offering us a new service, in this case 3D, they could charge us a lot more for a ticket. Whether or not this extra is worth the money is entirely debatable but then we could say the same thing about a $25 virtual mount.
Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about this all apart from opting out and either not playing a game or not partaking in the microtransaction element. What is strange though is how and why we obsess over it. All of these new forms of payment in MMORPGs are simply a natural evolution of the industry. As the products become more and more complex and demand more and more time to create, we can expect to have to pay more or, at the very least, be enticed to spend more.
Let’s just stop worrying about the money, the reasons behind it all and what constitutes ‘value’ and ‘fairness’ as, let’s admit it, these things are incredibly relative not only to each of us but also to the activity we partake in. Instead let’s just enjoy the games we play and make our own personal decisions about what, why and when we part with our hard earned cash.