Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 20, 2011
 
Payslope

Even Free2Play games need to make money to be sustainable. Many have some sort of paywall, reserving certain content for people who pay. World of Tanks doesn't have such a wall, everybody has access to all the maps and tech tree tanks in the game. Instead WoT has something I'd rather describe as a payslope: The high-level game becomes very tedious if you don't pay.

The effect is first noticeable around level 7 (out of 10): Starting from this level regular tanks on regular accounts tend to spend more credits on ammo and repair than they get as credit reward at the end of the battle. There are some variables there, winning earns you more than losing, and dealing a lot of damage also earns you more. But with level 8+ tanks costing millions of credits, money definitely is getting tight at the higher levels.

People who want to play for free can farm credits with lower level tanks, which have a better revenue to cost ratio. But the general idea is obviously that if you play World of Tanks so much that you got into the high-level game, you should pay something for that privilege. There are two major ways how to increase your income of credits by spending real money: Gold tanks and a subscription.

When the level 8 gold tanks were added to the game, many assumed that these were mostly for the kind of players who wouldn't want to level that high with regular tanks. But by now many high-level players use such a gold tank to farm credits. All gold tanks are cheap to repair, and with credits earned depending on damage, the income from the higher level gold tanks is better. The gold tanks also appear to get more credits than other tanks for the same result.

Subscriptions are not paid for directly, but with the "gold" currency you buy for real money. At the most favorable rate, €100 or $125 buys you 30,000 gold, and 30 days of subscription cost 2,500 gold, thus the €100 or $125 buys you a subscription for a year. With a subscription you make 50% more credits and experience than with a regular account. You also get a nicer looking garage, but who cares? The 50% more credits shouldn't be underestimated, as this is applied to the credits you earn in battle before deducting the cost of repairs and ammo. So if with the regular account you made 8,000 credits, but paid 10,000 for repairs and ammo, you made a 2,000 credit loss. The 50% bonus increases your income to 12,000, and suddenly you made 2,000 credits profit. Thus effectively the subscription has a higher impact on your credits than on your experience, although of course the 50% bonus there are nice to have as well.

Theoretically you can exchange gold for credits directly, but I wouldn't recommend that. I already earned more credits with my Löwe gold tank than if I had exchanged the gold that tank cost directly for credits. Thus now that I have level 7 regular tanks and am close to the first level 8, I alternate driving regular tanks and the Löwe, so I'll have enough credits to actually buy that level 8 tank. At €25 the Löwe certainly wasn't cheap, but that one-time payment would be enough to get me over the payslope. I have a subscription on top of that, but that's just me spoiling myself. So if you want to buy only one thing, a level 8 gold tank is probably the best investment. You can get up that payslope without paying anything, but that would really tedious, with many low-level battles to farm credits. I like this business model, because it the pressure to pay something is more on the people who play the most. I find that more fair.
Comments:
Sounds like a good pay-model and they seem to have implemented it quite well. It certainly sounds better than forcing players to pay to remain competitive, i.e. paying to pay will get you a better tank.
 
I'm not so sure this would work in an MMO. The fact that you have a stronger enmotional connection to your 'main char' would make it seem strange to have to buy gold chars so that you can repair your main char.
 
Nils - substitute "gold gear" for "gold tank" and you get something you could use in a more traditional MMO. Imagine a game in which weapons and armour break and have to be replaced on a regular basis. The very best gear is earned in-game but is uneconomical to use all of the time, i.e. if you use it for ordinary questing the wear and tear would cost more than you earned. Gold gear would perform well, albeit not at peak, and there would be tiers of lesser drops and crafted gear that vould be used for everyday adventuring. Your character skills are the same regardless of gear.
 
In addition to providing a pay slope I have seen it suggested on the forums that this model is also designed to encourage veteran players to go back and play at lower levels thereby keeping the lower levels full.
 
The effect is first noticeable around level 7

Damn, the grind killed me at tier 2. According to my profile I've played 49 games in my tier 2 tanks (losing most of them - 15 wins, 34 losses), and I'm not even close to affording a tier 3 tank (although I have earned enough xp to unlock some).

After seeing people say how fast the early tiers flew by, and how much it slowed down later, I thought, well, if this is flying by, time for me to quit.
 
Yes, it slows down A LOT with tiers going up. My topmost tank is a tier 5 and I'm nowhere near tier 6.

And honestly, I don't give a damn.... it's not like higher-tier battles will give me anything different from the lower-tier ones, except more HP and more damage (reminds you of anything? :).

I've payed 20E to reward the creators and to have some additional tank slots, so that I can play different tanks, but for the rest, I'm not in a hurry to go high-level.....
 
I kind of like WoTs model with gold.

