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WildStar CREDD System Explained

By Kevin Harwood | Published Jul 28 2014 10:12 PM in Business and Law
Peer Reviewed by (Servant of the Lord, dejaime, Michael Tanczos)

WildStar CREDD

I rarely think it's worth talking about MMO's and the slightly innovative things they do - the scene has become too bland to see significant differences. That being said, WildStar has designed and implemented an exceedingly interesting monetization system that I wanted to analyze - so let's discuss WildStar CREDD!

This entire design concept is based around a monthly subscription model with options of payment. The first option is a "CREDD" system, which functions as an in-game commodity, which can be bought and sold like any other virtual good. WildStar CREDD can be consumed by a player to lengthen the subscription of an account by one month allowing players the option to exchange game gold for their subscription. If players don't want to bother farming gold they can just pay a regular subscription themselves. A real point of interest is that a normal subscription is $15.99 per month while CREDD costs $19.99.

I'll start by saying that I think this is one of the most brilliant monetization systems I've ever seen, and here's why. This system rewards whale users, who play substantially more than other players, with potential for a free subscription and WildStar earns more money each time WildStar CREDD is exchanged. Typically, an MMO relies on the heavy micro-transaction buying whales to contribute to the main revenue of the game, but this design supplements the time invested by whales to be a "play to pay" model.

What's interesting about this idea is that it potentially creates two distinct player demographics for their game and WildStar is aware of the nature of the two player types.


Credd.png


I know some of the folks doing the monetization of WildStar and they're not fools; they know exactly what they're doing. Here's the irony of this player type segmentation.

Players who contribute a ton of time to a game, far more than the average, are generally called Whales. These players usually represent less than 5% of a total player base and quite often are buying micro-transactions significantly more than the average casual player. WildStar is saying players who typically become whales in nature won't have to spend their money to play the game. It's basically the reverse of what happens in a typical MMO environment.

Concerns


Although my initial first thought of this model was positive, I found some immediate issues with the concept.

Value Drain - Because players have to spend their time in-game gathering gold to then pay for their month of play you can actually attribute a time frame of how many hours a player is playing to contribute his earnings towards his subscription rather than in-game pursuits. Have you ever been to one of those restaurants that lets you wash dishes for an hour in exchange for a meal? Rarely is the food they are serving top notch and a meal is usually less satisfying when you're eating at a table then working in the back.

Value Extension - WildStar isn't doing this because they are philanthropic care bears - they are experimenting with a new form of monetization that they believe will draw more players in and therefore earn them more revenue. This also isn't just a random addition they added to the game. This is a specific design meant to earn 25% more subscription revenue for WildStar.

Value Mis-match - This model has one assumption that I am unsure about - that a regular player is willing to pay $15 for their subscription and another $20 to earn more in-game gold in just one month. $35 for one month of game-play is just too high and I can't imagine how a game can deliver content that ensures players feel they are getting good value out of the exchange.

Variable Rate Value - This concept still doesn't make sense to me so I hope I'm wrong here. It is going to be far more difficult to earn gold at lower levels than it will be at higher levels. The issue I see here is that the price of WildStar CREDD will be too high for new players and exceedingly low for high level players able to do raids and end game farming. The price of CREDD needs to, in some way, be constant for all players regardless of income rate. My guess is in the early months players are going to be buying CREDD like mad to enjoy the gimmick experience which will drive up the price. As the game matures CREDD's price will fall after the regular player volume drop off occurs (always happens around 3 months after MMO launch).

Value Extension - This idea is somewhat basic. If the gold you have in game can be used for a variety of things like new items and repairing armor but also for CREDD, then any gold spent not on paying for your subscription now has real world value because you could have spent that gold on WildStar CREDD. This always ruins a game for players like me who want to feel like he's getting value from a game instead of having to fight to get value from it.

Potential Abuse


I'm not going to state this concept as something which may be happening, but something which is possible due to the system design. Imagine I decide to buy WildStar CREDD and list it on the in-game marketplace for sale. Now the very important role of the CREDD system is that the price of CREDD stays high in-game because no player is willing to pay $20 for just a few dollars of in-game money.

