…all microtransactions that sell game content also destroy equity.
-Ramin Shokrizade, in his The Barrier to Big post
Free to play, revenue models, and why some MMOs succeed while others fail remain hot topics in the MMO blogesphere, with a myriad of different opinions represented.
One recent thread has been the impact on MMOs of players being able to buy items that would otherwise be earned through game play. The argument was made at one point that, since you cannot “win” an MMO, that how other players acquire their gear and the like has no impact on you.
Mr. Shokrizade’s reply to that is quite succinct.
What if I spent three months earning the first horse in a game, and then a few days later I found out that 500 other players now had horses. But this was not due to a bug per se, this was because the game host decided that horses were cool and that players would pay real money for them. Again I describe this in Mona Lisa. Now horses are not cool anymore, and my equity has been destroyed. I’m upset! More importantly, I have now lost confidence in the game world and it’s hosts because I know they will not protect my efforts
It is not about winning. Winning, which exactly nobody was arguing in favor of, is just a straw man. It is about the value associated with your play and the developer not making you feel like your efforts were for nothing.
It is, in fact, about equity. Aradune‘s famous flaming sword in EverQuest would have been less cool if we all could have had one for a few bucks.
And, frankly, cool is a serious factor in an avidly social game.
This is part of the reason people get worked up about free-to-play, when the allegedly “cool” items are in the cash shop.
Anyway, despite a few obvious errors (as Edward Castronova will tell you, in detail, that EverQuest quite clearly had an economy before WoW… and WoW did not come out in 2003), and a rather specific use of the word “content” (something else people have argued about… this is not SynCaine’s usage… or maybe it is), it is a decent, if short, article that briefly examines why two games were successful… WoW and EVE Online (clearly a different definition than Strauss Zelnick used)… while other games failed to get there after those two blazed the trail.
Now who is going to argue that they love it when MMOs trivialize their efforts?
I am sure somebody will.
Or they will argue that you shouldn’t care about equity at all.
Bonus points for saying “it’s just a game.”