Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
BioMors

Variable payment types and fairness

This topic is 4827 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Greetings all, I generally work in somewhat of a vacuum, working off of statistics, and asking only a select few their thoughts on matters, though I have a rather subjective quandary that perhaps some of you could shed some light on: Most games are essentially a boolean yes or no when it comes to payment- if you pay, you can play, if not, you can't. Whether that comes down to buying a cartridge or disk, or paying a subscription payment, it's generally the same. Some on line games have more recently accepted variable payments for variable services- for example, you have unlocked for you certain locations or classes for being a paying member. I feel that can be rather wrong to impose such a large game play benefit upon paying members- real money translating to in game perks (richer people shouldn't have such a benefit), however, it's impossible to offer a game that costs money to support players completely free. Allowing players to 'try' the game free, or even just to get addicted and want more, has remarkable marketing benefits- besides spending many hundreds of thousands on advertising, it is essentially the only reliable way to attract new players quickly (and in a market where every month with an insufficient player base puts you in the red, that can be the difference between success and failure). Where would you draw the line between what is and isn't an appropriate margin of difference between various levels of paying players? If the amount the game requires for full benefits is rather small, does that help equalize the playing field? Few people with an Internet connection, I'm sure, would have great difficulty paying a couple dollars a month- so is it less unfair if the margin is smaller? Also, would it frustrate players if the margin was skill based, or would it encourage them? For example, if it was said that those players who make the top 10% highest scores don't have to pay for that month, would that be construed as financially punishing players who were less skilled, or just rewarding players who were, and encouraging players to work harder to become more skilled with the game? Ultimately, I feel it is prudent in a marketing sense to retain the possibility of free play at all times- but considering money must be made somewhere, how well can players tolerate differences in amounts charged to different players?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I think alot of players would accept a variable rate pay structure for MMORPGs. For example, in Wow everyone pays the same fee for month whether they are on the server 16 hours a day or 16 hours a month. This isn't really fair to the players who don't have alot of time to play and can't get to L60 in 3 weeks. Thats part of the reason I decided to try Guild Wars instead. Of course, Guild Wars pay structure is flat fee for unlimited usage, but you will need to pay for updates in the future. I might have bought WoW if they had a discount for only being allowed access to a time-limited or off-peak server.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks for your reply,

Guild wars does use a brilliant payment system indeed. Due to their game play system, it doesn't place a particularly large advantage in the laps of those who buy more expansions (based on what I've read, anyway).
What of games that do seem to give more of an advantage, rather than just restricting the new and interesting maps you can visit and quests you can go on?
And would you feel motivated, or discouraged, if playing a game that charged less skilled players more? By what margin would that be acceptable? Charging the worst 1% of players a hundred dollars a month versus anybody better playing free certainly wouldn't be acceptable- what kind of ratios do you think one could get away with without discouraging less skilled players?
Lets say one game has to make an average of $1 per player per month to run itself. In order to allow free play for the best of them, should it charge the lower 50% 2$ and give it free to the upper? Or perhaps a marginal thing, like the top 33% free, the next 34% 1$, and the worst 33% 2$? At what point does it become unfair and frustrating, versus motivating?

The notion that one could play free*, I believe, is essential to gaining a player base with any speed- which is essential to the success of a game that costs money to run. Free trials are great, but by the end of the trial they do nothing to motivate the player to continue playing with the possibility of further free play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by BioMors
The notion that one could play free*, I believe, is essential to gaining a player base with any speed- which is essential to the success of a game that costs money to run. Free trials are great, but by the end of the trial they do nothing to motivate the player to continue playing with the possibility of further free play.


Free play might be great for the players, but I'm afraid that unless you are doing this as a service to mankind you should be thinking about what is best for your bank balance, not the players. Having a hundred paying customers is better than having a hundred thousand freeloaders, especially if you are paying the server costs of those freeloaders.

Ultimately, you should charge as much as the market will afford. Don't underestimate the worth of your product, or people will think it is cheap.

