Monetization's Psychological Impact

By David Piner -
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I think it's time we all talk about monetization for a small amount of time here. The reason being is that monetization affects the health of an MMO and, as I've written before, is the major driving force behind the motivation to create games, except for of course the few rare developers who seriously are all about making games and not money (because they've already made all their money). 

Games are a consumer product and generally considered by the government and society as a luxury purchase, something completely unnecessary to anyone's day to day life. Thus, when we go out and buy a game, it's like going to the frozen snack section of the grocery store. You don't need any of those snacks, they're way more money than they should be, and only a select few are really worth it but you're going to buy some cheesesticks, some sliders, and a few pizza roll bags anyway. 

We tend to think about things we don't need but want differently and game developers often time don't really even think about the psychology of a purchase IMO. For some, when they make money, it's like well how did we do that and us games journalists here have to sit down and explain it when everyone collectively goes huh. Then there are the game developers that make some really smart choices in how to proceed. 

The thing is that we assign a value in our heads to a game. Games that have less things to buy that impact gameplay and more things to buy that are prestige oriented (i.e. I have bought this item haha look at my sparkle pony y'all) are easier for us to swallow because the minimum to play is reasonable enough that any additional purchases are truly opt-in. 

Games that force purchases to continue, have paywalls, or allow you to buy a leg up often muddy our concept of value. Because we're not really down, as a society, with handing money over to someone who is essentially blackmailing us to. If we want to kickass, we're going to have to hand money over, and that's jut not cool and really devalues the brand. 

Then there is the alternative methods. Like, buy a box copy and play forever. That's a great one because it can force you to really just throw the game down and not come back after fatigue sits in. 

I really believe, at the end of the day, that we need some standardized pricing mechanic that follows a very simple formula. The cost should be directly related to the amount of content, monthly potential gametime for a fully employed gamer, and take into consideration the quality of the game as well and any unique properties. 

League of Legends works because there is no reason at all to spend any money to just play the game. The free hero selection is enough that any poor college student can just play the game week to week and just have fun. Each purchase is meaningful and gives you something substantial and you may only need to buy one hero the entire game. 

World of Warcraft works because it's a flat monthly fee and anything that you buy has no impact on the game. Even the pet that you can sale on the auction house isn't some new way to buy gold, because there isn't a lot of demand for it at high prices, it's more or less this optional thing you can do to get some starting money on a new server or something like that. 

Guild Wars / Guild Wars 2 works because they have a large upfront fee, but the game is free-to-play beyond that. Ingame purchases are attractive and the entire business model relies on bringing you back each time the gem store is updated to get your eyes on the new loot for sale. 

What's remaining is generally a mixture of the above style methods, but they muddy it up a bit. You'll have a monthly subscription, but also a way to purchase gold within the game. This works okay in GW2, because there isn't a monthly subscription, so there isn't any attachment to the world, but when you pay each month you become very attached to the game and it's economy. When you see people pay real life money to get ahead of you, it stings. 

There are free-to-play games that try to put up paywalls, but unlike LoL, they don't make even mandatory purchases optional. There isn't a bootstrap mode to get past some of the items you just have to buy to save yourself from having to work ten to hundred times more hours than the flat rate fee (or the even more unfun lock box challenge) for the item from a cash shop. 

I think we definitely need more game developers onboard with the idea that maybe more thought should be put into how to fund a game after launch then to just either copy some other games ideas or think "boy this sure looks good on paper" because on paper, a lot of ideas seem great, but when people are standing there with their money in their hand, are those ideas good enough. 

How would you like to pay for your game? Do you think we need something new and interesting in the world of funding a game's profitability? Let me know in the comments below. 

Someone should put comments above an article, that'd be hilarious. 

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About The Author

David "Xerin" Piner
Get in the bush with Xerin every week for his column, Respawn, as he analyzes the hottest trends, buzz topics, and absurdities in MMO gaming. In addition to his ongoing war against early access titles.

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