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RMT and Microtransactions Rant December 12, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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In which I opine about the positioning of the deckchairs on the Titanic.

First off, what Blizzard is selling us with character customization is not a microtransaction, nor is it RMT, at least not by any definition I can find.

Yet I have seen it called both.  Stop it.

You can say it is stupid.  You can say it is not enough.  I might not agree, but I cannot fault you for having an  opinion.  But stop trying to shove the square peg of character services into the round hole of RMT.  It hurts, and frankly it doesn’t swing that way.

It is not RMT any more than any other character service offered by an MMO company is RMT, such as paid server transfers.  It even has a 30 day lock out like paid server transfers.  There is plenty of precedent for such services. EVE Online will sell you an avatar swap, EverQuest will sell you a name change, and nobody has considered either RMT.  So unless you want to broaden the definition of RMT far enough that your monthly subscription fee counts as RMT, it just doesn’t fit the mold.

Then there is microtransactions.

Microtransactions, or micropayments, are transactions where a company sells something to a customer for less than is financially viable to run a credit card transaction.  This is clearly not the case with character customization.  Blizzard’s subscription model proves that charging people $15 is a perfectly viable price point for a credit card transaction.  Not a microtransaction.

But when companies do try to sell something below that threshold, it is usually accomplished by having the customer buy a chunk of a restricted currency, like SOE’s Station Cash or Nexon‘s Nexon Cash, in increments that are financially viable for a credit card transaction.  For SOE, the minimum you can buy is $5.00 here in the US, so you can guess what the economically viable threshold is in the eyes of SOE.

And speaking of SOE, the problem with what they are doing is that they are selling stuff for way too much money.  When almost half (7 out of 16 in EQ2) of the items you are selling are at or above that financially viable threshold, you are (in my opinion) doing it wrong.  You have priced things to a point where people will now think twice before they buy.

Furthermore, SOE made the same mistake here they have made with experience potions in the past in that they last too long.

Too long?

Okay, maybe it is just me, but I almost never use my potions because they last for an hour and it is not often that I will be actually killing things (or crafting) for an hour straight.  And the potions they are selling last for 2-4 hours.  And they don’t persist through death.  No Sale!

If I were SOE, I would make the potions last for 30 minutes tops and charge no more than 25 units of Station Cash for them.  You want to make this sort of thing a no-brainer to consume, not have your customer have to debate on both purchase and usage.

And I don’t even want to get started on the armor sets.  66% of the monthly fee so you can dress like a NPC?

As it stands, I’m not buying any of it.

Comments»

1. Gaff - December 12, 2008

Yea!

I wasn’t able to use up my XP pots prior to 70, and there is little reason to use the boost after that as the quests are mostly solo in nature.

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2. Graktar - December 12, 2008

So, buying appearance armor = RMT.
Paying to change your appearance /= RMT?

The only difference between the two is that with the first you can swap it out if you choose, and the second you cannot.

Definitely not a ‘microtransaction’ though. We’re in a recession here, inflation is nowhere near so bad that $15 has become an insignificant cost!

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3. Wilhelm2451 - December 12, 2008

I think the ability to swap versus being stuck with it and having a 30 day lockout makes it a big enough difference. When you buy that character customization, you’ve got what you’ve got unless you pony up again.

Or, let me allow for consistency. Are you saying changing your avatar in EVE Online or changing your name in EverQuest is RMT as well?

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4. Eric - December 14, 2008

You’re sounding very casual here :).

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5. Dracon - December 14, 2008

Mmmm…. Throughout these discussions there is no explanation for what RMT stands for. I guess it is Real Money Transaction? Maybe Google has the answers…. I am not stupid, just uninformed, and I ask questions that everyone else knows the answers to.

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6. Wilhelm2451 - December 14, 2008

RMT is Real Money Transaction, a poor name since, technically, that applies to just about anything we buy. If I go to 7-11 and buy a Slurpee, that is a real money transaction, no? (Confused by the fact that Slurpee cups had codes on them for Nexon Cash at one point!)

