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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Would You Pay Pennies For Game Features? 64

Posted by Zonk
from the coming-soon-to-a-game-near-you dept.
Friday at GDC Austin saw the day starting with a keynote that may seem unusual to players unfamiliar with the Asian online gaming market. Nexon is a major player from the country of South Korea, boasting a handful of titles that see more users in a month than many well-known online games made here in the US. All of the company's titles, regardless of genre, have one thing in common: they're free to play, sort of. Microtransactions, the practice of paying a very small amount of money for an object or service, is what provides Nexon its revenue ... and plenty of revenue it is. Nexon America's director Min Kim gave a discussion on the realities of rolling Microtransaction-based titles out in the states, with a case study of the success of Maple Story's launch in our country.
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Would You Pay Pennies For Game Features?

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  • Added features (Score:2, Informative)

    by Half a dent (952274)
    Paying for added features is ok so long as those features are not deliberately omitted from the game so you have to buy them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thirdsin (1046626)
      Not my idea of worthwhile gaming, what about all your buddies you end up grouping up with? What will happen when they have purchased content you haven't and vice versa? Well, of course you will both have to purchase the missing content to play everything together!
      Here would be the process; Develop game, beta test(get everyone clamoring for the full game), dismantle-scrap-cherrypick all the fun and otherwise entertaining pieces, charge the sorry bastards.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KDR_11k (778916)
        The stuff I've seen for sale in MMOs like that was mostly items that can't be gained otherwise, lots of cosmetic stuff and some time-limited super bonuses like "double item drops" and "crafting cannot fail".
      • by danlock4 (1026420)

        What will happen when they have purchased content you haven't and vice versa? Well, of course you will both have to purchase the missing content to play everything together!
        Why not have party members who haven't purchased content to be given a lesser amount of said content, with full access given if they pay for it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MT628496 (959515)
      What other way is there to do it? If they weren't after money, then all of the features would be in the game.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nacturation (646836)
      Speaking of features that are omitted unless you pay extra, I thought this particularly relevant:

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      As you have no doubt observed, the explosion of the Web has made
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    • "Paying for added features is ok so long as those features are not deliberately omitted from the game so you have to buy them."

      Bull, look at what EA did with Need for speed, buying unlocks?? What a farce. The only way I'd pay microtransactions is for BRAND NEW CONTENT, i.e. character models, cars, etc. things that I know some artist actually had to work DAYS ON. I don't want them creating a bunch of extra content DURING the development period and then "time releasing" it for extra profits from the hardc
      • by Goaway (82658)
        I know this is slashdot, and games slashdot of all things, but is it really so much to ask for that you people actually read the story summary so that you have some idea what is being talked about?
        • "Bull, look at what EA did with Need for speed, buying unlocks??"

          My point was this: EA didn't OMIT features from need for speed, yet they added the "feature" of buying unlocks. i.e. preying on users impatience to buy the unlocked car instead of racing for it. As micro transactions go forward don't think you won't see more of this bullshit.
          • Buying unlocks.... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:54AM (#20520685)

            Look, people pay good money for cheat books to unlock all the bonuses and that money doesn't go back into game development -- instead, it pays a few guys to sit in a room and play games exhaustively. In capitalist terms, this is inefficient: the coders can do the job more quickly, hence cheaply. If they sell unlocks, the extra revenue they generate goes to the companies that are writing the games. In the long term, this means that the average player (he who has a bit of patience) pays marginally less.

            HAL.

          • by Goaway (82658)
            Once, again, read the summary. The question was about games that are free to play, yet you pay for in-game things with microtransactions. It's a whole different business model.
    • by Vacuous (652107)
      A lot of the stuff sold in these stores is stuff that is meant to simply make you look "cool" or aleviate some minor inconvience, say, increased mount speed. Often you can also get minor buffs like a couple hours of a 1.5x experience rate as well. These games are completely playable without spending cash in most cases.

      Unfortunatly all these games are still horrificly boring Korean MMOs.
    • At least, not with Nexon, not in the US.

      I play Nexus TK, now owned by Kru Interactive, which apparently used to be called Nexon USA. They have been slowly moving more and more towards this model.

      It used to be that the game was $9.95/mo for four characters, end of story. (Well, before that, it was a free Beta, but nevermind that.) It had been this way for almost decade, and still was when I joined last year.

      The only exception was the free trial account, which went up to level 10, and lasted a week. (The game
  • Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @08:35AM (#20519875)
    I want to take Anarchy Online as an example. What they did (I don't know if that service is still running) is that you can play the original game without expansions free of charge. Only limitation is that you get kicked if the server load gets too heavy and paying customers are getting preference in slots on the servers (i.e. when a paying player wants to play, you have to wait). This is actually quite playable, you don't get access to all areas but it's still quite fun. Sure, you don't have access to the more current content, and you will level a lot slower than someone who does. But you can still get anywhere you could when the game was released, you can reach the (then existing) maximum of levels and if you're so inclined, switch to a paid account when you reach that limit. Imagine WoW sans Burning Crusade for free.

