Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Do you want more or less item sales in games?

Azuriel is a very confused person. He isn't quite sure whether he is FOR or AGAINST games having additional revenue streams from selling virtual items, in addition to the purchase price of the game (which might be zero). So on the one hand he is complaining if games give you that option to buy things for real money from an in-game store. He can't understand that in many cases a game has a "delayed purchase" option, where you get a somewhat shackled version for free, and need to pay a sum of money ONCE to unlock those shackles and get essentially a full game for a single purchase. Okay, so you'd assume that Azuriel hates real money item sales. But if Azuriel is against item sales in games, one would assume that he doesn't want to buy that sort of stuff for himself. So why is he complaining about a level 90 character in World of Warcraft costing $60?

The only reason to complain about those $60 boosts to level 90 is if you want to buy such a boost, and would like as many other people as possible also to buy such a boost. Simple economics: The cheaper the boost is, the more people will buy it. But if you are AGAINST boosting a character for real money, feeling that it is somehow unfair, then you should welcome that this boost is so expensive. A $1,000 Pay2Win item is not really an issue, because too few people will buy it for it to matter at all. A $10 item is much more problematic.

Boosting additional characters to level 90 is a luxury, and it is priced like a luxury good for that reason. You already get one of those boosts for free. And if you played the previous expansion, you most probably have at least one character at level 90 already. You really only need additional boosts if for some reason you want to play far more characters in Warlords of Draenor than you played in Mists of Pandaria, or if you want to play at least two characters in the new expansion that you didn't play in the previous one. There simply aren't that many people who will ever need such additional boosts.

Imagine the alternative, a boost to level 90 costing just $5. I am sure that many people, Azuriel first among them, would complain about all those "n00bs" buying their way to level 90 instead of leveling their characters up the old-fashioned way. So this is really a situation where Blizzard doesn't have any option which Azuriel wouldn't complain about. And for them it is a simple economic calculation: Everybody who buys a boost isn't spending X months leveling up that character, so every boost is a potential loss of subscription months.

Hmm. You need to provide a link to somewhere where Azuriel says he's "complaining if games give you that option to buy things for real money from an in-game store" to make that argument stick. He doesn't say it anywhere in the post you linked. He just complains about where the price has been set.

Read again. He does say in that same post that he doesn't consider it reasonable to spend $20 in a Free2Play game.
I think $20 is absurd in just about any F2P mobile game, but not in games generally. Hell, I've spent $150+ in the F2P PlanetSide 2. The distinction may be a bit fuzzy, but the question I ask myself is: would I play Dungeon Keeper (etc) on my PC? Could I even? The answer is no, because they aren't games so much as distractions - something you "play" for 5-10 minutes at a time because you literally can't play any more.

I have no problem with B2P mobile though. The original PvZ, Angry Birds, and The Room have all been excellent value.
There are now a lot of games which are both on PC and on mobile platforms, even large and complicated games like XCOM. Square Enix is releasing all its Final Fantasy games one by one for prices around $20 on mobile platforms, which could be considered cheap compared to the original price on a console.

Why would I consider the same game at the same price "cheap" on a console or PC, but ridiculously expensive on the iPad or Android?
I wouldn't buy the $15.99 Final Fantasy games on mobile personally, but again, I never said I had a problem with B2P mobile. I'm specifically talking about Dungeon Keeper, Clash of Clans, Tiny Tower, or any time management games of that ilk. You're not even really buying anything other than an extra 5 seconds of gameplay, maybe twice an hour.
Why would you say that a game with more minutes of gameplay is automatically better than a game with less minutes of gameplay? What if the gameplay is grindy and not very interesting? There are quite a lot of Free2Play games where you actually pay to NOT spend time in game clicking on stuff.

Games like Clash of Clans simply aren't about spending hours in the game, but about building defenses on one side, and attacking other player's defenses on the other side. You can play the game for free at the slowest rate of building, pay something like $20 once for a permanent medium rate of building, or pay crazy money to always get everything instantaneous.

I do understand that you don't like time management games. But why not just say that? I don't like horror survival games (I find the whole horror genre somewhat ridiculous). But BECAUSE I don't play those games and thus can't properly understand them, I cannot attack them for not being worth the money they cost.

Anyway, what about those WoW level 90 boosts. Do you want to buy one or don't you want to buy one? Is this a case of sour grapes, where you would quite like to get such a boost if it was priced much cheaper? Or why do you complain about the price tag?
Blizzard's in an interesting bind. They can't leave things as they are and require people to level up, because too many people have already absorbed the old content and moved on (or disliked the post-Cataclysm leveling style). They can't make the new region low-level friendly, because the hardcore level cap crowd doesn't want to do that noob stuff anymore (plus it vastly increases the scope of their release to cover the first 89 levels of play). They can't hand out level 90 character slots for $5 because everyone will readily pay for that. They are making us pay $60...the price of a full game....which will be interesting to see if that works as a revenue source for them. My theory is that they'll price them at $60 and then periodically have half-off sales which is when everyone buys up slots.
Well Tori, the thing is that paying $60 to basically skip the leveling game is the bargain of the century.

