Monday, April 22, 2013

Pay to socialize

There are two known payment methods for MMOs. One is pay-to-play. World of Warcraft is a common example. You pay subscription and for that subscription you can participate in the game. You pay the same amount as everyone else, therefore the developers have no reason to prioritize you. The game is completely fair. The common problem with pay-to-play games is that the only way to increase income is making the game more popular and it can only be done by moving towards the most common denominator: idiots. Such games are usually "accessible" meaning trivial. Sometimes they are outright childish, like WoW by moving towards the "kung-fu panda WOOT!" kids.

The other payment method is pay-to-win, with World of Tanks being the common example. Here your wins and losses depend not on play skill or even play time, but paid money. For money you can buy outright overpowered items which allow you to massacre your non-paying peers. This method is usually more successful in the short term, the common saying is "going F2P doubles revenues", but usually gives much shorter lifespan since sooner or later even the dumbest guy recognizes that he cannot win without paying and also, grinding hopeless randoms for money loses its appeal fast.

"Pay for vanity/convenience" is another method, League of Legends is a good example, but World of Tanks is moving this way in the recent patches. Here you can play the game for free fully, but paying slows down grinding time and also provides "fun" items.

EVE Online seems to be different from all.
  • It's not a subscription game, as gaining enough game credits to buy PLEX to play for free is trivial task, a few planets and some random missions can generate that money in a month. You can also access vast amount of game currency by spending real money on PLEX.
  • However it's neither pay-to-win, as spending lot of money on a ship is the way not for victory, but becoming a laughing stock who lost the purple ship.
  • Since there is no defined "progression" in the game, there is no way to shorten "the grind". If you get yourself a titan pilot and a titan on day 1, it won't make you recognized as an accomplished player.
What is the business method of EVE? What is the secret that keeps the "most evil, un-fair, hard and unforgiving" MMO running for so long? I mean every MMO loses subscriptions after they get old but EVE doesn't. The solution came from thinking more about "nullsec-altruism". The solution is that in EVE you are most profitable alone. This is a consequence of the "you are never safe" design doctrine. The more PvE players are together, the bigger target they are. Also your ISK/hour is damaged by idling while chatting. But the worst thing is that if you are in a group, sooner or later someone comes up with the "great" idea of "having some PvP fun" which is a total moneysink. If you are in a PvP alliance, that's the largest moneysink that can only be approximated by asking "how much would it cost to defend our sov by only hired mercenaries?".

You can make ISK by playing totally casually and badly. Playing generates ISK, not consumes. In EVE playing with others costs you ISK. You either make this ISK by also playing alone or by converting PLEX. This is a really effective business model: "pay-to-socialize". When you are "having fun", you don't mind losing money. When you are alone, you are compensated by ISK income, motivated to keep playing.

"EVE is real" is more true here than anywhere else. Life isn't that expensive. Socializing is.
You go out on a party, that needs gifts, expensive drinks and so on.
You want to date a girl? You better get enough cash with you as you'd better bring her to a "good" (read: shamelessly overpriced) restaurant.
You want to date as a girl? You better buy some new clothes, accessories, jewelry and visit a beauty saloon.
Don't want your coworkers think of you as a loser? You better buy a new car.
Want to keep in contact with your relatives? That's lot of gas to travel and lot of gifts.

I'm rich IRL because I don't spend on these. I'm probably rich in games not because I do something extraordinary (I don't), but because I don't waste it on social occasions and also I have time to make money as I don't waste it on socializing in the game.

There is a common belief, "the rich man is lonely because greed makes him unable to love". It's not true. The truth is that the a-social person will unavoidably gets rich as he doesn't waste on socializing.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

So true. I can live cheaply and save masses of money. Anyone can in Australia... If we weren't such a bunch of whinging drunks. Being a-social can have disadvantages in a social workplace where promotion is a popularity contest. Even still, you'll make more in the end by keeping to yourself.

Anonymous said...

... having said that I've spent years as a social with all the trimmings. Drinking, drugs, overseas holidays. Oh my, the money I threw away being friendly. I'm glad I turned good before turning 30.

maxim said...

You missed just one step, and that's exactly how the ISK ungained / wasted during socialisation actually end up in the pockets of Eve's developers.

