As readers here know, I’m not a huge fan of RMT games, and it’s certainly not because I could not afford to keep up with the Joneses. I have more than enough disposable income that I could devote to an RMT shop and become a top player in a game like Atlantica Online (just for kicks I did the calculation back when I played, and it was more than affordable for me), but I don’t game to see how much money I can convert into fun. I game because, and this might sound crazy, I actually enjoy playing the games I play. (Except for DarkFall, I play that to further my crusade of the miserable)
I waned off from Atlantica Online because the further I got, the more obvious it became that spending money, rather than playing, was the way to go if you wanted to stay competitive. Being overly-competitive by nature, that was a deal breaker for me. Had AO been a sub game, I would have stuck with it far longer, and actually gotten into its end-game of politics and guild warfare. But I went into it knowing it’s a F2P game, and so was not all that surprised when my time with it ended before I had exhausted the actual content.
In a similar vain, I know DarkFall won’t be determined ultimately by who buys more boxes of random uber gear. I fully understand that those on top will likely be those who spent more time (with some degree of player skill influencing this as well, and more so in DF than other games, which is a major draw), but since spending time = fun for me, that’s a good exchange. If I’m only half-interested in a game (like WAR currently), I accept that I won’t be near the top, and I know I can’t legally spend X amount of dollars to make up for that fact. If you as a player simply don’t have the available gaming time to stay near the top in a sub game, for whatever reason, and you are someone who needs to be at that level, RMT games are a possible solution. (Assuming of course you have the cash, if you are someone without time AND money, well then you are F’ed)
Complaining that it’s unfair that people with more time are ahead in a sub game is about as valid as complaining that those with more money are ahead in a F2P game. Right from the start, you know exactly what determines ultimately who ‘wins’ (and all this assumes you care about that) in each model; sign up for the one you prefer more, as luckily now the market is diverse enough to support almost any style of game under both payment methods, in much the same way the market now supports many styles of MMO gaming. (hardcore PvP, carebear PvP, hardcore PvE, carebear PvE, etc)
When UO was the only game in town, raiders had a valid reason to ask for more hardcore PvE content, just like pre-RMT those with money but not time had a valid reason to complain that raiding was only for those with more time. Now that options covering everyone exist, move on from the games that don’t fit your particular style or time/money situation, or just stop bitching about it and accept you play in an environment that is ‘unfair’ to your particular situation.
As for illegal RMT, the problem is not the demand but the methods to stop it. In RL the demand for people to be rich is rather high, yet crime is controlled because the enforcement around robbing a bank works more often than not. That certain subscription games are more susceptible to RMT influence is both a design issue and a reflection of how well the methods to stop it are working. If Blizzard banned gold farmers fast enough to make it unprofitable to sell gold, or banned players buying gold with a high enough frequency to discourage future buyers, the problem would be solved. Illegal RMT would still exist of course, just like banks still get robbed, but it’s the frequency that is the issue, and currently in many MMOs the banks get robbed before they even open for business.
And unless the industry as a whole decides the winners in an MMO are those willing and able to spent more money than time, or that one method is always the optimal way to turn a profit, both the subscription model and RMT will continue to cater to their audience, each having its share of success stories and failures.
(RMT also has to get out from under it’s stigma as a ‘cheaper’ product than a sub game in the west, but that’s another topic entirely)