Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
 
CREDD are the new PLEX

So Wildstar postponed their release to 2014 and announced a business model in which monthly subscriptions are called CREDD and can be bought and sold in game. Gazimoff of Mana Obscura has details. And I would like to discuss the implications of that on the game economy.

Why do PLEX work in EVE Online? They work because some activities in EVE consume ISK (e.g. PvP), while other activities produce ISK (e.g. mining or trading). And we know that different players have different interests in a MMORPG, whether you call them Bartle types or something else. If there was no system of PLEX trading, the kind of people who like to make money in virtual games would end up with a huge surplus of virtual currency. Which is pretty much what happened in World of Warcraft, where even with my moderate interest in making gold I ended up with far more gold than I could spend, and Blizzard had to raise the gold cap because too many people were hitting it. But then adding PLEX to WoW wouldn't work either, because there aren't sufficient gold-consuming activities in the game to have a steady stream of buyers.

And that is what makes me worry a bit about the idea of CREDD: Who is going to buy CREDD for real money and sell them for virtual gold? What exactly will they spend that virtual gold on? And if for certain activities a lot of virtual gold is needed, how will you get it if you don't spend real money on CREDDs?

In EVE Online there have been various calculations of how much play time it takes to earn as many ISK in game as you get for selling one PLEX. One thing which is for certain is that this time depends on how new you are to the game. I've seen estimates between 2 hours of mining for 1 PLEX to 60 hours of mining for 1 PLEX, and if these numbers aren't just made up, the difference can probably be explained by what kind of ship and skills you have, with the new player being at the 60 hours mark, and the multiple-year veteran specialized in mining near the 2 hours mark. I've also seen several estimations of an average, around 15 hours of mining for a PLEX. Whatever the actual number is, different people value their time and their money in different ways, and some people would rather mine 15 hours, while others would rather spend $17.50 for a PLEX to get to the same result. The ISK vs. PLEX exchange rate is in reality a time vs. money exchange rate, so when CCP makes it easier to earn ISK in game, the ISK per PLEX rate goes up.

Whether this approximately $1 for 1 hour of "virtual work" exchange rate works for Wildstar will depend on how much use the virtual currency of Wildstar is in game. Will you be able to buy best-in-slot epics with that virtual currency? Will your favorite activity, e.g. raiding, have a high cost of consumables? Will housing cost a virtual fortune in purchase and maintenance? If the CREDD market is to work, then somewhere in the game there has to be a huge money sink.

People endlessly discuss the fairness of different business models. Is it fair that people who play less per month pay the same subscription as people who play a lot? Is it fair that people who have a lot of money can "pay to win" in games where essential items are attainable via cash? If the PLEX / CREDD business model becomes more prevalent, there will be a new question: Is it fair that certain Bartle types pay more to play than other Bartle types? If you naturally enjoy activities in a game which produce a virtual currency surplus, why would it be fair for you to be able to play for free, while somebody else is essentially paying a double subscription, one for him to play himself, and one for you to provide him the virtual currency?

Comments:
I think one of the reason EVE and Plex has worked so well is because everything can be destroyed and/or sold. That new ship you bought can be lost the second you undock or you can sell that High End Module that just dropped off a pirate. In games like WoW, you do not lose items. You die and then revive, and back in you go. Also Good gear and weapons become bound to your character. Without Gear/Items actually being lost (Or sold), the need for currency will become less and less.
What might be possible is if they do not have any item in Wildstar bind to your character, so you can sell everything. That might make the Credd worth it, possibly. (Not sure if losing all your armor, if you die, would work in a game like Wildstar).
 
The answer for your question is simple: because the double-subscription types are the killers and they are annoying to everyone else. They are practically paying to their own victims, so consider it a compensation.
 
Well, as I posted on mana obscura, I do have a problem with the plex/credd system, which is the thing you mention: you can end up paying twice (or more) the subscription price in order to play the part of the game you enjoy. This automatically raises the bar on how good/how much fun the game really is. If they are planning to fill a niche like EvE it may work (but I'm not sure I understand which niche they aim for).....

