It’s kind of funny to me to see players lavish all sorts of love on Recettear this past week, quickly assuming the roles of money-loving item shop owners, and then see many of those players grouse about microtransactions and item shops in MMOs. Sure, we gamers are a cheap bunch and would rather play for free than spend money, but this sort of system is here to stay in a lot of games, and the truth be told, it isn’t proving to be nearly as disastrous as some claimed.
For example, a ton of people — myself included — were skeptical and even worried about the inclusion of a cash shop in LOTRO. For one thing, it was changing how the game had been run for three years now, and for another, there was always the possibility that a gamer with a deeper wallet would have an unfair advantage over the rest of us. We like fair, don’t we? Unless we’re on the better side of “unfair”, of course.
Anyway, I’ve spent bit of time in the LOTRO store over the past couple weeks, and I have to say that all things considered, it’s pretty well-balanced. Of course, there are two crowds — representing wildly different needs — that will be using the store, which makes for an interesting balancing act on Turbine’s part.
The first group are the current subscribers and lifetime members — VIPs. This crowd doesn’t have anything they need to progress content-wise, so pretty much every purchase on the store is a nicety. Not to mention that they’ll be getting 500 TP every month, which is completely disposable income. So this crowd is more concerned with luxuries (“Ooh, an extra port!” “Ahh, cosmetic clothing!”) and convenience.
Then you have the second group, the freepers, who will see the store as the gatekeeper and keymaster to their future in the game. For them, the store represents cold, hard content: zone quests, mounts, character enhancements (bags, trait slots, etc.) and the like. They will need to puchase some — and possibly many — of these items to continue progressing through the game with a minimum of frustration. Now, it’s nice that Turbine’s given free players a way to earn TP through gameplay, but it really isn’t nearly enough to fully flesh-out your character and proceed to the max level.
So for that first crowd, it really doesn’t matter, relative to fellow players, whether you spend a lot or a little. The most advantage you’ll be able to gain are a few more stat points and a couple shortcuts to achievements (like virtues) you can earn the old fashioned way through grinding. The second crowd will find that the folks reluctant to pay will suffer a lesser quality of game life than the ones that do, but that’s just how it goes with this.
I’ve found that the store prices are, so far, a bit on the pricey side. 500 free TP a month sounds like a lot, but that’s perhaps a single piece of cosmetic clothing, a single virtue increase, or a couple pots. Not a lot. And although the idea of taking a shortcut to maxing out my virtues seemed appealing at first, we’re talking like $50 or more to do it the fast way at this point — and that’s with my virtues at 6s, 7s and 8s. So I’m starting to see the wisdom in purchasing deed accelerators instead, which are a lot cheaper and still allow you to gain the virtue quicker. Likewise, permanent stat buffs are too rich for my blood, especially considering that +10 to a particular stat isn’t anything too thrilling.
I’m really hoping Turbine will get more fun stuff in the store. Right now, the cosmetic outfits and housing sections are pretty lacking (although the new backpacks are sweet). We shall see.