Archive for September, 2011

Micro Transactions and Free to Play

Lets talk micro transactions and free to play.  Now I love the idea behind micro transactions and they are slowly becoming the “thing” for games today, but there is a very fine line to it.  There was a report a few weeks ago about monthly MMO subs slowly declining and keep going down, while micro transactions made 1.7billion in profits.  I would honestly still be playing World of Warcraft if it was free to play with a micro transaction model to support it.  I know its only “$15” a month to play WoW, but I feel like I have to spend my spare time playing WoW to justify that cost.  I am a perfect example of “Gamer ADD” I get bored quick, not because the game is bad or anything.  I just lose interest doing the same thing usually over and over, or I get left behind by my friends or I go too hardcore and burn out.  The point is I try to juggle a few games at a time just to keep things fresh, and I really can’t justify spending 3x $15 a month of games I will only play a few times a week.  That is where free to play comes in, its a great system that allows me to pickup whatever whenever I want to and not feel like I have to devote my free time to it cause I’m sinking money into it.


League of Legends is probably the best example of how the Free to Play model and micro transactions should work.  You have in-game currency and real money currency.  You don’t ever have to spend real money to ever be competitive it just takes more time with in-game currency, and the people spending real money aren’t getting any sort of advantage over me.  Hellgate Global does the micro transaction market well too.  You basically have to spend $4 on an item to unlock the rest of the game past a certain area, but that item can also be bought with in-game currency from other players.  It gives you the option to not spend a dime, but its just costing you more time, and no other player has a real significant advantage over you if they spent money.  Age of Empires Online is probably the worst model right now.  The game is basically a demo unless you “unlock” your empire you selected, and I don’t know why the pricing model was this way, but its something like 1320 Microsoft Points because the game uses Games for Windows Live, but you can only buy MS points in increments of 500, so you have to buy 1500 MS points, and players that have bought their empire have a real advantage over the players who don’t.  Age of Empires Online has a “unlock everything for the first season + 6 months” or something like that which is 7200 MS points, which is about $90.


I think the Free to Play model and micro transactions are the right direction, but it just has to be done right.  Don’t force me to spend money to be competitive with other players, or spend money to have to play the full game.  If this is the case allow me to unlock things with in-game currency, but you are basically splitting your player base with people who bought X and people who didn’t buy X. I know some people that have dropped over $300 into League of Legends, but they don’t have any real advantage over the player whose spent $0, and that is the balance games should be looking for, and still maintaining profits.  Diablo 3 will be free to play with a option to spend real money in the auction house, that doesn’t bother me because I can still obtain any item they are selling normally without having to dump money into it.  The argument comes down to disposable income vs time.  I like where the model is going now, and I hope it continues this way, allow me to enjoy your game without the need to drop $60 + a monthly subscription.  I have no problem spending money on micro transactions if I’m really liking the game and going to be playing for awhile, but it needs to be a reasonable cost on whatever is being sold.