Why’s It All About Money Now?
I’ve been playing MMOs for over a decade and, as the years pass, I’ve starting to notice an uncomfortable trend of monetizing every aspect of our gaming. Bloggers have widely debated the pros and cons of subscription models versus free-to-play (aka micro payments) and that’s all fair and well yet, unfortunately, what we seem to be seeing now is the horrendous amalgamation of them both. More and more MMOs are now looking to offer a rather unpleasant combination of not only monthly subscriptions and additional purchasable one-off “extras” but also enhanced premium services. How come everything is all about money now?
Of course, even though they’re not the only ones, I’m referring to Blizzard’s recent announcement that they plan on adding a premium service which will allow players to group with RealID friends cross server using the Dungeon Finder tool. Although I can accept (and even indulge myself) in purchasable vanity extras like the sparkly pony or pets and deal with things like the extra Remote subscription (as it offers nothing that you can’t do normally), I think I have to draw the line at offering unique in-game facilities, unachievable without paying, that can theoretically have a dramatic impact on one’s gaming experience.
Perhaps the most grotesque thing about it though is that Blizzard are leveraging the poor reputation that the WoW community has to their monetary advantage. They’re basically admitting that the whole PUG Dungeon Finder system is flawed and that by allowing people to find, make and group with competent friends cross-server is the way out of it. So essentially now you can create your very own clique of “good” players and friends, from any server, and never have the need to group with strangers ever again. For a price of course.
I recently mentioned on Twitter my desire to stop playing RIFT and return to World of Warcraft but, thinking about these announcements, I’m not sure I want to do it. At the risk of sounding melodramatic about it all, I morally object to this kind of monetary segmentation in MMOs and simply how everything now boils down to cash. I do think WoW is a great game but, honestly, I am tired of being constantly reminded about money every time I play (it’s worth pointing out that Blizzard aren’t the only offenders here).
I play MMOs to escape real life and enjoy some moments of fantasy and it’s becoming increasingly hard to do this as more and more companies are making rather blatant attempts to take our cash. What’s wrong with simply wanting to pay a reasonable and fair monthly subscription fee and then being left alone to enjoy the product? Why are we constantly being hassled and bombarded with purchasable extras?
Ultimately I can’t help but feel that the more companies like Blizzard lose subscribers and players to other games, the more they are trying to compensate for the lost revenue by squeezing additional cash out of their existing player base. It’s simply the wrong attitude to take as what they should be addressing are the core reasons why players are leaving in the first place.