Daily Archives: September 3, 2012

Some Insight on Free to Play

The September issue of Game Developer Magazine dropped into my mail box this past week.

This month there was a column by David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox (which created Triple Town and Realm of the Mad God) titled “Free-to-Play Pitfalls.”

Game Developer Magazine does not print their articles online and I am sure would object strenuously to my reprinting it wholesale, but I though just a repost of the paragraph headings would be instructive.  They were:

  • Don’t Assume Other Games are Profitable
  • Don’t Design Yourself Into a Corner
  • Don’t Expect Recognition for Your Restraint
  • Don’t Expect Miracles
  • The List Goes On…

While he was writing about Triple Town, which fits into the social gaming bucket, a lot of what he wrote clearly hits the mark even when looking at the MMO world.

I thought it was interesting that, in the last section, one of the mistakes he pointed at was emphasizing aesthetic (cosmetic) items rather than consumables.  That makes me think of EverQuest II and their apparent cosmetic mount based economy as well as League of Legends, which sells only cosmetic champions and grind reducing buffs.  People always point at the former, but I wonder how much of the money they make is really from the latter.

The end of the article points to a video of a presentation he did at GDC which gets down into the nitty gritty of money.  You can find the video here, and it has bookmarks so you can skip right to the “But does RotMG Make $$$” section if you like.

In the video he mentions his own blog, which I ran off to find.  Titled Game Tycoon, it has more insight into the free to play scene.

And while the focus is more on independent development, the basics certainly apply to the larger budget MMO sphere, especially given the impending demise of City of Heroes and SWTORs F2P plans, which they aren’t sure will even be viable.

Addendum: And the CEO of Wargaming.net just weighed in on free to play and how publishers do not understand it, which seems to fit with the theme here.

Blizzard – Taken Over by The System

The ongoing tale of trying to get Blizzard to not charge my credit card at the end of my annual pass commitment.  The post that sets the situation is here.

I opened a support ticket to see what Blizzard would say on the subject.  After setting up the situation, I asked what I thought was a very specific question:

I do not wish to be billed further after the one year commitment.  How do I ensure that does not happen?

The first response was of the classic “we didn’t bother to read your question” variety.

We cannot remove a credit card from an annual pass subscription until the subscription expires. Once this is done, you can either remove the card yourself or contact us to do so.

That response didn’t even come with a name attached, so I assume it was a keyword generated response.

I responded to that and started getting responses with a series of excuses about why Blizzard could not, at this time, honor my request to not charge my credit card in the future without stripping me of all benefits (i.e. my copy of Diablo III) for which I had already paid.

It appears that an evil system is controlling Blizzard.  This system was referenced several times.  The system would not allow this.  The system would cancel my benefits.  My favorite was this bit of circular logic:

The way the system checks to mnake sure you are fullfilling the contract is to check to see if you have a credit card on the account, If the card is removed the system will think you defaulted and remove the benefits, this is why the card needs to stay on the account.

If I don’t eat my meant I cannot have any pudding, so if I want pudding I clearly need to eat my meat.

Except, of course, I was not asking to remove my credit card, I was asking Blizzard to stop charging it.  That is not even a subtle difference to my mind.  However, the system sees these things as one and the same.

It is the system’s fault.

Another agent said that they were aware of this issue with the system.  But hey, it’s the system.  I was even offered advice on working around the system.

Another option is you can change to a prepaid credit card that has at least $1 on it and leave that on the account.

I wonder if that one came from the list of approved responses.

I realize that the person in support is limited in their options, but the so-called “system” is not some external entity outside of Blizzard’s control.  The system is Blizzard behaving exactly the way Blizzard wants to behave.  If Blizzard wanted it to behave differently, Blizzard would fix it.

This morning I got the final response from Blizzard support that denied that Blizzard was doing anything that could be construed as refusing a request to stop billing my credit card, and then refused to stop billing my credit card unless I was willing to forfeit the benefits for which I already paid.  Again, it was the system.

The response closed with a note that there were no more answers to be had from support, so go away.  If I had any further questions about my annual pass commitment… and the tone of this final message was one of me breaking my obligations, as though I had somehow not already paid them the money back in April… I could take it up with somebody at the cryptic email address custodianofrecords@blizzard.com .

In the end, I am not one bit better off after having dealt with Blizzard support, and yet I am more annoyed with Blizzard as a company.