Tag Archives: PLEX

Does PLEX Work Anywhere Besides EVE Online?

CCP introduced PLEX, the Pilot License EXtension item that could be bought for real world cash and sold on the in-game market of EVE Online or consumed to extended your EVE subscription by 30 days a little over five years ago.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

It was very much an experimental move by CCP who proceeded with caution.  As you can see from the five year old screen shot above, when introduced, PLEX was stuck in the station in which you claimed it.  CCP didn’t want it becoming a loss mail item on day one.  Later, when it became clear that players were going to accept PLEX as a thing, CCP loosened up its restrictions on PLEX… and hilarity ensued, with the first major loss being 74 PLEX in a Kestrel.

PLEX has had quite an impact on EVE Online. It has been a major tool in the war against illicit RMT for the in-game currency, ISK, by giving players a legitimate way to effectively buy ISK.

It has become a major indicator of the health of the in-game market.  I think people mostly track Catalyst hulls, tritanium, and PLEX these days. (just kidding)

It has been opened up so that you can use it to enable other services or currencies.  You can use PLEX to enable the training queue for a second character on your account or convert it to Aurum to buy clothes at the New Eden Exchange. (Need more/better hats!)

It has allowed some players to play for “free,” where “free” means exchanging time for ISK and then ISK for PLEX. (If you think anybody is actually playing for free, please go read up on the time value of money.)

Through the simple math conversion (Real World Money to PLEX, PLEX to ISK) it has given people a dubious way to assign real world value to losses sustained in EVE Online, so now every huge battle report that makes the headlines at the BBC must include an obligatory dollar amount which gives people the false impression that you buy ships in the game for real world money or some similar nonsense.

(I am kind of disappointed that Edward Castronova, who spent so much time writing about the EverQuest economy, never spent much time writing about EVE Online where things have gotten at least a little closer to his virtual economy vision.)

And, of course, PLEX loss is a staple of loss mail porn as people unwittingly, to be charitable, try to transport billions of ISK in PLEX in ships that cost a million ISK or less.  Of course, every PLEX destroyed during such a loss is a win for CCP as that is a promise for 30 days of game time they do no longer have to honor.

I think we can safely declare PLEX a success.  Certainly, CCP has not suffered from having it, and the game has continued to grow since its introduction.

Success, of course, attracts imitation.  Since then a number of PLEX-like items have popped up in other MMOs.  We have:

  • KronoEverQuest & EverQuest I and maybe other titles.
  • CREDDWildStar
  • GRACEAnarchy Online
  • DUELDarkfall
  • REX – Rift
  • APEX – ArcheAge

Did I miss any?

The thing is, I have no real sens of how well the various PLEX-like currencies have worked in these other games which, even if they have a comparable player base to EVE Online… and you would need a lot of smoke and mirrors to make Darkfall or Anarchy Online appear to have a tenth of the subscriptions… they do not have the single, unified market of EVE, being chopped up into distinct servers, each with their own economy.

I have been peeking at the Krono market as I have been playing EverQuest II lately.  There seem to be about two dozen on the market at any given time, with the low end hovering around 3,000 platinum coins for one Krono.

I currently have 300 platinum coins, and feel quite well off for having that much.  But I am also playing a level 70 character and remember the days when earning your first platinum coin was a big deal and having 300 gold coins made me feel quite well off.

At 3,000 plat, the market seems somewhat static.  The number of Krono for sale does not fluctuate much from day to day, so I have to wonder how much traffic there really is. (Though, granted, the trade channel is where you go if you want to sell something RIGHT NOW, but it is also so spammy that I tend to keep it off.)  And I am on the Freeport server, which is one of the high population servers, somewhere behind Antonia Bayle, where all the cool kids used to hang out, and Splitpaw in activity, so what I see on my server might not reflect what is happening on other servers.

But my gut is that Krono hasn’t had the impact on Norrath that PLEX has had on New Eden.  And with WildStar having problems keeping people subscribed, I am not sure there is a comparable case to EVE Online when it comes to PLEX… yet.

Because suddenly World of Warcraft hove onto the scene.  Last week Baishok put up a post about things coming to Azeroth in the new year which included this entry half way down the post, between garrison improvements and heirloom storage, under the innocuous heading of “New Ways to Play.”

We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold. Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system. A few other online games offer a similar option, and players have suggested that they’d be interested in seeing something along those lines in WoW. We agree it could be a good fit for the game, and we look forward to any feedback you have as we continue to look into this feature.

