Sunday, January 19, 2014

In-Between Discussion: How Micro-Transactions can be good for everyone.

Customizing your experience, and owning it!

Hats are always a good business model for FTP.
After recently playing Rift (an MMO with a FTP model and a wonderful Micro-transaction Store) I am taking a more in-depth look at how micro-transactions are affecting the world of gaming, and where they are headed as demand changes. I personally am a huge fan of the well developed models. Rift, being my prime example, allows customization of experience, not just a place to buy equipment. They give the player many different colored and textured models for pets, mounts, cosmetic equipment, and UI upgrades. Much of this has nothing to do with the core mechanics, but it still gives you the incentive to spend your hard earned money to increase your experience.

When you spend your money, you are seeing definitive and immediate results. Not stat increases or abstract concepts. You can see the wild animal that you're riding on, or the dragon follower that interacts with you as you adventure. These things become a part of your experience, and everyone will have a different experience depending on what they want to spend their money on. 

Now my first exposure to the micro-transaction scene was years ago, in mobile gaming. It's been around the android store for so long I don't even know when it started. The well made games operated around the same concept, hook the player with good mechanics, and then if they want to increase their investment in the game, the game increases interactivity and customization. They are ways for the player to have fun and help in giving the game a touch of their style. 

Then games began releasing the "Pay to Win" model. Star Wars Angry Birds is the perfect example of this; paying money to be able to win much more easily. Buying up extra super-power birds so you can surpass levels or earn the ever-elusive 3 stars on each level. This in turn earning you more power ups than the player can earn normally without the purchase of in-game money. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy supporting a developer when they've put good hard work into a game, just not when the game demands it of me to play well.

Does the consumer deserve to be hit with a brick wall when they can't do anything more with your free-to-play model? Is this really the right course to take, imply that they can't move further without investing money? Essentially I see this as a form of entertainment blackmail, and not something I want to further invest my money into.

DOTA 2 does it right when it comes to FTP.
I buy games in early access and support crowd funded campaigns that I want to see succeed. In the same way I'll invest into a FTP model, once I've been convinced (and it doesn't take that much) that the experience I'm paying for will be enriched. I will not however throw cash down for micro-transactions in a game that naturally feels cheap until I pay.

I like the Free to Play model honestly. I believe that in time, I will invest more in a game if I'm allowed to enjoy it freely to reward attention to details than I would just buying it right off the shelf. A game might enthrall me if I'm allowed to play it for a while for free, but I might never touch it if there is a large initial cost. Hopefully the FTP market is guided by popular demand and pushed toward this new, wonderfully inspired model of symbiotic enjoyment; and not just video-game blackmail.

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