Who Drives Cash Shop Content…

I was somewhat bemused at SOE introducing wings as a flying mount in EverQuest II.

I have such a long history of bemusement with SOE on that front.  I have literally been complaining since the Desert of Flames expansion… the very first expansion… introduced lying carpets as a mount.  I have posts more than five years old on the subject at this point.

So many things wrong with this picture...

And while the flying carpets still bug me a bit, I have gotten over them for the most part.  Though the reason I have gotten over them is because much worse has come since.

The setup to a "frog in a blender" joke

And while ugly mounts pre-date the Station Cash store, the whole drive of mount mania… mounts with stats, hideously ugly mounts, hovering mounts, flying mounts, leaping mounts, gliding mounts, and now wings as mounts… seems to have been accelerating ever since the store went live.

As Raph Koster pointed out in his recent post on the free to play model, the ongoing process of buying decisions by the free to play players acts as a safety valve to keep the company from doing anything the comes across as too greedy.

The flip side though is that the cash shop, being an essential part of the revenue model, will have a sales quota to meet because people won’t buy your RMT currency if they cannot buy anything cool with it.  You need a plan for every month, every quarter, and every year that lays out your sales goals and how you plan to get there.

It is nice if you can sell consumables, things that boost experience or faction gain.  But if you’ve already drastically softened the leveling curve and handed out dozens of experience boost potions as veteran rewards in you game (I have even more unused potions sitting around now that all my characters are six year vets) that might not be enough.  I am sure SOE sells some of those potions (though they seem a bit pricey for a consumable), but I am far more likely to buy a deed accelerator in LOTRO since deed are still grind-tastic and I do not have a pile of them already.

An expansion is nice to have, though I bet the cash shop only gets partial credit on those sales.

You can always juice things up a bit by having a sale on your RMT currency.  The thought of everything in the store essentially being half off will get some people to buy, but only if there is something they want in the first place.

And on the flip side, you can always put things on the store on sale as well.  We all read that splash screen that comes up with the latest sale items in detail every time we log in, right?  Okay, maybe not.  And most people won’t buy something they didn’t already want even if it goes on deep discount.

All of which has to lead the cash shop planners to focus on what people have bought in the past.  What was a success before?  Just looking around on the Freeport server, I am going to have to say that mounts have sold well in the past.

And if mounts were a success in the past, that is a big incentive to make more.  And while there are no doubt people out there who will buy any new mount just to collect them all… and I speak as somebody whose main in WoW has 87 mounts… a lot more people will buy in if the latest mount is cooler than, or at least different from, anything that has gone before.

And so, as tough as it is for me to admit, wings on your character as a flying mount do seem cooler than just a flying mount.  I am sure that sales will be brisk, and not just with people who name their characters something like “Stabzudead.”

So that will cover some part of sales quota.  But eventually sales will slow and, to repeat that success, SOE will have to top the whole wings thing.  And so the chain of events that lead us to wings goes on, and something new and more outrageous will likely replace it.

And so it is.  Due to its success, we will likely see something in World of Tanks that will top the Type 59.  And, if they sell well, I am sure that LOTRO will offer us more gear with stats.

Raph Koster was certainly correct in the summary at the end of his post in saying, “Free to play is not evil, it’s just different.”

It is just different, and one of the differences is who and what matters when a cash shop is part of the plan.  If goofy stuff sells in your game, be prepared to see a lot more of it.

Meanwhile, I wonder what will come after those wings in the Station Cash store.

9 thoughts on “Who Drives Cash Shop Content…

  1. bhagpuss

    I love goofy stuff so it’s all good with me.

    I find the trains of weird pets following people around and the bizarre things people are sitting on enormously amusing. Ditto the astonishing way some characters are dressed. I take a lot of screenshots and even video of other people overdressing and acting out. I consider it content.

    I don’t think I’ve ever bought a cosmetic item in the Cash Shop. I’ve won plenty on the free LON cards, but most remain unclaimed. Still,most my characters a gnomish flying disc or the Dire Bear that came free with one of the expansions or one of the tradeskill quest horses, or a lava cow, or a flying carpet (I hated them too but I got over it) or a cloud or a Dire Wolf, with a duck and or frost puppy a or a frost kitten or a bixiebopper or a cowasaur or a tiny-giant-in-a-diaper running along behind them and the pixie-on-a-string on their shoulder. All of that and a gazillion more come free in-game.

    EQ2 has free mounts, vanity pets and insanely odd clothing options aplenty, some of which are more peculiar than anything in the cash shop. I’m not at all sure that the SC store, let alone F2P has made that much difference to the Krazy Klown Karnival vibe EQ2 already had going.

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  2. bhagpuss

    I hacked that list around so much it lost shape and I left out the verb at the start of the third sentence in Para 2 (it was “ride”, obviously). If there was an edit button I’d redo it but I think you’ll get the gist.

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  3. potshot

    Well, recurring revenue is indeed the name of the game whether its a cash shop or subscription model.

    I think SOE and others are probably missing the boat a bit. Certainly folks do and have bought new, seasonal, unique or limited availability mounts in the past, but lets face it, the vast majority of these people probably fall into the general category of “collector.”

    And yes, a collector could include true collectors, the dread “completionist” and the the Bartle “Achiever” (assuming there is an achievement for obtaining X mounts as in WoW).

    But seriously are you going to build a game solely around something that is the pixel equivalent to an episode of Hoarders?

    Consumables are indeed the way to go, but I think you need to look to DDO’s approach. Content is by far the most consumed commodity and likely that which more people will actually pay for.

    XP pots and what not only are a salve for what in F2P hindsight is now a bit of a design error– a fully accessible world. LotRO of course lives in the halflight with an open world, but content (quests) for those zones locked behind a pay wall.

    Had the game been designed from the ground up as F2P, I’d expect more toll bridges along the way to open up new areas to explore and adventure in. As it is, I think in many ways they had to leave the world open since the big draw for LotRO is middle earth itself.

    If zone by zone or mission by mission content were available at reasonable prices (and they were only character specific, yes with alternative non-cash ways to access it), I think you’d find that more players would responds than the sparkle pony crowd.

    And as an added bonus, you have revenue that is directly rewarding true content creation which just might result in more content creation, as a faster rate with higher quality too.

    A man can dream, can’t he?

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Potshot – I had planned to dive into the whole “I wish DDO was a game I liked because the content/module model seems interesting” but thought that would probably just get me meandering about the farm even more so.

    Plus DDO sells all sorts of equipment, so there isn’t purity there, if it was purity I was actually seeking.

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  5. Telwyn

    I’m only in EQ2 because of the F2P launch ( the first one ) so I can’t comment on what it was like on sub servers before. The world is interesting but it does strike me as ‘high fantasy’, i.e. a real mishmash of the weird and wonderful. I saw my first squirrel mount only this evening!

    I actually found the content locks in Turbine games a problem. I know the money has to come from somewhere but I went from a sub in Europe DDO to free to play in the global US hosted service and realised the grind was just nasty – so few instances are available to F2P players. Although I have a lifetime account in LoTRO so am a VIP I find the intrusive nature of the store a real turn-off as well. I’m a VIP after all I shouldn’t need to see the store button everywhere – plus those ghastly sales emails they send through every week!

    I guess I prefer the all in one monthly fee model in the end.

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