Dungeons & Microtransactions

Seriously, I think about half of the blog posts I caught up on over the weekend had to do about this insane and almost comical Allods cash shop fiasco.  I’ve never seen a game go from beloved to gutter trash so quickly, but that right there is the power of horrible decisions.  They had a great game, a huge buzz, massive amounts of players trying to cram in the front door — and all it took was for them to mark up items 1000% to turn glory into ash.  Whodathunkit?

If the Allods folks are smart, they’ll backpedal on this, and right quickly.  It doesn’t seem as though they are, as their official statement on the matter basically says “We understand that the pricing isn’t popular, but… yeah.”  I really don’t understand what’s gotten into these MMO studios lately.  It’s as if they realize that the doors have been thrown wide open for microtransactions, and so they lose all sense of restraint and common sense.  I mean, when players are seriously rankled over Cryptic’s somewhat underhanded addition of two beta-played races to the paid store on launch, how much more will they revolt when you’re charging obscene amounts of money for practically everything?

Spinks did have some food for thought that I appreciated:

I’m in two minds about this. On one hand, it sounds like a lot to pay for a few bag slots. On the other hand, if Blizzard sold a larger backpack for $20, players would be queuing up to pay for it. And people on Second Life regularly spend more than that on items which have far less utility. And it’s going to be very tedious if these debates break out every time some cash shop decides to charge for anything.

But I don’t really want to talk about Allods today, not any longer, at least.  Instead, this whole Chicken Little riot has made me realize just how awesome Turbine was in handling the DDO’s transition from pure subscription to microtransaction/free-to-play.  What did they do right that other companies now seem to be doing oh so very wrong?  A number of explanations pop into my head:

  1. The pricing is reasonable.  It really is.  As you’re paying to expand the core free game in DDO, content chunks can be added from around $3-$10, as well as classes, races and other little cool things.  But at no point were you asked to whip out your wallet to spend $20 on a tiny increase in bag space, or for a mount.
  2. They offer a lot of discounts.  DDO continues to keep their item shop in the players’ attention by frequently offering discounts on purchasing points, as well as certain items and content.  A smart, patient player can save quite a bit and make their money last longer.
  3. They were really transparent about the whole deal all the way through DDO:EU’s beta.  You knew what was coming, how much everything cost, and they got the pricing to a level that was pleasing to parties all around.  No big last-minute additions or changes to be had.
  4. They bent over backwards to both make the shop attractive while emphasizing that it wasn’t necessary to purchase anything to enjoy your game.  Turbine even went one step further to give players an opportunity to earn points in game for doing nothing more than just playing.  Sure, it wasn’t a lot of points, but still — it was free.
  5. They didn’t penalize your gameplay for not having purchased something.  In a recent patch, DDO’s given free players adventures that will enable them to level to the cap without spending a dime, as well as eliminating “leveling sigils” which were barriers to progressing (unless you either purchased an item or found it in a dungeon).  You don’t have as wide of an experience as a subscriber or purchaser when you’re a free player, but they don’t “punish” you for not buying stuff.

And it’s not like DDO was the vanguard here — plenty of other games have pioneer successful and popular microtransaction models that don’t involve looting, pillaging barbarians plowing into your house and making off with the contents of your wallet and your firstborn.


12 thoughts on “Dungeons & Microtransactions

  1. Ravious February 22, 2010 / 9:26 am

    Heh, I was just asking The Common Sense Gamer what he thinks about DDO… I would also say W101 has a great cash shop.

    I love F2P model when it feels like I am buying something real and lasting. DDO’s quests, W101’s zones, and even Guild Wars’ costumes. I can keep it.

    Shizz I don’t like are potions to buff me for PvP.

    Granted DDO does have these buff potions which definitely raise PvE efficiency, but I can easily ignore them and play the whole game.

