Friday, September 6, 2013

WildStar's Payment Model

Today looks like a DOUBLE FEATURE FRIDAY. Turns out once you get my mouth running, I just can't shut up.

You don't say...

Pfft, I swear Hawkens, I spend half my time just telling you to keep your sarcastic comments to yourself...

One cannot change the nature of the beast.

Yeah yeah. Anyway! Be sure to check out both articles today! I've got this one here on the payment model and one here about traveling with your characters and ideas on what to enjoy while waiting for WildStar. Enjoy!


Okay, to start off with today, I have had a lot of people ask me what my opinion is on WildStar's payment model. ( If you haven't read their WildStar Wednesday article on it yet, check out the main article here, and a very nice FAQ walkthrough here. ) I originally wasn't going to say much since I was planning on paying a subscription fee anyway and I didn't feel all that knowledgable in the realm of video games and business models. But you guys kept asking, so I shall do my best!

I admit when I first heard that WildStar was going to do a subscription model with no planned cash shop, I was actually disappointed. Watching SW:ToR turn to a free-to-play plan and having played both Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World without a sub fee, I had become caught up in the idea that seemed to have been drilled into the online community at the time: the future of MMORPGs was F2P.

What I had originally expected was a buy-to-play model with a subscription option and a cash shop. I expected the F2P plan for non subs would be similar to a mix between SW:ToR and TSW with most of the game free with maybe the exception of endgame raiding and dungeons or racial unlocks to be purchased. Subscriptions would get access to the whole game as well as bonuses, deals on some cash shop items, cash shop credit each month and maybe deals on expansions. Then, of course, a cash shop with housing items, costumes, unlocks and mounts, etc. I figured, in my infinite wisdom, that this was the smartest way for a new IP to go and that obviously this was what Carbine would do.

Ha...Infinite wisdom indeed...

Oh can it Hawkens!

Anyway. As I was saying, I was originally disappointed when I found out the news. Now it wasn't because I thought the sub was stupid or too much ( I was planning to sub anyway) nor was it because my arrogance was shattered by being incorrect.

It was actually because I was nervous for WildStar. In my eyes, I had watched so many roleplayers and many of my friends leave games because they couldn't or didn't feel like paying for it anymore. They couldn't justify sticking around for a boring endgame they only half-used or were only using the game for roleplaying anyway. Watching those friends leave and guilds falling apart was heartbreaking.

A free-to-play option (or more acurately, a no subscription fee option), I reasoned, was a good way to retain roleplayers or people who were still deciding if they would like WildStar. They could hang around without financial strain and maybe toss some money at the cash shop now and then. But by taking away that option, or rather, not providing it in the first place, I was worried WildStar had closed a door it could never open again and alienated a lot of fans in the process.

Then I took a chill pill and gave the system a closer look. In the online community, there exists a stigma with the concept of F2P games. F2P options are almost always of an inferior quality to the sub models (with the except of some, like TSW) and they are treated as a sort of last ditch effort to save a dying game. They also seem to give the game itself this feeling of being “not as high of quality” as other games, a sort of “is your game not good enough to command a subscription fee?” And, honestly, this can be a risk as well. Take, for instance, Guild Wars 2. When it shipped the Black Lion Trading Company coin shop/trading system was down almost constantly. Now it really wasn't the end of the world nor /that/ horribly inconvenient, but it was very irksome. The thing was, GW2 is a buy to play game, so after the cost of the box I didn't have any sub fee to worry about. But it also meant that a feature of the game that I felt should have been figured out prior to launch was something I just had to deal with. Am I using this to point blame and bash on Arena Net? No. The point I wish to make is that I also felt like I had no real “right” to get upset. I had the full game and only one feature was down and Arena Net would get to it asap. I wasn't paying them for their monthly efforts in manpower to keep their servers running or employees at their helpdesks or even their devs to continue building and expanding the game. So what right did I have to complain about a temporary inconvenience? But that got me thinking. What right did I really have to say anything about the game? No more then I could walk up to oh...let's say Deus Ex: Human Revolution and call EIDOS to complain that Adam Jensen's outfits were unsatisfactory or that I disliked the talent system. ( I loved both, for the record <,< )

In fact, this is something sort of unique to MMORPGs, I feel, because we have a long term investment in them past the initial launch. This isn't just a singular game we follow, play and then sort of forget. This is an ongoing, living and breathing world that continues to grow. Over time it evolves with the trends in the MMORPG market, it shapes under the voice of the community and under the creative minds of the developers. In many ways, an MMORPG is an entity of its own. It can grow, fail, succeed or die with the flux of time. Besides our passion, one of the most powerful things we can contribute is our money... games are products made for money after all. By paying for this service, we invest in the game more then just our time. Though it is still up the development team how much they listen and alter, we also buy ourselves a voice. By keeping or removing that payment, we make a statement. By speaking our piece in the community, we can help shape the future of the game alongside the vision of the developers.

