RMT – Food for Thought

Really, gaming subscriptions are just different ways to ‘eat’.

1) The Frozen Dinner: This sub option is any game that you pay for the box and pay nothing afterwards. The subscription cost is the cost of the box itself. The beauty of the Frozen Dinner is that if you can’t stand to eat another one you can sell it to the guy down the street, or trade it for a different Frozen Dinner flavour. Unfortunately you have to serve yourself.

2) The Buffet: Pay once for all you can eat. You get a set number of food choice items, but you can take as much (or as little) of each that you can fit into your belly. It’s all you can eat! Bad news is, you effectively pay 8x more than the chubby fella who takes 8 plates of food to your 1. I know that hardly seems like fair value, but what are you doing ordering buffet in the first place? Doesn’t the restaurant have a normal menu as well? This menu option is optimal for those who have a lot of time to hang around the restaurant. The more time, the more digestion, the more room for more courses.

3) A la Carte: Order what you want. What really satisfies you. The prices are clearly listed on the menu, so make sure you stay on budget. Eat as little, or as much, as you like. Don’t look at what the person at the table next to you is eating – your personal satisfaction has nothing to do with what he is ordering. Make your own choices and enjoy your meal. If you want, you can just sit around and drink water and eat free pretzels and peanuts – but do that long enough and you will be longing for the steak. That is actually a good thing, because restaurants can’t survive giving away pretzels forever.

All subscriptions are RMT, even the $14.99 a month ones. Why does A la Carte get such a bad rap?

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Nicely stated. 😀

    I suspect that a large part is customer psychology. There will be those customers who find one or the other to be best for their pocketbook, and can’t imagine someone else thinking differently. It’s always easier to demonize something different rather than try to understand it or sympathize with it. It’s easier to maintain ignorance and perceived superiority that way. Comprehension and compassion take work.

    The buffet model also is geared for those with a lack of self control over their spending and consumption. That’s a lot of people in our consumer binge society. It’s also easier for those with poor math skills. I might find the Caesar salad, roll and lemonade to be cheaper than the buffet, but if I can’t actually do the math to figure that out, I’ll probably just defer the choice and go with the buffet, content that I can ignore the math and just stuff myself.

    There’s also the inertia factor; it’s easy to be lazy. If I know I’m getting the same old buffet every time I come in, and I’m lazy, I’m not going to bother figuring out what I actually want to eat before I pay for the buffet, and whether or not it’s cheaper, I’m just going to pony up the $15 and go to town.

    To be fair, there will always be those to whom the buffet is a great deal. An ideal restaurant has both a la carte and buffet.

    (Semi-tangentially, I’ve always thought that the $15/month was exactly the same as the demonized “nickle and diming” that microtransactions are labeled… just on a larger scale. WoW’s gender operations and server migration are certainly in the same vein.)

  2. Well, because the payment model affects the game design. If the point of the game is to make individual progress and another character’s progress doesn’t matter, then a la carte is great.

    But take a PVP game for example. A la carte meaning I can buy bigger guns than the next means I get an advantage. That would be like a football team being allowed to pay “extra” to automatically get a first down or something like that.

    For PVE games, in loot and level games, people also tend to view the game as a little bit of a competition. After all, that Mythical weapon is meaningless if everyone can easily get one, as rarity determines desirability, and swiping a credit card isn’t the same as an in game accomplishment.

    So it depends on what you get for the money I guess. The Guild Wars model where you pay for access to various missions/content (each Campaign) is the model I prefer the most. Its RMT in a manner of speaking sure, but you are buying access to content.

    On the other hand, buying the uber sword does not work for me, if obtaining uber swords is one of the primary points of the game (as it is in EverQuest/World of Warcraft, etc.).

    I do want to see a movement away from the subscription model because one of the drawbacks of that model is that it tends to make grinds the favorable form of content (to keep you busy so you never really “finish” the game.)

    With a Guild Wars style “frozen dinner” model, the incentive for making more money is coming up with more compelling content/missions/stories.

