Please, EQ2, Sell Out More!

You probably heard that a little while ago, EverQuest 2 started offering items for sale as micro-transactions. I’m all for this. I think the only people who get hung up on microtransactions in these games are the fuddy-duddy “hardcore” users, whose number dwindles daily (in proportion the rest of the MMO audience).

You can buy:

  • Cosmetic armor that doesn’t do anything (you put it in EQ2′s special “appearance” slots, so it looks cool without affecting your stats)
  • Pets you can let run around in your house
  • Potions that boost your earned XP (in various flavors) for a few hours

However, EQ2 was really just following WoW’s lead. WoW, of course, handled their payola scheme much more elegantly. They called it a “refer-a-friend” service, and supposedly it’s to help you get your friends hooked. But most of the WoW players I know bought a second account for themselves in order to take advantage of refer-a-friend. And who wouldn’t? You get:

  • 30 free levels to grant to another character, after you level the first one to 60
  • The ability to teleport all around every hour
  • A free unicorn-zebra mount
  • If you dual box (or actually have a friend) you also earn triple XP! up to level 60

I loved this. It was the most fun I’ve had in WoW by a long shot! If I could pay another $50 or whatever in order to have that much fun in WoW for the rest of the levels, I totally would.

Of course, the old-school hardcore WoW players were angered by this. (The “sanctity of leveling”? Tee hee… super-invested gamers, you gotta love ‘em.) But Blizzard has finally realized that their old-school hardcore demographic is tiny compared to everybody else — the silent majority, people who would never imagine logging into a forum, but who play weekly or monthly just the same.

I give WoW credit for spinning a good pitch — the whole “refer a friend” thing is very clever, even though most people I know used it just to power up alts. In contrast, EQ2′s bald-faced “give us money to spruce up your character” plan is pretty meager.

EQ2 really needs to go further. Almost everything that’s for sale is cosmetic! I like cosmetic items, but I also like things that make me better. I don’t care about the sanctity of leveling, I want to have fun. Only the potions give you any sort of power boost. The best one gives you a 50% earned-XP boost for 2 hours. Sounds cool, but there’s a catch: it only boosts the XP you get from killing monsters, not from questing. Contrast that to WoW’s deal which gives you a 300% boost if you dual-box — and also boosts quest XP, not just monsters. I’m sorry guys, but that’s small potatoes compared to what WoW sold me. On the other hand, there’s no level cap on these potions, and I don’t have to dual-box, which I found a bit tedious. So I’ve purchased several of these potions for different effects and I’ve been happy with the purchases. The payment system is really very well done, too.

Since EQ2 doesn’t feel it can afford to consolidate servers, this is a nice way to help players through the doldrum levels so they can reach the place where the other players are. (They’ve made a lot of other concerted moves to push people to high level, so I know it’s on their minds. Which is good.) And hey, guys, if you sold a Give You Two Free Levels For $30 potion, I’d be mighty tempted. The market’s wide open. You pushed through the imaginary microtransaction barrier. Don’t stop now!

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12 Responses to Please, EQ2, Sell Out More!

  1. Bret says:

    Blizzard’s Business Model:

    1) Create entertainment product which sells for money, but still requires three months of unavoidable work to fully set up
    2) Watch outside organizations offer paid service whereby they set up your game for you
    3) Jump ahead of outside organizations by offering a paid service to set up the game for the buyer directly
    4) ?

    I think the only way they could top this is if the box for the next expansion were unopenable, and you had to pay someone to open it.

  2. Platinumstorm says:

    I guess for me it’s disappointing to see both of those systems in those games. I don’t care whether or not someone levels up fast – level sucks, by all means, but cosmetic changes, special mounts (WoW TCG) or making certain classes feel pathetic (SWG Structure Crafters via the SWGTCG) do tend to lessen, or sometimes ruin, my experience.

    This Christmas Blizzard did not release any wallpaper for any of their games – a tradition that had held up for as many years as I can remember. Blizzard was kind enough to feature on their “community” web page that they are rich, with 11.5 million subscribers. It was really a cozy feeling.

    Companies might as well make games with block textures and sell the textures individually if we’re going to start selling items that actually have an effect on the game (outside of making the pace quicker). Hell, sell opportunities to make yourself look like you’ve killed 50,000,000 monsters and that you did so much damage in a battleground, maybe allow the player to buy an “I win” tabard, or a skill that will kill everyone in a 150 yard radius.

    Will we have games where players dress in white until they purchase outfits?

