Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Free play with loyalty and the next generation of game pricing

There are loyalty points in Archeage. You get 5 every day for logging in with subscription. You get 1 more per hour, 3 maximum for being logged in. Yes, just logged in, you can idle with a level 1 character and get it. You can spend these points in the marketplace, "award" section.

My favorite item is Lucid Synthium Stone. I have no idea what it's good for. All I know is that it costs 40 loyalty and sells for 160 gold on the marketplace, so 4G/pt. Other stuff sells for bit less if it's obvious, while items that needs lots of points at once like rare gems, sell for more. For now, let's run with 4G/pt.

Every day you can get 8 pt just for being subscribed and logged in, without any in-game activity, just like skillpoints in EVE. Subscription gives 30 days and you can collect points on both EU and NA realms. So you get 30*8*2 = 480pt. You can sell it for 1920 Gold. You can buy 2x APEX (token) for 1500 gold and be subscribed.

You probably see the point now: you can be infinitely subscribed after subscribing once, just by cashing out your loyalty points that you get for being subscribed. It's crucial to note that it's not the decision of the game designers. They give out loyalty points and set up the store. They did not tell people to value loyalty store items so high. They also set no gold value for APEX. You can buy APEX for fix $10 in the item shop, but nothing forces other players to give only 750 gold for it and nothing forces an APEX owner to sell for so little. These prices are all player accepted. I wrote "accepted" because I can't prove that the price isn't manipulated by the dev. But while the dev can set any price (by spawning items or gold and making sales or buys), they can't make players accept it. If players would value $10 higher than 750 gold, they wouldn't buy tokens in the shop and there is nothing the dev could do about it (the price needs to be higher to allow people going infinite).

In another game we got the same result, despite here there is no "community" and no sign of corruption. What I've found in EVE isn't EVE specific, but industry-specific: players value in-game advantage and pay for it so much that if it's bundled with game time, the game time portion is valued below zero.

I'd like to stress the "below" part. I can keep some gold every month after selling my loyalty points. In EVE there were huge SP farms printing money after subscription, used usually for RMT. What does that mean? That the proper pricing of games is not zero (free to play, pay to win), but negative. I believe soon a game dev realizes this truth and implements the new pricing scheme: paid to play. Yes, I believe the players will be offered a small sum, like $3-5 per month to play a game and be somewhat active - and totally uncompetitive, serving as food for the pay-to-win players.

Laugh all the way you want that it won't ever happen, ignoring that it's already happening: the RMT-ers are literally paid to "play". Sure, it's illicit and the devs hunt it. But why ban it when you can control and tax it? Instead of letting a few guys get rich, damaging game balance, let lots of guys get little money in exchange to playing the way you want them to play, creating content.


Anonymous said...

Many free-to-play games are using paid advertisements as part of their growth strategy, which carries a cost typically ranging from $2-$10 per paid install. From this point of view, game companies are already paying F2P players to come and join.

Stabs said...

They've already tried paid to play with the Diablo 3 auctionhouse. It didn't work, probably because turning the entire player base into item farmers in a game where most of the entertainment is finding items didn't work.

Very interesting experiment though and I agree it won't be the last time we see devs design games so players can walk away with cash.

Anonymous said...

This is how sailing has worked for years. Every rich guy who owns a boat and wants to win against his peers pays the crew to go sailing every weekend. I know a few guys who paid for their way through collage this way.

Gevlon said...

@Stabs: D3 failed because people viewed gear as reward and not advantage. They didn't play WITH gear but FOR. Buying gear made playing pointless, not easier.

World of Tanks sells gold ammo that helps you to defeat enemies instead of selling "you won" screens without a battle. That model wouldn't work.

Anonymous said...

While not a MMO, both Dota2 (a f2p game) and CS:GO (a small entry-fee game, f2p after that) and TF2 (f2p) employ a form of 'paid-to-play' by handing out item drops to players. These drops could be sold (most Dota2 'free' drops are no longer marketable) for mostly a few cents each on the Steam Marketplace.

dobablo said...

Directly paying people to play adds layers of complexity and legal nightmares. Why incur the extra costs when paying people in digital goods already works?
Corollary: If the "loyalty-rewards" are transferable then those who value their game time as greater than the sub cost will push down the net game time cost for everyone else.

maxim said...

I don't know about the ratio of people spending a lot of money in cash shop to normal players, but normally it is something like 1000:1
Which means, for every cent you give out to player the whale must compensate with 10 bucks.

I'd agree if payment was predicated on somehow contributing to the community in a visible way. F/ex Supercell regularly hands out premium currency to top performing players of its various games.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous, Dobablo: in-game items and premium currencies are still bound to the game (you can't use the item if you don't play). However a bigger studio with multiple titles, or Steam could give out multi-gaming rewards: if you play WoW, you get Overwatch gear.

Cathfaern said...

Blizzard did this, you can use WoW gold bought token to buy things in other Blizzard games and you will be even able to buy Destiny 2 with it.

Hanura H'arasch said...

"However a bigger studio with multiple titles, or Steam could give out multi-gaming rewards: if you play WoW, you get Overwatch gear."

Isn't this exactly what Blizzard is doing already? You can redeem WoW Tokens bought for gold for Balance, and buy other Blizzard games/items with it.

EZPZ said...

"be somewhat active - and totally uncompetitive"
I'd want the F2P players to be somewhat competitive. Give returning and new players some freebies so that they don't fall too far behind paying customers (sth like Olvia on BDO). Ideally, I'd want them to believe that skill and hard work can bridge the gap with paying players. Make sure they engage in arena or leaderboards as good little fodder and give them more freebies if they do.
I'd want my paying players to win but not too easily. They don't want to play against an AI, they want to know they've beaten someone, it doesn't matter if it was fair. Like on a safari, you want your rhino to be a bit sedated but not sleeping when you shoot it.

cwaaah said...

Hey Gevlon,
Love the blog.
This spiked my memory and I recalled a WIred article I read talking about this recently you might find interesting

It briefly discusses current economic trends such as automation and how they further push gaming companies to trend towards the model of making most of their money off of an exceedingly small amount of their user base (big spenders/whales) who, as stated in this article, "enjoy the thrill of lording their socioeconomic status over others."

I think this is a strong possibility for sure.

Smokeman said...

"It's crucial to note that it's not the decision of the game designers."

It's absolutely the decision of the game designers. They decided to let players set the price.

I see your point, however, but this is on the developers. They should have seen this coming, or at least the possibility of it coming. Even if this was intentional, it would have been through them setting the gold / Apex exchange to meet the goal of setting up the "paid to play" system you point out.

Gevlon said...

@Smokeman: no. RMT was present way before official P2W. Players traded power between each other for money when devs did their best to stop them.

If you can't beat them, join them! - they finally said.

Smokeman said...

@Smokeman: no. RMT was present way before official P2W. Players traded power between each other for money when devs did their best to stop them.

That was the point. If you want to stop player traded power, stop player trades of power. RMT ALWAYS relies on some loophole that developers, at this point in time, should see coming a mile away.

Unless, of course... you're relying on RMT for your revenue stream. But that's a decision the developers made.

Gevlon said...

@Smokeman: No, if one player is capable of having more than other, they can trade for money.