    If the game's more like a demo, where you have access to only a severely limited version of the game where you have to pay to actually play "sensibly", it's a different matter. If you have to pay for something that you simply NEED to play at all, we're talking about bait and lure. It's only a buck here, only a buck there and in the long run, you pay a few 100 bucks for a game that you would've gotten for 50 if it was a "normal" game.

    Generally, the idea is good, though. I'm honestly surprised that especially MMORPGs don't offer that kind of service, where you can either invest time to get a certain item or simply buy it.
    • Re:Depends (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Fozzyuw (950608) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:31AM (#20520531)
      Similar to that, There are "free" MMOs out there...

      Last Chaos - I believe it's made by the people who made "Sword of the New World". It's a free MMO. I didn't play it much but gold selling is the norm and so are micro-transactions who have NPCs setup to pickup your purchases.

      Dungeon Runners - Sort of a Diablo-esque MMO. You can play for free but you cannot use pretty much any decent weapon that might drop from a boss or be given by special quests. For that you need to be a member, which will cost you $5 / month. Oh, and you cannot use the stacking health potions either.

      Sword of the New World - While not free to play, it's a pretty cheap game. $20 for the game, $9 / month membership. You can purchase things outside the game, money, weapons, spells, and pick them up in game. This Korean game is being sold at Wal-Mart in the U.S. It was also previewed in Game Informer Magazine. I played it, it was pretty cool. Kind of a Guild Wars style game. You get to create a team of up to 3 members. So, you can always have a Healer, Tank, DPS group. Though, since most monsters die in 1 hit, you don't really need the traditional setup

      In Korea, micro-transations are the norm. They're starting to make their way into the US market. But I can say, that after having played Tabula Rasa Beta, LOTRO, WOW, Shadowbane (trying it again, since it's ad supported free), Last Chaso, Dungeon Runners, EQ2, EQ, DAoC, CoH, CoV, Guild Wars, Sword of the New World, and I'm waiting for the Unreal Tournament-like MMORPG Fury to open their beta (they're selling beta CD's but their launcher tells you to wait a 'couple of days'... it's been 2 weeks so far), I can say that by far WoW is the most enjoyable by far, and I haven't even played it in probably 6-months.

      I'm still looking for something that will be nearly as fun as WoW but not cost as much per month. The sweet spot for me is $10, I was paying this with LOTRO (a pretty good game that was close to WoW quality, but suffered the same as WoW except before you hit the max level) and I think for the AAA MMO, this is a fair price. Having found and played several free MMO's and some good very cheap MMO's, I see there being plenty of room for MMO prices to drop. I can see there being a WoW killer out there that's open source project, free, or very cheap based on ad supported and micro-transactions. I would pay $5 / month for WoW and probably never cancel if they ad supported it by putting some ads when zoning into dungeons/instances and into the game.

      Until then, I'm a bit disappointed with the MMO commitment and costs considering what I've found out there. I've just started playing console and single player games again. To get some WoW, I just fire up WarcraftIII.

      Oh, one other cool thing about Sword of the New World. EXP from quests came in the form of 'cards' which is an interesting concept as they might have been able to be traded to others (I never tried). It's interesting because it could make it easy for a friend to catch up to you if they joined the game at a later time.

      Cheers,
      Fozzy
      • Just to post the obvious, what you're looking for might be Guild Wars. It's much like a MMORPG, no monthly fee, just an expansion every now and then that costs "full price" (i.e. about 50-60 bucks, like the main game). Allegedly you do not need to buy the expansions (only played it briefly) if you're happy with what you got in the main game.
        • In all fairness, the "expansions" to Guild Wars (GW: Factions and GW: Nightfall) cost full price, but they are standalone games. You don't need any one to play any other one. It wasn't until Eye of the North that was released last week that they charged full-game price for "expansion" content, and there's been lots of grumbling about that.
      • by wzzzzrd (886091)
        In Korea, micro-transactions are only for old people.

        I corrected that one for you.
      • by Foo2rama (755806)
        Sword is 100% free to play at this time with free downloads, and no level caps or monthly subs.
        • by Fozzyuw (950608)

          Sword is 100% free to play at this time with free downloads, and no level caps or monthly subs.

          Thanks, I didn't know they changed this. Makes me wonder if Wal-Mart is still selling the game for $20.

    • If the game's more like a demo, where you have access to only a severely limited version of the game where you have to pay to actually play "sensibly", it's a different matter.

      Not that demos of games aren't a tried and true idea, but this is about full access for free, with perks like xp bonuses, "rest state" in WoW, consumable items like potions and such, even gold, for RL money.

