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Would You Pay Pennies For Game Features?

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the coming-soon-to-a-game-near-you dept.

The Almighty Buck 64

Friday at GDC Austin saw the day starting with a keynote that may seem unusual to players unfamiliar with the Asian online gaming market. Nexon is a major player from the country of South Korea, boasting a handful of titles that see more users in a month than many well-known online games made here in the US. All of the company's titles, regardless of genre, have one thing in common: they're free to play, sort of. Microtransactions, the practice of paying a very small amount of money for an object or service, is what provides Nexon its revenue ... and plenty of revenue it is. Nexon America's director Min Kim gave a discussion on the realities of rolling Microtransaction-based titles out in the states, with a case study of the success of Maple Story's launch in our country.

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Added features (1, Informative)

Half a dent (952274) | about 7 years ago | (#20519793)

Paying for added features is ok so long as those features are not deliberately omitted from the game so you have to buy them.

Re:Added features (2, Insightful)

Thirdsin (1046626) | about 7 years ago | (#20519941)

Not my idea of worthwhile gaming, what about all your buddies you end up grouping up with? What will happen when they have purchased content you haven't and vice versa? Well, of course you will both have to purchase the missing content to play everything together!
Here would be the process; Develop game, beta test(get everyone clamoring for the full game), dismantle-scrap-cherrypick all the fun and otherwise entertaining pieces, charge the sorry bastards.

Re:Added features (3, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 7 years ago | (#20522731)

The stuff I've seen for sale in MMOs like that was mostly items that can't be gained otherwise, lots of cosmetic stuff and some time-limited super bonuses like "double item drops" and "crafting cannot fail".

Re:Added features (1)

danlock4 (1026420) | about 7 years ago | (#20528751)

What will happen when they have purchased content you haven't and vice versa? Well, of course you will both have to purchase the missing content to play everything together!
Why not have party members who haven't purchased content to be given a lesser amount of said content, with full access given if they pay for it?

Re:Added features (2, Insightful)

MT628496 (959515) | about 7 years ago | (#20519991)

What other way is there to do it? If they weren't after money, then all of the features would be in the game.

Re:Added features (1, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | about 7 years ago | (#20519995)

Speaking of features that are omitted unless you pay extra, I thought this particularly relevant:

              As your Internet Service Provider, we are pleased to assist
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  Baseline Account
              This is our most basic account. You get a shell prompt. On-line
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  Extra(tm) Account
              All Baseline features, plus:
                              o On-line help
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                              o XModem (checksum)

  Super(tm) Account
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              $10.00/month + $1.00/hour

  SuperExtra(tm) Account
              All Super(tm) features, plus:
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              $20.00/month + $2.10/hour

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              All MasterExtra(tm) features, plus:
                              o Account password protection
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                              o Access to code development tools (vi, emacs, EDLIN,
                              o UUCP
              $22.00/month + $2.50/hour + $0.01/Kbyte

  MasterSuperExtra(tm) Account
              All MasterSuper(tm) features, plus:
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  Executive(tm) Account
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                              o Access to compiled output (a.out)
                              o 2048K disk storage (additional to 512K on tape)
                              o 600 DPI
                              o SLIP/PPP
              $50.00/month + $4.99/hour + $0.198/Kbyte

Shamelessly excerpted from here [] -- one of my favorite Oracle responses.

Re:Added features (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 7 years ago | (#20520083)

"Paying for added features is ok so long as those features are not deliberately omitted from the game so you have to buy them."

Bull, look at what EA did with Need for speed, buying unlocks?? What a farce. The only way I'd pay microtransactions is for BRAND NEW CONTENT, i.e. character models, cars, etc. things that I know some artist actually had to work DAYS ON. I don't want them creating a bunch of extra content DURING the development period and then "time releasing" it for extra profits from the hardcore segment. The truth is as it is there are too many games as it is, and one game cuts off another games legs as new games come out.

What the industry needs is to self-finance moddable new game content, with enough money they could pay small groups of artists/modellers/programmers to create small updates in content for different games, but they need to simply "live off the interest" and not charge customers insane amounts, they'd have to find another revenue model (i.e. using adds, having a big website, etc). Single games are expensive enough as it is, and game industry should really be looking at market demographics and the state of the economy in many places. I'm sure piracy rates correspond to lack of income.

Re:Added features (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#20520181)

I know this is slashdot, and games slashdot of all things, but is it really so much to ask for that you people actually read the story summary so that you have some idea what is being talked about?

