I started to think about the monetary aspect of Sony’s EQ2 versus Aeria Games. Really, it applies to all the traditional US MMO’s.
For EQ2 they really feel the need to sell the game boxes in stores, which leads to an initial $50 pricetag. Next, you pay monthly for the service to the tune of $15 bucks or more. Now, what if you find out that you don’t like the game ? You’re stuck. You’ve invested your money and found it wanting. Don’t you hate that ? Tends also to make you more reluctant to get involved in the first place, if there’s the chance you can get ripped off. I can’t count the number of PC games I’ve bought and gotten that sickening feeling from (Spore, anyone?).
Conversely, what if you really really love it ? You don’t have any way to spend more money on the game. You wait for the next expansion, which really just perpetuates the initial purchase cycle.
Contrast this with MegaTen. Want to check out the game ? You could read reviews and do the traditional American thing, decide if you like it, or you could simply use these fat pipes we have and download the thing and try it out. If you hate it, that’s a shame, you’ve wasted some time but no money. Ahhh, but what if you like it ?
The extreme cheapskate in me doesn’t want to spend a dime. I could just play the game for free. They’ll let me! I never have to give them a dime, and if I want to be a gold farmer, I can even set things up with people to trade in game items like macca (aka, gold) for the RMT items.
And yet last night I bought $20 worth of Aeria Points, which is where the RMT comes in. Now I have a menu of things I can spend my 2,600 AP on. Why am I doing that ? Didn’t I just claim to be a total cheapskate ?
Two reasons. Number one, I can buy an extra character for 500 AP. I know I’m going to want to try out a mage, or a gunner, in addition to my melee character. And number two, I don’t feel like I have to pay at all. Not having to pay, strangely enough, seems to take the pressure off for me and I can just buy something and enjoy the experience. I truly want to support the developers and make sure the game just keeps on going.
There’s a lesson in here about “Competing with free” which I’m not quite articulate enough to lay out, but I bet it’s pretty clear anyway after going through the above.
Or maybe I just think like a Japanese person.