Everybody paying attention immediately saw this for what it was, PLEX comes to World of Warcraft.  This was met by various levels of excitement of despair, depending on various rational or irrational points of view and analogies.

Ages ago I wrote a post wondering if the World of Warcraft in-game economy could support something like PLEX in the way that the EVE Online economy has shown in can.

On the plus side, World of Warcraft does have a more vibrant economy than most of its peers.  There is a lot of gold floating around looking for places to be spent, given the number of alliance choppers I have seen running around since they went up for sale.  With the unification of economies across Horde and Alliance on servers, there are no more economic ghettos where one faction hugely outweighs the other.

Finally, here is a game that has an illicit RMT problem of epic proportions and which really needs a legitimate way for people to buy gold since it has become crystal clear over the years that people are going to buy gold no matter how many horror stories you tell them about account hacking and credit card fraud.

Plus, once you’re selling level 90 characters, what other taboo is there left to transgress?

On the down side, even with economies unified on servers, and across servers when it comes to the co-joined, merged in all but name servers, there are still a hundred or more individual economies to look at.  Servers that had 8 hour queues when Warlords of Draenor dropped might fare differently than servers that never even got to a medium population load on opening night.

And then there is Blizzard’s tentative nature.  World of Warcraft is the goose that lays golden eggs, quarter after quarter, and they are justifiably nervous about screwing that up.  So, even after having had five years to look at how PLEX has worked out in EVE Online, two years to observe Krono over at SOE, and having run their own “cash to item to gold” experiment with the guardian cub three years back, Blizzard is still “exploring the possibility” of the whole idea.

I know I mock SOE from time to time for jumping into ideas with both feet before they have thought things through… and then being forced to adapt and change in front of a live studio audience.  But here we are at the other end of the spectrum, where Blizz probably has all the data they are ever really going to get and they are out there being coy about the whole thing.

Yes, this could just be a trial balloon to see if the people who actually pay attention to these things explode at the idea.  And yes, the whole real money auction house plan in Diablo III, which worked out so badly in the end, does loom over this, a point many people in the forum thread are quick to compare this to.  However, I would argue that the RMAH in Diablo III, which allowed people to buy in-game gear directly for real world money and, more importantly I think, allowed people to cash out and walk away with real money profits, was a different and beast altogether and lead to problems people were calling out during beta.  Furthermore, even the in-game gold auction house was a serious problem, leaving real money aside,  Blizzard didn’t just close of the RMAH, they closed down both sides because both sides were killing the game.  The auction house as a whole was the problem, not just the real money aspect.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has existed with an auction house for a decade at this point.

None of which gets around to answering the question in the title.  I really have no concrete feel for how something like PLEX does affect a game aside from EVE, which remains unique in many ways in the MMORPG ecosystem.

I don’t think a PLEX-like item is a done deal for WoW either.  Blizzard is very cautious about its main source of revenue and, as we saw over the last year, would rather sit and do nothing than do something that might go wrong.  Add in the stink left over from Diablo III and my gut says it is only even odds that Blizzard will adopt something like this in 2015.  We certainly won’t see it until the summer if they do.  But that timing might make it a good hedge against another content drought.  People might stay subscribed longer if they could just pay for their subscription out of the giant pile of gold they have accumulated in their garrison.

Do you think PLEX-like items in other games are working out?  Do you think something like that will work in WoW?

Others on the idea of a PLEX-like item in WoW:

The PLEX Idea Continues to Catch On as Darkfall Introduces DUEL

We have another entry in the PLEX-like game item arena, this time for DarkfallAventurine has been busy revamping Darkfall: Unholy Wars… or Darkfall 2.0 or just Darkfall, since the original isn’t around anymore… with class overhaul, a cash shop, a presence on Steam, and a rework of the UI.

DFLOGO B-450

And with the latest update, Aventurine has joined the ranks of studios offering an in-game item worth subscription time that players can buy and then trade for the in-game currency.  Called DUEL (Or as they style it, D.U.E.L, with three periods because… why?) it can be purchased with Selentine (is that the in-game currency or the cash shop currency?) and then used to wheel and deal with other players.

This scheme has been seen before with SOE’s Krono, Carbine’s CREDD, Funcom’s GRACE, and, of course, CCP’s PLEX, which was introduced into EVE Online back in 2009.

It will be interesting to hear how this works out.

