Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 12, 2020
World of Tanks Battle Pass

I spend money on so-called "Free2Play" games, like World of Tanks. And I spend it on virtual stuff that isn't just cosmetic, but has some real in-game advantage. However, I am not interested in "paying to win". My interest is just to compensate the fact that I am not a hardcore player. So, for example, in World of Tanks I pay for a premium account, which makes me earn experience and credit faster, so I don't have to grind so much to get to the same point as a free player with lots of time. I believe that time is money, and in my mind that exchange of money for time is fair enough. I think that these games would be less fair if the possibility to buy progress wouldn't exist, as then a small population of no-lifers would have an advantage even over people with equal skill and less time.

Normally Wargaming understands their customers, and has various events in which you can spend either more time or more money to get to the same result. But today they started a new monetization scheme which appears very weird to me: The Battle Pass. In the free version you can get rewards for playing a large number of battles (somewhat less if you play very well) over the next 3 months. But if you pay about €20, you can get additional rewards, some of which are much better than what the free players can get. And I am not really sure who the target audience for that is.

I don't think the Battle Pass is for me. According to some calculations an average player like me would have to play 1,000 battles to get to the top rewards. Even over 3 months that is quite a lot. And I don't really like a game telling me that I have to play it every day, or lose out on something. I'd rather just ignore the event, collect those points and stages without looking, and see how far I got at the end. The one nice thing about the Battle Pass is that apparently you can buy it at the end of the event and get all the additional rewards, so at the end I would really see what my money would buy me exactly and can decide then whether it's worth it.

But obviously the Battle Pass isn't for the time-rich, money-poor players either. They will presumably be angry that the best rewards are behind a paywall. So the only population that can get the full benefit of the Battle Pass event is those that have both plenty of time *and* plenty of money. I wonder how big the percentage of those is in any given game, and if that is a worthwhile business model to target them.

What if its to convince free players to finally pay something... some sort of lure so they finally monetize the game.

I am a free player on most F2P games, i do pay for some bundles or really good offer that i would be "crazy" not to get. If the reward is great for its price, i could try it once.
Online gaming is coming full circle and a 'battle pass' is a just a relabel of a subscription, with the major difference being that this sub is optional (at least in terms of access to the game) vs required.

Games run by smart companies usually make the pass the best place to spent money in terms of cost/reward. Which is very smart, as conditioning your players to pay a little each month is a lot better long-term than hoping to hook a whale for a month and having them 'win' and leave while 95% of the playerbase spends nothing.

Dumb companies will make the pass not the best cost/reward, or make the pass a challenge to get the full benefit of. Sounds like WoT is still in the dumb category.
"So the only population that can get the full benefit of the Battle Pass event is those that have both plenty of time *and* plenty of money. I wonder how big the percentage of those is in any given game".

It's an interesting question. There's often an assumption that only people with no other options ("no lifers" in the term you used) play video games all day but is that any more accurate than the proven nonsense of "video games are for teenagers"? If I came into a great deal of money I don't believe it would stop me playing games or even mean I played significantly less. It would certainly mean I'd play on better hardware in better accomodation in a better location but I play video games because I like playing video games, not because I can't think of, or afford, to do anything else.

And then, if I had a very large amount of disposable income, would I spend it on buying things in and for games? I already have money I could be spending that way but I don't because a) few games sell much that I find appealing and b) by and large I find buying shortcuts diminishes my enjoyment rather than enhances it. For all we know there could be relatively large numbers of the idle rich playing video games and spending next to nothing in them. It's probably unlikely but I don't suppose anyone has done any peer-reviewed research on it and the games companies certainly aren't telling, even if they have any way of knowing.
As Bhagpuss says, playing a FTP game for free is often more interesting and feels like a fair challenge.

Apropos of encouraging FTP players to pay *something*, Marvel Puzzle Quest has a good system; if you buy anything at all you get extra rewards for PvE play for a month. So if you spend $2 you get a small amount of in-game gold - but with a decent amount of play over the month you get back up to something like ten times that value (about three times the gold and a lot of other in-game currencies, of which there are several.) Plus these extra rewards feel more earned.

Even a habitual FTP-er can be tempted by that. Of course whales can spend much much more, for rewards I would see as underwhelming.

Battle Passes are designed to monetize the time-rich F2Pers. Clash Royale started one few months ago, and got me to "subscribe" for 2-3 months at $5 a pop. The value, in comparison to what else you could purchase for $5, was literally insane. But there was indeed value tracks/tiers that required you to play a decent amount throughout the month. In Clash Royale's case, you didn't have to do anything daily though - you could plow through the tiers by playing a bunch over the weekend, or on specific days through the month, etc.

On a side note: it's not "unfair" that someone who has the same amount of skill, but more time to dedicate to a given game, has better outcomes than you. Practice is not unfair; that's how sports and competition works. Even if we're talking about stat/item progression, it's ridiculous to conclude that someone who spends more time doing something has an unfair advantage over someone else who spends less time at something. If that is unfair, "unfairness" loses all meaning in the face of the time-poor, money-poor players.
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