Don't mind the bloodsplatters...

WildStar commands a subscription fee because Carbine thought it was worth that fee, but they added something else in consideration of those who might have tighter wallets or simply prefer an alternative: C.R.E.D.D. This system allows the purchase of a “Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development” from the online website that functions as a month of prepaid gameplay. This C.R.E.D.D. can then be bought and traded with the online community within the universe of WildStar, allowing players to essentially buy gametime with in-game gold from those players who have purchased this token from the studio itself.

This system is very similar to the “Pilot License Extension” or PLEX system from Eve online, and although I had never played Eve myself, I can see how this system is rather ingenious. Essentially, with either PLEX or CREDD, somebody, somewhere is paying for that month of subscription. The people with the spare cash to spend, but perhaps not the extra time, can place up these months of prepaid time for people with the time to farm gold but not necessarily the pocketbooks that really support it ( or just prefer it this way) Walla, the person who sells the CREDD gets gold, and the person who had the time to make the gold, gets a month of game time. Win-win! This also makes CREDD a very useful item in the community. You could stockpile gold in a guild, and use it to help some members down on their luck or perhaps as a reward for exemplary service to the guild. You could use it as a prize for in-game or forum contests as well! Though there is no system in place to gift CREDD, you can help out with the gold for a player to purchase the item on the commodities exchange system!

Though the monthly sub fee is always paid by someone, others can still buy it for in-game gold!

When a game places a subscription fee, it makes a statement that says it is worth your fifteen dollars a month. Will WildStar be worth this? I think so, and so does their team. It will require a game of quality to compete on the market and I think they have that. For fifteen dollars, I have access to tons of WoW's features and many years worth of expansions, or I could pay for SW:ToR, or Eve, so I want to make sure I am getting something of equal or greater value. Fifteen dollars itself isn't that much. I can go out to a decent dinner or maybe a movie for this amount. Getting a full month's worth of game time is a pretty nice deal...especially considering how many hours I tend to sink into my favorite MMOs...

The devs at Carbine have already shown us their dedication to making an excellent game. They are active within their own community, listening to what we have to say and showing us their feedback. They have taken into account difficulty in endgames with their Elder Game system to encourage us to remain longer and are opening a brand new, brilliant IP full of both serious and humorous gameplay with a heavy focus on “fun” and “interesting.” They have decided their game is worth the monthly fee and have proven they will listen to their fans long before they have gained money from it. They believe WildStar will be a fantastic game worth our investment.

And I am inclined to agree.


P.S. : I was also asked to share my opinion on the release date pushback for WildStar. I will be talking a little more about it in the next blog topic, but here is my general opinion on the matter:

If WildStar is anything near what it seems, I will be spending a lot of time here. I'm not just talking in hours, I am talking in years. I spent six years enjoying WoW and I expect to spend near this, if not more, in Wildstar. Though my greatest factor will be being able to spend time with my friends, a great game and interesting lore will keep me around, both for the game play and for the roleplay.

As much as WildStar is a game created for money, it is also an art. It is the creative genius of the development team and the contribution of their blood, sweat and tears for many years to make this come true. Though I understand that “no MMO ships 'perfectly ready'” I understand the desires of the team to release something as close to perfect as possible. This is their pride and joy, they want it to be ready. They want it to look good.

Unlike any other game, I also feel very invested in this game. This isn't something I've just watched from a distance. This is something I am a part of. My voice is part of the community. I've chatted with devs on Twitter, I moderate on WSRP, I write this blog. I know they are listening and I know my opinion is valued. In many ways the team at Carbine studios have given the impression of “those cool friends of yours who are making this sweet game.” They are personable, friendly and they are SO EXCITED. They enjoy sharing WildStar with the community and radiate excitement and enthusiasm at their work. It is hard not to be swept up alongside it. When they release this game, their community will cheer and share their excitement for this accumulation of all their hard work. I want them to be comfortable in their game, because I value that.

So ultimately the only thing about the pushback that makes me pout is that I would dearly love to get a chance to step foot on Nexus and join my friends in our epic adventures. But I know that with this extra time for Carbine, that occasion will only be all the more sweeter.

Rare it is, that anything easy is worth obtaining. Victory is all the more sweet for the hardships you experienced along the way...

Well said Hawkens, well said.

I cannot wait for our first adventures on Nexus!

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