I’ve been an MMO player since the original Everquest back in the Dark Ages (you know, before broadband). Back then paying a monthly fee for a game seemed borderline insane, until you actually played it. I was so enamored in the world of Norrath that I gladly forked over the monthly fee to continue the adventures of KariHari, the half-elf ranger. She was quite the bad ass by the way.
Through the years I’ve played many MMO’s ranging from the good (WoW and SWG before the NGE broke it) to the OK (DC Universe online) to the down right horrible (Enter The Matrix). All of these always came with a one month free trial (because, you know, the first hit is free) so you can try it out and see if you’d like it and, most of the time, you would play a couple of months before you decided to cancel it. This was how life was in the early days of MMO’s and everything was peachy.
When the original Guild Wars came out I was interested. An MMO without monthly fees? That might be worth checking into. It was fun but always seemed to be lacking a little something to me. Part of the fun of MMO’s, to me anyway, was meeting someone out in the wild and teaming up with them to overcome a threat that you couldn’t face alone. Guild Wars was missing that unless you were in one of their town zones. I played it, but not for too long.
The thing is that I felt, at the time, that the reason that Guild Wars didn’t hold my interest was because I wasn’t paying for it. I felt like there was really no reason for me to keep playing because I had nothing really invested in it. There was no sense of loss if I didn’t play but there was also no sense of accomplishment when I actually did something cool in the game. It was a weird type of Limbo for me personally.
Things have changed from then and now we are in the age of Free to Play MMO’s and I’m starting to notice a little bit of a problem with them. I’ve tried a few of these out and most of them follow the same pattern: start off with a few unlocked classes, work your way up the ecosystem and then find out…you need to pay for the good stuff.
I understand that microtransactions are the new source of funding for MMO’s and I don’t argue the fact that they are a necessary evil. But I do think that real world money shouldn’t be the only way to advance in the game. League of Legends actually lets you earn some in game currency by, you know, actually letting you play the game and Team Fortress 2, which isn’t an MMO but did recently go F2P, actually has item drops that lets you pick up new hats and weapons while you play. Yes, both games do also have microtransactions, but you at least have an alternate way to earn the “phat lewtz”.
I know that Guild Wars 2 will probably have some type of microtransactions just because that’s the direction that the business is headed and the would probably need to do something like this to keep it financially viable. I just hope that they don’t nickel and dime us and turn this into another Horse Armor fiasco.
And I totally did buy the sparkly pony in WoW. Stupid shiny things that distract me…