Re:Added features (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 7 years ago | (#20520227)

"Bull, look at what EA did with Need for speed, buying unlocks??"

My point was this: EA didn't OMIT features from need for speed, yet they added the "feature" of buying unlocks. i.e. preying on users impatience to buy the unlocked car instead of racing for it. As micro transactions go forward don't think you won't see more of this bullshit.

Buying unlocks.... (3, Insightful)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 7 years ago | (#20520685)

Look, people pay good money for cheat books to unlock all the bonuses and that money doesn't go back into game development -- instead, it pays a few guys to sit in a room and play games exhaustively. In capitalist terms, this is inefficient: the coders can do the job more quickly, hence cheaply. If they sell unlocks, the extra revenue they generate goes to the companies that are writing the games. In the long term, this means that the average player (he who has a bit of patience) pays marginally less.


Re:Added features (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#20520701)

Once, again, read the summary. The question was about games that are free to play, yet you pay for in-game things with microtransactions. It's a whole different business model.

Re:Added features (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20528875)

kind of like Archlord [] , which is free to play but in which you can pay to buy access to upgrades and "Chantra" points?

Re:Added features (1)

Vacuous (652107) | about 7 years ago | (#20520115)

A lot of the stuff sold in these stores is stuff that is meant to simply make you look "cool" or aleviate some minor inconvience, say, increased mount speed. Often you can also get minor buffs like a couple hours of a 1.5x experience rate as well. These games are completely playable without spending cash in most cases.

Unfortunatly all these games are still horrificly boring Korean MMOs.

Wasn't always like this... (2, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 7 years ago | (#20527219)

At least, not with Nexon, not in the US.

I play Nexus TK, now owned by Kru Interactive, which apparently used to be called Nexon USA. They have been slowly moving more and more towards this model.

It used to be that the game was $9.95/mo for four characters, end of story. (Well, before that, it was a free Beta, but nevermind that.) It had been this way for almost decade, and still was when I joined last year.

The only exception was the free trial account, which went up to level 10, and lasted a week. (The game allows up to level 99, after which you can trade experience directly for stats, instead of levels.)

Then, Kru introduced the Item Shop. It runs on "kruna", a currency which can generally only be obtained by buying it outright with real money.

After everyone spammed "OMG! SELLOUTS!!!" on the Community board for long enough, we decided it's actually not that bad, for several reasons: First, everyone on auto-renewal gets a certain amount of "kruna" (currency for the Item Shop) free, every month. Second, item-shop items cannot be transferred to other characters, so you cannot buy them with in-game money. And third, they were pretty much all decorative items -- ball gowns, for example.

I actually was happy when something useful was added to the Item Shop, as I was sick of watching my Kruna pile up and not having anything to spend it on (I thought many of these items were ugly). It was also something we can technically live without -- an extra bank slot -- but it's something that people can and do buy whole separate accounts for, to have "bank characters". I would much rather buy permanent bank slots than pay an extra $10/mo for them.

Since then, it's been a bit like that old frog-in-a-pot scenario. Technically, no content has been added that you must pay to see. It doesn't hinder gameplay -- so far, it's not like people will refuse to hunt with people who don't use the Item Shop (and I generally don't).

But, there are lots of useful items. Take a look [] -- and here's a quick list, with explanations, of useful items:

Bank slot. Each type of item you deposit in the bank uses one bank slot. Characters have always each had 100 slots or so. This item adds up to 50 extra slots, permanently, one per item.

Teleport scroll. There are various flavors. All of them warp you to places that would ordinarily take at least 30 seconds to a minute to get to, and maybe longer. Understand, this is a huge game, but still, it's relatively quick to get around, even without these things.

Summonable mounts. They look cool (panthers instead of horses), and they are very practical. However, they're also not at all necessary -- it's possible to find horses just wandering around, hop on one, and ride it to where you need to go. This is not always possible, for practical reasons, but it's possible often enough that a summonable mount is a luxury, not a necessity.

Equipment restoration. Basically a repair. Just saves a bit of money, since it only repairs things that can ordinarily be repaired by NPCs, for in-game money. It does not repair "unrepairable" items -- for that, you still need to pay a Sam San Warrior to repair it for you.

