Daily Archives: August 2, 2012

EverQuest II Throws in With Random Lockbox Schemes

Step Right Up!

We are adding a feature where you can play instanced mini-games to win random loot in game!  You purchase a ticket that gives you access to a mini-game instance.  Should you beat the simple, fun game, you receive a random reward from a chest, or opt for tokens you can spend on items available on a merchant.  We will be selling the tickets for Station Cash in the marketplace.

As noted over at The EQ2 Wire, there is a new cash shop item in the EQII August Update Planes posted by Holly “Windstalker” Longdale.  That is the quote at the top of the page.

While still pretty vague in the “how much” and “what do I get” departments, it looks like SOE is stepping into new territory in order to hustle Station Cash.  New for them at least, this is old hat elsewhere.

Other games have been criticized for selling random prize boxes.  Syp did a post over at Massively called The Truth About Lockboxes, which includes directly calling them gambling, which has been the literal truth in some cases.

SOE looks like they are going to try to skirt the gambling charge by following the carnival game example.

As I recall, in my home state, the elements of gambling of gambling are:

  • Consideration – You have to pay something in order to participate
  • Prize – You get something of value if you win
  • Chance – There is an element of luck which may keep you from getting a prize

Rules in your jurisdiction may vary.

Carnival games do not qualify by being about skill and not chance.  You need just the right throw to get that hoop over the stuffed dog and the base on which he rests.  And lockboxes like the ones Star Trek Online hawks so vigorously do not count in my state either, since you always get a prize.  But the random nature of the boxes trips over the rules in other places.

In a carnival game, you know what the prize is in advance, so if you have the skill, there is no chance.

SOE is also trying to introduce some skill with the mini game.  We shall see how easy or fun the games really are.

But SOE is still offering up the random prize box, which might make the whole skill aspect moot.  The hinging factor might be that they added in the option to simply take tokens which you can spend.  You can opt out of the random factor.

Will this avoid a gambling charge in all jurisdictions?

We shall see.

Will this take “pay to win” and make it “gamble to win?”

I can hardly wait to see what the prizes will be.

I guess if your cash shop is overly dependent on certain items… like mounts or heavily discounted Gold subscriptions… you have to find a way to branch out.  And these sort of random box schemes have been a gold mine in other games.  They might even be why STO is Not Dying.

I’ve said it before and I am sure I will say it again.  I like that there we are entering an era of varied subscription options.  The box price and monthly fee add up to a big barrier to entry for many.

On the other hand, I am not really happy about what some games become when they go free to play.  And if you look at the MMOs I am actually playing lately… Rift, EVE, and a bit of WoW… you will see the common thread is that they are classic subscription model games.  I am not sure if that is an accident or not.  Like others, I seem to like my subscription.

How about you?  Do you like random lockboxes?

And how soon after conversion will they show up in SWTOR?

Star Trek Online “Not Dying,” Nixon “Not a Crook”

Shiva H. Christ on a crutch, when will people learn?  How can you get so far and business and not know how this works… or at least not be working for EA?

Here is the process, step by step.

A corporate representative gives an interview in which they say something that seems like a “good thing.”

In this case we have Dan Stahl of Perfect World Entertainment who went to the Star Trek Online forums to try and spread some joy.  And so he wrote… which implies he thought about it in advance… the following:

Cryptic was sold because it was a profitable business and worth at least $50 million to Perfect WorldSTO is not dying by any means and continues to grow stronger. Just last month we took over as the top performing game for Perfect World in North America.

He probably wrote a lot more than that, but this is what got quoted in the press, so is all most of us are ever going to see.

His message was that STO was not only a valuable asset to Perfect World, it was their best performing game.  Great stuff!  The game lives!  Fans rejoice!

Then, of course, the gaming press gets wind of it.  I saw this reported over at Massively with the above quote.  And what is the headline of that article?

Cryptic producer: Star Trek Online ‘not dying by any means’

Hrmm… well, that does kind of emphasize the negative perception, doesn’t it?

But negative headlines draw in page views.  Nobody buys a paper when the headline is “Nothing Bad Happened.”  Likewise, a headline like “STO Worth $50 Million” or “STO is Perfect World’s Top Performer” do not grab attention… at least not like that “dying” quote does.

“Not dying by any means” smells of desperation.

You want to go take a look because there is something going on.  The headline is the smoke and you just have to see the fire.  After all, if he is denying the game is dying, then clearly somebody thinks it is on its last legs.  Time to go see how the company is rationalizing things.

And if we follow the link and go read the article, we will see the “not dying” quote in context.  But for most people, unless you have some investment in the positive side of the story… in this case, you play STO and want it to survive… the headline has already tainted your point of view.

You are very likely to come away from that article still thinking that STO is dying despite the value assigned to it and its position in Perfect World’s stable of games.  He might be trying to put a brave face on for his dying game.  And, frankly, maybe Perfect World is about to go down the tubes if a dying game is their top performer.

Now, you may argue that you are smarter than that.  But that is likely because you are already involved with the topic being discussed.  If something new comes up, the headline is very likely to set your perception.

Merrie Spaeth, a former White House director of media relations calls this “The Bimbo Moment.”  This is when you make a statement in the negative that becomes a headline and which reinforces the exact perception you meant to deflect.  One of the most famous is probably Nixon saying, “I am not a crook.”  Spaeth, being a staunch conservative, isn’t likely to name something negative after our 36th president.

So, instead, it was named for… well, I’ll just quote her site:

…memorializing the protest of a young lady whose tryst with a well-known evangelist some years ago made news around the world. Her comment, “I Am Not a Bimbo,” became the headline in scores of newspapers and made the cover of People Magazine in 1987.

I actually remember that Jessica Hahn quote.

And she just kinda ran with it…

Merrie Spaeth and her staff actually put out a monthly Bimbo Memo newsletter that points out ways in which quotes are taken, often out of context, and become headlines that simply reinforce the negative view the person saying them was trying to avoid.

If you deal with the public, you should probably read this.  It is both amusing and informative, even if it does slant to the right at times. (Merrie Spaeth does hate the Occupy movement to an almost unseemly degree.)

Anyway, you can sign up for the newsletter here (or get the somewhat less reliable RSS feed), or go through some of the past annual winners on the archive page.

In the mean time, live and learn.  Star Trek Online is THRIVING!

That is what you meant to say, right Dan?