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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

IBM Tries Middleware For MMO Economies 20

Thanks to Wired News for its article discussing IBM's new Business Integration for Games (BIG) middleware for online gaming, technology which "lets game publishers install billing software to keep track of transactions in their online worlds", and IBM claim might "make it easier for the publishers to charge players to gain access to new content or new areas to explore -- something that currently has to be done with expansion packs and incremental product releases." According to the IBM project manager, the BIG project could "allow users to unlock new weapons or powers by paying for them within the context of the game", and it's also suggested that the tech, though just a sophisticated in-game billing system, might mean "hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans."
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IBM Tries Middleware For MMO Economies

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  • A pyramid scheme? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MMaestro ( 585010 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:50AM (#8361538)
    "hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans."

    So hardcore fans makes and sell content to non-hardcore fans, while the developing team makes and sells more content to the hardcore fans, while the producers makes and sells bandwidth and servers to the developing team?

    Unless they charge a low price for this type of game, it won't have mass appeal. (Pay a front-end fee, a subscription fee, AND a fee for extra content? Uh, not exactly budget minded.)

  • Re:A pyramid scheme? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:42AM (#8361877)
    The Sims Online had that essential scheme in their design doc - though i don't know how the player-content wound up (it wasn't there at release, and i wasn't there after beta).

    Second Life also operates on a similar concept.

    Both are certainly more 'niche' than the big games (EQ, UO, AO, DAoC, etc) - but there is a dedicated playerbase who are willing to pay the going rate (~$13/mo) for such gameplay.

    The only difference is that IBM is proposing that their middleware facilitate such transactions for actual money and not in-game currency.

    The gameplay is fairly proven, though the low frequency of games that embrace this model, and the (comparatively) low financial success they have certainly casts doubt on the feasibility of a middleware solution.

    Keep in mind, IBM also wants to facilitate the secure trade of goods for actual money between players in other games as well (Eg. the transfer of accounts, sale of a found item, etc). But the publishers of those games certainly have the expertise and equipment necessary for such sales - and yet they are all quite resistant to 'legalize' inter-player transactions for real currency.

    (common mud-wisdom shows legalizing interplayer transactions draws in corporate interests whose agents would push out the average player in their attempts to harvest and control market value of items and characters.)
  • by darkmayo ( 251580 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @12:00PM (#8362524)
    Doubtful.. alot of companies have tried various forms of in game economies based on items and crafts and what not.

    Now I can only comment on the MMORPGs that I have played to put this into context. I'll take EQ and DAOC as two examples .. EQ being the bad economy, Daoc being the better.

    EQ's economy was the first one I was exposed to, started in beta 3 and played until before the Luclin expansion. It was all about the item drops and not really about the crafted items. (I have heard that has changed) if you found a craft you could make money at it was nerfed, platnium worthless on most servers and only on a few you could use it to buy equipment from other users.
    The number of rare items and armor unfortunately never really diminished much causing those once rare items to be common place. Look at an FBSS (Flowing Black Silk Sash) for example, a once sought after item is now a few plat or a couple of trades of lower level items. As well the amount of gear and items that just make the FBSS a joke.

    DAOC imo had a better economy than EQ, cash was definately useful for a long time, more focus was on crafted items and defense of the realms (which cost alot of money to upgrade and maintain keeps and such, as well people weren't sitting on massive fortunes with nothing to spend it on. As well items and armor degrade and break, not to mention the subsquent additions of alchemy and spellcrafting which also raise the bar of things to spend your hard earned gold on.

    played a few other ones, Shadowbane/SWG for example and both of these had some serious economy problems (shadowbane had massive duping bugs causing massive inflation, and SWG has problems with tons of shitty items and no one wanting to buy them.)

    anyways anything that will help more MMO's get a better economy i'll be all for it.
  • Re:A pyramid scheme? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MisterJones ( 751585 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @02:38PM (#8364297)
    You're thinking people won't buy into this? Already they're paying for the CD to install the game, a monthly fee to play it, plus shelling out extra bucks for expansion packs...

    There is a guy I work with who has two dark age of camelot accounts that he plays side-by-side so that he can team up with himself. I asked if he thought that was spending too much money, but he said that it didn't matter to him, he has plenty of disposable income and an extra monthly subscription fee wasn't too much to pay for, considering his interest in the game.

    I can see the hardcore gamers like him paying extra for new content or the ability to advance. I think it would even be a good idea to make the whole payment scheme built around a system like this. If you're a casual player, and you don't want to be a level-1000 badass, you pay a lower fee per month. (emphasis on lower: like $5 or something) If you want the latest, greatest items and access to the most dangerous dungeons, chances are you are willing to devote more money.

    Makes sense from the server point of view as well, since the level 1000 player probably plays far more often than the level 5 player.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:34PM (#8366480)
    I hate companies that think that communities should be splintered by how much money they are will to pay for the priveledge of hitting a rat and gaining experience.

    Legends servers at 40 bucks a month? You have to justify that to them, even if it means that the regular service is now lesser in some way.
    In Everquest, it was mostly GM support.

    As someone who enjoys taking full advantage of a standard fee, I can only see selective pricing as a disadvantage.. Where I excel not based on how well I played the game, but on how much I payed for it.

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