    I guess there are plenty of ways to entice “sucker” purchases, but if that’s what a company wants to be known for…

  3. Stormwaltz says:

    Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you wish, but EQ2′s current system is pretty much what I’d do. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about how fun it is to be able to skip playing more of the game, but if it’s that great, why not make the basic gameplay more fun, instead unlocking the fun only for those who kick in extra money? What is this, Korea? (*rimshot*)

    I can understand the temptation to indulge in unfettered capitalism, but that many people play these games as entertainment. The argument can be made that you should be allowed to use your entertainment dollars as you wish. The counter-argument is that this brings in the real-life issue of some people having more entertainment dollars than others.

    I already work in a world with haves and have-nots, where all my bosses can afford iPhones, and thus assume that “everyone” has them. Why would I want to recreate in a world that also wants to shove me into a social class?

  4. rulez says:

    RMT is fine as long as a game ships with such features. Introducing them into old established MMOs is just lame and gives me lots of nerdrage.

  5. Eric says:

    The only reason I suggested selling “free levels” in EQ2 is because of EQ2′s unique position. The game is extremely top-heavy, with very few players in the level range between 40 and 70. Ideally this wouldn’t be the case, but EQ2 is not ideal. They could at least let me pay to jump to the 70s where the other players are. I prefer to group in EQ2, not to solo, so the emptiness of the world is a big turn off.

  6. Tesh says:

    I still think that MMOs should monetize content, not achievement or time investment. If it takes “selling out” to get that pounded into the industry, so be it.

  7. LollyGagger says:

    @Tesh

    Wizard101 is pretty good with this. They offer a ‘pay-as-you-go’ method, or a subscription if you’re into that kinda thing, in which you essentially pay a small fee to unlock the next area of content.

  8. Tesh says:

    Aye, Lolly; I’ve purchased a handful of Access Passes from W101 (and blogged a bit about it). It’s a brilliant move for a great game. Puzzle Pirates also handles things nicely, albeit a bit differently; they effectively monetize a chunk of time via decaying “badges”, but the majority of badges only decay on days you log in. It’s very flexible that way.

  9. Sam says:

    Me and two friends left EQ2 about a year and a half ago for other games, recently I decided to poke my head back into the EQ2 world to see how it was doing, economy, grouping etc…well.. I found EQ2 to be well…beyond a disappointment and a ruined ghost town haunted by the occassional high level character flitering by on a mount or server wide message that someone had looted yet another mystical item **sigh** (get your mystical items as s-mart). WoW has millions of players, and EQ2 is struggling. I noticed ALL the servers at night were in the green Low population range with the exception of antonia-balye (or how ever you spell that). On the server I used to play on I have several characters from level 32 to level 68, and every zone I went in was a ghost town. To boot soloing is the disk of the day, yet I go into zones and most of them are stocked outside with heroices.. (laughable) so… I can get no groups, and I am faced with heroics..which I mostly can’t fight without a group….good one Sony/EQ2!. I don’t see these problems in WOW. Economy is rocking, there are players everywhere, its fun the zone design and moster challenges are well placed and make sense. YET the EQ2 plan is to put out pretty much high level expansions only, look at ROK, and now Shadow O. I would expect that SONY would want to grow the game, get more players, get returning players to stay (hey how about new content 1-70) and really impress them, and keep them. Rather not the case… I deleted all my characters, uninstalled the game, and will never be going back (I delete my characters as a way of making a decision final, yup its extreme but its effective)…and its a game…time to move on permanently.

  10. Shannon B says:

    Old fuddy-duddy here with a question:

    “…this is a nice way to help players through the doldrum levels so they can reach the place where the other players are.”

    Why isn’t this raising red flags for anyone? Why are we accepting that there are huge parts of the game that players don’t want to play, as if this is normal?

    What would it be like if the next Half Life came out with the option to simply skip half of the game, because they know and accept the fact that most players simply won’t enjoy it?

    Why do we even keep content in the game that an obviously large portion of the player base seems to feel should simply be circumvented? Is the problem with the type of players that are now being attracted to MMOs since they became the new weeknight TV? Should they rather go back to games that offer more instant gratification? Or should developers rather look at making a game that is fun to play at all levels?

    Why can’t you have just as much fun at Level 20 as you do at Level 80?

  11. Hurgle Durgle says:

    Sam, L2P. There’s tons of solo content all over EQ2. You can solo to 80 in less than a month without a potty chair and fridge next to it.

    Sure, everyone’s in the high end, but when it’s so fast to get there, why whine about it? Just get your ass in gear and level. Even at the low levels, nobody wants to play with people who drag their feet.

    Shannon, the reason you can’t have as much fun at the lower levels as the higher levels is because everything you do at the low levels other than grinding them out is pointless. Sure, you can raid a level 22 drakota in Antonica, but why? The loot will be worthless in days as you hit 50.

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