Recall stone. Here, it starts to get just a bit unfair. This restores you to the point of your last death. Ordinarily, if you die, you either must be resurrected by a Poet, or you have to teleport back to a Shaman NPC -- and either way, the loss is the same. These were also introduced, I believe, when they did a particularly hard event -- one which had an insane amount of distance to travel, past very difficult monsters, in order to complete the quest -- and this was a one-time event, after the week was over, no one can complete the quest anymore.

Seraph pendant. And now it does seem outright greedy. Ordinarily, when you die, you lose some experience. After level 99, when you die, you lose half of your total experience. (Not as bad as it sounds, since you usually are trading it in for stats). This item prevents this loss; one use only. Combine this with the repair item, and you can now have mostly "free" deaths in-game, by using real money. (Not entirely; break-on-death items still break and such.)

Experience gem. Now I'm actually scared, because this has the potential to hurt the community. It allows you to sell your experience (trade it for stats) anywhere, instead of at only one place. Aside from the risk of loss on death, there's another reason: You can hold a max of 4.3 billion experience. Most people in the game don't collect anywhere near that much on a typical hunt, but some people will fill that in only an hour or two, meaning I can imagine a group which requires people to have these gems, so they can hunt longer.

Absolutely everything else in the item shop is decorative, and there's a LOT of it. But until they started adding useful items, I didn't have a problem. Most of these items have been kept in check, but it's a delicate balance.

They can't just be like other Korean games I've seen, because everyone already pays $10/mo just to play. But they are, slowly but surely, shifting towards that model.

For example: A few months ago, I believe, the maximum level you could get to with the "free trial" was 10. Now, it's 50, although most items do not work unless you register. Then, just this week, they've created a brand-new newbie area, which you cannot leave until you're around level 50. It's a huge area, but not one higher-level (read: paying) people are likely to be, as most of it is unavailable to high-level people (NPCs won't talk to you, caves aren't open to you), and it costs 10,000 coins to get in (roughly equivalent to 10 gold in WoW, I think), unless you're a newbie.

In other words: There's a very large, newbie-oriented area of the game which is playable for free. However, it's also very small, relative to the rest of the game (it is a massive game, after all). But even once you're a paying customer, depending on how much you like shiny things (or just plain convenient things), they can nickel and dime you to death.

For now, I've almost completely avoided the item shop, and it hasn't ruined the game for me at all. I've been able to play almost all new content (except this newbie area, as I'm no longer a newbie), without paying a cent more than I do for a subscription.

But from what I can tell, Kru is steadily making this item shop more and more attractive, and it may well eventually be impossible to get by without it.

But... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20519831)

If it's pennies for the feature, why not include it to start with?

so something like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20519841)

nickels for nipples?

Re:so something like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20528795)

nickels for nipples/navels/nudes/gnolls/knobs/nards/n00bs, dimes for d----, pennies for p------, half-pence for hoes

Depends (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20519875)

I want to take Anarchy Online as an example. What they did (I don't know if that service is still running) is that you can play the original game without expansions free of charge. Only limitation is that you get kicked if the server load gets too heavy and paying customers are getting preference in slots on the servers (i.e. when a paying player wants to play, you have to wait). This is actually quite playable, you don't get access to all areas but it's still quite fun. Sure, you don't have access to the more current content, and you will level a lot slower than someone who does. But you can still get anywhere you could when the game was released, you can reach the (then existing) maximum of levels and if you're so inclined, switch to a paid account when you reach that limit. Imagine WoW sans Burning Crusade for free.

If the game's more like a demo, where you have access to only a severely limited version of the game where you have to pay to actually play "sensibly", it's a different matter. If you have to pay for something that you simply NEED to play at all, we're talking about bait and lure. It's only a buck here, only a buck there and in the long run, you pay a few 100 bucks for a game that you would've gotten for 50 if it was a "normal" game.

Generally, the idea is good, though. I'm honestly surprised that especially MMORPGs don't offer that kind of service, where you can either invest time to get a certain item or simply buy it.

Re:Depends (3, Interesting)

Fozzyuw (950608) | about 7 years ago | (#20520531)

Similar to that, There are "free" MMOs out there...

Last Chaos - I believe it's made by the people who made "Sword of the New World". It's a free MMO. I didn't play it much but gold selling is the norm and so are micro-transactions who have NPCs setup to pickup your purchases.

Dungeon Runners - Sort of a Diablo-esque MMO. You can play for free but you cannot use pretty much any decent weapon that might drop from a boss or be given by special quests. For that you need to be a member, which will cost you $5 / month. Oh, and you cannot use the stacking health potions either.

