Let me give you guys a quick back story on my experiences with Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOS). I never had a powerful computer growing up (I’m a 90s kid, Go Go Power Rangers!). I wasn’t at all a PC gamer and grew up with consoles. My very first MMO experience came on the Sega Dreamcast with Phantasy Star Online. Using that 56k modem to log on and interact with other players was something completely magical. Back then, PSO was a very hard game since getting killed means dropping your equipped items. PSO also required a hunter’s license, which was basically a monthly fee of $10 if I recall correctly. With the monthly fee system, everyone had an equal chance at earning weapons and items.
Years later, I fell onto another MMO called Flyff (Fly For Fun/Free), which was basically a World of Warcraft clone, but instead of a monthly fee, it had a cash shop. This was completely new to me. People are able to buy items and weapons to increase their power. I had a good time with the game and did buy a few things from the cash shop, but there was a problem that I really didn’t pay much attention to until way later in my MMO experience.
From Flyff I moved back onto the Phantasy Star scene with Phantasy Star Universe on the Ps2 (and PC). Like the prior game in the series, it too had a monthly fee. It wasn’t as addicting as PSO, but I did enjoy it. Phantasy Star Universe died for me when it moved to the psp. After a few trials with various other MMO games, one of them being World of Warcraft, I found myself playing Mabinogi.
Mabinogi is a game I still play to this day. It’s a free to play MMO with a cash shop. Unlike Flyff and WoW, Mabinogi requires players to move and time their attacks instead of just over powering enemies with sheer strength. Mabinogi had a great mix of real-time combat with a sprinkle of typical MMO stuff (cool down skills). I’ve played for years and know how to get around the game fairly well. A few times though, I’ve run into players that looked amazing. They had cash shop clothes and high ranking armor, powerful flashy swords, and titles that I never had the time (or money) to achieve. I’ve gone through a few dungeons with such players, and these fancy looking players just flat out sucked. They’d die left and right and rage quit, sometimes leaving me and a noob we’re helping alone to beat the rest of the dungeon.
What’s my point with all this?
I’ve been on both the Monthly fees and the free to play Cash shops sides. Seeing both sides, as much as I appreciate having a free to play game, I’d still want a monthly fee over cash shops for the simple fact that all players are on an even playing field. Videogames, to me, is something that takes time and patience to beat. You have to work and get better at the game to accomplish the main goal. You have to learn the tricks and progress on your own skill. Cash shopping basically holds your hand and gives you soft cheats and perks to make a game easier. In other words, it’s Pay to Win. Ever heard of a game called Microvolts? It’s a fun MMO third person shooter that involves toys killing each other. It’s a lot like Team Fortress 2, except in third person. Anyway, to get powerful weapons, you have to buy them with the in-game currency. Weapons and items are all temporary (some lasting 15 or 30 days, or more). You can earn cash by playing the game or by simply paying with real money. Earning in game cash becomes a problem since the default gear just flat out sucks. If you don’t have any cash shop weapons, you won’t have fun with the game. It’s one of the few games that almost force you to buy from their cash shop to have fun and actually compete.
Free to play games do open the game to everyone, bringing in more players and more chances for the developers to make money. You get to try before you invest, which is a very good thing, but cash shopping does create an uneven playing field for everyone in the end. If you have the money IRL, you’ll have a much easier time getting fancy items (and selling those fancy items will get you rich in the game too). There are skilled AND rich players out there, but based on my experience, most of the cash shop players I ran into aren’t very good at the games they play. They rely way too heavily on the super weapons/armor/items they buy from the cash shops.
If you’re broke, you’ll have to work hard and earn items, but most items in the cash shop can’t be earned by simply playing the game. This is mainly why I started disliking the cash shop model. Not everything is obtainable through hard work. With the monthly fee model, everyone is on equal ground. We’d all have to work to get things. The cash shop model seems to be the future of MMOs though, which leads me into something everyone wants; a Pokemon MMO!
I’m sure a Pokemon MMO will come out in our lifetime, but based on the trends I just talked about, would it really be a fun game and engaging game for everyone? If a Pokemon MMO was released and was a free to play game, imagine all the cash shop items that would be available. Want Rare Candy? Stack of 10 for $5! Want a faster bike? $15! Want a Mudkips instead of a Squirtle? $10! Want a Masterball? $10! Want custom character accessories and TMs? Prices vary. WANT MORE POKEMON SLOTS IN YOUR PC? $20! A cash shop model Pokemon MMO would make Nintendo a fortune, but the game will suffer the same divide as the other free MMOs out there. You’ll have the poor player and the rich and elite players. Everyone wants a Pokemon MMO, but these are just some of the negative possibilities that no one seems to talk about.
Gaming has changed indeed. MMOs used to be solely about earning your gear, but now people can just buy their way to rare and fancy stuff. It’s gone from skill, patience, and time to “Pay to win.”
Have you guys run into these fancy looking players just to find yourself babysitting them? Is the cash shop model really that bad for MMOs and their player base? Sound off in the comments section below.
That Deer looks pretty cool. $15... where's my credit card?