Remember that alternative cost is not the same as price. Until that ISK gets converted to dollars in CCP's bank account, people didn't really "pay".

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: "You either make this ISK by also playing alone or by converting PLEX."

Anonymous said...

So what's the point of playing a MMO, if the only thing you do is grind numbers and alienate from people? You can get this from any single player game. Most people play MMOs exactly because other people are there too. What's the point of having ISK then? You don't do pvp, because it's an ISK sink - ok, I get that. So what do you do with your ISK? Make more ISK? What for? You don't share it with anyone, you don't invest it in anyone, you don't use it to interact with anyone (pvp), you don't even do pve (which in fact is a one-time isk investment, if we don't count ammo and possible ganking). You have ISK and you refuse to spend it on anything that makes a MMO. It really makes no sense to grind more than a PLEX worth a month, since you have no use for it anyway. All the people you trade with could be replaced by npcs and you wouldn't even notice the difference. Are you really trying to convince people that MMOs should be played like single player games?

maxim said...

@Gevlon
You are trying to conflate two steps
(1) A person pays to have access to game content
(2) A person uses game content to socialise

You can only conflate these two cases if you can make a solid case that all people who buy ISK for PLEX do that with express purpose to blow them on social activities.

So far all you seem to be saying is that "Any non-solo activity is innately social, and in Eve group activities are the largest money sink". Both of which may be true, but still have about as much practical application as saying "sky is blue, ocean is also blue".

Gevlon said...

@maxim: they do not buy PLEX with the purpose of socializing. They buy PLEX to fund the activities in game.

However group activities being ISK sinks and solo activities being ISK producers mean that you only have ISK problems if you do lot of group activities.

If you enjoy playing EVE solo, you are lucky and can enjoy the game for free.

However if you are social, you will not find solo activity fun (dubbed as "EVE PvP is terrible") and will be attracted to group activities which will force you to somehow fix your ISK problems.

Anonymous said...

what about pirates/gankers? they have to be in a group to make isk - at least for highsecfreighterganking.

Anonymous said...

"However if you are social, you will not find solo activity fun (dubbed as "EVE PvP is terrible") and will be attracted to group activities which will force you to somehow fix your ISK problems."

And the problem with this is what exactly? If someone cares more about being social, he doesn't mind making less ISK. After all, people play games to have fun (usually by socializing), not to have a second job and grind pixel money, which in the end is just that - meaningless pixel number. You make it sound as it was something bad, while it's quite the opposite - having fun in playing is winning eve.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous#3 Single player games don't have other players to look down on and feed a superiority complex.

Cathfaern said...

@maxim
"Both of which may be true, but still have about as much practical application as saying "sky is blue, ocean is also blue"."

Uhm the ocean is blue exactly because the sky is blue. If the sky would be pink, the ocean would be pink too (you can check it at sunrise/sunset). So your example just confirms what Gevlons wrote.

Phelps said...

BTW, the Pay-to-win elements have largely been removed, and will be completely removed in the next update. Gold ammo can now be purchased for silver at the same rate gold converts to silver, and in the next update gold consumables will be purchasable with silver at the same rate.

(Premium tanks remain gold-only, but they are all underpowered compared to other upgraded tanks of the same tier.)

maxim said...

@Cathfaern
Only it's not just the sky, but everything around the ocean. In short, way more complex than you seem to think.
Which, oddly enough, makes you actually the best example of my point.

Go - be enlightened - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_color

maxim said...

@Gevlon
I wonder where to people who play in groups, but don't group for PvP, stand in relation for "pay for socialisaion".
Are these people even present in Eve? I imagine there must be some trading / crafting alliances, at the very least.

Another interesting point is how much does an average player playing the game invest in it, and what are his reasons for doing so. I understand hardcore PvPers willing to drop significant chunks of money to stay on top of their game (which falls under "pay to socialise"), but i am having a hard time picturing a general player looking for fun doing the same on any significant scale.

Grimmash said...

For once I actually agree with most of your post, and found everything up to the last few paragraphs to be very useful in understanding the real economics of what makes Eve tick.

Although I think in some ways you miss the ways socializing can make money. Anecdotal evidence: Not counting a stupid BC loss in Luminaire, since starting to PvP I have actually made money off combat in Eve from the drops from kills. This is because I fly cheaply fit T1 frigates, and often fly in fleets, so my risk is lower than solo PvP. Also, FW PvP has the side effect of building LP, which also adds to my net wroth when cashed out into my wallet. True, I'll never be space rich from that, but it manages to pay for itself at the rate I play.