      A good concept, imho. No-lifers without jobs can still grind 24/7 but don't have to pay anymore. More casual players with jobs

    • Generally, the idea is good, though. I'm honestly surprised that especially MMORPGs don't offer that kind of service, where you can either invest time to get a certain item or simply buy it.
      Not an MMORPG, but the Worms-esque game Gunbound is like that. It's free to play, and you use gold you earn from battles to purchase items. But if you're lazy, you could also use real-life money to buy the items. Of course, it's Korean, which is probably why it's been so succesful.
    • Most people play games to get away from that sort of economic social stratification bullshit.
      • You know a game where gold selling is unheard of? Take me with you please!

        Because that's pretty much it. Instead of some gold seller the company itself sells items/gold/whatever for real money to people who don't want to play or "grind". That's basically the whole difference.

        Maybe with the exception that you can actually play for free (or lower fees) because those people pay for it.
        • by Rix (54095)
          Gold selling is a fairly minor factor in most games, and it's usually fairly obvious who's doing it.
          • How does that change the game? By and large, whoever wants to buy gold in whatever game, they can. And do. In the current climate, where they have to kill the mobs I want to kill and farm the mobs for gold that I have to kill for quests and gold, they bother me much, much more than the company would if they simply sold the items and gold.

            It would at least eliminate the pesky farmers that keep you from accessing that mobs and bosses you need. The rest stays the same, except that, as mentioned before, you mig
            • It would just result in one of those games, like pokemon the gathering, where the object is to give the publisher as much money as possible.

              That doesn't sound all that much fun to me. If the process of getting the loot isn't fun, why are you playing in the first place?
  • I've forked over my $100 (seems the average new game price down here) now give me the finished product thanks very much.
    • by Goaway (82658)

      All of the company's titles, regardless of genre, have one thing in common: they're free to play
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Mukunda_NZ (1078231)
      Uhh the game is free to download, you can play it just fine, but if you want to get unique rare items or something, you can pay real money for that. If you're just a casual gamer, then you don't have to, no-one is forcing you to.

      I think that this could be something that could possible even work with Free software (open source) games, or something similar.

      It'd be great if they opened up the source for these games so that I could use it on any OS I choose to use.
  • The problem is, as with every clever marketing strategy, that people will not realize how much money they actually spend.
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      That's not a problem, that's a feature.
    • Just started looking at a micropayments game, and once you work through the currency conversions etc, to outfit your character with the gear you cant get ingame, costs about as much as a retail game. Then there are on-going costs for consumables, to upgrade your gear or boost your development. I can see it being a better money-spinner for the game owner than traditional monthly subscription type MMOs, but that doesnt make it a better game for the player. Not having to pay to "get in" attracts one type of ga
  • Would You Pay Pennies For Game Features?

    No, I wouldn't. I don't like being nickled and dimed.

    I'd pay an extra $5 once in a while for something that's worth it but if the value is only a few cents then you should have given it to me when I paid for the game.

    Exception to the rule: If the basic game was -free- but I had to pay pennies here and there for worthwhile features then I'd pay the pennies. I don't game often enough, so this would represent a value.

    • In the summary it says "they're free to play" as in the game is free too. Game's website [nexon.net]

      So you didn't pay for the game. Therefore, what things should they have given you when you "paid" for a free game?

      It's kind of a neat concept. Imagine WoW where you could pay a dollar to get a good sword.

      Speaking of WoW, why should I have to pay every month to play a game that I paid for. Guild Wars [guildwars.com] is free once you buy the game. And Eve-Online [eve-online.com] is free for the game, but you pay every month. WoW skrews(sic) you inst

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Grakun (706100) *

        Speaking of WoW, why should I have to pay every month to play a game that I paid for. Guild Wars is free once you buy the game. And Eve-Online is free for the game, but you pay every month. WoW skrews(sic) you instead.

        Comparing Guild Wars to WoW is about as extreme as comparing Diablo 2 to EverQuest, which I've seen several people try to do. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume they just aren't familiar with MMORPGs.

        Basically, what it boils down to is that in the software industry, the majority of the costs go into developing and maintaining the software. The costs of manufacturing each individual disc is next to nothing. The costs are in creating the data that is pressed onto the disc. Before you can eve

        • by Sj0 (472011)
          Comparing Guild Wars to WoW is about as extreme as comparing Diablo 2 to EverQuest, which I've seen several people try to do.

