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.

This guy wouldn't buy a Celestial Steed, he'd train one.

This guy wouldn't buy a Celestial Steed, he'd train one.

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.

-Gordon

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22 Comments

  1. Yogi says:

    Who invited logic to this debate!!!?! Even though I myself am throwing out rants about these inflated micro-transactions, you make a very good point and its always nice to take a step back and rethink about an issue. Good post.

  2. Klepsacovic says:

    But people having mounts that look different than mine, that I didn’t value enough to buy, makes me feel inferior.

  3. Russ says:

    Thank you, thank you, Gordon. My thoughts exactly.

    Oh and Donnie wouldn’t train the steed, he’d give several people a small amount of money, challenge them to train it, and then fire the person who trained it the worst. On video. And then he’d put it on TV and make millions. LOL

  4. Tesh says:

    Looking back a little farther, gamers have been used to box prices alone for a long time. Subs were a significant shift in the market. I can’t help but think that some of the pushback against these “keep paying” models, whether sub or MT, is based in that tradition. Games are pretty young in the entertainment world, but still, trends don’t take long to form. And on the flipside, look at how many players, usually young professionals with money to burn or kids with mommy’s card and no sense of fiscal responsibility, *still* argue that MMOs are absolutely the Bestest Value Evar!!

    Value is absolutely a personal calculation. The bizarre part is when we compare our spending to some one else’s values. That’s always going to be a source of conflict.

    • Gordon says:

      Totally agree – value is always going to be relative to individuals. Unfortunately, even concluding that, I don’t see the debates about microtransactions, F2P and subscription models ever going away. Someone is always going to dislike the way their favourite games company decides to conduct business.

      • Tesh says:

        Oh, sure, there will always be debates. Savvy companies can dodge some of the fuss by offering different models for the same game, like Wizard 101, Puzzle Pirates or DDO. Letting players pay the way they want to tends to make more money, since more people get involved.

  5. ogrebears says:

    What i am worried about is the point where developers make less content for expansions for more DL content that cost money..
    Like an expansion that comes out with 3 raid zone, but if you pay 25 bucks you’ll get access to the elite 5 zone with harder mobs and better armor.

  6. openedge1 says:

    How is it that one company with a similar product can charge one price, yet another company a different, higher price?

    These questions lead to the “value” for our money. How much does it really cost companies to run these MMO’s. Who is yanking our chain and Who is trying to black ball us for as much as possible.

    The issue here is that this specific companies main product has been out for a long time now. We can see based on the bottom line of financial reports that the company in question is making more each year in revenue as their product becomes “cheaper” to run. So, to pay back their “loyal” customers, they offer something the customer has been wanting…but at a charge.

    Does this seem right now?

    It is not about what we blow our cash on; it is not about what we would like to have…

    What it becomes is an experiment, that WE as customers failed. They tested us to see where we would go, and how far we would go to get something no one else had yet…and it has set a precedent for all further transactions by this company and many others as well.

    We have shown we are willing to pay almost double what we pay for 30 days of play, for a single item that we do not truly own, but rent.

    It is an ugly, greedy and sly ploy that has helped Activision and Blizzard set new boundaries and new guidelines for how much they can get out of us for absolutely nothing.

    Maybe the analogy of the liquored up night versus “My Celestial Pony” is appropo…seeing as they are both addictions we must feed. And all I can do is feel sorry for those who throw their money away like that.

    • StrawKing says:

      Yes, how dare Blizzard sell a product! HOW DARE THEY!

      In all seriousness, I really think too many people are getting WAY too worked up about an in game item that affects no one. Don’t get me wrong, I see why you are worried, but you have to realize that microtransactions aren’t inherently evil. If used properly they can be pretty neat.

      I’m interested in what exactly you think this set the precedent for. Purchasable armour? Gold? Levels? Do you really think Blizzard is that stupid? I can almost guarantee that Blizzard, as they are now (which, considering their success, is probably how they will stay) will never sell stuff like that.

      Besides, look at the shit that was pitched over this mount, this mount that give almost NO ADVANTAGE. It’s a logical step to conclude that should Blizzard be possessed by the devil, a significant portion of the playerbase will probably implode through nerdrage alone.

      • openedge1 says:

        “Yes, how dare Blizzard sell a product! HOW DARE THEY!”

        This is not the issue, and you are clouding the overall greed here.

        If this horse would have cost either $5 or even $10, this would not be a debate. Why? Because the value of the horse becomes less than your monthly fee.
        Right now, Activision believes the horse is more valuable than the 30 days of the game itself. But, to add injury to insult, you must not only PAY for the HORSE, but then you must RENT that time from Activision to ride that horse.

        Stop paying $15, the horse is gone.

        This is the issue with RMT on sub based games. Look at Guild Wars, or other Free To Play titles. (Note, I am not arguing quality, so yes, I know some FTP games ARE worse). You are not paying a monthly premium to have the privilege to pay them more for this or that item.
        But, look at it this way… even if these are just vanity items, they should NEVER cost more than you pay each month for the game itself.

        Activision has officially devalued the game.

        And the biggest kick in the pants of all? Activision (note, I do not say Blizzard anymore, as we all know who pushed for this “DLC” extravaganza) says this is a “reward” for it’s loyal customers.

        Your reward is to pay them even more money. No thanks.

        • Alex Taldren says:

          It’s called the free market. Companies want/need to increase their profits. What would you prefer, that companies reduce their profit margins or sell products for the same amount as they cost to make? This idea that making a profit is evil is simply moronic. No profits means no business, which means no more games.

          The horse is a single item, yes, but do you know how much time/work it took to design/model that thing? If anything, you’re getting it at a much cheaper price than it cost to make it. Let’s say a designer created that horse in 2 hours. That designer probably makes more than $13/hour right? And, that isn’t including the time/work involved in promotions for it, uploading it to the store, etc.

          There is no “greed” issue here. Such arguments are spawned from predictable anti free-market ideals. Nobody is forcing anyone to pay for anything. It doesn’t impact gameplay at all, so that argument is gone. All that is left is what you feel is an appropriate price for such DLC. And, as I illustrated before, that point is moot since you really have no idea how much it cost to create the DLC they are charging $25 for you to download.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a very interesting perspective and something I can agree with. If I ignore the idea that all businesses just want to make more money, no matter what, it does make me wonder why Blizzard/Activision aren’t happy with what they have already and don’t instead focus their resources into making more free content for their loyal playerbase.

  7. amcl says:

    how is your celestial steed? ;)

  8. Nils says:

    I’d pay Blizzard 100 € a month if they really made another great mmo. It’s not about the money.
    It’s about outside items entering a closed world. Well, not closed anymore, but this hinders my ability to believe in the world.

    On the other hand: 25 € per mount is .. convincing.
    If some strange people want to subsidise WoW for me with millions I can be convinced that a relatively small loss of immersion is worth it.

    Thus my suggestion: 25€ is too cheap. Please ask 50€ and more, serious.

    • Gordon says:

      The funny thing is that everyone thought $20 for a backpack in Allods Online was too expensive yet $25 for a mount seems, well, understandable. What’s the difference between the two items? Not much really appart from a mount is a little more flashy.

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