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!