Well, I wasn’t going to write anything this week, but with the most recent micro transaction blog post, I feel like I should give me opinion on the matter.
I am not a fan of the system. I honestly never really have liked the idea of micro transactions in any game despite my history with using them (I like my characters looking pretty, OK!). There are few systems that work well, and few systems that do not and even fewer systems that work but have severe repercussions for using them.
The first system is the most common one and the most common among free to play games: Buy to Win. B2W is a phrase coined because some of the free to play games have very powerful items only available in the shop that once you buy them, you essentially win the game. Generally speaking, these items are expensive but give you the best possible stats until the next set comes out. Essentially creating a vortex of endless buying by the few hundred people who continue to play the game after a month of this system.
The second system is cosmetic micro transactions. Cosmetic is exactly that, purely superficial and has no real impact of the game. This is my favorite of the systems and is the model for League of Legends. In League of Legends, you have 2 types of currency, Influence Points and Riot Points. Here is a list of what each gets you
Riot Points (purchased with money):
Influence Points (earned by playing the game):
As you can see, the only things that actually effect the game (runes) can only be acquired by means of playing the game. Champions are something you can save your IP for or spend a few bucks to get sooner without having to spend your hard earned IP on them. It is a system that works and works very well.
The last system is gold buying. This is the biggest plague of any MMO game out there. Nobody likes gold farmers but as long as there are people willing to pay them for gold, then they will forever exist. Buying gold is highly risky as it can jeopardize your account’s security just by going to the site and getting a key logger virus on your computer. MMO companies have been finding means of combating this problem for years and there is no real means of stopping the problem without doing it themselves. But even then, they will most likely be undercut in some way. Last note is that gold buying is only a temporary boost in power because the most valuable items have to be achieved (this is where leveling services come into play which is even shadier).
Arena Net is having a hybrid model and one of the first real stabs at the gold selling problem. However, this has not been received well so far. While I only want Arena Net to focus on providing cosmetic (costumes) and service charges (server, name, character remakes, etc). I cannot honestly blame them for their actions. One they they didn’t say is that selling gold by the company is a necessary evil. Is it unfair? Yes, to a large extent it is to those who do not have a whole lot of time or a whole lot of money to spend on the game. But how will it really effect your game play? We know PvP is completely balanced due to the lack of gear being a factor, so this doesn’t effect that in any way. And chances are if you can buy it with gold, you can get better stuff later that is only found in high end dungeons. Hopefully Arena Net won’t come out with their own leveling or farming service.
One major con to this type of system is it will destroy the economy. When a market becomes flooded with gold, things start to get extremely expensive to buy. The best example of this is Rangarok Online where the market is so flooded with Zeny (their gold) that anything worth your while will run you more gold than you can actually hold on your character. 15 billion zeny transactions are not uncommon in that game. Ragnarok Online never had any gold selling though, its problem was a lack of gold sinks into the game (mounts, extra talent trees). Without a direct means of converting gems into gold and gold into gems (meaning that it is player controlled), this is most likely going to be the case as the games continues to progress forward. If there are enough gold sinks into the game, this shouldn’t be a problem, however, if there are not enough sinks in the game then this is a likely fate of the system. Now, it is highly possible that this will not be the case, but it is equally possible that it will be.
At first, gems will be high cost with gold, maybe something like 5,000 gold per 1 gem. The market will flood and the price will drop down significantly, and then it will continue to raise as gold becomes far more common. The only real way to counteract this fate is to have NPCs who do the converting for you, it keeps the item worth a set amount without it blowing out of proportion. Throw in a lot of gold sinks or even never increasing the amount of gold that drops and you have a system that works well and it keeps the economy growing. Honestly (this is an off note) I would rather they release a ton of content without raising the level cap and keeping a sense of progression via gear.
That is my opinion on the matter. Micro Transactions will always be a sticky situation and there is no real means of approaching it and nobody will agree on the same method. What we do know is that gold selling will always be there unless the developers actually do something about it.