 
"If you naturally enjoy activities in a game which produce a virtual currency surplus, why would it be fair for you to be able to play for free, while somebody else is essentially paying a double subscription, one for him to play himself, and one for you to provide him the virtual currency?"

Because you were smart and chose to play a game you enjoy and are good at!

It's also possible to have some items that are persistent so long as other necessary stuff is consumable. E.g. you have to buy loads of ammo or pay to have melee weapons sharpened.
 
The answer for your question is simple: because the double-subscription types are the killers and they are annoying to everyone else. They are practically paying to their own victims, so consider it a compensation.

Acceptable answer in the specific case of EVE. But as far as I know Wildstar won't have "ganking" PvP. If the double subscription types are achievers instead of killers, is it still fair?
 
Dear Tobold,

Answering some of your doubts:

1) Does the Plex/CRED model need a huge money sink in order to be non inflationary.

A: This model, by itself doesn't cause a higher level of inflation. Inflation happens when more nominal currency is deployed in the economy. In this case the Plex/CRED is only a GOOD that players can trade (a free 1 month subscription). This WILL NOT generate inflation.

2) Is this a pay-to-win business model?

A= Well it depends. As long as money is not really linked to "win", THIS IS NOT A PLAY TO WIN MODEL. So if this game sticks to a WoW-like model in which higher gear and status is linked with non monetary activities such as raid, this model is not PAY-to-WIN. Money may help to get raid-ready gear, but it's not a pay-to-win condition since higher grade raid is obtained only trough raiding.

3) The what exactly does this model (on it's own) really entails?

A= The only thing this model really does is letting players to trade subscription fee internally. A player can choose to pay another's player monthly subscription (at a higher price) if the other player chooses to share (spend) some of his in-game wealth with the first player. In a few words, I can exchange real money for virtual currency only via paying another's player subscription fee. This process is made trough players and doesn't creates any virtual currency, since only money that is already circulating in the economy is involved (aka. there's no money creation).

If you ask me this is a clever way to make a second degree price discrimination in MMORPGs. However, the revenue potential of this model is much more lower than a free to play model that can generate almost a third degree price discrimination. So Wildstar seems to be only aming to be a niche MMORPG just like EVE, not a big scale F2P game. However, there's no information out there to asume that Wildstar will be a Play-to-win game, at least not with the info provided so far, so there's no reason to go all nuts about it.
 
The double-subscriber achiever "over achieve" you. If you don't pay money, your tower will be shorter, your collection will be smaller. So he still "ganks" you, hence the compensation of practically paying your subscription is still valid.
 
tl;dr: I am so puzzled that it seems like an expensive game and yet they are doing a number of things like this to appeal to a small, niche audience.

It is a slightly more expensive version of EVE so not a bad system although I worry if they can balance the economy well.
To get back to earlier posts, if someone doesn't think the purchase is valuable (and thus p2w) they probably won't buy it. How many games besides LoL can just sell cosmetics? Devs start getting into inventory to fast travel to xp boosts to "well the gear is not BiS". So allowing crafting and AH and gathering and then only having cosmetics to buy is not that compelling to me.
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I think the point was if you enjoy mining in WoW, you generate a lot more sellable-for-gold resources than a break-even PvPer; not all "paths" pay equally well.
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JG "cited the upkeep of Warplots and personal Housing as two of the game elements that will help generate the desire to buy C.R.E.D.D. and create avenues through which the acquired gold will exit the economy."

 
FWIW, over in SWTOR I'm always shocked at how cheap stuff is on the in-game auction house. I've unlocked stuff for my account that would cost $80-120 in real world money in exchange for credits that I earned in game through normal play.
 
The way to make it fair between double-subscription and free players is for the free players to provide some sort of content. Typically that might be resource gatherers or traders, who provide the facilitate the player style of the other Bartle-types.
 
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