PLEX vs Cash Shops, plus the e-peen pony

To finish off a week of EVE-related posting, let’s talk about PLEX vs Cash Shops and how I believe they are two extremely different pieces of an MMO. As a side bonus this should also cover the e-peen pony that has been recently released.

As most readers here know, I’m not a huge fan of F2P games and the cash shops related to them. Now much of my dislike for F2P games is that many of them are low quality anime kids games not worth the download time, but even if that sub-genre was full of AAA-quality titles, I would still not be a fan.

The main issue I have is price. Simply put, the more you like a F2P game, the more you pay. That’s just how the model is designed to work. And as someone who aims to really get into whatever game I play, going from a subscription game to a F2P title means a hefty price increase for me. That in itself would be fine if the F2P game offered superior gaming, but that has never been the case. As interesting as I thought Atlantica Online was, it simply was NOT a better game than my subscription-based alternatives at the time, and for me, it can’t hold a candle to DarkFall for what I’m looking for. So it’s not that AO is a bad game, its not, but it’s not good enough to pay $50+ a month for when I have a better, cheaper alternative. And that’s what it would cost to continue playing AO beyond an introductory level for me. And before the “it’s all optional” bandwagon rolls in, it’s not. When your end-game is PvP based, and your PvE XP curve is atrocious at the higher levels, and when many of the ‘convenience’ features become required (TP license) in order to play the game ‘as intended’, you have to spend. Again, that’s the business model, and going into a F2P game thinking otherwise is a nice way to set yourself up for disappointment (unless you are someone who would rather pay instead of play, but I’m not).

On top of the higher price / lower return issue, the fundamental setup of a F2P game is not one I enjoy. You end up fearing every patch rather than looking forward to it. The next F2P patch is likely to add more items to the cash shop, ones you need to purchase to simply keep up. Or the addition is content only truly accessible with the aid of purchased items, either direct (gear) or indirect (XP tomes just to reach the entry level). And again, this is how it works. If the ‘convenience’ items are not needed and those who actively play see no reason to buy them, the company does not make money. If sales are slow, the solution is to make them more and more ‘required’ to play. It puts the devs AGAINST the players, rather than with them. At least in the sub model the dev’s goal is to keep you playing rather than paying, and they keep me playing by offering enjoyable content. A F2P game keeps me paying by continually increasing the cost of continuing to play the way I’m use to.

And it’s for those reasons that I don’t view PLEX as an issue. CCP is not designing the next patch in EVE to encourage PLEX buying, and at the higher levels of play selling PLEX for ISK is not a very efficient way to keep up. The ‘flaw’ of a new player selling PLEX and having enough ISK to buy his first few ships and skill books is a problem for the player, not the game. If you want to skip ahead, go for it, just don’t blame anyone but yourself when you end up having “nothing to do”, or you sit around waiting. Just like skipping ahead in any other game, all you do is rob yourself of content to get to some half-ass “you win” screen, with the major difference here being that there is no “you win” screen in EVE. What you can’t do with PLEX that you can often do in a cash shop is buy over-powered gear or an advantage not able to be gained in-game. PLEX is just ISK (and not even a huge amount of it once you get to a reasonable level), and it’s how you use that ISK in-game that determines its power.

As for the e-peen pony, while it would have been better for Blizzard to add actual content (a complex quest to earn the mount perhaps), the fact that thousands of people are lining up to hand Blizzard $25 to be handed a new shiny and to pretend they are a special snowflake is reason enough to not bother with the content piece. The customer dictates the direct you go in, and when you have thousands (or millions) of people screaming that they would rather pay for items than play to get them, it would be foolish to ignore them. Just like it would be foolish to assume that if a $25 pony has a waiting list, a $50 vanity sword or $100 bonus race option can’t be far behind. Or that when you step back and see what people really want, your next game charging $15 an instance and $30 a zone, with perhaps class abilities and other items also for sale, seems like a really good idea. Again, as long as people are buying, who are you to stop selling?

