Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
 
Are you hurt by your neighbor's Rolls Royce?

Diminishing Returns is pondering the $50 hobby horse in LotRO, and thinks that it is like the tree in the forest philosophical dilemma: "Players’ rage is not directed at the actual horse (which they will rarely encounter) but the idea of the horse and what it represents." Most people agree that Free2Play designs in which the free players are armed with sticks while the paying players get mega-cannons are bad (I hear WarZ works like that). But what about items shops selling expensive fluff? Nobody really has an in-game advantage by buying an expensive mount or pet. So on the other side nobody really has an in-game disadvantage by some other player owning an expensive mount or pet. The only "hurt" it produces is jealousy.

Now being jealous of what other people have is a very natural reaction. In a way one could say that it is the force that powers the "American Dream". Of course the downside is that it also was the force behind the sub-prime mortgage financial disaster, because if you need to keep up with the Joneses you might make some unwise financial decisions. But ultimately that is a question of self-control. Are you really hurt by your neighbor driving a Rolls Royce? It doesn't make your car drive any worse, it only makes it look worse in comparison.

With Free2Play games there is another factor to consider: The people buying the $50 hobby horse are effectively financing the game for those who pay nothing. If everybody decided to pay nothing and just play for free, the game would be closed down after a few months. As much as the entitlement kids seem to think otherwise, game companies are not charities; they are businesses that need to make money to pay their employees and investors. If you see somebody with a $50 hobby horse in Lord of the Rings Online, you should /thank him instead of raging at him. It is him who is paying the game for you, and that merits some gratitude.

Comments:
Unless you gather MILIONS of players, keeping a free game alive while making money at the same time (by selling hats and other cosmetic stuff) is extremely hard.
 
Errr.... no

There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH. The fact that Turbine thought this would be a nice addition to an MMO that features one of the largest RP communities says a lot about them.

This is worse money-grabbing than the whole monocle thing in EVE and look how well that turned out for CCP. Companies are not charities, but cosumers shouldn't be treated as sheep either.
 
It's not the fool who asks, it's the fool who pays. Even if it's a hobby horse for the price of the proverbial Rolls Royce.

Maybe this is kind of like those Nigerian 419 letters that are ridiculous on purpose. Rather than waste time convincing people who are skeptical or downright hostile, they make the initial offer ridiculous to weed them out. That way they can focus their marketing efforts on people who are most likely to pay.
 
I don't mind my neighbours Rolls Royce, but I do mind that some people buy a Rolls Royce out of pocket change while others barely have enough to pay for a roof over their head and food on the table.

But a $50 horse isn't in the same league as a luxury car.
 
It seems to me that the rage is against Turbine and not against other players who have (not yet, isn't it on the test server only atm?) bought the horse.

I also agree very much with Chris K.: Turbine seems to do a nice job of alienating their RP base. Maybe it's a lot smaller than we think it is.... but is it really smaller than the number of people who will buy the horse?

 
> I don't mind my neighbours Rolls
> Royce, but I do mind that some
> people buy a Rolls Royce out of
> pocket change while others barely
> have enough to pay for a roof over
> their head and food on the table

No need to talk about expensive cars. As you can see, we're here typing random stuff on a gaming blog, while others are begging for a dollar under the rain (or almost dead of starvation).

As long as people buy things with LEGALLY earned money, who cares about WHAT and WHY? It's just jealousy.


 
Funny, you don't hear these complaints about Blizz, although their cash shop is a more naked money grab than even a F2P's cash store.

 
Where were you when the sparkle pony happened?
 
I'm hurt if not enough people want to buy the super expensive daft hobby horse to support the game. I don't actually understand why anyone would want one of these, regardless of price.

I wouldn't mind giving them money if they need it, but I won't buy something overpriced that I don't want in order to do it.
 
Funny, you don't hear these complaints about Blizz, although their cash shop is a more naked money grab than even a F2P's cash store.

That's because 90% of the WoW playerbase does not even *know* that there is a cash shop..... it's not like they have multiple "store" buttons in every UI window, you know :)
 
There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH.

Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to "break your immersion"? Sounds extremely selfish to me.
 
Assuming their is no gameplay impact then the player is not harmed, however an item that is hugely immersion breaking does harm the gameplay of others. Paid for re-skins should not trample the 4th wall. A mûmak or sparkly pony would be strange but justifiable so it would work. A hobby horse or Toyota Tacoma would not.
 
I suppose there is an issue with the culture of the MMORPG environment itself - Blizzard can put just about anything into WoW without problems because their world is comic fantasy steampunk, and sparkle ponies are just another thing (actually this robust-to-modification world may be part of the secret of their success, irrespective of the cash shop). Middle Earth is intrinsically less suited to embracing such flashy stuff.
 
"Players’ rage is not directed at the actual horse (which they will rarely encounter) but the idea of the horse and what it represents."

Or is it? Let's consider two alternate scenarios:

A) Turbine adds an obviously cartoonish hobby horse as a normal in-game drop/reputation award.
B) Turbine adds a lore-appropriate Numenorian Swift Steed via the cash store.

Which of the two scenarios is likely to generate greater outrage?
 
Pet peeve. You mean envy, not jealousy.

Envy is when you see someone with more than you, and want what they have. Jealousy is when you see someone wanting what you have, and you don't want to give it up. I covet your girlfriend, I am envious. You covet my girlfriend, I am jealous.

And yeah, envy is almost never a good thing. In real life someone else having a bigger house, a nicer car, a higher salary, does not in any way _reduce_ my house, car, or salary. There's no harm done to you, so envy cannot be justified.

In games, if someone else buying stuff really does cause harm to you (like they could use their bought stuff to lessen your own independent enjoyment of the game), then that seems more like really shitty game design, than a problem with cash shops. In an ideal game other players would always improve your gaming experience, never detracting for your own enjoyment.
 
I haven't played WarZ in a couple of weeks but unless they changed everything that's just not true.

You can buy a baseball bat with nails in it for cash. That's about it as far as weapons.

It's the same thing you see with premium tanks in WoT; a lot of people resent the people who buy these tanks for being wallet warriors.

People don't think about these things rationally; people's economic instincts are based on a 30 person hunter gatherer troop. It doesn't work for the economics of MMOs.
 
Tobold, you wrote:

Nobody really has an in-game advantage by buying an expensive mount or pet

It depends what game you are playing. If you're playing the part of an adventurer, then no, you are not hurt. But if you a pet- or mount-collector, then yes, you are hurt. You cannot have a complete collection without paying real money.

What is fluff to the raider or leveller or explorer is not fluff to the collector. And LotRO, like most MMORPGs, includes all kinds of players, not just people who play the way you do.
 
Tobold Stoutfoot said...

There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH.

Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to "break your immersion"? Sounds extremely selfish to me.

5/12/12 13:58

Immersion is more important to some of us than it is to others. Those of us who are playing solely for immersion will leave to find some other game to play when we can no longer find it in our current game.

I want gaming companies to make money, I am paying them to provide me with immersion.
 
> Let me get that straight: You would
> rather that Turbine makes no money
> and shuts the game down than allow
> them to "break your immersion"?
> Sounds extremely selfish to me.

I guess he was referring to the bad idea of adding a "silly/funny" item in the game. That would work in WoW, where you can see dancing pumpkins and other funny stuff. But not in a game like this.
 
Pet peeve. You mean envy, not jealousy.

You might want to verify your pet peeve with a dictionary. For example the Merriam-Webster defines jealous as "hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage". Which is exactly what the hobby horse outrage is all about.
 
I am not convinced that jealousy is the main cause of the outrage. I think it is more that we all have an inherent idea of the value of things and when we see someone try to sell something for way beyond our perception of what it is worth it triggers a "rip-off-ometer" in our brains. Even if we had no intention of buying that item once the rip-off-ometer is triggered then we become suspicious of everything else that company is trying to sell us.

I don't think this is an entirely rational process - more an automatic response designed to protect us from dodgy dealers. Someone who trips that rip-off-ometer moves from a trusted category into an untrusted category and we will be more suspicious of dealing with them in future.