I'm just wondering, when you say that the gold tanks are cheap to repair what do you mean then? For example, I got a M6A2E1 with my pre-order package and while I make a lot of credits with each match it also costs a lot to restock the ammo. So It's not that unusual that I earn around 35-40k but have to repair and restock for 20k. Does it sound like it works somewhat like that with the Löwe also? I've been wondering if I should buy one, but if I don't gain any more credits than with my M6 then there isn't much of a point.
 
Carson,

I had the same problem at Tier 2, I think something is up with that tier only. 3,4, and 5 all are perfectly fine. I am on 6 now, and should have enough credits for my tier 7 tank even with buying additional equipment for several tanks. This is all done non-premium.
 
So It's not that unusual that I earn around 35-40k but have to repair and restock for 20k.

Something like this can happen with a Löwe, but that would be a battle that went extremely badly. A 60k revenue and 20k costs is more typical, and a good battle earns over 80k.
 
Thanks Tobold. I'll give it a serious consideration to buy a Löwe then. :)
 
tremayneslaw said: "Nils - substitute "gold gear" for "gold tank" and you get something you could use in a more traditional MMO."

My first thought was this might work in a PvP MMO, but not really in a PvE one. The problem is that, unless the game is very rigidly designed, many people will find typical PvE play much easier than others, and so they simply won;t need the gear. (OFC some might buy it anyway.)

However, then I thought that something like the credits might work, if the gold gear somehow got you more or better loot. A bit artificial, but interesting.
 
I am mostly agnostic on paywall/f2p/subscription stuff.

At a macro level you need to have predicable revenues to fund your fixed costs of IT assets, IT Administration, and oh yeah security.

Getting to "predictable" is something that the subscription pay model seems to provide in the easiest way to implement (least cost).

The problem with payslopes/paywalls is that you introduce the overhead (graphics, marketing, sales, fulfillment etc) to get additional revenue EVERY TIME you need extra revenue.

Blizzard has not had another sparky pony money raid for some time. I have interpreted this as an admission that sales of pets/mounts in an online store is just not worth the bother. You pay marketing, graphics, animation, programing, sw update, sales, Customer service to service the new sales initiative AND you may well get back in revenue what you paid in.

Which really is negative opportunity cost to any business. I think that online stores for MMOs viability has mostly been disproved by Blizzard NOT doing it.

because if there was a buck to be made in it... Kotick would be all over that.
 
"Blizzard has not had another sparky pony money raid for some time. I have interpreted this as an admission that sales of pets/mounts in an online store is just not worth the bother. You pay marketing, graphics, animation, programing, sw update, sales, Customer service to service the new sales initiative AND you may well get back in revenue what you paid in."

Guess you missed the furor that the flying version of the Sparkle Pony, the Winged Guardian, caused lately eh?

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/2878502
 
When will they start offering Winged Nazgul in the pet store?
 
I am usually completely adverse to F2P games, but I now play WoTs all the time and have EVEN bought gold. ;)

I'm only at Tier 5 but even with that tank I exchanged gold for free experience to unlock it.

I think I'm ok with it because it is *plausible* to never have to buy a single thing in the game. Of course, you are right Tobold in implying that there is a "practical" paywall at higher tiers, especially if you want to use that shiny expensive tank you unlocked. But for now I'm ok with paying some real $$$ in exchange for the convenience of it all. There's a first time for everything!
 
@Nils

It would easily work in MMO. So main thing you would use "boosts" - gain labor points faster ( able to craft /harvest stuff), getting xp points faster (to level/raise skills), gain additional real estate in game (every player get x square land for free , but for more they have to pay RMT money)

Additional bank space, gear models and skins ,etc. Nothing influencing the power of a character, but just making it easier

After seeing people say how fast the early tiers flew by, and how much it slowed down later, I thought, well, if this is flying by, time for me to quit.


Probably yes. If you do not enjoy tank gameplay -there is no reason to play. Every tank is fun in its own right (at least most are). I probably sunk over 1000 hours (total wild guess there) in counter strike over 10 years I dont even get to show lvl 85 "terrorist" character for it!
 
@Nils- Let me put on my Grumpy WoW Nostalgia glasses. Trivial leveling, frequent gear resets, and perceived radical class changes means that "main" is a much less strong attachment these days. Which I think is a mistake financially and immersion.

Multiple alts to pay for the main is quite common with WoW gold makers. The gold standard is having one of every profession and 6+ alchemists. There were even recent blog series on choosing the optimal race/class of alts.
 
"When will they start offering Winged Nazgul in the pet store?"

Hopefully they'll leave that to LOTRO. In fact it sounds like an ideal solution for Turbine - instead of having to nerf all the early content in order to get everyone to buy the latest expansion, we can all just hop on a Nazgul and skip the content that way!
 
Hagu: Let me put on my Grumpy WoW Nostalgia glasses. Trivial leveling, frequent gear resets, and perceived radical class changes means that "main" is a much less strong attachment these days. Which I think is a mistake financially and immersion.

