The big news so far this week… at least at the point when I started writing this post… seems to be the announcement about WildStar’s business model.
WildStar is going for the classic monthly fee subscription model, which means they had better have something new and different to offer. Given what I have seen so far, I hope their secret weapon is still under wraps, because the MMO market is pretty harsh these days. The masses have spoken, and they do not like monthly subscriptions and won’t tolerate them without good reason.
And Carbine, WildStar’s developer, is working for NCSOFT (Didn’t they used to write it NCsoft?), which means the gun will be to their head from day one to make this work and work well. NCSOFT’s record of closing down games indicates that they either have no compunction about shutting them down or they have no clue about what works for MMOs and end up backing a lot of losers. Neither paints a happy picture.
So, yea, no pressure there Carbine. Hope you have your shit well and truly together.
The alleged mitigating factor in the WildStar plan appears to be a PLEX-like item which they are calling CREDD. As they put it on their site, after you buy the box and use up your “30 days with purchase” time, you have two options:
Option 1: Monthly subscription
Option 2: C.R.E.D.D.
So, the buzz after that has been people sorting themselves out into the love/hate sides of the subscription model, attempting to decipher exactly how this is “hybrid,” and generating inapt parallels to EVE Online and its PLEX scheme.
You all remember PLEX right?
PLEX has been around for about four years at this point. It has added to the usual EVE drama. You buy PLEX from CCP and get it as an item in-game, which you can then sell to other people for the in-game currency, ISK. You do this if you really need some ISK. If you buy PLEX, you can consume it for 30 days of game time or use it for various account services.
PLEX works in EVE.
It works for various reasons, the most important of which is that everybody who plays EVE with any level of seriousness has to be part of the in-game player economy. EVE is not World of Warcraft where you can say, “screw the auction house” and go run through the quest chains that lead you through the game and which keep your level of equipment… well… I hate to say “competitive” in a game like WoW… but you can get the basic job done, the bar being set low and the equipment being handed out readily making keeping you sufficiently over powered.
There is no escaping the economy in EVE. You need it for your ship, for your fittings, for your implants, for your skills. And the fact that ships and fittings and implants… and if you screw up, even skills… are constantly being lost to player action means that you keep going back. You keep a few ships fit and ready to go. You buy better fittings. You change up fits that just are not working. You spend a lot of ISK.
Or maybe not a lot. If you are new, losing a frigate seems expensive. Later on you’ll throw frigates away and laugh… if you last long enough in the game.
But another aspect of EVE that makes PLEX work is that the in-game currency isn’t an “I win” button. Sure, it helps. But if you can only afford to fly frigates, you can still find something to do. And if a battleship lumbers up to you, you can run away easily. Or, even better, you can tackle him, orbiting faster than his guns can track, and call in some friends to kill him. Or kill him yourself and laugh, if you are skilled enough.
Look at Gevlon. He has, through an admirable level of persistence, become quite wealthy in EVE Online. He has made billions of ISK. But has he “won” EVE? Was all that ISK able to save TEST? Is he powerful in-game in relation to his wealth?
I would say no.
Anyway, all of that is old news and has been discussed and argued over for ages at this point. The take away from that is that WildStar does not sound like EVE, so the success of PLEX is not, to my mind, a reliable predictor of success when it comes to CREDD. Feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong. I am no expert on WildStar. But the two do not feel parallel.
No, WildStar’s CREDD seems like it might be closer to SOE’s Krono.
Krono has been out for almost a year now and it sounds a lot like PLEX and CREDD.
You buy it from SOE for real money and can turn around and sell it in-game to other players for in-game currency. The last I checked it was available in EverQuest and EverQuest II. While PLEX sounded like a viable plan in EVE from day one, I was a bit dubious about Krono. (I was dubious about WoW supporting such a thing in theory as well. Certainly the Kitten economy did not take the world by storm.) It seems like a decent idea. It ought to work. But it depends so much on the in-game economy, which can vary greatly from server to server, and which does not have anywhere near the buy-in you get in EVE Online.
I checked into the market price for Krono a few times early on, but haven’t heard much about it since. So it isn’t clear to me if Krono has been a big win, a modest success, or is another one for the list of SOE science experiments that will never be spoken of again. Did it get any mention at SOE Live?
The one ace in the whole that Krono had was the price.
A single Krono is $17.99, or two dollars cheaper than a month of SOE All Access, which starts at $19.99. I looked into this pricing scheme in a post a while back. It seemed like the one thing that might guarantee some Krono sales, since Krono can extended you SOE All Access plan by 30 days, just like it does a single game plan, and there are some price points where Krono wins for that.
Anyway, Krono seems like a much closer parallel to WildStar’s CREDD, so if I knew that Krono was a success, I think I would have more confidence in CREDD.
Of course, there isn’t a perfect parallel between any SOE game and WildStar.
Wildstar will be shiny and new, will be monthly subscription based, will have its own take on things, will presumably be different enough to stand out, and so on. Meanwhile, SOE games are all free to play at this point and the games closest to Wildstar in model are pretty old at this point, with EverQuest standing at 14 years of age and EverQuest II at nearly 9.
On the other hand, some of the differences work in Krono’s favor. The fact that some of the SOE games are older and have mature economies means that there are players out there with the cash in hand to buy Krono at a price that makes it worth acquiring Krono from SOE. That might be an early days weak spot for WildStar. Will its economy have evolved and produced enough wealth to make selling CREDD a viable option just 30 days after launch? And if it has, if there is enough money in the market so quickly, is that really a good thing, or a sign that inflation will grip the economy?
That is a whole pile of questions and speculation without much in the way of answers. Such is my usual method I suppose.
What do you think? Is it going to work?
And, in another parallel, I do wonder where Krono fits into the EverQuest Next scheme.