As for your question about a sliding pay scale, I'm not into MMORPGs so I can't think of an example to help you out. However, if you were to have a significant difference in price between a premium account and a normal account you will need to offer a better service towards that account. It could be as simple as personal attention; premium account members can suggest game changes to your team, or have personally scripted adventures led by a company member. It would also be advisable to make them stand out in the game to make them feel special.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Personally, I wouldn't play a game where players can pay for in-game advantages that directly affect me if it is taken too far. For example, there is a game called GunBound that is a scorched earth-type game that has in-game items. These items typically offer small percentage bonuses, such as +5% damage. Items can be bought with in-game gold earned by winning games vs other people.
My response: "So far, so good."
All items except for the 5-10 best items can be bought for real money (typically, real money cost is $1 for 1000 gold), but the amount of cash you have in-game is kept seperate from gold, so you can not buy a 5000 gold item for $2.5 cash and 2500 gold.
My response: "Eh, not that nice, but it's like you get small perks for donations because you can't buy the best items"
GunBound is played in rooms, which are sorted by numerical order. Getting a low-numbered room (that others will quickly see and join since rooms are paged and beyond the first few pages most people don't look). Instead of fixing this issue by making recently-active rooms come to the front (such as games that just finished, or a room that was full but people left), they created 'power accounts' where you pay WEEKLY to have your rooms brought to the front and to get free item-like bonuses (more experience, more gold, more damage) AND penalties don't apply to you (for things like hitting team mates or hitting yourself) AND you can kick people from your room unlimited times {normally, the 'admin key' moves to somebody else in a room after an admin kicks 5 or so ppl} so you can make sure only to play easy n00bs for easy money and experience.
Also, they added cash-only items that are extremely powerful.
My response: "Wow this game is lame and I'm not going to play it ever again *uninstall*"

Hopefully you can get the gist of the above. Small advantages (like getting normal-powered but unique items for cash) and perks (like the avatar, journal, and showcase here on gamedev) are good ideas, but completely unbalancing things (like no penalties, extra experience and gold, insane items, extra zones where you can get insane items, etc) are Not Cool.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“Free play might be great for the players, but I'm afraid that unless you are doing this as a service to mankind you should be thinking about what is best for your bank balance, not the players. Having a hundred paying customers is better than having a hundred thousand freeloaders, especially if you are paying the server costs of those freeloaders. “

I'm not really talking about “free”, I'm talking about “free*”- there's a big difference in some cases.
Having a hundred players paying a dollar a month may be better than a thousand freeloaders, but having a hundred freeloaders and nine hundred people paying a dollar a month is probably preferable to either.
Marketing wise, I believe the *potential* of free play will draw more paying players, even though they may not manage to be skilled enough to receive the free play that the top 10% (or however many) of players earn.
Imagine you are playing an on line shooter- if your team wins, you get to play free, but if your team loses, you pay the cost of the tournament for your team, and the winners' team- this is the kind of potential free play I'm primarily asking about.
Would you feel discouraged that you had to pay for somebody else to play as well, or merely motivated to play harder and better, so that next time somebody else had to foot your bill?

This is essentially how games with variability of service work too, except it is guaranteed that there would be losers- it's never guaranteed that somebody will decide to pay for the premium service no matter how many people are playing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“Hopefully you can get the gist of the above.”

Indeed, those kinds of things turn me of too- I worry about the effect of out of game money on in game play- it seems like that game turned patrons into gods. Hopefully it isn't a slippery slope effect- I imagine they started off innocently enough.

Buying individual items it probably what did it to them- the subtle stacking effect. Some games that have a set "yes of no" membership plan seem to keep the money problem from escalating. Once you sell by item, a player can potentially spend more money than another player could possibly afford- I feel that's probably the ultimate insult to a rather humble gamer's fairness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But I gather you are wanting to offer something a bit more than the free trials that many MMO games provide already, right?

Quote:
Original post by BioMors
Marketing wise, I believe the *potential* of free play will draw more paying players, even though they may not manage to be skilled enough to receive the free play that the top 10% (or however many) of players earn.

