There’s a certain amount of pleasure and fun to be gained by engaging in the metagame of “how much can I play this free-to-play MMO without paying a single red cent.” I won’t deny it. I love being able to earn premium currency without opening my wallet (such as converting platinum into REX in RIFT) or finding other ways to unlock restrictions. But I’m not so much of a penny-pinching miser that I won’t cough up money for an MMO — it’s just that a game has to ask nicely and appeal to what really matters for me.
So how can an MMO get me to spend money on it? Here are six ways:
1. A meaty pre-order collector’s edition. Although it’s a bit of a racket to engage with pre-orders (although at least it’s not as bad as the whole pay-for-alpha trend), I will admit that I like doing it when there are enough incentives with both pre-order bonuses and a collector’s edition goodies to woo me over. These are usually the biggest single payouts of cash that I’ll drop on a game, although they’re very rare and spaced apart.
2. Meaningful playable content. Whether it’s a new zone or a full-fledged expansion, I’m usually really happy to pay money to unlock a batch of missions or an additional area to enjoy. I feel that this keeps the incentive high for devs to create more content and flesh out the game if there’s money in it.
3. A really kickin’ cosmetic outfit. I want my character to look good, and if the design is perfect for me, then I’m not above paying for an outfit that is solely for looks and not stats. Bonus if this outfit is something that I can share across my entire account.
4. Expanded account options. While I feel that a subscription game should come with all possible account options unlocked, I understand restrictions that F2P/B2P accounts might have and will evaluate whether or not one is worth unlocking. More inventory space, additional outfit slots, or character transfers fall into this category.
5. New races and classes. Note that I’m not saying here that I want to pay to unlock races/classes that already exist and have since been walled up behind restrictions, but if a studio takes the time and effort to create something new to play, sure, I’ll pay for it. If it’s not an Elf. Or a flower-based class.
6. Better hair. One of my pet peeves is bad hairstyles or a lack of variety among existing ones in MMOs. So often, MMOs just do not have good hair or a style that I would like, and so if the team comes out with “premium” styles later on, then I am not ashamed to jump all over that. In the past year I’ve bought better hairstyles for both my GW2 and SWTOR toons.