My Take on Cash Stores And Micro Transactions

Recently we have been seeing a big change across the industry regarding in game cash stores and what micro transactions offer. Leading the pack is now probably D3. But we have also seen GW2 coming up with a bit of controversial plan. It was pretty anticipated given the shift to F2P and in this post I will try to give you my perspective on the matter. Please join me after the cut.

For me there are only two guiding rules around in-game stores. First I don’t expect people to be able to defeat me by spending real money directly or indirectly via the shop. And then I don’t expect me to need to spend money directly or indirectly in the shop in order to have fun and consume content in a standard fashion.

The first concept is usually referred to by the community as “pay to win”. Sometimes this is done through direct purchase of equipment or boosts in the cash shop, while sometimes it is done indirectly through cash (type) conversion and trades. The idea of gold farmers and cash for gold is an old one, and we all experienced in-game broadcasts of such sites (in all games probably without exception) offering us gold for real currency. My expectation is simply not to legalize this unacceptable situation. Obviously F2P is challenging and this will become harder and harder for companies to walk away from.

The second concept is more elusive. Cash shops are usually expected to offer cosmetic and “fun” items, without forcing you to actually spend a dime in them. I expect to spend real money every now and then to support the developers while gaining vanity or fun boost. But I don’t expect that e.g. the only way to acquire fast mobility in a game, would be through the purchase of mounts in the cash shop. Some games are walking the fine line lately. And its becoming harder and harder to decide whether without any spending you may still enjoy the content in a reasonable manner.

For me “time” is not something I care to protect. If people want to run through the game quickly so be it. I want to consume content and have fun. So XP boosts are perfectly ok with me as fair items on the cash shop. The question remains though what about standard game items?! This is where ArenaNet has kind of thought outside of the box. For many the whole raiding and end-game purpose of MMOs is about equipment farming. ANet turned equipment in general into vanity. Items will not make you win – period! This is an earth shattering idea. You may farm an end-game tiered armor for weeks, but that will give you only minimal advantage in combat. You still get a ton of fun with it though – as it will look and feel different. People will recognize your achievement wherever you go. But it will not make you win. At least not much anyway. That way ANet opened the door for them to expand their in-game store and possibly extend tremendously their monthly micro transactions revenue. Simply because items are now a fair trade. Simply because by buying gems, gold or equipement – directly or indirectly – it does not mean that you “pay for win”. Interesting indeed.

I am still keeping two eyes open on this GW2 new perspective on items. I need to be convinced that items indeed don’t play a major role in one’s potency and ability to win. How about you? What is your take on cash shops and recent changes with micro transactions?

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