Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is PLEX/WoW token a good idea?

WoW token and PLEX are common in modern MMOs, they allow one player to make purchases for another (who essentially plays for free) in return of some game currency. In BDO I can't buy pearls for game currency and this difference made me think that maybe Blizzard and CCP are wrong, and Daum/Pearl Abyss is right. Let me explain, by comparing 3 situations:

Please note that in all cases the whale and the developer have very similar input and output. They exchange subscription for game service, the whale pays some money and gets game currency while the dev gets some money and provides some extra service, either game access to the farmer or maintaining an item shop. In case of RMT they both get worse as the RMT-er can scam the buyer and more often than not "pays" the developer with account theft mess or credit card chargeback.

So why have the middle man? What does a free player brings to the table? In case of PvP-only games like World of Tanks or League of Legends he is the content: an underpowered punching bag. But in mostly-PvE MMOs he is just the fifth wheel, save for the low chance that he'll start paying one day (this can be channeled by a limited time free to try period). Actually having tokens costs money to the dev over having sub+item shop: there are PvE players who would subscribe the game if they had to, but instead they just buy tokens. The dev could have more money by having them subscribed and then sell the power of the token (the game currency) in the item shop .

I believe the tokens are just introduced to bribe the loud minority crying pay-to-win, by letting them buying their subscription with the power sold to the whales. However the "item shop is unfair and make (paying) players leave" idea is dead. There is clear evidence that paying players want to buy power and have no problem with it. A whale is not ashamed of being a whale, a game that has "pay to win" hype doesn't repel paying players. Sure, the "unlimited pay-to-win" scheme (when a $10000 payer is stronger than a $1000 payer) drives away the average buyers and probably not the best idea, but "true" free-to-play (where you can get all power for free) is dead.

I believe now that BDO is doing it right and my wish to make pearls available for sale is just me trying to freeload on the game (as I could easily buy all the peals with silver, being #1 wealth on EU Jordine). Daum/PA does the smart thing taking my $15/month and not letting me play for free, while taking the thousands of the whales who buy all the costumes and horse count resets and whatnot.


Jean-Mira said...

Regarding "playing for free". Maybe I misunderstood what you meant, but the from the developer point of view, somebody paid for your subscription. The opportunity cost of "selling that gold in the item shop" is only real, if you are willing to do that: Having an cash item shop introduces a neverending pressure to create new stuff *whales* are willing to buy, while with a token system you just have to create more game content *everyone* wants. Besides, you probably have more subscriptions with such a system than without (those who wouldn't pay cash but have no problem paying with in-game currency - that's me in EvE).

There are several reasons as a game developer, why you wouldn't want to sell gold. For example, one advantage of a token system is that it's a closed system: There is no new currency faucet. It makes balancing the game easier. You balance the in-game economy (earning and spending). And you balance what the token can buy (e.g. subscription). The exchange between the currency balances itself.

Anonymous said...

I like to think "people do things because it works for them." Blizzard makes billions, so they wouldn't add tokens unless it's somehow better than the other options, monetary or otherwise.

Whales aren't the ones making outside RMTs—they make the majority of income, usually through microtransactions. It's the 99% that does RMT. Blizzard tried to grab that audience with Diablo 3's auction house and failed miserably, so I don't think there's any monetary reason behind tokens, from either side. I say tokens are bait to increase player retention. They don't care about pay-to-win complainers, they care about the people who play new games for a short time and quit, and the people who quit because they don't want to renew their sub. Earning a token feels like a reward, giving them motivation to keep playing. Saying token players are would-be subscribers is the same argument that pirates are would-be sales.

The BDO and gacha/random reward payment schemes are standard practice in Asian MMOs. We don't see them anywhere else because player retention is lower in general; the game design is FAR, FAAARRRR less grindy; and the gacha system is very close to gambling, which is illegal in the US. I predict if BDO really gets big, we'll see payment schemes more typical of big Western games.

Gevlon said...

In token system you have to settle with only one item to sell for only one price instead of many items and prices set by you.

Farmers are currency faucets themselves: they do stuff that spawn currency out of nothing. As most PvE activities are only limited by player time (as rats and quests are infinitely available), more farmers mean more currency poured to the game.

Gevlon said...

I'm not saying that all token players would pay subscription if they couldn't use tokens. I'm saying that if just one would, it's money lost by the dev. A free player is a waste of server and game management resource.

Riful said...

wouldn't the star wars old republic system be the best then?
granted, i'm not up do date on it, but in the past you could either subscribe or pay for individual features. some in form of tradable tokens, others only for your account.

dobablo said...

Allowing extra methods of payment, such as via in-game credits, increases the number of paid subscriptions. Cash rich players that would otherwise have quit are more likely to carry on consuming a credit subscription because they are not paying. Ex-players will be more likely to return to see what is going on because their credits (useless to someone who would not return otherwise), allow them a free trial.

Gevlon said...

@dobablo: obviously true but irrelevant. The developer needs income and not "subscriptions". He doesn't care (nor the whale) if the whale pays 3*$15 subscriptions (one for himself and 2 for farmers via tokens) or 1 subscription and $30 item shop credit buy.

Free trials and re-trials need no tokens.

