Monday, October 15, 2007

MMO A La Carte

Aspendawn revealed that Turbine is now looking into monetizing some additional aspects of MMO gaming. Apparently, they have been sending out feelers to see how willing the community is to pay for various extras like more storage, or additional character slots.

This seems to be the future direction of the industry. Though, in a way, you can say we have always had this. Pre-order boxes often come with in-game items as a bonus. Expansion packs could be thought of as a set of extra features you get for an additional fee. Sony already gives extra character slots if you buy their Station Pass. And their future games are free to play with a velvet rope model where you pay for access to special features.

For some types of MMOs, I don't think this would bother me at all. But many MMOs have a model that rewards achievement, or at least the perception of achievement, and so there is somewhat of a competitive side to it. Guilds frequently rank themselves against another based on how far they've progressed in raiding.

So being able to pay for advantages is like, well, being able to pay extra to have your opposing team's soccer goal made larger so its easier for you to score... which just doesn't feel quite right.

I guess, especially being a casual player, it shouldn't bother me. Its not like I'm ever going to get to the level cap first, or be in a top-tier raiding guild. I don't have the time to dedicate to the game. So I suppose I shouldn't see the game as a competition. And I'm even willing to pay for some "extras", like the ability to play on an age-restricted server that doesn't have any kids on it (since I'm an old curmudgeon and I think of Norrath as my lawn.) So the a la carte model where you pay for features you want and don't pay for features you don't intend to use shouldn't bother me. Yet it does.

The main thing that bothers me is that a lot of developers are trying to toss the a la carte model on TOP of the subscription model they already have. And that, I simply don't like. Either make us pay a subscription, or by the hour, OR give us an a la carte velvet rope model; but don't mix and match them. If I'm paying a subscription, they should set it high enough to give everyone access to everything.

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