Imagine you are playing an on line shooter- if your team wins, you get to play free, but if your team loses, you pay the cost of the tournament for your team, and the winners' team- this is the kind of potential free play I'm primarily asking about.
Would you feel discouraged that you had to pay for somebody else to play as well, or merely motivated to play harder and better, so that next time somebody else had to foot your bill?


Yes. Although I'm not a marketing or a MMO expert, this example would in my opinion be a business losing proposition. You'd have teams of experts who play your game constantly for free, easily smacking down the teams of newbies who are trying your game, who then have to pay. The result would be to immediately frustrate your paying newbie customers, who would leave and never come back.

The way I could see this working is by offering more to your premium paying customers, by offering new lands to explore, fancier costumes, more missions to do. It won't work if you charge more for less. Ideally, those top 10% of your players will be paying the most, because they are getting the most out of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by BioMors

Imagine you are playing an on line shooter- if your team wins, you get to play free, but if your team loses, you pay the cost of the tournament for your team, and the winners' team- this is the kind of potential free play I'm primarily asking about.
Would you feel discouraged that you had to pay for somebody else to play as well, or merely motivated to play harder and better, so that next time somebody else had to foot your bill?


That makes it seem like you have to pay more, which is not a good though for players to ever get in their head! I like the idea of the top players recieving a gift for playing well but make it extremely clear that this is not costing average players more.. it's just a bonus. I do not like spending money, so if i was told I there was a chance that I might have to pay may more than the arithmetic median, i would choose not to play, even in a tournament. In team games, players blame teammates, lag, game glitches, randomness, etc, even if it has nothing to do with them. If payment was determined after a tournament event, you would have issues with disgruntled players not wanting to pay. And for that small of an amout, its not worth your while to chase them down.

any kind of variable rate plan will have more serious issues with cheaters too. not only are they ruining someone's game experience, but they are potentially stealing money out of others pockets! Some legal mumbo-jumbo could allow you to ban players who cheat or prevent suspicious players from getting free play but I bet you would see lots of serious complaints. most people can tolerate being cheated in a game to some extent, but far fewer will let go of potential money.

On another note, if the game required a subscription per month, maybe give the best players cards to redeem the following months. I just skimmed the above posts so I don't know if it was mentioned how you would handle "Free" play. Giving the cards would ensure that players are never after cash, it keeps more (probably talented) players around longer, and best of all, if there are any big disputes about cheating and another playing saying that they should have been higher ranked, you can just give away some free play time for the next month without having to shell out money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“You'd have teams of experts who play your game constantly for free, easily smacking down the teams of newbies who are trying your game, who then have to pay. The result would be to immediately frustrate your paying newbie customers, who would leave and never come back.”

That is a very good point (one I do worry about somewhat)- newbies would typically be frustrated. Assuming it was a level based game, this would be irreconcilable. I'm attempting to take a few steps in reducing newbie frustration, such as starting out in a safer game environment, in combination with a sort of free trial buffer. Since the game is primarily skill based, new players would have the opportunity to become properly versed in the functions of battle, and then enter into the more 'dangerous' gaming.

With the exception of newbies, do you feel it would seem particularly unfair for two comparably seasoned players to relate this way?

“Ideally, those top 10% of your players will be paying the most, because they are getting the most out of it.”

That is the traditional, and to an extent time proven, method- I do plan to include some aspects of that (I'm not terribly worried about player reaction regarding paying more for more). As you said, paying more for less seems discriminatory, though I feel to maintain the possibility of free play, something such as a reward for being one of the best players must be offered.
I, personally, won't play a game with a free trial for very long, because I know that if I got addicted to it, I'd have to pay a reoccurring payment that I don't care to budget.
A game with a short free trial that also promised me either a discount, or entirely free play for being a very skilled player, on the other hand, I might take up out of sheer egotism ;) - it's much the same psychology that makes people play the lottery “maybe I'll win”, but with a bit of skill based gamer ego attached.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!