Microcosms – Just Fell Off the A’la Carte

Here it is, your weekly reminder that free-to-play games are not only here to stay, but are indeed the way of the future. If you are a fan of Vindictus, open beta is only a week or so away, so stay tuned for the announcement.

This past week has been filled with incredible highs and shattering lows for me on a personal level. The wife and I finally closed escrow on a house we had been pursuing for a while, but with renters ready to move into our former residence (and us motivated to get out quickly so we could capitalize on the juicy rental income) our move was one that could only be described as hectic. While my spouse may consider the broken china our worst loss of the whole affair, I have to think that I was the biggest loser in going almost a week without an internet connection. I haven’t had game withdrawals like this in nearly a decade, and once again an SOE game is to blame. My relationship with EverQuest II Extended has reached that dangerous addiction stage and I just can’t help it. I did, however, come across something that got me fired up. You will have to keep reading to see what it was.

It’s no secret that the world of Norrath holds a special place in my heart. I cut my MMOG teeth in EverQuest, learning the ropes of hardcore raiding and forging friendships that have lasted to this day. The shattered version of the future that is EverQuestII has been one of my favorites since its first day of closed beta, and the opening of EQ2X has elevated its status from that of a fallback game to being my main MMOG. Last week I wrote a pretty glowing overview of my experience with the first 20 levels or so, and while I still stand by that analysis, I have stumbled upon something that has really gotten my goat. 

EQ2X has four different levels of membership available: Basic, Silver, Gold or Platinum.  Each level ramps up the available content, with Basic being limited to only the most rudimentary aspects of the game. This is pretty common practice so far in pay-to-play turned free-to-plays, and compared to the other examples EQ2X gives their lowest level players the most to do by far. Silver level is attained by purchasing any amount of Station Cash and opens up even more access to the world, while Gold and Platinum levels are only available to players who purchase a subscription plan. Gold is the access level given to month-to-month subscribers or Sony Station Pass subscribers, and Platinum is for those who purchase their game time in one year chunks. I chose to go for the Gold via the Station Pass option, because I have characters on nearly every game that SOE offers in the package and I enjoy firing them up from time to time. Now I am certainly guilty of not reading the fine print, but when I discovered the main difference between the final two membership levels, gold and platinum, I was not a happy camper.

EverQuest and EverQuest2 split their races up by alignments with choices of Good, Evil and Neutral. Players of every membership level, except for Platinum, must purchase the Good and Evil aligned races. I understand a company’s desire, and need, to make money to continue to support their game, but I really felt that having to purchase such a basic component of the game after ponying up a subscription fee was a bit over the top.. If you wanted to open up all of the unavailable races, the cost would come to about $45, an amount that while not astronomical is still a hefty chunk of change.
EQ2X offers so many items in their cash shop, and has such a compelling product with extremely high levels of character attachment, that gating such core content is an unnecessary step.  I think a better incentive to get players to commit to a one year subscription plan would be to include a monthly deposit of Station Cash into their accounts. Enticing a player base that has already shown a willingness to spend by giving them “free” money seems like a great means of positive reinforcement.

Even if no adjustment is made to the existing pricing structures EQ2X is still a great deal that is worth checking out. What’s your take on the various pricing structures being used in free-to-play games currently? What works for you and what doesn’t? Let us know in our forums and keep checking back with Microcosms for more on EQ2X and all the latest in free-to-play gaming

Not a playable race, but if it were you can be sure it would be an expensive one. 

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