As I have said often in the past, this sort of thing works in EVE Online because the in-game economy is not optional.  If you play EVE, you have to buy in sooner or later or just stop playing.  With the other games on the list… the economy is optional, which has always left me wondering if their economies could support such a scheme.

Unfortunately, I do not play any of the other games offering this sort of item, so I have to go by what other people are saying.  CREDD seems to have been a good investment in WildStar if you got in early.  Some Krono shows up on the market in EverQuest and EverQuest II, but seems to be more active on the Trade channel where it can be used for barter for specific things in addition to being traded for the in-game currency.  And GRACE hasn’t been in Anarchy Online long enough for it to have settled down.

So I am left wondering if Darkfall has the critical mass of players and an active enough economy to make something like DUEL viable.  I was interested to see that, despite its hardcore nature, Aventurine opted to make DUEL unlootable when you kill another player.  No headline comedy.  Of course, CCP started off with PLEX being stuck in stations, so maybe DUEL will change later.

And my final question is, what does DUEL stand for?  That isn’t listed in the FAQ or the forum patch notes.  They are clearly using it as a cute acronym.

PLEX stands for Pilot License EXtension

CREDD is the awkward Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development

GRACE is GRid Access Credit Extension

So what does DUEL stand for?  Darkfall Unholy wars Extended Living?

I think SOE might have been smart to just go with a name rather than an acronym.

And one question past my final question; who will jump on the PLEX-like bandwagon next?

PLEX and its new Daughter, GRACE

I do not pay much attention to Anarchy Online.  Well, I don’t pay it any mind at all, really aside from the occasional industry lore aspects around things like rocky starts (“nearly unplayable” -GameSpy) and longevity. (It turned 13 just about a month back.)

AnarchyOnlineLogo

But some people do still pay attention to it.  There was a post up over at Massively announcing that the game had announced a new aspect to their subscription plan.

Called GRACE, for Grid Access Credit Extension, it is an in-game item that can be traded or sold between players that, once redeemed, turns into 30 days of game subscription time.  There is a FAQ.

Basically, this the AO version of EVE Online PLEX.

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX itself has been live in EVE Online for just about five years at this point, where it has been a success thanks in large part to the in-game economy which is all pervasive in New Eden.  There are a lot of aspects of the game you can avoid, but if you want to play you are going to be part of the economy.

The economy is such a big deal in EVE that I was curious if MMOs with much more optional or fragmented economies could really make something like PLEX work.  World of Warcraft, with its large player base and need for gold sinks, seemed like it might be able to, even with the economy sliced up into three markets on hundreds of different servers.  And Blizzard dipped their toe in the water… sort of… with the kitten economy idea.  But they haven’t done much since.

It was left to Sony Online Entertainment to give the PLEX idea a try in the fantasy realm, introducing Krono to EverQuest II about two years back and then expanding it to their other games.

All About Krono

All About Krono

I really have no idea how Krono has worked out.  They still have Krono as an option, even after the big consolidation of game subscriptions into the new All Access plan back in April, but I have never seen more than a couple on the market when I have bothered to check, and the prices seemed wildly different on different servers, so I cannot tell if they just don’t get used or if they are so popular that they sell out quickly to the platinum barons of Norrath.  And the fact that the game is free to play complicates things.

Moving on, earlier this year we had two new MMOs announcing that they were all-in on monthly subscriptions.  First, The Elder Scrolls Online made its position clear, and then WildStar joined the subscription only parade as well.  But their business model also included something called CREDD, which is how they spell PLEX on Nexus I gather.  Because it was that PLEX model again, an in-game item worth game time, which Carbine seemed to be using as a loophole to claim some sort of free to play status since, technically, after you bought the game, you could find a way to play for free if you earned enough in-game money to buy CREDD.

In Carbine’s world, you can play for free so long as they get paid.  But to their credit, I don’t think they have overplayed their definition of free to play… yet.

My first thought when they announced their business model, including the CREDD bit, was whether or not it had worked for SOE by that point.  That seemed like a reasonable question.  Yes, a shiny new game sporting a subscription-only model with a brand new, out of the box in-game economy might not be the best parallel, what else was I going to compare it too?

The question is still unanswered at this point as far as I am concerned.  The idea works in EVE, but I couldn’t tell you if it was worthwhile elsewhere.

And now Funcom is throwing its hat in the ring with Anarchy Online, which doesn’t help my understanding at all, because I am not even sure what their business model is.  I think it is mostly subscriptions, but they have had this short-term “Free Play” option that shows you ads in game since… what… 2004?  So does that make it free to play?  And how many people even play?  The late Game Data site tracked them as peaking at 60K subscriptions just after launch, dropping down to 10K by 2006, but nothing after that.

