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LotRO’s Cash Shop and Where It Leads

Throughout the transition period, I’ve done my best to support Turbine and Lord of the Rings Online. As a lifetime subscriber, the change to freemium meant very little for me – and, still do. So, while I empathized with players terrified of what the changeover meant for them, I couldn’t exactly share their fear.

That’s all still true today, but the recent unveil of the cash shop leaves me a bit worried for the future. There’s a lot of controversy about the things they’re selling. Permanent stat buffs, rep. mounts, super-powered potions, and Get Out of Grind Free passes abound.

You guys know me, I’m a blogger, so I’ve got to share my opinion about anything and everything. Honestly, much of what’s for sale is flying under my radar.

I don’t mind the rep. mounts, honestly, for the same reason I didn’t mind Blizzard re-using Naxx and Onyxia: developers and artists worked hard on this stuff and giving players another option to experience it is a good thing.

The accelerated deed and virtue items also don’t bother me because I’m not a grinder. I don’t mind killing mobs to help level, but killing hundreds and thousands of mobs for an extra 2% to some stat – that, as a leveler, doesn’t really matter to me anyways – isn’t my cup of tea. I would gladly pay a few bucks to save myself the hours of wasted time. Yes, monotonously killing low-level mobs is a waste of time. While I sit there, doing the most boring of MMO legwork, my mind drifts to the other things I could be doing and, before you know it, I’m logged out and doing them.

Selling the virtue stuff is like selling player retention. Why should they bother slamming their head against a wall when they could be playing something else? The deed grind should be completely reworked, in my opinion, but this is the next best thing. Kind of lame for the people who ground it out, though.

Finally, the stat boosters are what worry me. They’re small, but as Syp rightly notes in the article linked above, without them, you’re an unoptimized raider. And, as Keen points out, the sale of these items has a direct impact on the larger game world — even on players who never buy a thing. That means, by endgame, the guy who buys the stat pack has the advantage. It seems to me that any raid team serious about progression will consider this a requirement. Something about that just seems wrong.

The MMO genre is moving closer and closer towards F2P dominance. Is this what we have to look forward to, being outmatched by our neighbors pocketbook? I know that beta players are saying the boosts are really minimal, and that’s cool, but it’s this kind of move that really makes free-to-play look like a sham. I realize that this is the price we pay for losing the subscription model, but at no other time is it more evident that free-to-play isn’t really free at all. With subscription games, you pay for equality. With a cash shop, you pay to be free from inequality.

No one wants to be a drag because they couldn’t do as good as the guy with the cash shop item. No one also wants to be told that they have to buy a stat pack if they want to raid on Friday. The closer we get to free-to-play, the more and more likely that seems.

I want to throw this one to Ferrel for a comment, but also to all of you, too. As a raid leader, would this be the kind of thing you would require you raiders to have?

Or am I getting too far ahead of myself? For the most part, I’m still really looking forward to the move, but these thoughts hung with me today. I’d like to think there’s something there.

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  1. Stabs

    Well I’ve run a few raids in my time and often as not the best dpser is doing about triple what the worst dpser does. In that context +2 strength doesn’t matter a whole lot.

    At the high end, the world firsters I can see these stats being more or less mandatory. You can still grind the points in the game though, no? So if you wanted to be a top raider for free it’s possible, you might just need disposable Turbine Point grinder alts.

    But for 90% of raiders not buying stat boosts won’t be the reason you’re the weakest link. It will be your awareness, game knowledge, reflexes, decision-making and ability to pay attention. That’s before we get to character attributes like gear, build, etc.

    But yeah we’re inevitably moving closer to Pay-To-Win. I don’t think the whole industry will go there though because not many people want to invest hours to be the loser, even if it’s free.

  2. Eugene

    Don’t you think most endgame raiders have during the bossfights already their mainstats at caplevel? So, 1 or more +10 stattomes will not make them better.

  3. Yogi

    Good read Chris. Has anyone looked deeper into the stat potion portion of the cash shop? Ive heard a lot of complaints but I have also read that they do not extend your stats beyond cap, meaning they are only advantageous to the leveling player base and don’t affect end game. Ive yet to see an item mentioned in the cash shop that wasn’t available to players who put in the time to get it for free. The only “unfair” part of this whole thing I have seen is the ability to buy the Reputation mounts. And at the heart of that is one player not feeling as unique and special for spending the time in game to earn it rather than at the office working. Its an e’peen argument that for me is trivial at best.

    Keen’s article did nothing for me, much like his first. He completely ignored most of the comments in his section that referred more to his doom say talking points than any real issue these items will have on game play. It is funny to me to read people complain about these items in a cash shop. They do realize that what they are asking for instead is needless hours of grinding game play? I wonder how many anti-cash shop supporters are also pro grinders? My guess is very few, leaving me to believe that most of the complaints are more about not getting hand outs than the issue of people being able to buy items or “advantages”.

  4. Keen

    “It is funny to me to read people complain about these items in a cash shop. They do realize that what they are asking for instead is needless hours of grinding game play? ”

    Oh, you mean the game that has been successful for years?

  5. Docholiday

    My only issue with the horses are the reputation ones that are available before you can even get into the zone due to level restrictions. Which for me is a pretty minor issue, but still seems strange that I can buy a reward for a zone that I can’t even get in to 🙂

    As for the stat tomes, I do wish they didn’t have them but it will be nice to be able to play around with different builds as opposed to the standard one since you’ll be able to hit the stat caps in numerous ways.

    As another note, the stat tomes are rather expensive if you go the full +50 as it is basically 5 months of your 500 points per month allotment, or roughly half of your lifetime “bonus” points when it launches.

  6. Tesh

    Keen, successful != good design. Neither does that infer that buying power is good design. Still, the mistaken notion that WoW is the epitome of design because it’s successful is holding the industry (and the players) back.

  7. Quincy Nieva

    Don’t you think most endgame raiders have during the bossfights already their mainstats at caplevel? So, 1 or more +10 stattomes will not make them better. zombie driving games

  8. Linda

    i wonder how many anti-cash shop supporters are also pro grinders? My guess is very few, leaving me to believe that most of the complaints are more about not getting hand outs than the issue of people being able to buy items or “advantages”. fun games for xbox one

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