Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 23, 2012
Persuading people to pay

In the uproar over the EVE monocalypse, CCP's CEO Hilmir Petursson foolishly said something very true but hurtful: "I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say". The true measure of acceptance of microtransactions in online game is not how much people complain about it, but how many of them actually pay.

The percentage of users who pay varies a lot from game to game. Zynga with their Facebook game is said to "convert" only 1 to 3 percent of their users to paying users. Free2Play MMORPGs usually cite numbers in the 5 to 10 percent conversion range. One of the best ratios of paying users to overall users is from World of Tanks, 25 to 30 percent.

I would argue that this is because the microtransaction model of World of Tanks is the most fair. I once called it a payslope instead of a paywall: The further you progress in the game, the more are you encouraged to pay. That isn't to say that it is impossible to directly buy a big tank and gold ammo, but the investment would be a bad one, as you'd just horribly lose all the time. Even for experienced players using gold ammo in a random battle is kind of a waste. Only in the "endgame" of clan warfare where every little advantage counts does gold ammo make really sense. And then we are in a situation where those who play most and most intensively also have the best motivation to pay. That sounds rather fair to me. And seeing the conversion rates, it apparently sounds rather fair to many players.

Now that I'm trying out iOS games, I notice that many of these have a similar basic philosophy: Many games exist in a free "lite" version, and only if you play this for a while, like it, and want more, do you pay for the full version. That's a one-time purchase in most cases, but the principle remains the same: Those most interested in the game pay.

Many of the "DotA" or "MOBA" multiplayer online games also have widely hailed payment models in which everybody can play for free, and payments make most sense for players who play intensively. That this works best is logical: The more you like a game and spend time with it, the easier it is to persuade you to pay something for it. The n00b who never played the game and directly spends hundreds of dollars on it on the first day is an urban myth.
"The n00b who never played the game and directly spends hundreds of dollars on it on the first day is an urban myth."

2 wrong assumptions here: that he is a n00b. That he spends hundreds of dollars on the first day.

Fact: many players used to f2p spend some money as soon as they see what they like - on the first day.
"Fair" to whom?

I actually consider F2P to be a punishment, or "enthusiasm tax" at best - the more you enjoy something, the more it costs. There is no natural law in which that must be the case. Indeed, as a consumer, my sole imperative is to maximize my consumer surplus, which F2P is designed to undermine and monetize at every turn.
I think it really depends on how much and what kind of content they are "holding back" from players when we talk about F2P games.

League of Legends, which as I understand is one of the more profitable games lately, allows you to earn (with "points) almost everything you can buy with just takes time but because of the design of the game you are not disadvantaged for doing so. The only thing (I can think of) that you can't buy with the "Influence Points" (earned currency) are the character's special skins...but you get the default one which there is nothing wrong with. But if you want your Armored turtle guy to look like a NINJA Armored Turtle you shell out some cash (and actually quit a bit, some of the skins are almost $10 USD)...but they give you absolutely no benefit.

Though, these days I am jaded with subscriptions...$15 a month for a content patch every 3-4? Plus having to pay $40+ for "expansions" when they come along. I loathe to calculate just how much I've given Blizzard over the years.
the more you enjoy something, the more it costs. There is no natural law in which that must be the case.

The more you enjoy chocolate, the more it costs. The more you enjoy going to the cinema, the more it costs. The more you enjoy traveling, the more it costs. The more you enjoy skiing, the more it costs. And the list goes on and on. It might not be "a natural law", but for most goods and services you pay more if you consume more.

$15 a month for a content patch every 3-4?

And this is exactly the reason why for most goods and services you pay more if you consume more. Because the alternative is "everybody pays the same", which then means that those consuming less pay more relatively to what goods and services they receive. $15 per month is a good deal if you spend 100+ hours using the service, but a bad deal if you use the service less than 10 hours that month.
There's so many f2p games that I have my free fun, then move to the next game. Unless a game really blows my socks off, I'm not going to pay. That hasn't happened yet for me.
"little advantage of gold ammo"???

Read my analysis on that

My damage, kill and XP/battle number DOUBLED after using gold ammo.
I side with Gevlon, of all the examples, WoT strikes as extremely "pay to win", which is why all the data about the use of gold ammo is very well hidden. I remember someone on the forums posting statistics on tank usage and victories.... well, maybe, since all I found was a thread where the data had been removed....

And $15 being a bad deal if you only play 10 hours in a month? Have you ever checked the price of cinemas or restaurants?

F2P is not here to stay because it's a more fair payment model, it's here to stay because it's a more profitable payment model, allowing to milk the players who can play, while the "free" ones just add population to the server.

