I find the discussion around gold ammo/tanks/accounts in WoT fascinating for a number of reasons, and the subject reveals a lot about gamers and their tolerance for different things, especially in a PvP game.
First let’s start with some facts.
It’s a fact that you can buy power in WoT. Shooting with gold ammo is better than shooting without it. It’s also a fact that you can buy accelerated progression in WoT in the form of gold tanks or account services. Finally, it’s a fact that the higher up in tiers you go, the higher the ‘recommendation’ that you spend money to continue playing gets due to how the repair cost system is set up.
I’ve seen fans of WoT argue against the buying-power aspect by suggesting gold ammo is rare, ineffective, or does not influence the outcome of a battle. All of this is interesting.
Rarity: So because, for example, only one in ten battles involves gold ammo, gold ammo is not really a problem? To me this suggests a few things. First, the care-factor for any one battle is very limited. Winning or losing a single battle is marginally important, to the extent that using gold ammo is ‘silly’ because why pay extra for something so trivial (winning)? This is further reinforced by the fact that gold ammo is most often seen in clan matches, which ‘matter’ more. The flip side of this is, of course, non-clan matches don’t ‘matter’ as much.
This then brings up the question: how rare is ‘rare enough’? If gold ammo prices were slashed, and gold ammo was used in 50% of battles, is it now a “buying power” problem? If the price is increased, and it’s used in 1/1000th of battles, is the problem ‘solved’?
Ineffective: If gold ammo is so similar to regular ammo, who buys it? Why do they buy it? Just for the lulz? And if gold ammo is as underpowered as some claim, why do clan’s use it? Furthermore, if level-of-effect is the issue, when does gold ammo really become a problem? There is a lot of space between “no effect” and “one-shotting tanks”, so where do you fall on the scale? 5% power increase is too much? 50% power? Anything above 1%?
No influence on the outcome: This is somewhat similar to the above, but not quite. If player skill, pure luck, pre-game random tank matching, the map, or anything BUT who has gold ammo is the factor in determining the winner, why again do clan’s spend money on gold ammo? Why is it even noticeable? If gold ammo has “never effected the outcome of a battle”, are all those gold ammo purchasers just idiots throwing money down a hole? And if they are, why are the ‘smart’ people who are not buying gold ammo talking about it beyond thanking them for the charitable donation? Plus if gold ammo has truly never influenced the outcome of a battle, shouldn’t gold ammo be buffed? Its crazy underpowered!
Would CoD or Battlefield players also consider gold ammo a non-issue in their games? If Riot allowed you to buy a few extra mastery points in League of Legends, would anyone even notice? I mean hell I’ve won LoL games with the completely WRONG masteries set, that’s how “worthless” they are! Surely, given how much of a non-factor such a minor purchase of power would be, we would see most tourney players in LoL not spend the cash for those extra mastery points, right? After all, LoL is more of a skill-based (twitch) game than WoT, so if anything the effect would be even LESS noticeable, right? Hello…?
As for gold tanks/accounts and their impact on repair costs, this is NOT an issue of buying power, but buying a way out of ‘bad’ game design. Repair costs that ‘force’ you to play lesser-tiered tanks to grind up cash unless you pay for a gold tank/account is, IMO, bad design (not letting you play how you want to play) driven by the payment model. I highly doubt Wargaming.net is not smart enough to ‘fix’ this ‘problem’, after all.
This part I have less of an issue with since in-battle it has no impact (gold tank power aside), and at the end of the day it’s just the cost of your “free to play” game. Some titles state up front they cost $15 a month, others don’t. Gamers should be smart enough at this point to not be fooled into believe the whole ‘free’ scam from 99% of what’s out there.
That said, LoL is a hell of a lot more ‘free’ than WoT in this regard. LoL does not have weak/bad design like repair costs, because of the fact that they don’t sell “stop walking over glass” stuff like premium accounts or gold tanks. Riot is able to collect enough money off reskinned sparkle ponies to not have to ‘force’ their players to pay up or suffer. Good deal if you can get it, sucks when you can’t. Most can’t, but then again most F2P titles are garbage.
The biggest gray area, and the least interesting part of all of this IMO, is the power level of gold tanks. It’s a fact they are stronger than similar base tanks, and it’s also a fact they are not as strong as a fully kitted tank. They lay somewhere in the middle (although closer to the top end than the bottom). They are far more noticeable than gold ammo because, well, GOLD TANK IN YOUR FACE. Hard to miss them, especially compared to how hidden gold ammo is.
The real reason, IMO, that gold tanks are brought up so often is because not only are they fairly powerful, they give you a huge advantage in terms of earning cash. The straw man is the power, the cash earning/savings is the real issue, because those without gold tanks are ‘forced’ to farm more cash to play at the higher tiers. This, I believe, is what breeds the contempt for them. It’s somewhat valid, if you ignore the whole “you knew what you were getting yourself into from day one” aspect. It’s not like gold tanks, repair costs, or gold ammo were patched in later, once everyone was hooked on a version of WoT where the wallet was not a weapon.
At the end of the day, what all of this reveals to me is that plenty of people are willing to pay for power, but only at a cost they are personally comfortable with, and buying power is only a problem when the cost gets too high for them. $7000 gem set in Allods = bad. $1 gold ammo in WoT = good. Unless that gold ammo is used against you in a noticeable manner and the results matter to you, at which point gold ammo = bad even if it’s just one penny above a cost you are okay with.
Furthermore, and far more disturbing, is that people are quick to ignore bad game design (repair costs) driven by the payment model if again the cost is ‘reasonable’ (reasonable of course being different for everyone). One-time gold tank for $35 = good. Per-month $20 character slots = bad. Unless of course the character slot is not that important, or you can get it on sale for $5. Oh and the gold tank IS a problem if its power level is too high. Too high of course being a personal opinion. Unless it’s the most powerful tank, then it’s just pure buying power, but again that only becomes an issue if you think $35 is too high a cost to buy wins.
Personally, I’ll just stick to games limited to selling pony skins, or charging everyone $15 a month and favoring those with more time. Way more ‘fair’. :)