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Author Topic: LA Times article of mmorpg pay structure  (Read 6998 times)
Xilren's Twin
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on: May 17, 2004, 11:14:20 AM

As noted over at Terra Nova, the LA Times published an article last week on pay as you go options for online gaming (free registration required).  Couple of notable quotables from the Guild Wars team and SOE.

quoth Jeff Strain
Quote
After "Guild Wars" debuts later this year, Strain's ArenaNet Inc. will offer new levels that players can pay to download.

"Once you purchase a chapter, you can play it online as long as you want," said Strain, who declined to say how much chapters would cost. "Then every six months, we'll offer a new chapter that's a whole new experience."


and then this gem from two people with Sony...
Quote
Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony's U.S. video game division, said the company planned to sell digital add-ons to games played on its PlayStation consoles.

"We view a future where mini-transactions are the norm," Hirai said.

Sony will start selling add-ons such as weapons for an adventure character or a souped-up car for a racing game next year, said Andrew House, executive vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Some of the add-ons will be items normally earned by long hours of play; novice players could pay to equip themselves with the same gear as more experienced competitors.


Yep, you guessed it.  Inspired by Ebay....

One interesting note, they mentioned such mini-transaction might be tied into promotional campagins so you could get a code from your happy meal or on a bottle cap to get an "add-on" rather than just pay SOE directly.

Xilren

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
HaemishM
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Reply #1 on: May 17, 2004, 02:23:16 PM

I didn't read the article, but I've long felt that "mini-transactions" are the way of the future for not just games, but all online content. Being able to plunk down small dollar amounts for custom content, such as downloading music, single e-comic issues, single-use content (use once then you are locked out), etc.

Online games just fit the economic model so well.

ajax34i
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Reply #2 on: May 18, 2004, 12:22:39 PM

There are a lot of things that have NOT been tried in the MMOG world, and the only way to figure out what works and what doesn't is to implement it and make it available.   We're seeing an evolution of the content, there's bound to be an evolution of the pricing schemes too.

Possibilities:

- Minutes-per-month (well, hours) pricing plans, like with cell phones.

- Character-level-based pricing (so you can create countless noobs for almost free and try out the game, but in order to keep your level 60 uber you have to pay the cash).

- Per-issue charges for live tech support (otherwise use the automated FAQ/knowledge base).

- Ticketed events.

- Completely in-game stores for extras; requires that your toon is able to charge your RL credit card...  or a work-around scheme, like, your toon buys with in-game currency and then you go to the web site and put in your CC number to buy more in-game currency.
Nebu
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Reply #3 on: May 18, 2004, 01:28:06 PM

If companies were to use the added revenue streams to make better games, then it might be a decent investment in the industry.  With rare exceptions, the industry is getting fatter and fatter while producing little more than shinier versions of derivative ideas.

I agree that this is the direction things seem to be heading and it seems like a smart move for the gaming companies.  They get more revenue, legitimize the sale of virtual goods, and cut out the middleman (IGE, eBay, etc.) in the process.  It will be interesting to see if the net financial gains far surpass the losses incurred by the mass exodus of purists from the genre.

EDIT: On a side note, I have always thought that offering a server with limited play hours at a reduced monthly fee would be a great way to attract the more casual gamers.  I wonder if a timed monthly plan could work along these lines as well.

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Shockeye
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Reply #4 on: May 18, 2004, 01:28:11 PM

Quote from: ajax34i
- Completely in-game stores for extras; requires that your toon is able to charge your RL credit card...  or a work-around scheme, like, your toon buys with in-game currency and then you go to the web site and put in your CC number to buy more in-game currency.


Magic Online already did this. While not a MMORPG it can still be considered a massive online game.
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #5 on: May 18, 2004, 03:41:32 PM

Quote from: Nebu
If companies were to use the added revenue streams to make better games, then it might be a decent investment in the industry.  With rare exceptions, the industry is getting fatter and fatter while producing little more than shinier versions of derivative ideas.


Agree, big time.  While it's not surprise that business want to find new ways to make more money, that tends not to blend well with creativity and originality.  In fact, if you follow this money stream to it's logical conclusion you could end up with games that are more item centric than ever as an attempt to purely gouge consumers for more dough.

Quote
I agree that this is the direction things seem to be heading and it seems like a smart move for the gaming companies.  They get more revenue, legitimize the sale of virtual goods, and cut out the middleman (IGE, eBay, etc.) in the process.  It will be interesting to see if the net financial gains far surpass the losses incurred by the mass exodus of purists from the genre.


Not only that, the CS cost will go up in two ways.  If I pay SOE $500 for a sword of leetness and it poofs on me, they had better give me one back.  So unless you item tracking database is perfect you know you will get calls out the wazoo from both scammers/dupers looking for gear they can sell on the black market and legit lost items that your customers paid for.  Let face it, just because the company sells items legitly doesn't mean the ebay crowd vanishes, they just have to undersell the offical sales.  Ugh.

I also wonder how this will affect the concept of players "owning" virtual property as opposed to the argument of paying solely to use the companies code without onwership.  If i get a bill of sale from SOE for said sword, on face value it now appears to be an actual peice of property, virtual or not.

I am all for multi-game access from a single subscription, and even some nods to pay for usage.  But selling items directly?  Don't like the concept simply because it said so many negative things to me about the gameplay.  Typcially, the more real world value something gameplay related has, the less "fun" it is.

Xilren

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RipSnort
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Reply #6 on: May 19, 2004, 04:55:44 PM

Quote
ajax34i wrote:
- Completely in-game stores for extras; requires that your toon is able to charge your RL credit card... or a work-around scheme, like, your toon buys with in-game currency and then you go to the web site and put in your CC number to buy more in-game currency.


