The business model for WildStar is unveiled today, including subscription rates and the first look at how C.R.E.D.D. will give players another method of adding game time to their account.
Despite an initial phase rife with criticisms and backlash from core MMO gamers, variants of the free-to-play business model have more or less become the norm for the industry at this point. Even AAA games that have launched with a subscription over the past couple of years have ultimately converted to a free-to-play model. Mind you, some of these conversions were bound to happen from the outset and it was really only a matter of time.
So it came as a pleasant surprise when we learned the first details of Carbines business model for WildStar that the game will be more of a traditional subscription-based MMO. Meaning, players will need to purchase a box copy of the game which will include the first 30 days of subscription time. From there youll need to select a subscription plan which factors in the usual discounts based on how long you commit.
The breakdown looks like this:
WildStar Digital and Retail Prices
WildStar Subscription Pricing
|Subscription||Cost Per Month
|Cost Per Month
|Cost Per Month
WildStar Subscription Total Price Per Time Period
|Subscription||Total Cost ($)||Total Cost ()||Total Cost (£)|
Stands for Certificate for Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development which loosely translates into the four Paths players can choose to pursue in-game along with their base character class. Not to be confused with:
Create, Read, Update and Delete which refers to the four basic functions of persistent storage, or
The kickass horror film from the mid 1980s which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller
While all of that sounds pretty straightforward, or at least will be familiar to any MMO gamer from before the massive free-to-play shift began, Carbine is also smartly adding in an optional method for adding game time to your account in the form of C.R.E.D.D.
C.R.E.D.D. is a virtual item that players can buy for real world cash, and then sell on the in-game Commodities Exchange for gold to other players. This serves two core functions. First, it provides a secondary means for players to pay for their subscription. So you can effectively play WildStar and earn enough gold to purchase C.R.E.D.D. that you can then use to add 30 days of game time to your account.
The second thing this does is it allows players to control the real world value of in-game virtual currency as it helps minimize the negative impact of the third-party gold farming market. So instead of attempting to buy gold from a shady third-party website thats just as likely to steal or sell your credit card info, you can buy C.R.E.D.D. instead and then sell it on the Commodities Exchange to other players for gold.
This system isnt necessarily a new concept. If youre familiar with PLEX in EVE Online or Krono in EverQuest and EverQuest II, C.R.E.D.D. in WildStar is very similar to those systems. While it wasnt discussed directly, theres a good chance that there will be a scaling price structure for players wishing to purchase multiple C.R.E.D.D., however, the announced starting price is a bit higher than the current cost of something like Krono ($17.99), with C.R.E.D.D. starting at $19.99.
In terms of perceived value in-game, Executive Producer Geremy Gaffney explained that WildStar will have plenty of faucets and sinks to help control how much virtual currency is coming in and out of the economy. I was particularly interested in ways that mudflation might factor into the gold pricing for C.R.E.D.D. over time, since on mature servers the in-game currencies tend to valuate based on the average amount of wealth accumulated by max level players.
This commonly introduces issues for new players coming into a game post-launch, because an item will be priced on the marketplace based on what a wealthy max level character can afford, rather than being affordable by new players. Weve seen this trend largely wreck the ability for new players to afford basic crafting materials, consumables, or other low level staples in countless games.
Geremy explained that there will be enough elder game sinks that we shouldnt see those kind of issues caused by mudflation creeping into WildStar. A perfect example here would be Warplots which guilds will be spending money to maintain, upgrade, and reconfigure over time. Likewise, due to the sheer volume of worthwhile options in the player housing system, that will be another way that players will have reasons to spend their in-game currency rather than hitting the level cap and amassing vast amounts of wealth with nothing to spend it on.
Final Thoughts on the WildStar Business Model
People will probably think Im nuts, but I personally see the trending towards free-to-play as being a potentially negative thing for the industry on the social level. While its proven to be quite lucrative for publishers and developers, it is also raising an entire generation of transient players. As a result, MMOs become disposable entertainment if theres no level of monetary investment at the player level.
Dont get me wrong; I do see the value in free-to-play as a base concept and even in practice for certain games. For example, Guild Wars 2 recently made headlines for being the fastest selling MMO of all time, and is a game wholly supported by virtual item sales after that initial game purchase has been made.
However, at the community level, Ive noticed a major negative trending over time across a broader spectrum of free-to-play titles. Even if your MMO is financially successful due to a small percentage of players spending cash on virtual items, the churn rate in these games also tends to be much higher than the norm. In other words, a high volume of people are both entering and exiting your game on any given month. As a result, you simply dont see as high a frequency of closely knit server communities and guilds, or deeper ongoing social interactions in many newer MMOs.
Whether this is what Carbine had in mind when opting to go the subscription route for WildStar, or it simply made sense to them for other reasons, I still think it was a smart choice. And unlike many of the inevitable conversion releases noted at the beginning of this article, WildStar wont be launching with a virtual item mall. In fact, Carbine currently has no plans to include micro-transactions in WildStar.
The only real bummer is that we also learned that WildStar wont be launching in 2013 as was originally targeted. While we still dont have any confirmed dates, the game is currently expected to launch sometime around early spring 2014. In the meantime, Carbine apparently has something special planned for PAX Prime this year, so youll want to keep your eyes peeled in a couple of weeks as info begins rolling out of that event.
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