  3. @Lars: A la carte could me a slew of different things. One is as you mentioned, buying the sword of ultimate truth (which I am against as well) – but buying XP levelling potions, or access to a dungeon seems all well and fair enough – most of WoW players don’t get to see a lot of that content. Basically, anything that can be bought – as long as it is available by normal means in a game – should be available for sale.

    Back to the dungeon example, that could actually help fund future developments and revenue streams. All of your users buying dungeon access? Heck, let’s get the team building more! That creates the ultimate win/win. It serves as a direction for the dev team (as it tells them what their players want) and funds that direction directly. If vanity pets are the big seller, lets work on more of those.

    Two separate ideas as well – akin to the GW content – is paying for content. I think this is the best of the bunch – but segment it more. How about paying for levels? (If we stuck with the current levelling model). $15 for 1-20, $15 for 21-40, etc. That way players can experience the content at their own pace, and what I pay (as a time constrained gamer) is equal to what you pay (as a guy who plays 20 hours a week). It costs the same in the end, as eventually we both hit max level. (then start buying dungeons we have fair access too, etc.) This would also help ease some of the pointless grinds put into sub games – those grinds solely created to keep you playing for months, wasting your time to draw in more sub dollars. Of course, there would have to be time frames involved so players still felt like they were getting value for their dollars (5 minutes from 1 – 20, insert credit card please!) so the levelling curve would have to be reasonable and fun.

    The second model is more in line with the existing sub model. Exactly the same actually with one little twist – you get someting TANGIBLE for your sub fee. Again, will use WoW for example. Reduce the sub fee to $5 a month, but I get $1000 gold a month for that fee. Hey at least I get SOMETHING. Now, those same stupid grinds that suck the life out of the game for some people (5000 for an epic mount?) are more easily attainable. Just grind a little bit and wait a few months months. (It took me two months, of FULL TIME grinding on my play schedule to get that mount. That was 2 months I really didnt have any fun in the game, but hey, have to get that mount!)This way I get something tangible and can choose to grind for the mount earlier, or actually play the game for fun and know down the line I will get my mount with a little patience.

    AH prices would remain relatively the same – as everyone starts from the same point, and a lot of players don’t use the AH anyway.

    The kicker in that second model? Sell gold regularly as well, to top up where you are short. $5 for a 1000 gold, and you can buy as much as you want – is far cheaper than what is in the black market these days (which millions of people use anyway). Now, not only have you openend up the game to more people with a cheaper starting point, given them something of value for their sub fee (access is not value in itself in the grind model), but you have killed the black market for your game, lowered hacked accounts, and captured that revenue stream – which is never going away anyway.

  4. @Tesh: Oh, I flip flop a lot about payment programs too. Some days I think one makes sense, the next – another way.

    What it comes down to, I am sure, if you took the average sub length for the typical WoW player, and the average time per week a “typical” Wow player plays, it is an income redistribution system where those who play less “pay” for those who play longer times.

    Now, looking at my WoW history (spent over $1000 on subs and boxes), am I not in the higher tiers of income for Blizzard? If every single one of their players paid $1000 along the way that would be pure awesomesauce for them.

    Why no “customer” reward? Once you hit a certain point, the money you have invested into Blizzard (being far above and beyond that of the average) shouldnt your investment turn into a free, lifetime subscription? (Just pay for expansions, no monthly fee).

    I suppose that would be fair, as the longer running players actually redistribute more wealth into the development cycle.

    I guess, after all these years, I just want to feel like a valued customer from Blizzard instead of 1 of 11 million cloned rats chasing around digital cheese. Payment options would be one way for them to show me that while I am not willing to pay $15 a month anymore (since I can only play 10-15 hours a month), since I have contributed so much into the system they will take $5 a month.

  5. I don’t exactly flip flop so much as life circumstances change. Sometimes I have more time, sometimes I don’t. As a single college grad, I had lots of time. These days, as a father of two with a full time job, not so much.

    I definitely like the “automatically to convert to lifetime sub” idea, though. 😀

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