After my recent rant on how Neverwinter is a horrible excuse for a game and a blatant attempt to grab some fast money from the nerds (why do we let the brands we love do this to us?) I thought I’d look more into the issue. Some games actually do manage to use the microtransactions quite well. While I would still rather pay a subscription or the full price of a complete game maybe it’s possible to find some common ground between the two.
World of Warcraft: In world of Warcraft you pay a monthly subscription fee to play and you can spend money on vanity items. That means items which are cool and/or funny but these items can not affect the game itself. You can’t buy yourself an advantage. You have to earn all the cool gear by actually playing the game.
League of Legends: LoL is free to download and play. In the game you choose one of many champions – each with different abilities – to control. As you play you earn Influence Points with which you can unlock new champions to play and purchase runes that will customize your champions. You can also spend money getting Riot Points which will unlock new champions as well as vanity skins – alternate visual themes – for your unlocked champions. It should be noted that all the champions are of equal power – each with their own force and weakness – their cost is dictated by how new they are.
Pox Nora: This game is played by collecting “runes”. A rune will be a warrior or an effect you can put into play. You gather them into a custom collection and match it against your opponents. In Pox Nora you can play the game to earn gold which will buy you runes from all but the newest releases. You can pay money for the newest runes (even though you only have a random chance to get the rarest ones) or you can trade other players for them.
Star Wars – The Old Republic: Truly a hybrid – SWTOR is free to play you can spend money to buy a lot of different items which will make your character more powerful, level up faster and have more unique looks. Also certain aspects of the game requires that you “unlock” them using the in-game currency or real money. As an alternative you can choose to be a subscriber and have a lot of these benefits just handed to you as well as a monthly “allowance” to spend on the boost and vanity items.
Neverwinter: I think I have already said my piece on Neverwinter. Long story short it is free to play except everything in the game and it’s mother is for sale. Which it will advertise loudly and obnoxiously if you try to have fun without paying. Woups – couldn’t keep it in.
EVE: As always doing it’s own thing. In EVE a PLEX is worth a month of game time. You can buy a PLEX for the game currency (ISK) and cash it in to renew your subscription or you can use your real money to buy yourself a PLEX and cash it in for ISK. So while it is possible to boost yourself with more money – wealth in EVE is a fickle thing ad you might end up losing it all over again. It’s hard to compare EVE with other games.
I very much like how League of Legends has solved the problem of payment vs being free to play and based on how well the game is doing it seems like that business model is quite viable. That said LoL doesn’t strike me as a game that took the same level of development as a major MMO.
I’m very curious about how the coming Elder Scrolls Online will work and how future games will adapt. I think the “basic” subscription model is a bit outdated but as seen with Neverwinter all out “F2P” games will not capture anyone’s attention for long.