P2W Accusations Anger Me, Apparently

This is really beginning to annoy me. I was, as usual, reading reddit. I usually stop by r/games early in the day and skim titles for interesting goings-on. Today I was promptly presented with the headline CCP Games (EVE Online) to be acquired by Pearl Abyss (Black Desert online). Like any “good” redditor I looked through the comments to see how this news is generally being received. I’m not stupid, I was expecting quite a bit of negative comments. Korean developers are generally about as well liked on Reddit as Satan is in church.

I came across this comment and I guess it’s just pressing all the right buttons. For one, I played BDO long enough to get one class to the soft cap. I mean, honestly, it isn’t that hard and doesn’t take that long. The internet is full of guides that’ll get you there in a week or so. Of course, that’s not the real grind of BDO anyway, the real grind is upgrading gear. Now I realize that being a mostly solo player colors this quite a bit. I didn’t have to compete with other players running around with several auto-loot pets in order to get loot. It is also theoretically possible to buy said pets on the marketplace for in-game currency, but that’s, well, not easy. Honestly it’s easier to just buy them with real money. So yeah, I can see how people would view that as “pay to win.”

I’m also not mentioning some ghillie suit shenanigans a while back because I’m honestly not that well informed about it. It was a stealth item people used for PvP that was only in the cash shop.

What’s really bothering me though are the underlying assumptions and expectations. It seems, from my perspective, that people expect games to have all these huge robust features that incur ongoing costs to the developer and/or publisher without having to pay an ongoing fee to use them. That money has to come from somewhere. People have already demonstrated that they are far more willing to pick up a free to play title than they are to spend even $20-$30 as an upfront cost, myself included. Servers still cost money though, as does bandwidth, and that money has to come from somewhere.

Now, I realize that it is theoretically possible to have microtransactions, virtual currency, and all that without being immediately labelled P2W. The problem is that I haven’t seen a system yet that can’t be labelled this way.

We all have a different idea of what winning is!

It’s literally impossible to come up with a system that’s not going leave someone feeling like they need to pay in order to win. If you only play MMOs for, say, fashion contests, you’re probably going to have to pay to win from time to time. I’m sorry, all the good bits are usually in the cash shop and sooner or later you’re going to need one of those pieces to make an outfit work. Yet cosmetics are considered the only “acceptable” thing to have in the cash shop. For somebody though, that’s going to mean they need to pay money to get the most out of their experience.

I hate the tag because there’s this underlying assumption that we all share a single definition of what “winning” is.

Now, having said that, there are certainly flaws in this form of monetization. For starters, the unfortunately named “whales” spend ridiculous quantities of money in these cash shops. Which if they’re financially able to is their prerogative, I guess. I’ve known a few, if it makes them happy, whatever.

Now, I can’t really say what percentage of sales come from these types of spenders. I figure it’s probably in the 25-50% range, but I just made those numbers up from whole cloth. These are the people they’re going to market to though. I mean, if I have ten customers and nine of them spend $15 and one spends $100, that $100 customer is going to be my best customer, right? Yeah, the other nine combined spent more, $135, but that one customer must really like me, my business, my product, something, and I want to keep him that way. So that’s who I listen to and market to.

For the rest of the customers though, after a while, it begins to feel like their opinions don’t matter right? Works on players too. P2W seems to mean “I feel like this game isn’t fair because that person over there is doing better/getting better stuff simply because they have more disposable income than I do.” Unfortunately that’s just how life seems to work. People with more money do better/get better stuff in life. Games are meant to be our escape from that reality though, not include it.

It’s gotta get paid for though.

I went a long time refusing to play any game that had a subscription. I had convinced myself that I “couldn’t afford it.” I mean, why pay a monthly fee when there are plenty of games around that I don’t have to pay to play?

FFXIV had a lot to do with turning that around in the last couple of years. I absolutely loved the refreshing breeze of being able to pay my sub and just having all the base features of the game without it constantly popping up in-game asking me to buy this, that, or the other. I’m fairly tolerant of cash shops but don’t slap me in the face with it every time I log in. When I’m ready/able to spend money I know where to find it.

Then it occurred to me that if I took any free to play game and spent the same $15/month on their premium/patron status and/or cash currency, that I would have effectively the same thing. The sub model just spreads the cost more equally than the cash shop does.

There are plenty of aspects to monetization I haven’t brought up here as well. Lootboxes being another big one. We’ll save that for another time though, my anger has kinda petered out and that’s a fairly complicated can of worms I don’t want to open right now.

Rant over for now. Spend wisely y’all. May the RNG be ever in your favor.

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