Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Microtransactions: pay for easy mode

People dub non-cosmetic microtransaction games as "pay to win". But for some reason they keep playing the game they observed unfair. That's weird, good players who are robbed from their victory by paying players should simply quit.

The reason for them not quiting became visible when I was playing a silly flash game: Bloon tower defense 5. Typical pay-to-win game where you can get atrocious power upgrades for money. Yet it's a fun game for free, exactly because the game is challenging without the atrocious power upgrades.

I think "pay-to-win" isn't a correct term. It is "pay for easy mode". The game is challenging and good for free, while bad players can buy easy mode. It's like World of Warcraft would be free to play without access to daily quests, LFR and LFD and you can pay for accessing these features. Good players, while would have trouble maxing out valor points, would enjoy progressing on normal and hard mode raiding and pre-made dungeons where they have to enter in the gate, while rightfully looking down the easy mode kids.

The only ones unhappy about the microtransaction model are those who want to display superiority instead of just be superior. Since it cannot be proved that you earned your progress by playing well and not by paying, there is no "l33tness" in progressing, nothing to show off. But it bothers only a small but noisy minority.


Anonymous said...

If WoW were to go FTP without LFD, LFR and daily quests, I would play the heck out of it again.
Not having enough time to put into the game to justify the subscription is mainly why I quit. Hell, even if they locked me out of crafting(except for fishing, cooking and first aid) as well I would consider playing it again.

Anti said...

i wish WoW would introduce a PLEX style system.

I unsubbed a couple of years ago but have close to a mill gold sitting on my two accounts.

15k - 30k per month per sub would be nothing for me. new players could buy an extra sub, give blizz extra income, and get loads of gold to make them more likely to stay in game.

add in PLEX for server / faction / race change and i'd be very happy.

Lucas Kell said...

Pay to win is just a catchy term that's applied to the situation. Everyone knows it doesn't guarantee win and simply provides an advantage to the paying player.

I do love how you argue against people saying you are a kid, yet in this article you refer to people that pay for microtransactions as "easy mode kids". The truth of it is a lot of varied people pay and don't pay for microtransactions. Paying doesn't mean you are a bad player, and not paying doesn't mean you are good. There is no direct correlations between the two. Some people simply don't have the same time to invest, or some just have too much money and $50 in microtransactions is the same to them as buying a can of coke is to us.

The type of people that feel the need to show off leetness (like for example making a blog where you constantly tell people how you are winning at everything by your own metrics) are generally not the people that care one way or another whether the odds were fair, and that's pretty much why the microtransaction model is so popular lately. I personally can't stand it, as it generally means the free part of the game gets less developer time and has a lower user experience, and paying for microtransactions is generally more expensive than subscription models.

Regarding WoW, it's recently been announced that blizzard are looking into in-game microtransactions, including an experience boost item. It will be interesting to see whether they actually go ahead with that.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Kell comment: greedy goblins don't have to "care". They boast in their own symbols like trade and transaction, making them highly sought after business people. "care" isn't in their vocabulary. This blog is all about profit and some mindset posts of M&S.

on topic: Business models. What ever you do you will make money, right? So it doesn't matter. If the crowd goes P2W-whining ... apologise "hear the community, give them the best they deserve" (P2W was their best bet ... in the first place ... but the truth "hurts" some) and introduce something else that will boost your profit margin.

Anonymous said...

It's "play for easy mode" in a PvE or single-player game.

It's "play to win" the minute there's a PvP environment.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

In some games, the balance is rigged in such a way that you can't acquire enough power to offset the power you lose without using payments.

It is pretty much impossible to get above ~3k trophies (and i seriously doubt you can even get this far) in Clash of Clans without paying. The game is rigged in such a way that you are bound to lose ~20 trophies a day, and in order to win them back you need to score ~10 wins against adequately ranked players, the army for which will cost way more than what you can farm on your own in a day.

Currently, "winning" Clash of Clans in strict sense of the word means getting above 4k trophies, and staying there for a few months.

I guess it can still be construed as "pay for easy(ier) mode". However, does the metaphor still hold when the hard mode is simply unbeatable?

Lucas Kell said...

"It is pretty much impossible to get above ~3k trophies (and i seriously doubt you can even get this far) in Clash of Clans without paying."
Challenge Accepted!

Camo said...

For me the problem with microtransaction comes with the business.
In order to make money you have to sell. The question is: How do you encourage spending among the playerbase?
To get the most profit you have to tweak number in such a way that the game is challenging and rewarding at the beginning but becomes near impossible hard or extrem tedious as you progress.
The goal is to hook enough people who will eventually pay.

The beauty of the sub model is that it is binary, either you are in or you are not. Everything else depends only on your effort.

I think a plex model might work. It would retain the sub model but offers the option to gain credits by spending money.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

@Lucas Keli
Once you get your clan castle, feel free to find me on ccMaxi account in Elite Nation clan :D


The industry at the moment has more or less settled on the notion that people pay the most money for fun. There are some tricks with addiction / manipulation, but gaming isn't gambling and they ultimately don't pay as much in the long run as just having a great gameplay.

The thing with fun in computer games is that for every game you still need that period where you don't understand anything and it's not really fun for you. This period is essentially the greatest weakness of pay-to-play models (subscription or otherwise).
It creates people who paid for your game, but didn't like it and people who would like to pay your game, but couldn't, because they don't have access to sufficient cash. These two things may seem trivial, but difference in game installs can count in the millions, just from them.

Free to play gets rid of that weakness on a systemic level, but presents you with the problem that you still need to monetise somehow. That is, prevent unpaying people from having as much fun as paying people do.
The industry is still figuring out how to best do that. Selling power for money is not working out in the best way possible.

Team Fortress 2 is probably the most successful F2P game at the moment, and it's monetisation model involves selling "get-in-the-game-quickly" kits and cosmetic gear of all shapes and sizes. They don't sell actual power in any meaningful form.

Woody said...

My issue with the TF model is that they don't need a lot of revenue to keep that game going so can get away with selling fun instead of power.

Good for them but it won't provide enough revenue to fund something like a PVE focused mmorpg with a large team constantly having to pump out expensive new content to keep players interested. Not to mention the far greater customer support and server requirements.

More ambitious games using the model will have to charge for items that even Gevlon would feel compelled to buy. As a Goblin I'm sure he wouldn't feel entitled to play any game for free anyway.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

I am not sure why an economical business model is a bad thing. I am also not convinced that more content is a good thing. Just look at where WoW is going.

I am reasonably certain TF2 enjoys a much higher level of player retention, despite having less pure content, and I know for a fact that they earned more with f2p model than with their previous pay to play one.

I understand that Gevlon is not buying any PLEX in Eve. He did probably cause more than a few people to give it a try, though.