So what's to stop WildStar from buying up any excess CREDD in the market place to keep the value high? Letting the fox guard the hen house is a concept that any good design should stay away from if only to disprove any accusations of market manipulation.

On top of this, the desire to keep the in-game gold volume low is exceedingly high. If players have too much spare game gold, they will throw it into CREDD and basically play for free without even trying. WildStar has a strong interest in keeping your gold income low with money sinks like armor and item repair from dying. If there's any relationship between CREDD sales and how hard the game is (ensuring players die more) the very design of the game may be compromised.

This really isn't different from the controversy that Elder Scrolls Online faced with the collectors edition version which came with a mount. Essentially players could spend the extra $15 or $20 to purchase the special edition of the game which came with an in-game mount for players. To purchase a mount regularly with in-game gold was just too time consuming so it became an obvious pay-wall.

Summary


It's a brilliant monetization strategy and I'm excited to study the long term effects it has on the game. It creatively distributes the cost of subscription and will allow for some fascinating economic experiments. My guess is that players will really enjoy WildStar CREDD and it will enhance their experience.

I'm drafting a monetization design for another MMO in development right now but I wouldn't consider utilizing this design. I believe a game should belong to a player for 10 days or 10 years based on their decision without a variable fee dependent on their time invested.


What do think of WildStar CREDD? I'd love to hear your experience with it or ideas you've had about the concept!



About the Author(s)


Kevin Harwood is a marketing and monetization designer in the video game industry

License


GDOL (Gamedev.net Open License)




Comments

I had never heard a definition of 'whale' by time player invested, afaik it is about money they put into game.

 

And Wildstart seems to adapt a F2Pish style in fashion of "Linux is free if your time has no value",

If you like this check out how it has worked for eve online. They've been doing a program Identical to this since 2009. They offer PLEX which is a 30 day pilots license extension which allows you to buy with in game credits opposed to the monthly subscription.

Kind of reminds me of PLEX in EVE Online, something they have been doing, with success (afaik), for years.

They copied the idea from Eve Online, who introduced it six years ago (in 2008).

 

What is PLEX?

Plex-tip.png

PLEX is an in-game item that can be used to pay for your subscription without using more traditional payment methods. By using PLEX, you can pay for your game time simply by playing the game. 

You can buy PLEX through our Account Management site or you can buy PLEX with in-game ISK. Because PLEX is an in-game item you can also make in-game profit for yourself by buying and selling it on the market.

 

 

[Edit:] Dang, ninja'd while searching for Eve's description of PLEX. =P

I started reading the article and thought of PLEX as well.

I can't like this on the principle that the author didn't do their research and learn about PLEX. I'd be interested in another article comparing the systems and their success however. 

@Pixeltasim I would agree about seeing a comparison between the two very similar programs.

That's interesting. I know EVE has a full time economist to keep things on track, does WildStar do any kind of analysis to check its virtual economy health? Does it take any actions to avoid enormous amounts of game gold to be farmed too fast to keep their monetization viable?

The trend of game developers taking over the in-game gold market (like this system, and Plex from EVE, or even the dual-currencies of GW2), is definitely a good thing for the developers, and probably also for the players. It does away with the shady, and potentially risky, third-party trades, and makes things like gifting a month of subscription-time to a friend easy.

 

However, in most cases, these schemes are a way for players to pay in order to avoid playing the game. I give you a $20 token from the cash shop, and you grind so-and-so much ingame gold or stuff for me. That's my only philosophical objection.  If people would rather pay other people to do the chore of playing the game, then there are fundamental issues in the game itself.  20 years ago in the arcades, people didn't pay each other to grind Pac Man levels - the gameplay itself was the attraction and reward.  If the gameplay is no longer the attraction, then is it really a game we're making?

This system also exists in Runescape, via the form of Bonds. While slightly different, bonds can be bought with real world cash, they can be sold in game for in game currency, or 14 days membership. This has led to large numbers of the FTP market from the game becoming Members through this system.

