Video games have grown considerably in the last decade, and so have their monetary tactics. Downloadable contents, or DLCs for short, became increasingly common to the point where they are expected from new releases. In the same manner, cash shops became a staple of the MMO genre, with even pay-to-play titles adopting the model.
A question of money
There’s no denying that video games are like any other market. Developers must profit with their products, or else the publisher may choose to cancel or delay the franchise as much as possible to give focus to more profitable releases. While single player games have a lot more liberty with monetization and creativity, especially considering how far indie developers have come, the same can’t be said for online games.
MMOs intend to provide an ever-lasting source of entertainment. Their worlds and mechanics are designed to keep players hooked for thousands of hours and many times, changes to both aspects are necessary. A product that’s meant to house a multitude of customers for years requires support and maintenance and neither comes cheap. Thus, the different business models within the MMO industry try to satisfy fans and keep the games alive, but that doesn’t always end well due to how the market has evolved.
“This is all optional”
That’s a common phrase used as a counter argument whenever someone tries to oppose the most popular tactic these days, the infamous cash shop. The cash shop is a way developers and publishers found to make their titles more accessible by not requiring an entry fee of any kind. The so called free to play games offer several optional purchases through their cash shops as a way to provide the service otherwise available through a monthly subscription, a choice that at times tags such titles as “pay to win” due to the existence of boosts that accelerate most in-game processes.
In the case of the few MMOs that manage to maintain their audiences with a P2P model, the cash shops offer cosmetics. That should make players more accepting of the concept as it’s fair to everyone. No one can literally purchase progress, but if they’d like to further support their favorite game then the mounts, pets, and costumes are available at quite reasonable prices. Yet, not all customers are happy with the idea.
Being a gamer is expensive
It is. No matter where you live, it becomes increasingly expensive to keep up with the technology and all the new titles released every year. Those who truly love video games dedicate a considerable amount of their income to the hobby, just as partygoers spend absurd quantities with clothes, jewelry, and drinks. Gaming became a lifestyle that’s easily reflected in MMOs.
Players of F2P games may sometimes spend hundreds to thousands of dollars (or their respective currencies depending on where they live) in order to keep up with their favorite in-game communities or to greatly succeed in PvP. In the same manner, those who choose the commodity of P2P games may spend an equally high amount of money paying for the game itself, expansions, and subscriptions, except in this case it takes much longer for such amount to accumulate. Keeping up with expansions and monthly fees can be particularly expensive depending on the local economy, even if one doesn’t necessarily have to spend hundreds or thousands of their respective currency to stay in touch with the game.
Many players, regardless of their regular income, don’t think it’s fair that anything is kept behind price tags beyond the game’s base price, expansions, and monthly fees. If they want access to cosmetics, why should they pay anything besides what they already have? Of course, these products are not meant to affect gameplay, but how fair is it that you can’t get everything out of a possibly expensive investment?
A delicate matter
Talking about business models is always tricky. Everyone has their opinion on what is right, what is wrong, what’s acceptable and what is not. Still, is it fine that we’re paying to keep the game running by purchasing it and dealing with the subscriptions, but developers and publishers still think that’s not enough? When monthly fees are not enough to keep the game running, its business model is changed as quickly as possible. A perfect example of that is Wildstar, which struggled with its P2P model and decided to follow the F2P trend in order to stay alive. So why haven’t other P2P MMOs dropped their monthly fees if they’re not enough to pay for the costs of maintenance?
We would like to know what you think of this. Should cash shops be banned from P2P online games, or are they fine so long as they sell only cosmetics? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share this topic with your friends.