Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 12, 2015
Would you play a game that costs $10 a day?

Cam set me a trap and recommended League of Angels to me. I think there are several different versions of that game, I am playing League of Angels - Fire Raiders on the iPad. When I started the game apparently I ended up on a new server, so I did rather well. At one point I was the 7th best player of the whole server in the arena. And I got invited into the top guild on the server. So the success got me really hooked, but there is a catch: League of Angels is the ultimate Pay2Win game.

What makes League of Angels interesting to pay is that there is a range of different activities and game modes, resulting in different rewards and different ways to make your team stronger. For example the main way to level up your player level is to spend stamina on normal and elite adventures. But of course stamina is limited. And you can buy more stamina for diamonds, which, you guessed it, can be bought for real money. The more money you spend, the higher your VIP level becomes, which gives you more possibilities to spend more diamonds on more rewards.

The most vicious money grab is the "events", where for a limited time of one to several days you get extra rewards for doing certain things. And usually doing those things involves spending money or diamonds. Who can resist the event that gives you double the diamonds for your money? And then of course there is another event that gives you more soulstones (which you need to summon and increase the star rating of heroes) if you spend those diamonds. It is all terribly well balanced with the ultimate goal of making you spend as much money as possible.

Unlike other games where you get the best exchange ratio if you buy the biggest amount of diamonds in one go, League of Angels is rather rewarding if you purchase every day. So I spent $10 on the day every day for the last week or so. That is unlikely to ruin my personal finances, but of course it isn't very wise behavior, and I already spent more money on this "free" game than I would buy a triple-A game for. And I'm not yet ready to stop. League of Angels is rather good at creating a sense of urgency and competitiveness. I feel I "need" to keep up with the Joneses, and that can't be done without a certain amount of spending.

On the plus side League of Angels has so much different stuff to do that the game is really keeping me occupied for hours until I run out of the various daily attempts and resources. So it is not as if I am not getting any entertainment value out of my daily $10. Which of course raises the question whether there is a need for "luxury" games. People spend crazy amounts of money on other hobbies (or other bad habits), so why not on games? $10 per day for a game is probably healthier than $10 per day for smokes, and probably better value per entertainment hour than a $5,000 annual golf club membership. The payment model doesn't have to be Pay2Win, I could imagine luxury niche MMORPGs with a $300 a month subscription fee. If gaming isn't for kids any more, then why shouldn't it have pricing options for adults?


The point of the $5000 golf club or the $100000 car isn't the golfing or driving experience. No sane man would say that golfing there is so much more fun than golfing elsewhere. Just like you can't pass the speed limit with the Ferrari, or you end up in jail (or as Paul Walker). Their point is that to make you feel connected to important people ("yesterday I talked about the weather with the senator at the golf club") or make ordinary people think you're awesome ("oh look, another random guy turned back to watch my car").

The $3500/year game is just a $3500/day game. You won't meet anyone important and anyone who learn about your gaming habit will think you are an idiot (while think that spending 30x more on a car is awesome).

While gaming is no longer considered deviant behavior, it's nor a "high society activity". I mean if a senator plays WoW, no one cares. But sure as hell he won't invite another senator to play WoW together while chatting over a bill, he'll invite him to the golf club.
Gevlon has clearly never golfed before if he thinks a random public course is about as good as a nice private club, but speaking about things he doesn't understand is what a tackle titan pilot does right?

You have caught the whale bug Tobold, though you aren't very deep yet (if $10 a day is keeping you in the top for that game, their P4P model hasn't been fully rolled out yet). I think like any decent game, playing at the top tier is fun for a bit, but then the newness wears off and the fun bits become less so. The difference with that happening in a game where you are a whale vs a normal game is that when you step away, it's not just thousands of hours that got invested, but also thousands of dollars.

That makes the whole 'was it worth it' reflection harder to accept. But like top-tier raiding or being the top-ranked PvP player, if you had fun, and it didn't ruin your life, that's why we game right?
if $10 a day is keeping you in the top for that game, their P4P model hasn't been fully rolled out yet

I think it is a function of level. It's still "cheap" because the server is new and I'm only level 46. There are more functions that unlock at 50 and 60, and I guess that is where it becomes really expensive.
You make it sound like you're enjoying it largely because you're one of the best players on your server and you're winning a lot. You're winning a lot largely because you're paying a lot but also because most other players aren't paying much, if anything.

If it were a true luxury game and everyone was paying the same (say the $300/month game you mention) what would it have to do to be worth $300? If everyone was paying the same you'd be on an equal footing so unless you were also very good at the game you wouldn't be winning as much. I bet no matter what the other game did you wouldn't enjoy it as much.

This is jumping a bit but it makes me think of your previous arguments against griefers and hardcore pvp games. How the griefers enjoy killing other players but the other players don't enjoy being constantly beaten so they leave the game. Except in this case you're paying for the privilege of being the shark and the fish stay because you're essentially paying for them to pay the game.
Since you were playing back then you probably remember that the old SOE already tried the " luxury niche MMORPGs with a $300 a month subscription fee" thing with the Legends server back in 2002. Okay, it was $39.95 a month not $300 but the principle is the same.