Of course everyone has a different notion of the perceived value of things, particularly virtual goods. A goodly number of folk thought $25 was a reasonable price for a sparkly pony while many other vehemently disagreed.

Sadly the $60 monocle and the $50 hobby horse seem to have priced themselves well outside just about everyone's idea of good value. While I have read a few people defending them on the grounds that they are not compulsory purchases I haven't read anyone who said that either of those two items are good value. I think Turbine, just like CCP last year has goofed royally on this one.
 
The real world is full of luxury items that are not good value for money. The *point* of a luxury item is that it is not good value for money, thereby guaranteeing a certain exclusiveness.
 
@Hellstar--

After having seen so many of those damn sparkle ponies and other cash store mounts around, I find it hard to believe that 90% of the player base doesn't know that it exists. Especially when you see ads for it every time you start the game.

WoW is Blizzard's cash cow on subscriptions alone, it doesn't need a cash store at all. The fact that not only does one exist but convinces enough of the player base to buy stuff means that P.T. Barnum is alive and well. Does it bother me? No, but it does make me shake my head.

At least LOTRO and the other F2P games are more honest in that they need the store to do well so that they can stay afloat. WoW's cash store, on the other hand, is pure profit. (And with pet battles all the rage, you can bet that pure profit is the motivator to put pets for sale in the store.)

 
I think the idle rich are more discerning than you give them credit for Tobold. They have their own expectations of value and while a high price can ensure exclusivity you won't get away with sticking a high price sticker on shoddy goods.
 
Wait till they start offering laser cannons for $$$. Let's see how immersion breaking that'll be. :P
 
I like the idea of just how badly that would rankle some folks - the concept of thanking people who bought the fluff, for keeping the game alive.

It kinda cuts directly into the heart of that whole 'poverty as a virtue' lie people tell themselves to feel better about their situation and their inability/unwillingness to improve it.
 
There are two, entirely separate issues here that you are attempting to conflate.

Issue 1: Hobby Horse mount in a Tolkien setting.
Issue 2: $50 mount.

The outrage encompasses people angry at just Issue 1, people angry just Issue 2, and people angry at both. There is nothing about Issue 1 that has to do with jealousy, envy, or anything else. You would have seen a similar outcry from many people even if the mount was earned in-game for free because it is inconsistent with the setting/theme.

Regarding Issue 2, there can be very legitimate complaints concerning even F2P game design when designers cynically go whale-hunting with cash shop items whose value is entirely based on how expensive it is (e.g. how many people want the $50 mount because it's $50 and not because it looks good?). A neighbor's Rolls Royce doesn't impact you IRL because there are other car manufactures with more affordable options - in contrast, Turbine is the exclusive provider of LotRO content, and every developer man-hour spent on the Hobby Horse is one less spent on anything else.

Finally, you said:

Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to "break your immersion"? Sounds extremely selfish to me.

That is a False Dichotomy. Turbine could sell a $50 mount that fits the theme of the game and I doubt he/she would have an objection.
 
@Tobold

Thanks for the link!

@Azuriel

I think the two issues are connected. For whatever reason, Turbine believe that an immersion-breaking mount is best for whale-hunting.

I am not trying to justify a whale-based strategy, but you should consider the likelihood that there is a large proportion of players in F2P games who will not spend a penny and would move on rather than being forced to do so by pay-2-win or pay-2-UI (Thanks Bioware). If only 5% will pay anything, they will need to pay big.
 
After having seen so many of those damn sparkle ponies and other cash store mounts around, I find it hard to believe that 90% of the player base doesn't know that it exists. Especially when you see ads for it every time you start the game.

Really? When the 1st one was released people wanted to be special: Dalaran was full. I must have seen five grand total during the entire cataclysm, and even now all I see are rep mounts. Same with pets.
 
"That is a False Dichotomy. Turbine could sell a $50 mount that fits the theme of the game and I doubt he/she would have an objection."

True. They could sell (well made) clothing, mounts, cosmetic things THAT FIT INTO THE SETTING for 200$ and I wouldn't blink an eye, because the other guy showing off these items would actually add to my immersion and not destroy it.

