Subscription vs RMT: Who will save the poor noobs with no time to play?

It seems it’s been too long since everyone’s second favorite topic (hardcore vs casual being #1), RMT, has been discussed. Tobold has two posts about it and recently DDO went F2P.

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)

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Atlantica Online, Darkfall Online, DDO, MMO design, Rant, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Subscription vs RMT: Who will save the poor noobs with no time to play?

  1. motstandet says:

    The RMT stigma in the US also partially has to do with the “American Dream” concept. Ideally, everyone is on equal footing. P2P MMOs are one of the only reachable environments for the average human being where that ideal is still apparent. No amount of “old world money” (or RL money) can subsidize the progression of the player in P2P.

  2. Sara Pickell says:

    I suppose, I’m never really sure what side of the Sub/F2P divide I’m on. Not really caring who wins seems to have something to do with that. Of course, I’m also never really sure why either time or money determines who “wins”. Neither really seems like something worth measuring a person with.

  3. L1H says:

    I wasn’t sure about this issue until I played Wizard 101 with some friends in a static group.

    It’s a kid’s game, sure, but we might skip playing for a week or two and then return: not having to hold down a subscription works great us. See in Wiz 101 you buy content a la carte, paying $ to unlock zones. There is “crown” gear you can buy, sure, but it all has a small % chance of dropping off mobs anyway, so we just toy around, have fun, and throw a few dollars at an otherwise free game.

    It’s a great business model, better when offered as a “hybrid” like the soon to be F2P DDO, it’s the future, and I’m starting to get used to it.


  4. rulez says:

    I just cannot wrap my head around why someone would compensate less play time with money, as this essentially means to pay more money for playing the game less *head explodes*

  5. Kyff says:

    I would like to question the fact that you can actually “win” a MMORPG.

    Sure, you may obtain the bragging rights of having a server first or a world first. But there are a lot of players who simply don’t care about this kind of things. In fact I know quite a few people who actually are offended by raids in general.

    The only thing that really counts in any game is having fun. As stated in the original D&D box everybody “wins” playing because everybody is (supposedly) having fun.

    If some people have fun buying stuff/XP/fluff in an onlinegame, I have no problem with that. Personally I prefer having to work in-game for in-game accomplishments.

  6. Melf_Himself says:

    Actually, getting ahead via time or via money are both FAIL in equal measures. Why should people who play the game longer be more powerful? They already know how to play the game better due to their experience. Why do they need a leg up over the ‘noobs’?

    Time and money sinks are fine for fluff, but it’s terrible game design to link them to actual gameplay.

  7. Squirrt says:

    @Melf – I think Blizzard and the vast majority of MMO makers and players would disagree with you.

  8. syncaine says:

    @Melf: Without time making you more powerful, you are just playing a FPS. Character development is a core feature of an MMO, and so naturally you gain more power and options as you progress.

    @Kyff: To those who don’t care about world firsts it’s not an issue. The point of the post was for those that do care about results, be it PvE raids or PvP victories. The Sims 3 has an RMT shop, but since that game has no competitive multiplayer aspect, who really cares?

  9. Bonedead says:

    I can’t imagine how you would advance without it being based on time or money, though I don’t know of a game that allows you to buy levels (that is a good game). Unless everyone just dinged a level at the end or beginning of every day.

  10. syncaine says:

    You can buy XP books in Atlantica Online, and many other F2P shops. EVE’s skill system is basically a ‘ding a day’ system, and even as well designed as it is, people still have issues with it (“I’ll never catch up, WHAAAA!”)

  11. Melf_Himself says:

    @ Bonedead + Syncaine: It’s all a matter of scale. In a single player RPG it takes time to progress as well…. just not months and months. You go from lowly farmboy to uber demigod in 20-40 hours of play, compared to many months of play in MMO’s.

    Most gamers have the time to level up in the single player RPG, but many don’t in the MMO, because it takes a lot longer. When I say that time is a retarded method of progression, what I mean to say is *significantly more time than required in most single player games* is a retarded method of progression.

  12. syncaine says:

    @Melf: You do realize that for many fans of MMOs, the fact that the game does NOT end after 20-40 hours is a major draw? And we all know we can’t define ‘significant amount of time’ anyway, since that’s just the whole hardcore/casual issue. I don’t consider myself that hardcore anymore because I ‘only’ play 2-4 hours a night 5-6 nights, instead of the 5-6 hours 7 days a week I was playing in college. I’m guessing my ‘not hardcore’ playtime is for some still extreme.

  13. Melf_Himself says:

    Who said anything about the game ending? I’m talking about the cut-off point beyond which player power doesn’t progress any further. I have about 2500 hours logged in Guild Wars over the last 4 years. It takes maybe 10 hours to hit the level cap and obtain ‘max’ equipment for a given character in the newer campaigns.

    Somehow, I still found plenty of stuff to do without being given power improvements (namely, unlocking new skills for the many possible builds you can make, PvP, achieving a large string of various titles/emotes, obtaining much better looking items, exploring the world, completing the infamously challenging content, socializing, etc).

    My point is that it’s clearly possible to have that virtually endless MMO experience which we all know and love, while not requiring further play time to be tied to player power. This has many bonuses, such as
    a) avoiding the retarded phenomenon of ‘power creep’ (fighting some level 40 boar in the forest, wtf)
    b) reducing the tendency for MMO players to want to sit in front of their computers all day every day to ‘stay competitive’
    c) avoiding segregation of the population so that it’s much easier to play with my friends.

  14. o.o says:

    its wierd but….i’ve seen(yea and i personally know 1) people who spend tonnes of RLcash on AO item mall….sure, they managed to top the free league by playing auto-battle… however…such players are almost never seen winning the weekly championship…let alone the Titan tourney.

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