Sword of the New World - While not free to play, it's a pretty cheap game. $20 for the game, $9 / month membership. You can purchase things outside the game, money, weapons, spells, and pick them up in game. This Korean game is being sold at Wal-Mart in the U.S. It was also previewed in Game Informer Magazine. I played it, it was pretty cool. Kind of a Guild Wars style game. You get to create a team of up to 3 members. So, you can always have a Healer, Tank, DPS group. Though, since most monsters die in 1 hit, you don't really need the traditional setup

In Korea, micro-transations are the norm. They're starting to make their way into the US market. But I can say, that after having played Tabula Rasa Beta, LOTRO, WOW, Shadowbane (trying it again, since it's ad supported free), Last Chaso, Dungeon Runners, EQ2, EQ, DAoC, CoH, CoV, Guild Wars, Sword of the New World, and I'm waiting for the Unreal Tournament-like MMORPG Fury to open their beta (they're selling beta CD's but their launcher tells you to wait a 'couple of days'... it's been 2 weeks so far), I can say that by far WoW is the most enjoyable by far, and I haven't even played it in probably 6-months.

I'm still looking for something that will be nearly as fun as WoW but not cost as much per month. The sweet spot for me is $10, I was paying this with LOTRO (a pretty good game that was close to WoW quality, but suffered the same as WoW except before you hit the max level) and I think for the AAA MMO, this is a fair price. Having found and played several free MMO's and some good very cheap MMO's, I see there being plenty of room for MMO prices to drop. I can see there being a WoW killer out there that's open source project, free, or very cheap based on ad supported and micro-transactions. I would pay $5 / month for WoW and probably never cancel if they ad supported it by putting some ads when zoning into dungeons/instances and into the game.

Until then, I'm a bit disappointed with the MMO commitment and costs considering what I've found out there. I've just started playing console and single player games again. To get some WoW, I just fire up WarcraftIII.

Oh, one other cool thing about Sword of the New World. EXP from quests came in the form of 'cards' which is an interesting concept as they might have been able to be traded to others (I never tried). It's interesting because it could make it easy for a friend to catch up to you if they joined the game at a later time.


Re:Depends (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20523115)

Just to post the obvious, what you're looking for might be Guild Wars. It's much like a MMORPG, no monthly fee, just an expansion every now and then that costs "full price" (i.e. about 50-60 bucks, like the main game). Allegedly you do not need to buy the expansions (only played it briefly) if you're happy with what you got in the main game.

Re:Depends (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 7 years ago | (#20525929)

In all fairness, the "expansions" to Guild Wars (GW: Factions and GW: Nightfall) cost full price, but they are standalone games. You don't need any one to play any other one. It wasn't until Eye of the North that was released last week that they charged full-game price for "expansion" content, and there's been lots of grumbling about that.

Re:Depends (1)

wzzzzrd (886091) | about 7 years ago | (#20524223)

In Korea, micro-transactions are only for old people.

I corrected that one for you.

Re:Depends (1)

Foo2rama (755806) | about 7 years ago | (#20544967)

Sword is 100% free to play at this time with free downloads, and no level caps or monthly subs.

Re:Depends (1)

Fozzyuw (950608) | about 7 years ago | (#20552555)

Sword is 100% free to play at this time with free downloads, and no level caps or monthly subs.

Thanks, I didn't know they changed this. Makes me wonder if Wal-Mart is still selling the game for $20.

Re:Depends (1)

grimJester (890090) | about 7 years ago | (#20520573)

If the game's more like a demo, where you have access to only a severely limited version of the game where you have to pay to actually play "sensibly", it's a different matter.

Not that demos of games aren't a tried and true idea, but this is about full access for free, with perks like xp bonuses, "rest state" in WoW, consumable items like potions and such, even gold, for RL money.

A good concept, imho. No-lifers without jobs can still grind 24/7 but don't have to pay anymore. More casual players with jobs can pay to stay roughly equal with their no-life friends. Paying to save grinding time to get to what you really want to do faster feels like more value for money than the monthly fee.

Re:Depends (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | about 7 years ago | (#20521885)

Generally, the idea is good, though. I'm honestly surprised that especially MMORPGs don't offer that kind of service, where you can either invest time to get a certain item or simply buy it.
Not an MMORPG, but the Worms-esque game Gunbound is like that. It's free to play, and you use gold you earn from battles to purchase items. But if you're lazy, you could also use real-life money to buy the items. Of course, it's Korean, which is probably why it's been so succesful.