You're using the term 'whale' wrong. A whale, in a micro-transaction economy, refers to a player heavily investing real money into the game. These are the guys who purchase 1000 gift boxes with 0.001% chance to obtain a legendary pink penguin mount :D

 

Also as others have mentioned, this system is far from innovative, subscriptions for in-game currency have been done in older titles as well. I believe it's mostly a not-so-transparent way for the publisher/developer to allow purchasing in-game currency, eliminating/reducing illegal third party trading. It is good for the dev, but can likely be bad for the player, if it influences game design choices and/or gameplay itself - e.g. whales leading guilds because of cash and not leadership abilities / skill.

Everyone seems to be forgetting the origin of the CREDD here and this is the reason that CREDD is unlike PLEX.

 

In [most] other games the CREDD-equivalent is introduced into the game by, effectively, an NPC. You sink your gold/ISK/gems/whatever into an NPC to get the game time. Gold disappears, game time magically appears.

 

In Wildstar the CREDD is introduced into the system by players' real money. When you buy your CREDD you are giving another player in-game gold. The price of CREDD is also controlled by players and market forces instead of being controlled by this NPC. Gold is transferred, game time is transferred.

 

Big and fundamental difference.

 

I recommend reading the article again because the author details a lot in terms of this crucial difference, which a lot of people have seemed to gleam over so that they may skip to the end and point out that EVE did this first (which it didn't, it does something different).

Everyone seems to be forgetting the origin of the CREDD here and this is the reason that CREDD is unlike PLEX.

 

In [most] other games the CREDD-equivalent is introduced into the game by, effectively, an NPC. You sink your gold/ISK/gems/whatever into an NPC to get the game time. Gold disappears, game time magically appears.

 

In Wildstar the CREDD is introduced into the system by players' real money. When you buy your CREDD you are giving another player in-game gold. The price of CREDD is also controlled by players and market forces instead of being controlled by this NPC. Gold is transferred, game time is transferred.

 

Big and fundamental difference.

 

I recommend reading the article again because the author details a lot in terms of this crucial difference, which a lot of people have seemed to gleam over so that they may skip to the end and point out that EVE did this first (which it didn't, it does something different).

 

Actually, I'm pretty confident that by 'most' you only mean EVE's PLEX. Runescape's Bonds can be traded / auctioned by players themselves. Same goes for cash-shop-only items in many F2P games, which makes free and paying players have equal access.

 

But that is besides the point. The article doesn't include any research into similar systems and claims "CREDD System explained" but most of the article are just predictions and guesswork.

@Zamalek

As a person that have played both Wildstar and Eve Online I believe you have some facts wrong. I think you need to do more research into PLEX. PLEX are purchased outside of the game for real currency and then a ingame item is added to the player's account to be sold or used.

There are zero NPCs that have PLEX for sale. Therefore, please do more fact checking in the future.

Everyone seems to be forgetting the origin of the CREDD here and this is the reason that CREDD is unlike PLEX.

 

In [most] other games the CREDD-equivalent is introduced into the game by, effectively, an NPC. You sink your gold/ISK/gems/whatever into an NPC to get the game time. Gold disappears, game time magically appears.

 

In Wildstar the CREDD is introduced into the system by players' real money. When you buy your CREDD you are giving another player in-game gold. The price of CREDD is also controlled by players and market forces instead of being controlled by this NPC. Gold is transferred, game time is transferred.

 

Big and fundamental difference.

 

I recommend reading the article again because the author details a lot in terms of this crucial difference, which a lot of people have seemed to gleam over so that they may skip to the end and point out that EVE did this first (which it didn't, it does something different).

 

No. Not even close. EVE's PLEX's work exactly like CREDD. There is no magic fairy NPC introducing them, only players introduce them via the in-game market. There is ALWAYS real cash, paid for BY A PLAYER, involved in PLEX transactions.

 

If you're going to make big sweeping "declarations of fact", make sure your facts are correct. Especially when you start accusing people of not reading the article, when we read it just fine.

I have to say this isn't new in and of itself. Leveraging people's money OR time has been around for a while (particularly during the big Facebook BOOM). Wildstar does it better, but its not 'new' per se.


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