  2. OrderedChaos February 22, 2010 / 10:38 am

    The nice thing about DDO’s store, is that when you buy something like a new race, class, character slot, extra bank space, or Adventure pack, it affects your whole account, across all servers. And Syp is correct. If you wait it out, you can eventually get a great deal on anything you are looking for.
    If you are a VIP (subscription) member, you get 500 TP’s every month to play around with in the store. They also have a way to earn Turbine Points through in game play. By completing quest and earning favor. You gain 25 TP’s every 100 Favor. It’s not a lot, but at least they are giving you something.
    Now, if they would only introduce a way to change the looks on armours, that would be worth paying for. =)

  3. mbp February 22, 2010 / 10:54 am

    I fully agree that Turbine’s free to play transition of DDO was master-fully done and is really not abusive at all. One key feature of DDO I think is that almost everybody pays something. By spreading the costs around it means they don’t have to gouge any particular group. I know it possible to earn everything in game but why bother with such a massive grind when you can unlock content for relatively small payments.

  4. James February 22, 2010 / 10:55 am

    I was in DDO’s beta for 2 months when it was testing the DDO Store.

    I think their sucess here is/was largely due to the well-executed testing of the new system.

    A good note to other dev’s – don’t implement shit until you’ve thouroughly tested it!! (my rant for the day)

  5. Buhallin February 22, 2010 / 11:21 am

    I’m not sure I agree with #1. Keeping the pricing in small chunks is not the same as being reasonably priced. Microtransactions have proven that people will gladly pay $50 for something they’d scream about paying $20 for, as long as the $50 comes in $1 increments rather than the $20 all at once.

    You also contradict yourself with #5. You can’t claim they didn’t penalize you for not playing, and then talk about how they’re removing the penalties. DDO DID penalize you – the leveling was restricted, you couldn’t set up a guild, and characters I’d made when I originally purchased the game were inaccessible when I returned unless I ponied up the cash for their race. Figuring out that they need to remove it several months later is not the same as not having done it.

    The only difference between the DDO and Allods models is that Turbine has done a much better job of feeling the flow of what players will and won’t accept. That, and the Allods team seems to have forgotten the definition of “micro”.

  6. Tesh February 22, 2010 / 11:35 am

    DDO and W101 are great examples of the business model done right. I still hold Puzzle Pirates as the best example, though… but it’s not a DIKU grind, so it doesn’t track well sometimes.

  7. Salsero February 22, 2010 / 2:32 pm

    Turbine did a great job with theirs.

    Turbines philosophy is maybe no so much F2P as it is ‘Pay as you go’. You unlock chunks of content, characters, etc. from the cash shop. This is perfectly fine and good.

    Allod’s philosophy is more of a ‘tax the hardcore’ approach. You can play for free to the endgame, but the committed players will find it nigh impossible to play their game without frequenting the shop. That does seem unfair.

    People have said that Allods could succeed as a subscription-based game. It could succeed following the Turbine model too. The marketing folks just don’t understand how the cash shop concept works yet. Turbine does.

    At least give them until their official release to figure it out.

    I’m having fun playing completely for free so far (lvl 9)

  8. huntersinsight February 22, 2010 / 6:08 pm

    This really illustrates just how much more popular allods could become than runes of magic, a very similar game. Theres been a giant amount of hysteria over the price mark up in allods, but runes of magic can be just as much of a rip off. but you never see anyone talk about it.

    it costs a fortune to play the end game in RoM and allods, they both have ridiculous prices, they’re both WoW rip-offs, and you can make it to the level cap without spending a dime.

    I don’t know anyone that blogs about RoM the way allods is blogged about.

  9. Pedro February 22, 2010 / 7:47 pm

    I would just like to see an MMO being released that charged players by minute or day or weekly play instead of monthly payments.

    IMO the free to plays have a paying playerbase because people can easily jump in and out without worrying about wasting the money they spend. In a monthly subscription MMO people feel compelled to play for a month and if they can’t they will cancel their subscriptions. So why not releasing a game with smaller subscription options?

  10. warhammermer February 23, 2010 / 6:07 am

    I like how free realms does there cash shop. You can get a mount, house or fancy new pet for around a fiver each. There is also lots of things for less than that.

    Plus you get a free house, can win a free pet on the wheel (but its rare) and can decorate the house with coin items.

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