Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
 
Shackled by Free2Play?

A reader wrote me with an interesting observation: Him and his friends are playing Free2Play Planetside 2, and they spent some money on their characters. But when asked whether they would switch servers or factions, his friends declined: They had spent some real money on their characters, and Planetside 2 doesn't have the option to switch servers or side. So to move you would have to restart a new character, and the money you spent would be lost. They didn't want that, although the amount of money wasn't that high.

That is a pretty typical example of loss aversion, the tendency of people to put a higher value on the possible loss of something than they would value the possible gain of it. It is already pretty strong in many MMORPG where people don't like the loss of the time spent to build up a character. But with a Free2Play model where you purchases are bound to a character and not an account, that loss of money can shackle a player even further.

Loss aversion is often not very rational. People tend to forget that sticking to something has a cost too, an opportunity cost. Of course it varies from case to case whether rationally the loss is worth more or less than the opportunity. But I think it happens a lot that people feel somewhat obliged to play a game just because of the money and time they already spent, even if they are way beyond the point of having fun. Loss aversion can end you up playing a game you don't enjoy any more, instead of switching to something that would be more fun to you.

For game companies of course player's loss aversion is brilliant, and frequently exploited in "come back" advertising. It is how free trials work: Let the player get attached to his character and become averse to losing it, and you'll gain a new subscriber. Character-bound real money items are just one more variation to that. Sometimes it is just better to have the ability to let go.

Comments:
As a sidenote: They are going to make RMT purchases account wide.
 
I play WoW so I don't have to deal with loss aversion...ism... uh ...

Something.

I avoided MMO's for a very long time. I very much enjoyed Baldur's Gate, but didn't like having to nearly start over for BG2, and worse, starting over completely for IWD/2, NWN, Dragon Age, etc. I knew how I was going to react to having a character (or a few characters) that I could keep advancing, effectively forever. I knew that I would react as I have done, which is to maintain my subscription since the day I started playing WoW some five+ years ago.

I hate starting over : /
 
Isn't this more of a failure to provide server switches problem than a F2P problem?

You'd still have the same loss aversion that people experience in WoW before server changes were a thing, except for money lost it's time lost.
 
Also money lost, since the money spent on the subscription while building the character is also a loss if you can't transfer it off.
 
In a way I find it refreshing. I started with EQ so when I first went to WoW and my friends wanted to reroll characters or change factions I was appalled.

I like that people don't just server transfer at the first sign of something bad. I like that they feel locked into one character on one server for better or worse. They are forced to work on improving that servers community rather than just transfer when things get bad. To this day my EQ server had the BEST community I've ever experienced in a MMO and I attribute most of that to the fact that we couldn't just transfer off. We had to make it work or go through the difficult process of making a new character.
 
@4c22... Sub games have a different mentality. After the sub, everything is free so if a person wants to dump and old character they think of the 30 days played instead of the cost of 6 months of subs while a FTP gamer might think about the 30days played AND the $10 of level boosting gear from the item shop. Strange, but people are irrational.

I like how WoW is both using loss aversion to get people to come back, but also reducing the impact to players by moving mounts, pets and achievements to an account instead of being bound to a single character.
 
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