Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Nickel-and-Diming

Everyone and their little sisters are advertising to “just pay what you actually use” these days. Whether we are talking about cell phone plans, plane trips, or MMORPGs – micropayments are more and more the way to go. There’s another debate on the topic of free-to-play games around the blogosphere these days, spearheaded by the ubiquitous Nils and argued against by Brian “Psychochild” Green. There are many good arguments either way, but frankly, I just hate being nickel-and-dimed.

I would probably save money with a pay-per-use cell phone plan compared to the flat rates I prefer, but I don’t want to make a cost/value analysis each time I wish to make a call or send a text message. The ability to simply call whoever I want as long as I want far outweighs the additional bit of money I might be paying for that freedom. Along the same lines, I feel cheated when airlines offer me a $5 snack and a $4 drink to go with my $50 fare but am fine with a $90 ticket that includes food and drink.  Games work the same way.

I probably would have paid an additional €20 for Dragon Age: Origins if it had been that expensive, but I’m quite opposed to buying any of the downloadable content. By forcing me to make purchasing decisions over and over again, game companies drive me towards analyzing the intrinsic value of each piece of content I could acquire. Not only does that make me unhappy, (because I really just want to play, damnit) it also greatly increases the likelihood of me finding the offered content lacking and not buying the product in the end.

Free-to-play games are far worse in that regard. If I had to choose between a World of Warcraft subscription for $15/month and a free-to-play pay-per-use kind of model which would average $10 a month in actual costs, I would choose the subscription plan every time. Not because this is logical (it is not) but because of the uninterrupted and carefree entertainment value it provides. In the same vein, I would probably pay for a Magic: the Gathering Online subscription if there was such a thing, but am rarely willing to spend actual money on the (pseudo-f2p) model they have.

I am quite aware that all companies will try to make money off of me the best way they can and trick me into spending more if they think it feasible, but my enjoyment is much higher if I don’t get reminded of that part of reality every time I play.

I’m aware that there is an opposite psychological effect that drives people towards f2p, but I feel that my demographic is often overlooked in the process. It doesn’t really matter to my finances whether I pay $5, $15, or $50 for an MMO that I enjoy but it matters a lot that I actually enjoy it. Obviously subscriptions don’t guarantee that (or I would still be playing WoW), but they take an important step towards that point.

  • I don’t have much to add, but I wanted to highlight this part:
    “The ability to simply call whoever I want as long as I want far outweighs the additional bit of money I might be paying for that freedom.”
    That’s the value that seems to get ignored too often. People like being able to hand over some money and not have to think any more about it. Choice can be crippling.

  • Sure, the frugal part of us loves “all you can eat” plans. But, even if you do love this business model, would you take a date or a business contact out to a flat-rate all-you-can-eat buffet? Probably not, you’d go to a nice restaurant that uses a “pay for consumption” business model. And if you do only eat at flat-rate buffets, I’ll let your doctor lecture you about the long-term harm you’re doing. 🙂

    As long as there are large MMOs, there will be someone using the subscription business model. So, you have little to worry about, beyond companies like Blizzard trying to squeeze ever increasing amounts of money out of a no longer growing playerbase. But, I firmly believe that if we want to see new types of games that aren’t merely WoW clones, other business models will be vital to seeing that happen.

    Anyway, as I said in my blog post, I’ve felt more in control of my spending with DDO than I ever did with WoW. Every time I’ve put money into DDO it was a conscious decision. I can even tell you exactly how much money I’ve spent in DDO, something I can’t do in WoW. Maybe you prefer “out of sight, out of mind” expenses, but I kinda like the option to control my spending more. And, I certainly appreciate being able to drop into DDO at any time even if I’m not spending money on a subscription.

    My thoughts.
    Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green´s last blog post ..10 games that should be played

  • Oh absolutely Brian, I can see the appeal of F2P and there are many things to be said for (and against) it. I am not saying that this is why F2P is bad, just that this is the main reason I don’t like it – no matter how many pros and contras there are.

    As for the dinner… Well, I obviously wouldn’t take people out to all you can eat. When I do take someone out though, I like being able to just order stuff and hand them my credit card in the end. A nice evening is simply worth more than they can reasonably charge me. (And I will choose the restaurant in such a way that I know I will be able to afford the evening ;))

    When I order that second bottle of wine, the waiter won’t come over ask for my credit card, wave the price in my face and require me to pay right then and there. I can simply order that wine without caring for the price. Sure this is different from a subscription model, but the feeling is more akin to that than a F2P game.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Nickel-and-Diming

  • I think that the “play anytime” aspect of nonsub games can’t be overstated. It kills one huge barrier to entry and retention. In a saturated market, that can be lifesaving.

    …of course, there are those players who like gated communities, too, and they *want* the country club aspects of a subscription. More power to ’em, I guess, but that’s not my style, and it’s not always wise in a saturated market, either… unless it’s just one component of a larger business plan. There’s good sense in the way that Puzzle Pirates handles it; sub servers *and* microtransaction servers. (Obviously no server hopping, but that’s a fair deal.)
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Follow the Yellow Brick Road