So who is out there playing Anarchy Online?  What do you think GRACE going to do for the game, if anything?

Or, for that matter, how about CREDD in WildStar or Krono in SOE games?

Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX

In which I attempt to set a record for insulting the most gaming industry professionals in a single post as I meander towards a conclusion you probably saw coming a mile away.

The business model announcements last week for WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online have gotten a lot of people writing about subscriptions and free to play.  The subscription-only model, declared dead and buried after SWTOR got through with it, is now generally cast as a proposition that is all downside.  Any perceived benefits of subscriptions are illusory, or so says the man who failed to make it work.  So he ought to know I guess.  Just don’t disagree with him, he gets upset.

But then WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online inexplicably threw in with the model.  And the question of the day became “What the hell are they thinking?” as people declared en masse that they would never play a subscription only game.

My completely uninformed opinion is that the TESO team is just hopelessly naive, though in an endearing sort of way.  Down there at the Hunt Valley end of the MTA light rail line, life is good, the air is clean, and the atmosphere just fills you with hope that it is still 2001 and you can launch an MMO that is simply better than the original EverQuest and have a winner.

Cynics… whose outlooks have no doubt been shaped by the industry… have opined that the ZeniMax Online team has an evil plan to launch as subscription, cashing in to the maximum amount possible, only to be ready to swap to a F2P model as soon as the sheep realize they are being shorn.  Then it will be flying pig mounts, pinwheel hats, and hotbars for sale all day every day, with regular in-game pop-ups to remind you of the latest currency specials.  Because fuck immersion… as far as I can tell only about 6 people on the internet believe there is such a thing… and these are just video games, so why not turn them all into a carnival midway?  Just crank the crap volume to 11 already and be done with it.

In my world view… and really, the only thing driving my world view in the regard is the TESO team’s seeming lack of understanding as to what drives the popularity of Elder Scrolls games… hint: It isn’t the availability of something like Barrens Chat… the team at ZeniMax is planning a picnic on a nice green median strip in the midst Interstate 83 and are going to get hit by a semi-truck while crossing the blacktop.

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

(Picture stolen from the EVE Online Facebook page, where they were encouraging people to suicide gank this truck, and then cropped and edited.  Don’t view the full-size version. Like people my age, it only looks good at a distance, if at all.)

And then all the subsequent drama will be the result of an emergency team trying to stitch things back together while the aforementioned cynics nod their heads and point out that it was all a setup.

We shall see how that works out.

And then there is the WildStar team at Carbine.  What the hell are they thinking?

You could easily assume that they, too, were just another start up in a self-contained reality distortion bubble where “we can make a better WoW” seems like a reasonable proposition.  They have the experience, the talent, and they have thrown in with the monthly subscription model.  Easy to dismiss as either misguided or, again, hatching an evil plot to bilk players out of money for boxes before jumping to a F2P model.

But then there is the whole CREDD thing.  The PLEX comparison is obvious, but just as easily dismissed due to the nature of EVE Online.

These guys aren’t dumb though.  Right?  This isn’t SOE with its seeming blind spot as to the obvious next question the moment they announce something.  Maybe they have a plan, maybe they feel they can build a player driven market with EVE Online-like participation levels.

And maybe, just maybe, they have their own model where running multiple accounts gives you a serious, tangible advantage in-game.

Because it is that, plus the advent of PLEX, that could be driving growth in EVE Online.

Think about this.

In EVE Online I think we can all agree that playing multiple accounts gives you an advantage.

And that has been the case for quite some time.  Even when I started playing the game, way back in 2006, you were only really serious about your internet spaceships if you has an extra pilot in space.  Multi-boxing was common.  And hey, if you enjoyed the game, then one or two additional accounts wasn’t a huge stretch.

But then along came PLEX back in 2009.

EVE Online was growing before PLEX.  It continued growing after PLEX.  But I do wonder what impact PLEX had on growth.

Because after the introduction of PLEX, it was suddenly viable to run more accounts, so long as you could use them to create enough ISK to buy PLEX to pay their subscription.  Having two or three accounts gave way to having five or six or ten or a dozen.  Seeing formations of mining ships clearly controlled by a single person became more common.