Second, many industrial endeavors are social, and I have spent many play sessions socializing with others to acheive industry or market goals.

I point this out to say "Making ISK = Solo" is not true as a blanket statement.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: it's not something that the player decide, it's something that CCP "forces" on them. The player only decides that "I go and have some fun with my friends". The friends go on a roam, so he ends up with a ship to replace but no time to grind it, so next time when he logs in and see his hangar empty, he "fixes" it by PLEX-ing.

Of course some players play more than their friends and can PvE when they are not online, but the average - by definition - can only PvE by turning the next roam down.

Anonymous said...

"Of course some players play more than their friends and can PvE when they are not online, but the average - by definition - can only PvE by turning the next roam down."

That statement reads like you think the majority of eve players are PvPers....the numbers in each sector do not bear that statement out.
"In EVE playing with others costs you ISK"

An incursion runner is doing things in a group. By your definition, if he was soloing L4s, he would be improving his ISK/hr.

A fleet miner should, by your definition be earning less than if he solo'd.

Finally, where do you live that you have no means of contacting relatives except by driving to them?

The last sentence reads as if all "basement dwelling" players should be loaded IRL, as they do not socialise outside of the game...whereas all those people in the high end clubs every weekends are paupers...
Yes, you can get rich by living on beans and toast, and not interacting with others, but social capital is something which is too often overlooked. Talk is information, information is knowledge, knowledge is power, and if you listen carefully, can be turned into money.

How many business deals are cut at the golf course, or at drinks after work? How many tips are gained regarding Eve by information gathered by *gasp* socialising.

maxim said...

@Anon just up above
The "tips" notion is somewhat understood, but i'm interested in how exactly it plays out in Eve.

Can you provide some concrete examples of people gaining ISK through socialising in Eve? Some ISK-earning possibilities that would never be open if people didn't socialise?

Anonymous said...

And what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (real or virtual), but gives up his soul?

Anonymous said...

>And what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (real or virtual), but gives up his soul?

Ignoring the point that there is no such thing as a soul, the really fun hobbies are not expensive. Sex with your spouse is cheap. Talking to your friends is cheap. Learning something is cheap. Making art is generally cheap. Sports are cheap (or stupid, see Golf).

You drown your thoughts in alcohol, and talk about soul.

Joan Romba said...

Greedy Goblin are you going to the EVE fanfest?

Gevlon said...

Why would I go to the Fanfest? Is there anything going on there that won't be streamed/tweeted/reported?

Anonymous said...

Money is for impressing or affecting other people. There isn't much more you can buy on TQ, especially when everything is 100isk on sisi. Unlike real life currency which can be used for things that actually have life supporting function, space pixels is just an idea.

You might think isk as the important thing, but really the guy on the other side of voice comms is greater. That is why people go to fanfest: to meet the guys on the other side of comms.

The fact that people actually fight wars instead of fight sisi battles (syndicate competitive league aside) means that fights are not mainly about enjoyment of the tactical game (there are better games for it), but the idea of hurting others and relative gain in power and status.

If people actually cared about isk all that much, TQ would have developed like Chinese Serenity server, where alliances like the aptly named "pan galactic business community" have grinded isk at a high rate with none of this sov war silliness. Who would bother fighting when you could be sitting in a sanctum instead? (but we are not chinese one generation removed from poverty and care about crass things like money)

-----

Goblin you should look at yourself: Your goals in the game is not making the most isk possibles (otherwise you'd shut up and grind and end up with >1T like serious industrialist traders) but "punishing" "morons and slackers" and you are willing to pay a titan for it.

Isk burning player types all have ideas they are pursuing, from "punishing the horrible BoB", to "making top 500 on Battleclinic" to "being there when multiple titans explode in a battle" and likes. Such ideas gets expensive but that is the real pay off here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but on your "pay to win" example you have chosen the wrong tank. I assume you used the trollgun which uses HE and HEAT shells, in which case the results will be obviously as you said. If you have chosen a tank with top gun that is primary using AP shells, if would not be THAT much of an advantage.

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