7 Responses to PLEX vs Cash Shops, plus the e-peen pony

  1. sid67 says:

    This is a complex subject. At one end of the spectrum, you have an Allods cash shop whose F2P model directly impacts your progression. At the other end of the spectrum, you have a $25 Pony from Blizzard that is merely cosmetic.

    The Allods cash shop is the worst form because the purchase directly impacts your performance. Setting aside the fairness of that issue for a moment, that’s simply just a bad idea based purely on the fact that it motivates the developer to create road blocks that can be avoided for cash.

    Blizzard’s pony isn’t in the same category because it doesn’t directly enhance performance. It’s a cosmetic change. So in a way, it’s not a big deal. HOWEVER, I think the danger here with these cosmetic changes is that if the model is profitable, we’ll see more development time go into cosmetic “for fee” changes than into the actual development of other non-cosmetic content. Would you rather have a team of artists working on fluffy bunnies or the next raid encounter?

    The PLEX system is unique in that CCP doesn’t profit much from the actual sale. I’m still against PLEX for progression and fairness purposes, but PLEX itself has little impact on how CCP will conduct the business of making and developing EVE.

    I’ll take the blanket approach of saying I don’t like any of these methods, but I’ll qualify that by saying that some are definitely more acceptable than others. I might not like the EVE or WOW implementations, but it’s also not a deal-breaker. The Allods F2P cash shop IS a deal-breaker and there is no way in hell I’ll ever play such a game.

  2. [...] SynCaine talks about F2P [...]

  3. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    I remember the time, a few years ago, when some mmo companies introduced rmt shops in their games and the whole mmo-blogosphere was screaming bloody murder and everyone was real glad that at least the bestest company ever wasn’t doing anything like that. Everything that had anything to do with micropayments and rmt were evil, evil, evil.

    Then Blizzard brought some vanity pets that you could buy for your account. And everyone was pretty cool with that – they were after all just vanity pets, nothing that you could really use for anything. So rmt were not evil anymore, Blizzard had found a way to do rmt properly, which apparently every other company so far had managed to screw up. Other mmo companies were selling stuff that you could use, and rmt combined with the stuff that you can use is still so very evil.

    Then Blizzard decided to start selling horse armor^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hsparkling Pony mount the same way. You know, something that you could actually use in the game. And everyone is pretty cool with that, it’s just a mount after all, it’s not like it’s a piece of armor or a weapon or anything like that. So rmt with stuff that you can actually use is not evil anymore, Blizzard has found a way to do it properly and every other mmo company has just screwed it up so far.

    Luckily we all know that this is the final item in the line of rmt items that Blizzard will have in their shop. There will never ever be any items or buffs or tradeskill resources there, absolutely not. And if there happens to be some, fear not, I’m sure Blizzard will find a way to do that properly as well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    IMHO the idea CCP had with PLEXes (along with character selling for ISKbeing legit) is no less than brilliant.
    PLEX means:
    1. no more problems with ISK-sellers. Why would anyone bother if you can effectively buy ISK directly off CCP?
    2.More sandbox. Veteran/dedicated player with decent income from ingame activities? Grab some PLEXes from the market and make EvE f2p for your main/alts.
    Casual PvPer? Sell a PLEX and dont worry about carebearing to replace your next couple of ships.

  5. n0th says:

    bah forgot to fill in a nick

  6. Dblade says:

    Eh, thing is you can use PLEX to skip the earning aspect of the game entirely if you are a good trader, or fly cheap ships. PLEX is CCP’s apology for designing crappy, boring PvE: they let you pay to skip it.

    If anything F2P is better just because the PvE usually is at least semi-fun. No watching mining lasers cycle or running Angel Extravaganza for the tenth time.

  7. [...] of mind day, because what I wrote back then is exactly how I feel about things today. That post can be found here (it’s mostly about EVE, the WoW stuff is the last paragraph), but here is the choice quote: As [...]

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