Spending, with Games-As-Service

Today over at Massively there’s an article regarding MMO end-of-service issues, as regards to player spending for virtual items. It’s particularly about STO, which got my attention, with the person who wrote in talking about how they’ve spent a lot of money for a rare ship, which ship will of course go away once the game shuts down.

This is of course a thorny issue. All games will eventually end. But, traditionally, you buy the game itself. In a lot of MMO’s, among other games, you can buy in-game items for real money. Sometimes a lot of money. But still, the game will go away someday. In a game you actually own, you can at least look at the item in your inventory, or on your character. But if a MMO, or gacha game, or any other sort of game where those items are stored on an exterior server, dies, that’s it, poof goes the item.

The article was more talking about emulators and stuff, so the person who bought whatever could potentially continue enjoying their purchase. That’s not what I’m going to go on about, though. I’m more talking about the very idea of in-game purchases, and my philosophy on these.

The way I see it, it’s not “is this item worth the money?”. It’s not. It’s just a part of a game. It’s not real. No, the real question is “will I enjoy the game enough in the future to justify spending the money?”. Of course, I take the actual whatever into consideration when making that purchase, since being without can potentially change the answer. But I look at the game itself as the product. Will I get $X of enjoyment in the future from this game? Does the publisher deserve $Y for providing this game for however many hours I’ve played it? Will I play for Z hours in the future?

Let’s look at a couple examples. First, ESO. That is a buy-to-play game. However, there are also in-game purchases, as well as a subscription. I have no problem buying games themselves – I do it all the time (even ones I have no intention of playing any time in the near future!). But paying extra, when I can play just fine for free? This, however, is one of those times where not making the purchase would have made me not have nearly the enjoyment I’ve had otherwise. I got a sub, which includes an infinite craft bag among other perks. But without this craft bag doubt I’d still be playing the game – crafting and gathering is a big part of how I play. It’d be a serious pain without it. In fact, even at the beginning it was, which is why I subbed very soon after I started. I haven’t bought any in-game items otherwise, though. (I did buy both expansions, but that’s different.)

For a negative example, let’s look at STO again. At the anniversary this year, there was a big ship pack being sold. Very big. All the hero ships from the shows, with new end-game versions. Some of these were lock-box-only before. But being such a big ship pack, it was expensive. Years ago, I would have bought it, no question. But this year? I decided against it. I didn’t think that I would enjoy the game in the future to the tune of $150+. Or maybe not even $30. With the way the game’s going, I thought it’d be best to stick to f2p for now.

Purchasing in-game items as in-game items is a losing move, I think. You absolutely will lose them. I guess it’s alright if you think of said items as perishables, like food: the food will go away, but the immediate benefits are worth the cash. I mix this approach with what I said above when it comes to gacha. No, buying these rolls isn’t worth it, in-and-of-themselves, even if I get exactly what I want the first time. But the act of rolling is fun, in a sense (I imagine it’s kinda like what gambling feels like, though I’ve never done that), and I do generally figure that I’ll get further enjoyment of the game worth that amount, even if I don’t.