Pretty blue lasers

One fleet, one guy

In fact, CCP has expressed concern about the rising price of PLEX at times.  A single PLEX was selling for over 600 million ISK earlier this summer.  That concern has always been couched in terms of being concerned with the in-game economy.  And it is hard to deny that CCP takes the in-game economy seriously.  But I have to wonder if there isn’t also some concern around the out-of-game economy; specifically the bit that pays the bills that keeps payroll going and servers humming.  Because, while some players play for “free” by buying PLEX, every active account is still paid for by somebody, and nothing says “winning” more than an always increasing subscriber base.  Grow or die, as they might say on Wall Street.

Is that what the WildStar team is hoping to achieve with CREDD?  Because if it is, they aren’t convincing me.

I have been through this before, but I would be hard pressed to name another MMORPG where the player base is as invested in the in-game economy as in EVE Online.  And the in-game is what drives PLEX and enables it to succeed to the point that it likely contributes noticeably to the subscriber base totals.  And WildStar hasn’t said a thing that makes me think that they can manage that.

So I am throwing in with the conspiracy group on this one.  Carbine must be making a cynical cash grab with this “buy the box and subscribe” plan up front, while readying the transition to F2P once the sheep are well and truly shorn.

Did I use that metaphor already?  I can’t help it.  I have seen sheep shorn, and they always come out looking pathetic, cold, and pissed off, in the same way certain MMO players do when their game makes that F2P transition.

Anyway, there is no other logical explanation for Carbine’s plan aside from a complete loss of grip on reality.  And the TESO team will probably claim they own that and sue.

But it sure has given us all a lot to talk about.

Oh, and Brian Green’s hair continues its complete and total migration towards his chin.

I felt I needed just one more insult to secure the record.  Did I make it, or do I need to bring up the NGE?

Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE?

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_logoWildStar 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?

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

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.

All About Krono

All About Krono

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.

Krono Pricing

Krono Pricing

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.

Rift to go Free to Play on June 12

I was wrong.

Another subscription MMO caves in, unable to make a go of things on monthly fees alone.  Or they feel that the grass must surely be greener on the free to play side of the fence.

Of course, my prediction was back when Scott Hartsman was still on board and before they put the cash shop interface into the game.  And with WoW, the game Rift sought to out do by speed and emulation, dropping subscriptions in huge, game killing chunks (for any game except WoW), the subscription model takes has taken another blow.

Anyway, Trion has announced that Rift will go free to play come June.  They have a video and such on the official site.  And a producer’s letter.  And a FAQ.  And an interview over at Massively to reinforce all of this.

They will even have something called REX, which sounds remarkably like PLEX.  You think?

The beginning matrix of who will get what has been announced.

Subscribers, expansion, and free levels

Rift, Storm Legion, and free levels

People who subscribe will now be called “Patrons” and will get a set of benefits.  Will they be worth $15 a month to people?

Call me "Patron"

Call me “Patron”

That feels more like World of Tanks, what with the short term options available.  They are certainly trying to mix in all they can.

But still, the cash shop will now rule the roost and new content will likely falter while Trion begins the endless race to figure out what will sell best.  Those who buy from the cash shop will drive the game going forward.

Some people will be cheering, feeling that every game needs to be free, that there is only one right model.

Others, whom like me, have been unhappy with the rot that cash shops can bring, will be less enthusiastic.

Either way, it will change the game.  Nobody can deny that.  And it will likely bring in some new players to start.  But eventually the cash shop chase will begin.

What do you think?

Addendum: Green Armadillo has some thoughts on Rift’s new plan.

Krono – Maybe It Will Work… Maybe It Won’t

I mentioned SOE’s new Krono item previously, though really only in reference to an oddity in its pricing.  It is SOE’s version of EVE Online’s PLEX, an item that can be redeemed for 30 days of game time (or premium game time, in the case of SOE’s free to play model) and which exists in-game and can be sold to other players for the in-game currency.

All About Krono

(Krono screen stolen from The EQ2 Wire because we love them.)

I had wondered previously if WoW could support something like this, back when they were indulging in their half-hearted, and I would say ultimately failed, kitten economy experiment.  But now that SOE is attempting to emulate the PLEX model directly, I am very interested to see how it works out.

Currently Krono is only in EverQuest II, though there are plans to bring it to EverQuest and Vanguard should things go well.

But will things go well?

I have been watching pricing of Krono on the broker on a couple of servers and it seems to be all over the map.

Now, there are a couple of problems that cause this.