Generally though, it is used to denote the purchase of in-game items with real money.

On another post, Thoreau, back from the grave, insisted that RMT was exclusively player-to-player, but I have never seen such a definition and one guy in a comment thread has even less weight than one guy with a blog in this world.

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7. Tesh - December 15, 2008

I’ve written several articles on the benefits microtransactions and dual currency models have for a company and for the players. There is an unfortunate stigma borne of ignorance and prejudice against such in the Western markets, but with the economy at large in the crapper, and big subscription games breaking on the shores of Northrend, any new MMO will need to embrace a new business model or die.

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8. Vince - December 16, 2008

The article fails because it does not define it’s terms. If you are going to say something is not something else, define clearly what you are defining.

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9. Wilhelm2451 - December 16, 2008

Your comment fails because it assumes there is some sort of “pass/fail” criteria to opinions. Plus, you are wrong.

I will agree that RMT is ill-defined in general and I could not find a good definition. I did try, by analogy, to prove that character customization is akin to things people DO NOT consider RMT.

I also provided the link to a definition on micropayments/ microtransactions. I do not think I have to reinvent the wheel every time I express an opinion, a link should suffice.

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10. bluelinebasher - December 16, 2008

As I understand it:
RMT = Paying your real money for online plats, ISK, gold coins, rupees, etc.
Microtransaction = Xbox Live points, Nintendo credits, or PSO ducats or whatever they call em. You buy in bulk and spend however you want for in-game or whatever. Point is you are buying bulk credits with your transaction as opposed to buying micro items that cost 80 points/credits/ducats that would not make sense for the seller to run your credit card for.

Sounds like this thing is a customer service fee item, like a character move. Is there a catchy word for those yet?

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11. Graktar - December 17, 2008

The definition of what is and is not RMT has gotten a little sketchy. Originally it was clearly spending real money to get an in-game advantage. You spent real dollars to buy gold, then spent that gold to get a spiffy sword that did tons of damage.

Then you got microtransaction games where you could spend real dollars on in-game advantages, or just to customize your character with new outfits, hair, whatever. That was also clearly RMT, though the ‘advantage’ aspect of it was lessened, and it was officially sanctioned instead of a black market.

Now we have companies charging real money for appearance changes. It’s blurring the line again, this time between “customer service” and RMT. I feel it is more RMT than customer service, because they’re charging money for something that could be done freely in game — case in point, you can completely change your appearance in City of Heroes for no real dollar cost. Granted you can’t change your sex or name, but you can change everything else.

I do think name changes and server moves are more of a customer service issue. Charging for name changes is more a result of people abusing free name change systems. Because a name is tied to your reputation, allowing free name changes or server moves would result in a loss of consequences for bad behavior. The real dollar cost is more a penalty to discourage abuse of the system than an attempt to make money.

Appearance change doesn’t matter for this. They could allow the WoW barber to change all the same things the paid character customization allows (except name change) and it wouldn’t have any notable negative impact on the game, save the annoyance of some people swapping genders all the time.

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12. Making microtransactions more socially acceptable | reroller - March 21, 2009

[...] folks. It should be obvious that there are other ways to implement micropayments properly, without pissing off the entire gaming community at large. It doesn’t all need to be about character customization and advancement. It should be [...]

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13. nickbouton.com » Making microtransactions more socially acceptable - March 21, 2009

[...] folks. It should be obvious that there are other ways to implement micropayments properly, without pissing off the entire gaming community at large. It doesn’t all need to be about character customization and advancement. It should be [...]

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14. Making microtransactions more socially acceptable | It burns when I PVP! | MMORPGs - September 28, 2009

[...] folks. It should be obvious that there are other ways to implement micropayments properly, without pissing off the entire gaming community at large. It doesn’t all need to be about character customization and advancement. It should be [...]

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