Tobold's Blog
Monday, July 04, 2011
Valuing time over money

I don't play golf. But if I did, and I'd tell my colleagues at the office that I spent €250 on a golf club, they would nod wisely and say that this is what a decent golf club costs. But if I told them I spent 2,500 hours on the driving range training, they would think I'm crazy. Online players think differently. They'd nod wisely if I told them I spent 2,500 hours in an online game, and think I'm crazy because I spent €250 on World of Tanks. I didn't spend 2,500 hours in WoT, but I did 2,500 battles, so well over 250 hours, which at less than 1€ per hour still is cheaper than most other forms of commercial entertainment.

I didn't pay to win. I don't like the idea of buying something which gives me a direct advantage in PvP. And even if I didn't mind that, I would probably not bother with WoT's gold ammo, which can easily cost 1€ per *battle*. No, nearly all the money went into what I'd call the "advancing faster" category. I bought an expensive gold tank to farm credits faster. I very often bought gold crew for my tanks, which comes with their basic skill at 100% instead of 50% or 75% for the crews you can buy for credits. And the biggest cost item probably was converting experience points from my "alt" tanks to free experience I can use to for my "progression" tanks.

Not only does this spending advance me faster, it also selectively skips the less fun part. Without spending money, whenever you reach a new tank in the tech tree, you find your new acquisition being seriously flawed. The stock equipment on a new tanks isn't good, and the crew isn't as skilled as they could be. Thus you need to drive around with that underpowered tank for a while to earn the xp to research better equipment, and get the skill of your crew to 100%. By spending money, I can get the 100% crew right away, and I can use the converted xp from my alts to research the most essential equipment, thus I can skip a good part of the underpowered phase.

The other advantage is that this allows me to indulge in being an altoholic. During a recent special offer I bought a bunch of garage slots at half price. Thus I can keep the old tanks I liked the most and drive them for fun, and to make credits and to-be-converted xp with them. With the first victory of the day usually giving double xp (this weekend even quintuple xp), having a lot of alts thus racks up the xp quickly. Great, as long as you don't mind paying for the conversion.

I don't need to spend this money to have fun in World of Tanks. But I'm having more fun spoiling myself this way. I can easily see myself continuing at somewhere close to €100 per month for a while after the holidays, at least until I reached the level cap. Not only do I not regret spending money on myself, I also think that the money is going to the right people. I'm quite impressed with for the speed at which they update their game. In 2 months I already experienced two content patches, each adding 2 maps, redesigning other maps, and adding new tanks to the game. They are also obviously constantly working on balancing, although you wouldn't know that from reading the forums. Curiously everybody there is convinced that the tank he is driving is underpowered, while the tanks the other guys are driving are overpowered. Or how the saying goes: "Devs, this is scissors. Nerf rock, paper is fine."

Now I know that some people reading this will think that €250 is too much money for a video game, and that I shouldn't be able to use that money to advance faster. Boy, do I have bad news for you: This kind of gaming is only going to become more dominant in the future. The average video game player is 37 years old and has been playing games for 12 years already. The age where video games were considered to be for children, and thus as toys had to be cheap, is over. A modern game really is a competitor on the leisure market to the above mentioned golf club, and can be priced accordingly. Just walk through an average mall and see how much completely useless stuff people spend lots of money on. At least if you buy completely useless virtual stuff you don't have it taking space in your garage afterwards.

But is this future really so bad as some people say? Yes, World of Tanks definitively has a mode in which I can spend more money and less time. But it is me who freely chose this mode, because it better fits my personal valuation of time versus money. Somebody with less money and more time than me can choose the other mode, and get to exactly the same result. We both just simply spend the resource we have more of. That to me seems to be a very fair business model, which doesn't exclude anyone, and still manages to finance the development of patches and new games. If that pisses off the people who used to have all the advantages by spending the most time in a game, that is fine with me.
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