Terrible idea (1)

Rix (54095) | about 7 years ago | (#20522841)

Most people play games to get away from that sort of economic social stratification bullshit.

Re:Terrible idea (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20523127)

You know a game where gold selling is unheard of? Take me with you please!

Because that's pretty much it. Instead of some gold seller the company itself sells items/gold/whatever for real money to people who don't want to play or "grind". That's basically the whole difference.

Maybe with the exception that you can actually play for free (or lower fees) because those people pay for it.

Re:Terrible idea (1)

Rix (54095) | about 7 years ago | (#20524793)

Gold selling is a fairly minor factor in most games, and it's usually fairly obvious who's doing it.

Re:Terrible idea (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20527883)

How does that change the game? By and large, whoever wants to buy gold in whatever game, they can. And do. In the current climate, where they have to kill the mobs I want to kill and farm the mobs for gold that I have to kill for quests and gold, they bother me much, much more than the company would if they simply sold the items and gold.

It would at least eliminate the pesky farmers that keep you from accessing that mobs and bosses you need. The rest stays the same, except that, as mentioned before, you might have to pay less to play.

But I wouldn't want to play in the first place (1)

Rix (54095) | about 7 years ago | (#20531233)

It would just result in one of those games, like pokemon the gathering, where the object is to give the publisher as much money as possible.

That doesn't sound all that much fun to me. If the process of getting the loot isn't fun, why are you playing in the first place?

Hell no. (1)

EvilCabbage (589836) | about 7 years ago | (#20519877)

I've forked over my $100 (seems the average new game price down here) now give me the finished product thanks very much.

Re:Hell no. (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#20520189)

All of the company's titles, regardless of genre, have one thing in common: they're free to play

Re:Hell no. (2, Interesting)

Mukunda_NZ (1078231) | about 7 years ago | (#20520203)

Uhh the game is free to download, you can play it just fine, but if you want to get unique rare items or something, you can pay real money for that. If you're just a casual gamer, then you don't have to, no-one is forcing you to.

I think that this could be something that could possible even work with Free software (open source) games, or something similar.

It'd be great if they opened up the source for these games so that I could use it on any OS I choose to use.

Money (1)

teh MrCrow (965340) | about 7 years ago | (#20519893)

The problem is, as with every clever marketing strategy, that people will not realize how much money they actually spend.

Re:Money (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 7 years ago | (#20521589)

That's not a problem, that's a feature.

Micro payments not necessarily "micro" (1)

the Jim Bloke (1110963) | about 7 years ago | (#20524031)

Just started looking at a micropayments game, and once you work through the currency conversions etc, to outfit your character with the gear you cant get ingame, costs about as much as a retail game. Then there are on-going costs for consumables, to upgrade your gear or boost your development. I can see it being a better money-spinner for the game owner than traditional monthly subscription type MMOs, but that doesnt make it a better game for the player. Not having to pay to "get in" attracts one type of gaming vermin, whilst being able to "buy your way to uberness" attracts another. Worst of both worlds

no but (2, Funny)

Ep0xi (1093943) | about 7 years ago | (#20519895)

i could pay pennies for not becoming a friendly fire target. damn

No, I wouldn't. (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about 7 years ago | (#20520225)

Would You Pay Pennies For Game Features?

No, I wouldn't. I don't like being nickled and dimed.

I'd pay an extra $5 once in a while for something that's worth it but if the value is only a few cents then you should have given it to me when I paid for the game.

Exception to the rule: If the basic game was -free- but I had to pay pennies here and there for worthwhile features then I'd pay the pennies. I don't game often enough, so this would represent a value.

Re:No, I wouldn't. (1)

DarkMantle (784415) | about 7 years ago | (#20520809)

In the summary it says "they're free to play" as in the game is free too. Game's website []

So you didn't pay for the game. Therefore, what things should they have given you when you "paid" for a free game?

It's kind of a neat concept. Imagine WoW where you could pay a dollar to get a good sword.

Speaking of WoW, why should I have to pay every month to play a game that I paid for. Guild Wars [] is free once you buy the game. And Eve-Online [] is free for the game, but you pay every month. WoW skrews(sic) you instead.