Say it takes 6 days to level to 90. At $8 an hour, you could earn $1152.00. Since leveling is approximately as entertaining as working for many people especially after the second or third time, paying $60 to skip that would be hugely beneficial.

Works well for Blizz too, as people who are bored with their current characters and burned out on leveling will be able to string out their WoW career for another few months by spending money on them.
Sigh. I have no problem with time management games in of themselves. I've written about Tiny Tower in the past. I only stopped playing Castle Clash (a Clash of Clans knockoff) because it became clear that all my opponents have an insurmountable advantage of epic heroes (Thundergod + Druid = OP) that I need to pay cash for or grind out for months. I'm still currently playing Dungeon Keeper, having gotten my third imp "for free" a week ago.

None of these games could be B2P games though, because they're not designed to be playable for actual lengths of time. I would be extremely surprised if you could play any of them for more than 10 minutes, attacking + moving your base around included. They fulfill that Progress Quest niche just fine, but will never justify any dollar investment IMO, much less something obscene like $20. Hell, FF6 doesn't cost that much!

As for the level 90 boost, I've never had a problem with it conceptually; I've taken advantage of both self-RAF and the Scroll of Resurrection's free level 80 before. My "sour grapes" are entirely due to the price - not because I want to buy it (I have all lvl 80+ characters already), but because I view it as shockingly cynical. Blizzard says it's priced at $60 to protect the sanctity of leveling, notwithstanding the years of cheaper alternatives and general debasement of the self-same leveling game that even you acknowledge. The only "favor" they're doing anyone here is Activision Blizzard stockholders.
The delicious irony of Azuriel's reply saying that 60$ is too expensive because of 'cheaper alternatives' following someone else's comment that 60$ is the bargain of the century is something that you see repeated over and over in general chat in WoW servers these days. Half of the people are up in arms that it is ridiculously expensive, without any real reason other than emotional preference, and the other half thinks it is too cheap. It really is quite hilarious; and something I take as evidence that Blizzard has chosen the proper price point.
People went apesh*t when WhatsApp asked $0.89 (yes, 89 CENTS) for a whole year subscription to its service.

Then we have those who happily spend $30+ for Candy Crush Saga.

Lets be honest with ourselves; the only reason the price is $60 is because it is WoW and Blizzard CAN charge that much. If you want a 90 with no work done, it is your only option.

I don't see any merit to the "Well time = money and if you spent 8 days leveling you'd have $X less than..." except, most people aren't sitting there deciding whether to work a few more hours or play WoW (and if they are, they probably won't have the work option much longer). What it comes down to is whether the person spends that extra time leveling up or whether they spend it doing max level content. If the person is doing the latter, they are likely to run out faster and theoretically unsubscribe...but Blizz has gotten $60 extra out of them, so they've gotten 4 extra months of subscription out of the player. Sanctity of leveling? No, it's to secure the revenue stream. You're effectively buying 4-6 months of play-time to skip something that takes 8-14 days.

Blizzard's prices for all its character services are ridiculously high and it's only because we're talking about WoW. They can, with a straight face, charge $20+ to have an automated system change values in a database.
I'm actually a huge fan of how Blizzard prices it's services and in-game content. I'm a bit of an impulse buyer who has been hit hard by steam sales in the past, and at Blizzard's prices I am basically priced out of the system.

I'm fine with that. People that want the services or pets or mounts and have lots of disposable income are free to buy them, but I am just not really ever tempted at those prices.
"Blizzard's prices for all its character services are ridiculously high and it's only because we're talking about WoW. They can, with a straight face, charge $20+ to have an automated system change values in a database."

If you want pricing to be tit for tat in that fashion, then you would be fine with getting character services for free, but paying 180,000 dollars for the new expansion because that's how much it cost blizzard to pay the salary/benefits of the art guy who made your favorite art piece in WoD, right? Yea, I didn't think so.

Your comment basically says WoW can charge money for some things ,because its quality in other areas is high, which you call ridiculous, and I call ridiculously fair. If you don't like the deal, don't take it. There's no one forcing you into it with a gun; unless you live near me, as that's what I like to do in my spare time.
I like how Blizzard reps have said "We are only doing this because the one-"free" L90 per box purchase made it possible via a round-about back-door. We priced it high because we want to encourage people to play the game. If we were doing it for the money we'd get much more by pricing it more cheaply."
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