Following my first hands-on session with the North American client for Blade & Soul last month, I was eager for another chance to play the game. From what I had experienced so far, it has all the hallmarks of a great MMO, and I was left with the lingering urge to dig deeper into the game as soon as humanly possible.
Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long, as the opportunity to meet up with the folks from NCSOFT during E3 2015 provided both another chance to play the game, as well as learn the first details on its business model. Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the business model, and then later this week be on the lookout for our updated hands-on impressions based on our experiences during E3.
Before diving into the business model details, it’s worth noting that Blade & Soul is still on track to enter closed beta this fall, and is slated for a simultaneous release in North America and Europe. This release will see versions of the game in English, French and German, and will greatly broaden the already massive global audience.
This is good news for those of you who may be weary from some of the half-baked localizations we’ve seen over the years. Most often, when an MMO sees this kind of global growth, the games in question tend to be worthy experiences. One need to look no further than Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft for perfect examples of titles developed in North America that have since gone on to see major growth and success in new regions post-launch.
The same is likely to hold true for Blade & Soul when it lands on North American shores, as we’ll be benefitting from an MMO that is stable, polished, and comes bundled with features not typically found until some time has passed post-launch.
Business Model Details Emerge
Of course, one of the biggest question marks for Blade & Soul thus far revolves around its business model. Given the current climate and trends in MMO monetization, it would be easy to assume that the game will be free-to-play, supported by some form of in-game cash shop for cosmetic items and consumables. As we learned from the folks at NCSOFT during E3, both of these hold true, but we also discovered quite a few more details beyond that surface level assessment.
First off, there will be no restrictions on additional content, and this extends to expansion packs. What this means is that as new Acts roll out (Blade & Soul will launch in North America with the first 3 of the current 6 Acts in the original client) players won’t be charged a dime to access the new content. The idea here is that NCSOFT doesn’t want to gate access to the game via paid DLC as that approach typically ends very badly from a community-building perspective.
Another thing the team was eager to mention is that there won’t be any instances of pay-to-win items creeping into the game via cash shop purchases. In other words, you won’t have to worry about stat-enhancing gear or other forms of power boosts entering into play.
In terms of currency, the game will be adopting the NCoin system already in use by other NCSOFT titles such as Aion and Lineage II. Full details on how NCoin works as well as available denominations can currently be found on the official Aion website for those of you curious to learn more about how it will likely function in Blade & Soul. Just keep in mind that the details listed under the F.A.Q. on the linked page are specific to Aion, but we do anticipate that the setup will be quite similar.
Along with NCoin, there will also be a free currency that players can earn and spend in-game on items from special vendors. The major thing to note here is that most items available via NCoin will also be available in the free currency store. An example of a similar system can be found in Marvel Heroes 2015 where players will earn Eternity Splinters through active play and then use them as an alternative method for purchasing things like hero or costume unlocks.
Some examples of items available for purchase would include the typical costumes and consumables, with repair kits being one of the latter types. While I’m not exactly a fan of durability loss on gear in MMOs as a general rule, I suppose it’s one of the best BAND-AID fixes to the cosmic mess that death penalties have devolved into over the years. Those seeking a virtual life of consequence in MMOs need not apply and all that jazz.
On a more positive note, cat costumes are a thing in Blade & Soul, so you’ll always be able to keep your cat looking dapper as you traverse Blade & Soul's lush landscapes to vanquish your foes.
Optional Memberships and Benefits
Optional memberships will also be available that will grant you certain benefits. While details are still being worked out, we did learn that there will be different tiers that players can unlock on an account level, with each successive tier granting better or additional benefits. Your membership tier can be increased in a number of different ways, and won’t be strictly limited to spending NCoin or the free currency, though that will be one of the available methods for doing so.
What this means is that you won’t need to be a paid member to increase your benefit tier, though you will have to be a member to activate any you have unlocked. This makes the idea of membership more attractive over time as you’ll essentially be activating scaling benefits rather than a flat package most commonly bundled in other free-to-play MMOs.
As a final note, I did also ask if these benefits will decay over time, for example if you take a break from active play for any span of time. Thankfully this won’t be the case – once unlocked any benefits will be permanently associated with your account pending activation via paid membership.
Details are still being fleshed out for Founders Packs, but we were able to confirm that they will become available at some point in the future. There will be three tiers with scaling rewards, and we’ll be sure to let our readers know as soon as details on what’s included in each tier become available. While there probably won’t be a Supreme Cat Package available for founders that unlocks all currently available cosmetic items for cats, you have to admit that if such a bundle were to exist it would no doubt sell like hotcakes.
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