Re:No, I wouldn't. (3, Interesting)

Grakun (706100) | about 7 years ago | (#20525077)

Speaking of WoW, why should I have to pay every month to play a game that I paid for. Guild Wars is free once you buy the game. And Eve-Online is free for the game, but you pay every month. WoW skrews(sic) you instead.
Comparing Guild Wars to WoW is about as extreme as comparing Diablo 2 to EverQuest, which I've seen several people try to do. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume they just aren't familiar with MMORPGs.

Basically, what it boils down to is that in the software industry, the majority of the costs go into developing and maintaining the software. The costs of manufacturing each individual disc is next to nothing. The costs are in creating the data that is pressed onto the disc. Before you can even think about selling a copy of something, you have to have something to sell. You have to pay people to design, develop, and test the software. You have to pay people to create artwork, music, sound effects, 3d models, etc. They all have to work together to create something, and if they are successful you will end up with the software that you can hopefully sell to at least make up for all of the money that was put into creating the software and continue to pay people to update the software when people who want to use it have trouble doing so. Anything made on top of this is profit, which is why someone would invest all of that money into development in the first place instead of just keeping it somewhere safe.

Now, when it comes to MMORPGs, you still have all of those software development costs. In addition, you also have to develop server software, hire people who can analyze the economics and game model to try to ensure that the gameplay and virtual economy inside of the MMORPG won't collapse or fall short, causing players to become disinterested, and the whole project to essentially be a waste of a lot of money and time. You also will likely need more designers, since this game will have to encompass the needs and desires of a lot of different players, without sacrificing too many of the needs or desires of other players.

The biggest difference is that in normal software development, when the software is released, you no longer need all of those designers, developers, etc. You may need one or two, so that they can provide updates to fix things that come up. For an MMORPG, there are still a lot of extra costs. In addition to developing and selling software, they also have to provide a service for that software to be used with. They have to pay people to keep that service maintained, and to continue designing and developing new elements in the game to give the subscribers to the service more stuff to do. So not only are the initial costs much higher, but the long term costs are also much higher.

Now, there are a lot of ideas that people are experimenting with to try and cut down the costs as well as the price. But investors typically want a model that is proven not to lose all of their money. They don't want to gamble, they want to invest. So, traditionally it's been independent developers who experiment with these new ideas. The easiest way to convince people to invest a lot of money into a new idea is by backing up your claims with proof, such as the independent developers who have already tried similar ideas and succeeded.

If you don't feel that the product is worth it's price, do NOT buy it. It's as simple as that. Play something else, use the competitor's product, etc. No matter how many people bitch and moan about their product, if they see high sales records they aren't going to listen to the people who are complaining. They are going to think, "many people are buying our product so we must know what we're doing". On the other hand, if the sales records are low, then they might be interested in listening to complaints and changing the product to satisfy them. Until then, they'll be afraid that changing the product to make the few people who are bitching happy could in turn make the people who are already buying the product unhappy. And no, pirating their software will NOT hurt them, no matter how much they claim otherwise. If you weren't going to actually buy their software, then there is no lost sale or lost revenue. On the other hand, if you're using their software you are contributing to their user-base. When you mention that you play that game to friends, or have friends who are interested in playing that game with you, then you are increasing the value of the product and helping to advertise it by word of mouth (the most effective form of advertising). You are hurting their competitor, who could also benefit from your addition to their user-base.

Take Windows for example. Even if you're using a pirated copy of Windows, it still benefits Microsoft and anyone who develops software for their operating system. You are advertising it by using it and software that runs under it. You are one more geek who is able to answer questions and support people who are using it. Instead, had you used a legal and free operating system, then you'd be advertising the competitor's product and increase the user-base and value of the competitor's product, which would in turn hurt the value and possibly sales of the software that you don't believe is worth the price it's currently sold at. Then there's the fact that when it comes time to get something done, you will only know how to do it while using software that you feel is overpriced. You may not have time to quickly learn a completely different operating system, just so that you can do the job the way you feel it should be done.

Re:No, I wouldn't. (1)

Sj0 (472011) | about 7 years ago | (#20549497)

Comparing Guild Wars to WoW is about as extreme as comparing Diablo 2 to EverQuest, which I've seen several people try to do.

Fair enough. Guild Wars is much better designed since the creators don't need to stretch your playtime out to decades to make a few bucks.