To start with, unlike EVE, EQII has no buy order mechanism built into the broker.  In EVE, the ability to set a buy order sets an effective floor on the price of anything.  No matter what you have to sell in EVE, there is somebody somewhere who will think, “I’ll take n of those if it gets down to the right price.”

Sometime buy orders are really low.  There is always somebody who will do a region-wide buy order for light missiles at half an ISK each.  Reprocessing them or reselling them near a low level mission hub will allow the buyer to turn a profit.

But in trade hubs like Jita the buy orders and the sell orders begin to converge and you can determine the real market price of an item, minus the geographic convenience multipliers.

Since you cannot do that in EQ2, sellers are flying blind.  Let’s say you buy a Krono and put it on the market for 700 plat and it sells.  Is 700 plat the real market price?  Did you simply price the Krono too low?  Did you just find a fat cat in a hurry?  Were you simply the lowest price at that moment on the broker?

None of that tells you what the real price should be.  It is one of the flaws of the EQII broker.  I certainly hope buy orders are on the list of features for the tentatively sandbox-like EverQuest Next.

The second issue is that there simply were not that many Krono for sale on the broker.  People seem tentative, and rightly so, about diving into this latest SOE scheme.

So on one server I saw about a dozen Krono up for sale.  They were priced between 700 and 2500 platinum, and except for the couple at the bottom of the price list, who were clearly in a price war, there were pretty wide gaps between the listings.  Anything with a commonly accepted value should be clustered pretty closely for the most part, with a few outliers looking for suckers.

This says to me that most of the people selling Krono on the broker are trying to sell at what they feel should be the right price.  This is how much plat they think $17.99 should bring in.  This, again, goes back to the whole lack of a buy order mechanism thing, as there is nothing out there to help determine a real market value.  Without that a seller cannot make an informed pricing decision, so we get stuff all over the map.

Meanwhile, I saw several people on the trade channel at various times trying to sell Krono for between 500 and 600 plat.  This is an off-shoot of the fact that the broker in EQII, unlike the market in EVE, is a completely optional feature.  You can go through years of playing and never buy anything off the broker and never feel the worse for it.  After all, the best items in the game cannot be bought or sold.  You have to go slay some beastie or another, or complete some epic quest to get that.

And unless you have a gold account, you cannot even use the broker to its fullest.  That is how non-essential the broker is.

So the deck isn’t somewhat stacked against outright, unmitigated, obvious success.

And I am not even including the calculations from old hands like me who remember the days when selling something for a gold… 100 gold is 1 plat… seemed like a major economic victory.  Something selling for hundreds of plat seems crazy insane, because I do not thing all my characters, if they pooled all their coins, could come up with 200 plat.  But I am still playing in the mid-tiers of the game, in content from 2005, so have no real sense of how readily available plat is when you are in the 90-95 zone.  The price of Krono might be quite reasonable to somebody at that level.

But there appears to be at least one wild card in favor of the whole Krono scheme, and that has to do with the RMT gold selling sites.

I went to check some of those sites just to see if I could get a sense of the street value, such that it is, of plat coins in EverQuest II.

The basic response from most of the sites I visited was, to mix a reference, “Screw you and the crappy SOE game you rode in on!  We don’t serve their kind in here!”

Okay, maybe they were not quite so up front.  It was more like “We do not currently serve this community” or “We are currently out of stock and cannot foresee a time when we will resume sales” when it came to EverQuest II.

I went through six sites I found via Google before I was directed by one to a seventh site that actually had EQII plat for sale.  And they didn’t even have plat for all of the servers.  But on those that they did, it looked like $16.99, the cheapest price for a Krono, could get you about 300 plat coins.

Krono Pricing

Which, in the world of RMT versus PLEX, is mondo bizarre.  Go look at Nosy Gamer’s chart.  In EVE, you are paying nearly a 50% premium to get clean ISK via PLEX when compared to RMT.  In EQII at the moment, where I checked, you could be getting a 50% premium when buying clean plat via Krono.  Being legit pays, for the moment.

Of course, the problems I mentioned about the EQII market apply.  There is no saying if this will be the price range next week, or the week after, or the month after.  There is no way to get a sense of the demand, absent the buy order mechanism, so we are still flying blind when it comes to pricing on any given day.

Which is kind of a shame, because I would really like this to work.  And, I think in EverQuest, where inflation has led to people having huge stacks of plat coins around, it might be a viable way to spread out some of that wealth that is just sitting in banks doing nothing, to the betterment of the game.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think?  Is Krono, a good thing or not, and will it succeed?