People didn't object to the hobby horse because they were too jealous of all the rich people that can get one.
 
@Azuriel

I agree, but would reword your points slightly:

1. A Hobby Horse item that increases your speed rather than decreases your speed as per 'reality'.

2. $50 mount/ item that provides an advantage that cannot be acquired another way.

1. I know reality is always subjective but my expectation of LOTRO is that it fits with Tolkien's world and a stick with a horse's head on that increases one's running speed, doesn't fit in with my view of Tolkien's world (or many other players' I would expect). If it slowed down your running, then that would- I expect it to be an RP item or stage prop, something like that.

2. $50 for an advantageous item. I don't mind these, each person will decide whether to buy based upon their own criteria. $50 seems expensive to me so I would not, especially as I attach no value to the item as it does not fit in my world view (it actually has a negative value for me).

@ Chris K.

Completely agree, nice clarification.

-> I don't mind what other people have, or how they got it. If it adds variety to the game world while staying in my world view, I am all for it!
 
Sigh, all this crap about jealousy and what not.

Resources aren't unlimited. While some of the wealth a rich person has is something he earned that doesn't affect me, a large part of it (very large for the super rich) is something he skimmed of the vast and complex process that makes up our civilization. That Rolls Royce or super yacht he buys with his extra cash really does take up resources that could have been used in better ways. Capitalism works, but its #1 flaw is how it allocates resources - the rich get richer is inherent in the system, and it's not something we should be content with.

I don't think a perfectly equal distribution of wealth is anything to strive for, but we're so very, very far from that.
 
The issue isn't jealousy, it's the item.
 
"Every developer man-hour spent on the Hobby Horse is one less spent on anything else."

But what if the hobby horse pays a developer's salary but he only spends 10% of his time on it?


 
Ulrik, the thing with that Rolls Royce is that it doesn't actually cost anywhere near what the rich guy pays for it. He pays at least twice what it cost the build the thing, and of course that cost goes to create jobes and such. So if you look at all these ridiculous luxury items as wealth redistribution (how many people does he support buying crap like that?) it makes it a bit more palatable.

Regardless, a Rolls Royce isn't the proper comparison here. I've spent more than this hobby horse on beer in one night. While I understand there are many reasons you could hate this hobby horse thing that do not involve jealousy, it is hard to deny that for many people there is an element of jealousy to their hatred of items like this. In World of Tanks, people bitch and moan about guys who buy premium tanks, but the reality is that the tank is substantially worse than the equivalent normal tank. Yet they still hate them even though the tank provides no competitive advantage AND they are subsidizing the rest of the players. It's hard to figure out the objection there aside from some seriously petty jealousy.
 
This is an issue Turbine needs to work out internally. It's troubling that Turbine can't figure out why there's so much backlash (or predict why). Tobold, you should know better than to make specious ad hominem arguments....not supporting a $50 hobby horse is not the same as condemning the game to a sorry death; I'd happily spend $50 on a game I love provided that $50 offers me a meaningful level of content. The Rolls Royce analogy is a red herring; this isn't a Rolls Royce, and it's addition to the game may actively diminish the quality of the game and the enjoyment of other players precisely because it is immersion breaking, for example (unlike other high priced vanity mounts in WoW or Rift which are setting-appropriate).

Anyway, Turbine can do whatever they want, but if they don't recognize how they are hurting their own game by catering to a specific crowd (oddball people with money to burn on vanity items that actively diminish the game experience/immersion for other players who may also be paying customers) then there's not much hope for them going forth.

Here's a better analogy: you're a horse racer, and you buy, raise and train your horse for the big race. You get there, and find out that for $50 you can get a spot in the race, but for $50,000 they'll let you drive a car onto the field and race with that, instead.
 
Wait, my analogy is flawed. It should be:

You're a horse racer, and you buy, raise and train your horse for the big race. You get there, and find out that for $50 you can get a spot in the race, but for $50,000 they'll let you drive a Clown Car onto the field and race with that, instead.
 
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