The only good thing which comes from it is that you can test the game before paying. This assuming that the whole thing does not become a "pay to fix design errors" like the recent LotRO coup with the barter wallet.
Read my analysis on that

I will have a look at that later. But I remember a previous analysis from you where you claimed that your data from 67 battles with one single tank disproved my analysis of data from 4,000 battles with many different tanks. So excuse me if I am skeptic, as I know that you are quite willing to misinterpret and manipulate data to make a point. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and you are quite adept at using the latter to prove just about anything you want.
And $15 being a bad deal if you only play 10 hours in a month?

How can paying any sum of money for X hours of service ever be considered a good deal if other people pay exactly the same sum of money for 10 times X hours of service? Having intensive users pay less always ends up with casual users paying relatively more and being overcharged.
The goblin's right :)

Note that he doesn't state that it doubles his victories, but his "dps". And indeed, on the middle tiers (5-6), where most of the f2p players are, using gold ammo can turn any tank into a death machine.

And i like very much WoT, but i've never seen a game so intend on making money at every opportunity. The next patch will essentially make the game free till T5 instead of T6...
There are no Free2Play models to my knowledge that don't expect you to pay MORE than $15 a month if you pay anything at all. They all offer lots of options for the most dedicated 3-10% to pay MUCH more.

However, they are severely lacking in options for players who like the game enough that they would pay a little ($2-3 or so).

I have liked many F2P games enough that they could have gotten my money, but I gave them nothing after they sent a very clear message of "screw you if you aren't spending hundreds of dollars."
The n00b who never played the game and directly spends hundreds of dollars on it on the first day is an urban myth.

While this doesn't fit your criteria 100%, I'll tell you about a friend of mine that I recently introduced to League of Legends.

Within a week he spent $250 on a new video card and $150 on a new headset (at least Skype is free, haha). He then proceeded to drop another $150 on Riot Points the next week which he promptly spent on the two champion bundles and a number of individual champions.

I'll agree that he's a noob and even a bit nutters for going so crazy over a game he barely understands, but I'm sure there are plenty of people like him out there.
You could call it an enthusiasm tax. Or you could call it a consumption tax.

Or you could call the current model a tax on casuals, or hardcore welfare or whatever you like.

The F2P is the more you consume, the more you pay. Seems fair to me.

As far as gold ammo, I guess you can pay to win (slightly more often), thought it seems pretty stupid to spend at least (10-20 shots is pretty normal, so ) .50-1.00 per game to win. You want to talk about expensive? Most games last maybe 7 minutes. That's quite a bit to run gold ammo in pub matches where the best player in the game is going to lost 45% of the time just because his team blows chunks. I've played close to 7000 matches, really don't see this as a real problem. More of a theoretical objection. If there's some guy willing to spend that much cash to do a bit better in pub matches, god bless his poor loser soul.

The gold ammo objection is fairly
@Tobold: you don't need to read Gevlon's statistics, just look at the ammo stats.
People keep saying that it makes no difference because the damage is the same (with one notable exception, which is cited to be the reason of the 70% win ratio of one of the top players). The difference is in armor penetration (or blast radius for SPG shells). Now, this has exactly the same effect as damage, as it means that you have something like 15/20% more probability to penetrate the opponent's armor. Or, alternatively, to have the same peneration chance that he would have while being 15%/20% CLOSER.

This is an enormous difference. If Blizzard introduced a pay-store item which boosts your DPS by 10% the uproar would dwarf the entire realid fiasco thread.

As I already wrote: it's not by chance that WoT does NOT provide a detailed combat log..... the fuzzier, the better!
Well, as I said, I don't have the numbers on gold ammo. But the point of my post was anyway that it doesn't matter what you or Gevlon say about it. What matters is what the players in general *do*. And as 25% to 30% of WoT players *do* spend money on the game, the payment model is obviously a success. Far more than other "freemium" payment models.

Free2Play in the West is still somewhat experimental. Companies try out different things, and copy stuff which works for other companies. Thus we can expect the payment model of World of Tanks to be widely copied in the future. And once you look at the whole of it, and not just the very narrow issue of gold ammo which is probably far from being the main component of revenue, that success can well be explained by the fairness of the model.
Now I have 4200 battles and still 56% winrate.
So using gold ammo changes your win rate from 50% to 56%? Personally I wouldn't pay for that.

While I know that more dps results in more credits, I'm not sure that other ways to buy credits for gold aren't more effective. For example I found that gold tanks are quite a good investment if you look at them from a credits per gold ratio point of view.
How much money did it take for you to win an extra 252 battles out of 4000?

Given your hit ratio, it takes you 15 cents to land two shots.
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