Re:No, I wouldn't. (1)

DarkMantle (784415) | about 7 years ago | (#20570141)

I agree there. Regular expansions to keep the fan-boys buying expansions on release day. I just started GW and don't know if I'll do expansions or not. With these expansions GW makes money on sales, and it's design allows them to not have to charge you $160 a year to play, on top of the $60 to buy the game. That's $220 for the first year. Ridiculous.

Re:No, I wouldn't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20522249)

I'd pay an extra $5 once in a while for something that's worth it but if the value is only a few cents then you should have given it to me when I paid for the game.

The Kingdom of Loathing is a free game with almost exactly that scheme. A $10 "donation" will get you an item, a Mr Accessory, with some useful enhancements. Each month there's a limited release item which you can get by trading in a Mr Accessory.

Speaking of which (1)

Durrok (912509) | about 7 years ago | (#20520699)

My brother and I were at the local drinking well catching up and we were talking about Bioshock's anti-piracy measures. I thought they were too restrictive and harming the people who actually bought the game, he thought it was perfectly fine and well within reason to include such measures. During our argument I began making up ludicrous DRM schemes like the CD blew up after you installed the game, the game phoning the police to come arrest you if they thought you were pirating the game, etc. I came up with one where you were delivered about half the game. Every 100,000 purchases of the game (or whatever number you would like) the game unlocks another level or new content. We both laughed then stopped and thought about it... we could feasibly see this happening. After quietly reflecting for a moment he turned to me and said "Don't ever tell anyone about this. Ever. It could mean a new era of gaming suckage."

I'm not too worried about it. Patent pending. :)

Re:Speaking of which (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20531637)

prior art... this idea exists in numerous designs and in a few games in the asia sector (and probably some even in the western world). your patent won't get very far.

Yes (3, Interesting)

wantedman (577548) | about 7 years ago | (#20520813)

I'm addicted to MapleStory, and I often pay. Unlike WoW, where I'm required to fork over $15 a month, I can pay as much or as little as I'm willing and still get a fair amount of game experience. That is what keeps me there.

Now, the game comes with all the problems of a free online game, meaning that the individuals has little invested in the community, and for every good person, there's at least one or two assholes. The GMs have gotten better at policing them, but high level players who are willing to screw with you just because they're bored are not uncommon.

The other problem with the game, is that originally, the micropayments offered little gameplay advantage to those people who payed. It was limited to clothing items to customize your avatar, as well as other cosmetic changes.

Now, we can have pets that loot for you and give bonuses to speed and jump($12/3 months). Shops to sell things when you're offline($2/month to $10/month). Cards that give you 2x experience and 2x drops($19/month each). Teleport rocks so you can avoid waiting between continents($2 per use).

It's fairly easy to spend more than a normal pay only game, and those that do have a huge advantage over time than those that don't. There are people in the community that have hundreds, if not thousands invested in their characters.

Still, I get a good gaming experience for on average about $5/month, so I prefer it over a bigger commitment..

Ron Popeil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520895)

Has Ron been hired as slashdot headline writer?

depends on what kind of gamer you are. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520949)

i just started playing a mmorg you have to pay per month.
they also have a "item mall" where you can buy stuff.

i personally would never play a game where you would need to
pay real money for items in-game to be able to advance at a resenable
rate (armour, weapons, skills) even if the basic game is free;
tho i think i'd LUV to be an operator of such a game : )))

still looking for a a mmorg "that has it figured out" tho : //

i'm sure there's more to come, oh goody!

Second Life (1)

argent (18001) | about 7 years ago | (#20520993)

Every file upload is 10 Linden Dollars (L$10), that's about 3c. Every group you create costs L$100, about 30c. Advertising costs L$. Land is paid for directly in US$, but you can earn that US$ credit in L$, or rent from someone else in L$ who pays monthly in US$... so you can pay for everything in L$, one way or another.

Maybe not pennies (2, Funny)

Ryan Monster (767204) | about 7 years ago | (#20521899)

I don't think I'd pay pennies, but I'd definitely pay Schrute Bucks

NO (0, Troll)

axia777 (1060818) | about 7 years ago | (#20522125)

NO and NO. Once I "buy" a game it had better damn well come with all the features the main game needs to be played. The war horse amour from Oblivion is one example of some that was not necessary but cool that I did buy. If I have to buy a games cores features to play on top of buying the game in the first place, well, that game company can go fuck themselves.