Back then there wasn't enough interest to keep it going for long even though EQ was the mmo market leader in the West at the time. The question isn't so much whether the interest is there now - Star Citizen and a hundred other whale-friendly projects suggest it is - but whether there's a way to provide sufficient service/content/QOL under a monthly sub to attract and keep that interest. It seems commercially more viable to milk peoples' hopes and aspirations than to come up with a genuinely meaningful, ongoing luxury service that brings in the same income.
Sounds quite similar to Knights and Dragons, but there you would spend money in larger batches like 200 bucks every two weeks or so to be part of the top10 guilds.

The important thing is to realize that it is pay to win and be comfortable doing it. Personally I don't pay. 10 bucks a day wouldn't put much of a dent in my wages but I waste my money on other things like often eating out instead of cooking myself.
Answering your question, well, probably no, maybe if it was something which is way better than the games I'm playing now. I'm sure that I would not be playing WoW at that price, for example, and this more or less means "any MMO".

But there's a lot of people who have no trouble with it apparently, Archeage players seem to have no trouble dumping dollars/euros by the thousand in the pockets of Trion. Even if the standard answer is "I get good enjoyment out of it", I'd really like to know how much of that cash flow is in reality NOT pocket change as they claim, and how much is the result of an effective manipulative strategy based on behavioral economics and positive psychology.
You game certainly seems to be doing good on that front......

I have no doubt you can afford €10 per day Tobold and you appear to be very aware of what you are doing but are you really confident you will be able to back out and say no if the bill rises to €50 per day or €100 per day? It seems to me that these games have more in common with a casino than a golf club.

What about taking a short break from the game (say a week) without playing or paying. Then at the end of that week decide in cold blood whether or not you want to go back. If even the thought of stopping for a week is too much for you then I would take that as a very red flag and look for help to quit.
So it is not as if I am not getting any entertainment value out of my daily $10.

That should never be the question. The question should be "am I getting more entertainment from this than I could by spending $10 elsewhere?" Be it measured by duration or intensity. With gaming, that answer is almost universally going to be No. Because unlike other hobbies which are limited to your geographical area - how many golf courses are within driving distance? - there are literally tens of thousands of games available within a few mouse clicks from anywhere.

In any case, the reason why there aren't more "luxury" games with luxury pricing is precisely the reason why you are throwing your money in a hole: without the free players in these games, you are nothing. Seventh-best on a server with seven players means you are the worst; add in 10,000 free players though, and suddenly you're important. Not based on skill, of course, but by your bank account. The moment you stop paying money is the moment you get kicked off of your #1 team. Which makes it a rather curious "game" in the first place.
Interesting. You don't often get thoughtful perspective on Pay2Win games from the players who are paying to win them. I don't mean that as an insult, I genuinely find this interesting.
I guess I could see $10 per diem, maybe. But, hopefully not for anything like existing games. Second Life redux with VR maybe?

Of course, $10/day would take you 1,500 days to reach the Star Citizen Completionist cost. Ans the Russian who spent $100,000 on EVE would probably not be deterred by $10.

Big box board games often cost more than $50, and due to long play time and high complexity you don't get to play them too often. So if I purchased StarCraft the Board Game for something like $100 and played it four times, I've spent $25 per game.
Actually, board games are cheap as well, unless they are crap and you play them once. Napkin math: random board game, at something like 60E. Even after playing it 5 times with 3 friends, that's 60 / (5x4) or already 3E / game. Which can only go down with time, as we play more or as I resell the box....

Holy wow, you're dedicated! Look, I'm doing OK just logging in for one long session towards the end of the in-game 'day' (I have no idea what timezone they're in) and doing all the free stuff.

My concession to 'paying for the game' was buying two of the 'month cards', which allot you like... 200 diamonds a day, over a month. Comes to like... twenty bucks all up, I think?

But you don't NEED to be doing the daily-recharge to do well. I've up around the top-30 in PVP and my guild is constantly either 1st or 2nd.

I recommend saving your diamonds for spendin on the double-angel-chest events, and the weekly VIP chest. Save anything that lets you explode your stamina for the events that give double-normal or double-epic rewards for building up your hero stars or equipment.
Also, my guilt is lessened by the fact that you've got me hooked on Shop Heroes. That thing kills my free time dead.
To be honest you are among the best players on your server because you are just buying your vip position. You're not there for your skills but because you can afford the daily $10 vip fee. If golf was a cheap hobby, everyone would give it a try. The fact that it costs (and good courses require a good club witch requires an expensive membership) automatically cuts out the peons, allowing richer players to stay together and be proud of their status.
You talk about luxury MMOs...and I can tell you that just like everything else with MMOs, MUDs got there first. Simutronics is a maker of high-quality MUDs, such as DragonRealms and Gemstone IV. Each of them costs $15/month for a basic account. However, each of them also has a Platinum account level for $50/month, that basically creates a new instance of the game walled away from the 'plebs' that only pay $15/month. In return, you get better access to GM-run events, and other perks. This is before considering micropayments that are available, questlines you can pay additional for, or special events that can cost hundreds of extra dollars (such as GM-adjucated wedding ceremonies between characters, etc.)

So this kind of thing is already happening, in its own way. :)
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