Monetization is always a hotbed for discussion when any worthwhile MMOG is in its home stretch leading up to launch. Call it what you will, but in many ways this topic is kind of like the MMO industry equivalent of Rule 34. In other words, if an MMO exists, there will be a debate surrounding its business model. No exceptions.
With the start of the Russian Open Beta for Skyforge, the subject of monetization has come more sharply in focus. Knowing this was inevitable, the folks at My.com and Allods Team opted to address any potential community concerns directly in a news post on the official Skyforge website.
As could be expected, the primary concern is that the game will factor in a perceived level of pay-to-win with its premium offerings. This is commonly a grey area, as there are many ways one might consider things like faster advancement a version of pay-to-win, while developers will most often defend the position of this falling under “convenience” and not paying for power.
This seems to be at least part of the message the Skyforge team is attempting to get across regarding the games premium services. To set the stage for the broader topic, the official news post outlines the key points for monetization in Skyforge. The original points are below in bold text, followed by some additional notes on what each line item means in italics.
1. All players in Skyforge should have fun and rewarding experiences, regardless of their monetary investment in the game.
Whether you opt to pay for premium services, games should be fun out of the virtual box. This makes sense, and it would be kind of silly for a developer to make a game purposefully not fun with the fun directly bundled into some form of DLC or paid unlocks.
2. Monetization must not effect a player’s ability to access all activities (including high-end PvE and PvP)
It simply is not good game design to lock players out of content, essentially holding access for ransom. Mind you, FPS and other genres do this on an absurdly regular basis, with multiple maps being closed off from regular play until purchased as DLC upgrades. That still doesn’t make it good game design.
3. Players must never be locked behind a pay-wall to progress.
Another very sensible way of handling access to content in just about any type of MMOG.
4. Players can invest money in Skyforge if they want to speed up their character’s progress and get through content faster, but never at the cost of another player’s experience.
XP boosts are extremely common in MMOGs that monetize through an in-game storefront. While I personally never spend money on the things, and feel XP boosts work better as an incentive when applied across the board for limited windows of time by the developer, both of these approaches can peacefully coexist most of the time.
What’s interesting here, however, is the fact that accelerated advancement seems to contradict the fact that Skyforge features progression caps. As this stand, players are simply not happy with having caps in place at all, so letting people pay cash to reach those caps even faster seems a bit odd.
The next line item does at least attempt to explain or justify this particular include.
5. Players should not feel like they have to invest a nearly unlimited amount of time in the game to stay competitive.
I’m fully on board with this notion. A shining example here would be MMO PvP systems that reward players for time spent, versus player skill. This typically happens when gear progression is linked to success, ala things like WoW Battlegrounds and Arenas. While I haven’t played PvP in that game for quite some time, for a while I was fairly active in WoW PvP.
Throughout that period, I loathed the fact that winning was at least partially determined by who had the better gear. The worst part is that some of that gear came from raids, or based on time spent playing with actual player skill being a secondary factor in gear progression.
Hopefully Skyforge does manage to find a way to avoid going anywhere near that particular path.
The official post follows the above points with some expanded explanations, many focused on what types of things you’ll have the option to spend cash on, and how they are intended to augment the experience rather than placing artificial restrictions upon it.
For full details be sure to visit the official Skyforge website: Skyforge Monetization Explained
Or, if you feel so inclined, enjoy some on-topic Pink Floyd lovingly embedded for your listening enjoyment below.
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