Re:NO (1)

syrinx (106469) | about 7 years ago | (#20523079)

If I have to buy a games cores features to play on top of buying the game in the first place

Why is no one reading even the summary? The point is that the game is FREE, and you pay for extras. You're not "buying the game in the first place".

Probably an idea to get used to (2, Insightful)

Thorizdin (456032) | about 7 years ago | (#20522231)

While I understand the knee jerk reactions that some have to this idea, they should realize that this isn't really a model for single player games IMO but more of a new model for Pay to Play games. So while this doesn't work for say Bioshock (I'd be pissed if 2k wanted to me to buy my Power to the People Terminals!) but it does work for online games. Right now the only legal currency in most MMO's is time, if you put in the time to "earn" (silly concept in a game) something its yours to keep or trade. Now, the problem is that most MMO's are closed systems meaning that even though you can trade, its only for in game items or money that were "earned" by someone else's time. I have long felt that any business model that favors the unemployed (they have lots of time) over skilled gamers who might not have as much free time, is flawed. Micro transaction based games at least offer a possibility of changing that model. The current system of favoring college students, the chronically unemployable, or those willing to break the EULA to buy stuff from IGE or other virtual to real money trader is dumb.

Yo ho ho! (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 7 years ago | (#20522469)

Yohoho Puzzle Pirates [] is free to play on doubloon oceans. If you want to buy things (swords, ships, houses, the better pieces of clothing) you will need doubloons, which you can buy with pieces of eight that you worked for or gained as booty from a pillage or you can purchase the doubloons with real money.

Re:Yo ho ho! (1)

EdBear69 (823550) | about 7 years ago | (#20523945)

Yes, but as a free player on Puzzle Pirates, you're not allowed to play all the mini-games or man all the stations on the ships.

What do you mean, I can run the sails but not the guns??

That, IMHO, is vastly different from paying 10 cents for a purple pirate hat that has no practical purpose other than to look cool.

Re:Yo ho ho! (1)

devjoe (88696) | about 7 years ago | (#20524519)

And that's what this story is all about, paying for game features. Sure, you cannot man the guns without paying. But you also cannot man the guns without permission from an officer (either through being promoted to Pirate or being ordered to the station). It's part of the way the game works (in this case mainly beause guns are an important station -- you don't want to be in battle with no guns loaded because some slacker is not managing to load the guns properly). And you can't be an officer without paying, either. The officers pay, and the masses who don't pay work stations on ships for them. You can't do puzzles or play games on shore without paying, either, though they give you some free days to try them.

The pirate badge allows you to gun, and it costs 1 (one) doubloon, approximately 25 US cents, to gun for a whole month, and they don't count days you don't log in. The badges for officers, crafting puzzles, and parlor games cost more, but you can have the top badges to enable all game features for about 30 doubloons a month.

Yohoho Puzzle Pirates has been running this doubloon-based micropayment system for over 2 years now, and it has proven far more successful than the original subscription-based system.

I'd pay for... (1)

Psychor (603391) | about 7 years ago | (#20523125)

I'd certainly pay pennies for a mod that replaced all the characters in Grand Theft Auto with political figures, celebrities, and one certain much-maligned lawyer.

Hell fucking no way ho fucking se (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20523987)

Would I cunting fuck. Wankers!

What about paying less for fewer features? (1)

EdBear69 (823550) | about 7 years ago | (#20524047)

How about if you have a slow graphics card and don't need all the hi-res textures because you can only play at 800x600?

It would be nice to get a rebate on games where you aren't using all the features.

I wonder how many people would play WoW with the graphics dialed down to Atari 2600 quality...

Re:What about paying less for fewer features? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20536955)

Nethack! Angband! Omega! Rogue!

The problem with microtransactions (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | about 7 years ago | (#20526327)

is that they are very rarely "micro."

Mapel Story (1)

Pyrix (1106657) | about 7 years ago | (#20527055)

I used to play Maple Story (the Global version) and I have to say, people do pay for these "Microstransactions". You can pay money via Paypal which is then transferred into "NX Cash" which goes into your account, and then you can buy items in the "Cash Shop" such as Clothes (that cover your equipment, but you still get the skill bonuses from it) and things that help incredibly with the game, such as a permit which allows you to sell your items. I have to admit I did purchase some of the said NX Cash, and I see nothing wrong with doing so, especially because the game is free in the first place.

Re:Maple Story (1)

Pyrix (1106657) | about 7 years ago | (#20527095)

Sorry that should be Maple Story in the title.
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