All MMOs (perhaps all games) reward us based on our success in the two areas. Either we are dedicated enough to finish, or we are skilled enough to survive the intensity. And most likely, it's some combination of both.Why do we play?
Players expect to 'work' for rewards in either of these two ways. They either expect a long ardous journey until completion, or they expect an extremely difficult challenge to overcome. One is a function of Time, the other the function of Challenge.
I think that's what people don't like about RMT and Microtransactions. RMT takes neither Time nor Challenge. You don't need to be dedicated or skilled to purchase something with RMT. It literally runs counter-clockwise to everything we have come to expect about earning rewards. It strikes anyone willing to invest the time or willing to take up the challenge as wrong.
As I wrote above, rewards take on meaning when they take dedication and skill. Ultimately, we play games because not only are they fun, but because they provide a sense of accomplishment for that dedication and skill.
It’s easy to argue that RMT only impacts the player buying the RMT, but MMOs are not isolated worlds. We play MMOs because of other people, even if those people just provide the backdrop to our own MMO existence.
For many people, the value of the individual effort can only be measured against the achievements of other people in the game. And what is meaningful about an accomplishment that can be invalidated by someone else willing to pay more?
This strikes at the heart of what we believe is fair in games. Traditionally, we only reward and respect the dedicated or skilled. RMT rewards neither.
Micro transaction by Design
RMT and Micro transactions work because they allow players to overcome an obstacle. The popular model that people seemingly support is the one where the “obstacle” for the players is purposefully placed by the developer as a roadblock. Extra bag space, a mount, XP potions, and so forth are all still just things that assist the player in overcoming specific game obstacles.
I really like Syncaine’s recent arguments against this type of model:
The problem I have with the model is that spending more does not get me more; it simply allows me to continue playing like I have before. Spending $50 at the cash shop does not upgrade the graphics, sound, or gameplay, it simply buys me potions/books/perfume to sustain the level of progress/power that was available earlier for ‘free’. The further you get from level 1, the more you need to spend just to maintain the SAME level of progress.And as he alludes to in a follow-up post today, if people DON’T buy these things, all they are left with is an incomplete MMO.
Cash Rich, Time Poor
This model favors the cash rich casual player much more than it does the poor player with plenty of free time. A player with lots of time and little cash will progress much faster in a traditional $15/month MMO because they won’t have to overcome the artificial obstacles with real cash.
This is very ironic when you consider that they are marketed as “Free 2 Play” games.
The model is most appealing to player who has plenty of real life cash but a limited amount of gaming time. They can simply short-circuit the challenge by spending real life money.
I can’t help but think that this type of instant gratification is self-defeating.
- Why pay money to NOT play the game?
- Why pay money to have a developer build in ridiculous time sinks for which your only option is to pay more?
- Why the hell would you want to reward the developer for making it too hard to do without paying them more?