Anonymous said...

please cite me a "true" free-to-play online game. feel free to try. Don't give me some free/open source software nobody plays or some classic games where hardcore fans and IT nerds with skills try to revive dead servers. Some will endup with Path of Exile the most fair "pve f2p" in existence. still the most powerful cashshop item "stashtabs" is p2w. if you have more stash space you can have more tradeslots with more trade you have more mula with more mula you buy power.

the token concept of wow is one of the absurdest things. it is the pinnacle of P2W and no one want to see it. buy sub. boost your char. buy tokens. goldbuy any service you want. you can be nearly top geared that evening by raid-services provided by top raiding guilds - how is that not P2W?

f2p seems misunderstood. at some bars the peanuts are free2eat. the same way some of the software services are free2play. or more dramatic, drug dealer will give you the purest substances for free or a heavy discount. but wait until your get thirsty or hooked.

Blizzard tried to grab that audience with Diablo 3's auction house and failed miserably[..]
D3 gold/realmoney Auctionhouse didn't fail it went well. granted d3s embracement of RNG was really bad (Wilson will not be missed), that only fuelled the debate even more. without the heavy item redesign and trade restrictions with the reaper of souls expansion you would have Diablo2s darkside if they would have closed the AH in D3 without a doubt.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: I can't cite any, since they are dead, save for "some free/open source software nobody plays or some classic games where hardcore fans and IT nerds with skills try to revive". That's kind of the point of the post.

The only limit for tokens is that you can't buy what other players don't sell. You can't buy world firsts with all the tokens as no guild can carry you to world first. Therefore you can't really pay to WIN, just pay to get to the top 10%

Jean-Mira said...

It's not true, that you can only sell one item if you use tokens. See EvE's Aurum shop, which can be used with PLEX.

And no, farmes are not faucets. They use faucets. And that can be belanced. For example, there is a hard limit how many ice you can harvest in EvE, no matter how many players do it. Another example are daily quests or cooldowns. While you can game those to a certain degree, if you look at WoW crafting prices, cooldowns have a relevant market value.

l2pnub said...

There is a difference between WoW token and PLEX. Blizzard doesn't claim anywhere that the tokens sold to players for gold were actually purchased by anyone with real money.

Smokeman said...

"but the from the developer point of view, somebody paid for your subscription."

This is a fallacy. That person didn't "pay for your subscription", they paid to get some in game gold. If the "you" in "paid for your subscription" went away, the whale would still buy that game gold.

The fallacy is the belief that the whale specifically paid for your subscription, or that if YOU paid the subscription yourself, the whale would then be denied the sale that would have paid for that subscription.

In Blizzard's system, tokens are ALWAYS for sale for real cash, regardless if there is a demand for them for in game gold or not. In fact, they are advantaged by setting the price too high... thus encouraging cash buyers and discouraging game time buyers.

The flip side to Blizzard's system is that gold faucets are wide open, players have more level 100's than they can play so they can abuse the Garrison system (If one character can make 1000 gold a day from Inscription cards made from cooldowns alone, then 10 of them can make 10,000 gold a day.)If the whale could just buy what they want from the cash shop, and not need in game gold, you cut out all those faucets.

Jean-Mira said...

@Smokeman No, it's not a fallacy, it's a fact. A player can't play without paying for a subscription. He may pay with cash or with a token, which has been paid by someone else. The company can show, that for everyone logging in, they got paid (by someone). That's what I was talking about.

What you call a fallacy, is actually a matter of point of view. You are right, the motivation of the whale differs: he doesn't care about paying somebody's subscription. But the whale's motivation does't really matter for the reasoning above.

And I never implied the part of your fallacy argument regarding the whale's sale would be denied. If you read my first comment above again, you will see, that I already mentioned how this balances itself (by change of the gold exchange ratio).

My point was, that Gevlon's assumption, that the "token player" is a "free player" doesn't necessarily reflect the view of the company. They get paid. Maybe Gevlon is right, and they would earn more, if they offered the whale different options, but that's on the side of speculation.

Regardless, it's healthy for a game, if the developer doesn't feels the urge to milk the whales as first priority (and there are plenty of articles, which look at that phenomenon of (pure) Free To Play games and those gone Free To Play).

Anonymous said...

Im the only one who need explaining what subscription and token is and what are the upsides and downsides of different subscription and token methods?

I mean, literally both can be used extremly different ways to get results. Terminology on one system dont match other one, so it would help to explain them with examples.

Provi Miner said...

you forget the #1 thing though. As long as idiots (and that is the correct term) exist there will be a black market to some degree even in bdo even if it just selling items for real money. Its a SK game.... so figure Soul is the hot spot lets see I have never played BDO but I am going to take a stab here:
1: illicit toon selling
2: RW cash for the seller to drop, gift, or sell special item to buyer

And that's without even bothering to try.

Your model doesn't account for this and without including it I think you falsely portraying the situation.

BTW RMT in eve is stupid, For the risk you take go mow the neighbors yard, wash their car. take care of their dog for the weekend, hell walk their dog for them while you play pokemon go. The point is the risk exists cause of idiots, and so it will always exist at some level in a MMO.

Cathfaern said...

Don't forget that even if WoW you need "warm bodies". There are PvP in WoW (battlegrounds, arena, "open world" pvp like Ashran) and also you need as much player as you can in PvE for the random assigned groups (LFD / LFR) because if there is too few online player there would be too large queues and waiting times. And whales don't like to wait. For whales it's better to get in instantly and "pawn" the noobs there (in PvP) or feel "elitist" (by doing more DPS than the others even if they can't get the boss down) than waiting more time for a fair group.