Friday, June 12, 2009
$60 is not too much money
Both Heartless and Cuppycake are quoting from a Gamasutra article on how much money people actually pay for a Free2Play game, taken the example of Puzzle Pirates (which also exists in a monthly subscription version). The result is that the average PAYING customer ends up spending just under $60 over the whole time he plays the game. And as there are lots of non-paying customers, the average per customer over the whole lifetime is just $2.
Of course that is an average, and there are probably extremes of people spending hundreds of dollars. But ON AVERAGE Puzzle Pirates with microtransactions is cheaper than WoW. Even for the average paying customer, and of course very much so for the average customer.
I think the misconception comes from people with an extremely competitive mindset, who always want to have everything. Of course if you go some Free2Play item shop and buy absolutely everything, that is going to cost you hundreds of dollars. But very, very few people will ever do that. Just like very, very few people play WoW for over 100 hours a weeks. And even then it is still arguable which of the two extremes ends up doing more economic damage. My most extreme microtransaction hobby, Magic the Gathering, cost me about $1,000 per year, a sum I wouldn't spend any more, certainly not on a Free2Play game. But even those $1,000 are peanuts compared to the possibility that I could have finished my Ph.D. one year earlier and thus started earning earlier if I hadn't lost so much time playing MUDs and other stuff instead of studying.
But the point is that extremes are just that, extreme, and not the normal case for the average player. The average paying customer paying $60 in total for the complete lifetime from downloading Puzzle Pirates for free over playing it for weeks or months to finally growing bored and stopping is certainly not paying too much for the privilege. That is totally comparable of buying a console game for $60 and playing it for a while, and then you're still likely to have spent less time with the console game than with the Free2Play MMO.
Not only is the average paying customer just spending a pretty normal amount of money for a game, by doing so he also finances 30 players that don't pay anything at all (simple math from the average per user and average per paying user income). The non-paying users again span a wide range from the guy who downloaded the game, played it for 5 minutes, and uninstalled it again, to the guy who doesn't have any money and plays the game for free every day. The closest you can do like that in a monthly subscription game is playing a series of free trials using different mail addresses, but you'll have to restart every 10 days or however long the free trial period is.
The idea that somebody ultra-rich swoops in and using thousands of dollars buys himself a place at the top of the heap just isn't the reality of microtransaction games. Most are even designed in a way that doesn't make this possible. You're more likely to meet somebody in WoW who bought his level 80 full epic character on EBay than you are to meet somebody whose success is solely due to money in a typical Free2Play game. The mundane reality of microtransaction is average people buying some convenience and faster progress for what they otherwise would have spent on a game that isn't free. And subsidizing those less fortunate in the process. Nothing wrong with that.