Hmm, even if levelling is trivial, it's still a hassle for a lazy person like me. I've had the same main for 6 years running now, dealing with the rollercoaster nerfs and buffs that the game designers dish out. The only reason I'd level an alt is to do something I normally couldn't do on my main, but that hasn't really happened yet.

I don't think radical gear resets would really make a person change to a different class btw.

Hagu: Multiple alts to pay for the main is quite common with WoW gold makers. The gold standard is having one of every profession and 6+ alchemists. There were even recent blog series on choosing the optimal race/class of alts.

Gold makers just make money for the hell of it, rather than out of some need for gold. I recently hit the 1 million gold cap just because I could, not that I needed the money. Bought myself a spectral tiger with the gold to be extra speshal.

I do think that Nils is wrong though; instead of alternate characters that you use to make gold, you just do an alternate activity (farming for the common folk). So just like Tobold jumps on his gold tank to make money, people in WoW will stop doing what they enjoy and instead go out and farm.
 
I've got two tier 7 tanks and am about to get a third, and have definitely seen credit income slow down.

I've thought about getting a Lowe but am holding off since I've already put $30 into the game which went to one month of premium and many extra slots. The extra slots hold tier 4-6 tanks which are the good earners, and as their crews train up they're becoming better earners.

Shameless plug: I've compiled a World of Tanks price list in dollars which might interest anyone wanting to know how gold prices convert to dollars. For example, a Lowe costs $29.98 to $41.70 depending on what you pay for the gold.
 
Dude, the sparkling pony is a gold mine. You sell two million of them at 5 bucks a piece--- there is no way on gods green earth that isn't 99% pure profit.

The downside is the damage to the game that gaining a reputation for that will do.
 
I have an IS-7, T34, Tiger 2 and T44. I got to the Tier 9 tanks with just a premium account, but then got a Lowe to speed up my purchase of the IS-7. What would have taken me a month of play took only a week.

The Lowe and KV-5 both have a higher credit multiplier (about 1.5, M6A1 about 1.3, normal is 1) so they gain money stupidly fast.


Most clans in clan wars have given members enough gold to all buy a premium account to help them with getting multiple high level tanks to aid tactical flexibility.

I am a big advocate of this model, as the players are actively supporting good design and development.
 
Question for you Tobold (or anyone else with appropriate experience). If you only had the finances to afford a Tier 8 gold tank -OR- the equivalent amount of premium subscription time (45 days or whatever) - which do you think would be more beneficial?

Assume about 100 games/week. 50/50 win/loss.
 
@Masterlooter

Depends where you are on the payslope. If you find that you are unlocking more tanks than you can afford, then the Lowe. If you are struggling to unlock tanks and modules, then the premium.

As a long term investment, then the Lowe is always the better purchase, but I would only recommend it to people that are really hooked and see themselves playing for 6 months +
 
Totally agree with Matt here. Go for the Löwe if you are looking for the best possible investment.

Damn, the grind killed me at tier 2. According to my profile I've played 49 games in my tier 2 tanks

I'm close to 2,000 games. It is pretty safe to say that if you find 49 games a "grind", World of Tanks simply isn't the game for you. While at level 3 you get access to more maps, the game doesn't fundamentally change from level 1 to 10.
 
@Masterlooter - It depends on your play-style. If you like to concentrate on a few tanks at a time, the Lowe is the better investment IMO. I like having a huge stable of tanks (gotta collect them all) that I am slowly leveling at the same time with the limited playtime I have so I opted for Premium instead. I do plan on purchasing a Lowe or whatever future equivalent comes out if they ever run a special rate on bulk gold in the future.

Aloo, can we all agree if LOTRO ever does start selling Winged Nazgul pets that they have, in fact, jumped the proverbial shark?
 
Thanks for the feed back Gents. I'll give that Lowe a try in a week or 2.
 
Tobold, first, let me thank you for talking so much about WoT. That played a big part in getting me into this game. I'd heard vaguely about it before but your articles convinced me to give it a try. Now, I'm hooked and can't stop thinking about strategy or what tank to upgrade.

I really like the gold economy in WoT. Initially I wasn't going to spend a dime on this game (which is a perfectly valid way to play it) but just yesterday I forked $30 for the privilege of swapping some XP and training some of my crew. Both of these actions gave me a quick boost in power and now I enjoy the game even more.

To the player complaining about 49 games, I'm at tier 5 now (my best tank is a fully upgraded PZ IV, which rocks BTW) and I've fought in 480 battles (total with all my tanks). In 2 weeks. So yeah, while it does seem grindy at times, that grind is a lot of fun.

As you gain XP and better equipment, you will survive more battles, hit more enemies and generally perform better.

Also, some tanks/tank types are more enjoyable than others. TDs and SPGs play completely different than other tanks.
 
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