Magic Online already did this. While not a MMORPG it can still be considered a massive online game.


Project Entropia is exactly that, aint it?
Furiously
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Reply #7 on: May 20, 2004, 09:40:53 AM

I'm just thinking of Habo. Or whatever the "will cyber for furn thingie is..."

Djamonja
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Reply #8 on: May 24, 2004, 04:30:38 PM

I guess I feel differently than a lot of the people who posted above, but I do *not* think the majority of players want to be paying numerous small fees for bits of content, items, or whatever. I think people would prefer an up front fixed amount purchase fee (plus expansions), and a simple "flat rate" payment plan for subscriptions (there can be more than one rate as long as it is simple).
HaemishM
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Reply #9 on: May 24, 2004, 04:38:56 PM

Quote from: Djamonja
I guess I feel differently than a lot of the people who posted above, but I do *not* think the majority of players want to be paying numerous small fees for bits of content, items, or whatever.


I didn't think anyone would be fucking retarded enough to pay 3 bills for a pre-made, leveled to the top character in EQ. Shows what I get for thinking.

Alkiera
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Reply #10 on: May 24, 2004, 10:40:29 PM

Quote from: ajax
- Completely in-game stores for extras; requires that your toon is able to charge your RL credit card... or a work-around scheme, like, your toon buys with in-game currency and then you go to the web site and put in your CC number to buy more in-game currency.


Both Starport, and Achaea, do this already.  You buy points on achaea.com to spend at certain merchants who only accept that kind of currency.  In Starport, I believe you have to go to a certain planet or some such, and buy the tokns with a CC number.

Admittedly, neither of these are mainstream games.  

Frankly, I see a solution to some of the 'catass vs. casual' problems in a graduated pay system..  your initial $10/mo or whatever gets you 40 hours, any time after that is extra.  While yes, some will be willing to pay that, as old AOL and BBS door games proved, if you put a scorpian tail in the system, it'll effectively cap how much people play.  Lets your content last a little longer.
Sure, you can catass to 40 in a week, but you'll pay us extra aftert he first couple days, and more if you play for the other 3 weeks this month.

'Those who play more, pay more' more closely lines up with the actual overhead differences between players, too.

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Alkiera

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Alkiera

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daveNYC
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Reply #11 on: May 25, 2004, 02:06:12 PM

The only thing of interest is the Pepsi cap / Happy Meal code number bit.  You know you're mainstream when Pepsico wants a piece of the action.
geldonyetich
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Reply #12 on: May 25, 2004, 02:48:56 PM

I don't like this.    There's a very thin line between selling expanded features to a game versus slapping a price on features which should be free.

For example, take Everquest (please).   They've added several zones to the game that were not part of expansions but rather free downloadable optional content available to all players.    Here, as much as the regular gameplay tweaks, was your incentive for paying that $9.89/mo.

Now imagine if every time they added the smallest bit of content such as a new area or a new item, a Sony Corp exec poked their nose over their shoulder and said, "Hold on there!  We can charge for that."

Want to go to Paineel?  That'll be $5.   You want to level to lvl 55?  $10.   60?  $20.    Want your class specific epic armor?  $5 per piece.   Class specific epic weapon?  $20.   Wanna go on a Dragon raid?  $15 per raid.   God raid?  $25 per raid.   Break a plane?  $50.

I wish I could say I was overreacting here, but I can guarentee you the suits would like nothing better than to convert every online game on the market to a model just like this.     But then, just about everything on the market already is a balancing act between customer satifaction and how much they're willing to cough up for it.

In Guild Wars' case I'm willing to make an exception on the grounds it has no monthly subscription fee.    However, this Sony Exec talking about charging for a weapon is right off the deep end for me.   I won't play a game like that any more than I would touch Project Entropia with a ten foot pole.

Mesozoic
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Reply #13 on: May 27, 2004, 09:39:34 AM

XBox LIVE does this as well.  The last MechAssault patch was $4.99.  It struck me as a "proof of concept" effort more than anything else, and according to MS, plenty of people bought it.  This is a more direct analogy to what Sony appears to be talking about.  The devious thing about LIVE is that the fuckers already have all your billing info on-hand.  All you have to do is click "yes" and you're done.  A painless process that makes purchases more likely from a client and less expensive to process for MS.  

The downfall is as others have said:  the accusation that the company is holding back content to charge more later.  Even when the MA patches were free, people accused MS of parsing out the release of things that should have been on the disc.  (For the record, Day 1 Studios claims that none of the downloadable content had even been conceptualized by release day.)

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Reply #14 on: May 27, 2004, 10:04:16 AM

So, for the record, Day 1 Studios has been lying since their first press release? God save the gaming industry.
Matt
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Reply #15 on: May 27, 2004, 02:31:49 PM

As someone pointed out, we do this, and this has been our business model for over 6 years now. We make significantly more per player than the subscription games do too.

The model is also used by Habbo Hotel, which will do about 35 million euros in revenue with it this year.

Some huge Korean games also use it, such as Quiz Quiz, and Games Mania(I'm unsure if I'm remembering the name of Games Mania properly).

--matt

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Sky
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Reply #16 on: May 27, 2004, 03:25:16 PM

Sky's Law of Inflation #7:

A sucker is born every nanosecond.

Arcadian Del Sol
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Reply #17 on: May 28, 2004, 08:23:00 AM

I see a larger inspiration from XBox Downloadable Content.

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