          Fair enough. Guild Wars is much better designed since the creators don't need to stretch your playtime out to decades to make a few bucks.
          • I agree there. Regular expansions to keep the fan-boys buying expansions on release day. I just started GW and don't know if I'll do expansions or not. With these expansions GW makes money on sales, and it's design allows them to not have to charge you $160 a year to play, on top of the $60 to buy the game. That's $220 for the first year. Ridiculous.
  • My brother and I were at the local drinking well catching up and we were talking about Bioshock's anti-piracy measures. I thought they were too restrictive and harming the people who actually bought the game, he thought it was perfectly fine and well within reason to include such measures. During our argument I began making up ludicrous DRM schemes like the CD blew up after you installed the game, the game phoning the police to come arrest you if they thought you were pirating the game, etc. I came up with
  • Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wantedman (577548) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @11:13AM (#20520813) Homepage Journal
    I'm addicted to MapleStory, and I often pay. Unlike WoW, where I'm required to fork over $15 a month, I can pay as much or as little as I'm willing and still get a fair amount of game experience. That is what keeps me there.

    Now, the game comes with all the problems of a free online game, meaning that the individuals has little invested in the community, and for every good person, there's at least one or two assholes. The GMs have gotten better at policing them, but high level players who are willing to screw with you just because they're bored are not uncommon.

    The other problem with the game, is that originally, the micropayments offered little gameplay advantage to those people who payed. It was limited to clothing items to customize your avatar, as well as other cosmetic changes.

    Now, we can have pets that loot for you and give bonuses to speed and jump($12/3 months). Shops to sell things when you're offline($2/month to $10/month). Cards that give you 2x experience and 2x drops($19/month each). Teleport rocks so you can avoid waiting between continents($2 per use).

    It's fairly easy to spend more than a normal pay only game, and those that do have a huge advantage over time than those that don't. There are people in the community that have hundreds, if not thousands invested in their characters.

    Still, I get a good gaming experience for on average about $5/month, so I prefer it over a bigger commitment..
  • Every file upload is 10 Linden Dollars (L$10), that's about 3c. Every group you create costs L$100, about 30c. Advertising costs L$. Land is paid for directly in US$, but you can earn that US$ credit in L$, or rent from someone else in L$ who pays monthly in US$... so you can pay for everything in L$, one way or another.
  • I don't think I'd pay pennies, but I'd definitely pay Schrute Bucks
  • by Thorizdin (456032) <thorizdinNO@SPAMlotd.org> on Saturday September 08, 2007 @02:31PM (#20522231) Homepage
    While I understand the knee jerk reactions that some have to this idea, they should realize that this isn't really a model for single player games IMO but more of a new model for Pay to Play games. So while this doesn't work for say Bioshock (I'd be pissed if 2k wanted to me to buy my Power to the People Terminals!) but it does work for online games. Right now the only legal currency in most MMO's is time, if you put in the time to "earn" (silly concept in a game) something its yours to keep or trade. Now, the problem is that most MMO's are closed systems meaning that even though you can trade, its only for in game items or money that were "earned" by someone else's time. I have long felt that any business model that favors the unemployed (they have lots of time) over skilled gamers who might not have as much free time, is flawed. Micro transaction based games at least offer a possibility of changing that model. The current system of favoring college students, the chronically unemployable, or those willing to break the EULA to buy stuff from IGE or other virtual to real money trader is dumb.
  • Yohoho Puzzle Pirates [puzzlepirates.com] is free to play on doubloon oceans. If you want to buy things (swords, ships, houses, the better pieces of clothing) you will need doubloons, which you can buy with pieces of eight that you worked for or gained as booty from a pillage or you can purchase the doubloons with real money.
    • by EdBear69 (823550)
      Yes, but as a free player on Puzzle Pirates, you're not allowed to play all the mini-games or man all the stations on the ships.

      What do you mean, I can run the sails but not the guns??

      That, IMHO, is vastly different from paying 10 cents for a purple pirate hat that has no practical purpose other than to look cool.

      • by devjoe (88696)
        And that's what this story is all about, paying for game features. Sure, you cannot man the guns without paying. But you also cannot man the guns without permission from an officer (either through being promoted to Pirate or being ordered to the station). It's part of the way the game works (in this case mainly beause guns are an important station -- you don't want to be in battle with no guns loaded because some slacker is not managing to load the guns properly). And you can't be an officer without paying,
  • I'd certainly pay pennies for a mod that replaced all the characters in Grand Theft Auto with political figures, celebrities, and one certain much-maligned lawyer.
  • How about if you have a slow graphics card and don't need all the hi-res textures because you can only play at 800x600?

    It would be nice to get a rebate on games where you aren't using all the features.

    I wonder how many people would play WoW with the graphics dialed down to Atari 2600 quality...

  • is that they are very rarely "micro."
  • I used to play Maple Story (the Global version) and I have to say, people do pay for these "Microstransactions". You can pay money via Paypal which is then transferred into "NX Cash" which goes into your account, and then you can buy items in the "Cash Shop" such as Clothes (that cover your equipment, but you still get the skill bonuses from it) and things that help incredibly with the game, such as a permit which allows you to sell your items. I have to admit I did purchase some of the said NX Cash, and I

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