First, let’s acknowledge a few things:
- Value Added Transactions (you can’t call $25 micro) are here to stay.
- Some people will find the cost worth it, regardless of the cost. They’re not wrong, nor are they any more right than those who find it too expensive.
- Blizzard *does not* bear comparison to other gaming companies, on virtue of their position as the single biggest MMO studio and industry leader.
All that being said, the issue was never about whether the item was worth it or not, or how I felt about cash shops in subscription games. The issue is that Blizzard (see point #3), is raising the bar for what is considered acceptable to charge their player base.
Put another way, they’re proving that they can price gouge (by comparison to standard subscription rates) and get away with it because ‘X amount of players’ will still buy it.
Here’s the thing though, that’s a totally false assumption on the grounds of the sheer size of their potential customer base and market penetration. When you have 12 million players, you could charge $100 for that same mount and 50k people will still buy it and rave about how “worth the money” it was.
You see, what bothers me is that people defend how much this thing costs on the basis of “money left on the table.” Frankly, that’s stupid. If you really think about it, you could monetize lots of things because it’s “money left on the table.” Respecs? Five Dollars. Extra Flight Paths? Ten Dollars. That new raid dungeon? On sale for $14.99, so Buy Now! And remember, computer code comes in limited quantities, so you’d better act quick.
There’s also this idea that we’ve somehow forgotten that MMOs are businesses, out to make money. We know this but thanks for the reminder. If you expect people to willingly lump them into the same category as our cable and telephone companies, you’re out of your mind. Is that really what you think is best? Grabbing money for money’s sake… because you can? That’s why we have $30 “data” plans from Verizon that don’t include text messaging. That’s why PPV sporting events are $40+ when almost everything else is less than $20. That’s why we have tiered content in either scenario. I’m sorry, but is that what you want? Tiered MMO gaming?
Then again, maybe if you’re in support of the Facebook model overtaking subscription gaming, maybe that is what you want. And maybe your opinion is a little skewed because you’ve spent too much time invested in the different FarmVilles and Mafia Wars.
I’d also like to take a second to address the fallacy that blogger opinions don’t matter because “we don’t represent the player base.” That might be so, through the numbers. Here’s what’s being left out of that statement though, the writers and frequenters of blogs are probably the single most educated, experienced, and invested group of MMO fans in existence. “Hundreds of thousands” of people will still pay, no matter the cost, but it’s the vocal minority that watches over the rest of the flock.
Think of the gasoline hikes over the last few years. Millions of people still bought gas. Millions were unaffected by the raising prices. Yet, if it wasn’t for the “vocal minority” speaking out against the rampant price gouging taking place, we’d probably be at $7 a gallon right about now. Thank you, protesters, because you’ve saved me money, just like those of us upset by the $25 horse are trying to do for you.
The fact is, businesses do not operate on the basis of altruism. If everyone silently accepted what they were given because “it’s a business, they need to make money” the MMO, gaming, and whole freaking economy would be drastically different.
Businesses without the balances of vocal consumers quickly learn to take advantage of the situation.
People that willingly support drastic inflation from the market norm either have a) too much money; or, b) aren’t educated/don’t care enough about the world outside of their own.