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Blizzard To Allow Gold Buying? WildStar Did It First (Which Is Good)!
In Blizzard's 2014 World of Warcraft in the New Year forum post it mentioned that it is contemplating allowing players to buy in-game game-time tokens and then sell them to other players for gold.
While I'm sure there will be much player reaction to this possibility, when looking at the WildStar C.R.E.D.D. system I couldn't find much to dislike about it. Read on past the jump for a recap of the WildStar C.R.E.D.D. system and what it could look like in World of Warcraft.
C.R.E.D.D. Where C.R.E.D.D. Is DueIn their announcement of the possible feature, Blizzard does give credit to "a few other online games" for having a "similar system" (emphasis mine):
"New Ways to PlaySo, like many great ideas from other games, Blizzard has decided that it might not be such a bad thing to allow players to purchase gold from other players for real money.
We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold. Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system. A few other online games offer a similar option, and players have suggested that they’d be interested in seeing something along those lines in WoW. We agree it could be a good fit for the game, and we look forward to any feedback you have as we continue to look into this feature."
EVE Online has a similar system named PLEX for buying game time with real money and selling it for in-game currency. Their system is who WildStar's system was likely based on.
While I never used C.R.E.D.D. in WildStar, going over the basics of the system will show why I feel it is a good solution to Blizzard's gold-selling problem.
C.R.E.D.D.…HUNGH!…What Is It Good For?One of the things I loved when I heard WildStar was going to allow players to buy and sell gold via the C.R.E.D.D.system was the great web page that WildStar put up explaining the system.
Sadly it now seems that the WildStar "Business Model" page that explained C.R.E.D.D. is currently giving a 404-page unavailable message (the sad irony). Lucky for me archive.org has a cached page so you can (kind of) see what the page looked and worked like. (There is also a Google cache of the page which functions a bit better, but isn't guaranteed to stay up forever.)
For posterity and educational purposes, I'm going to replicate the text and a few images from the page so we can all learn how WildStar envisioned the system functioning and the problems it was set up to solve.
WildStar Business ModelBelow is text and images pulled from the original WildStar Business Model page. The format has been modified to make it a bit more readable. Also, the information below is fairly long. Feel free to skim it initially and read my thoughts after.
STEP 01: Purchase your copy of WildStar, which includes 30 days of game time, from a physical or digital retailer.
STEP 02: At the end of the month we offer 2 options to continue your game time without interruption.
FREE 30 DAYS ENDS
⇓SUBSCRIPTION ⇔ C.R.E.D.D.
C.R.E.D.D. | SO WHAT IS C.R.E.D.D.?
C.R.E.D.D. is an in-game account item that, when consumed, extends an account's subscription by 30 days. C.R.E.D.D. can be bought from other players in-game via the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange for earned in-game gold, or you can purchase C.R.E.D.D. online from the WildStar Shop. If you go for C.R.E.D.D. you can use your first month of gameplay to earn gold while playing WildStar.
Next month, instead of paying the monthly subscription fee, you can use gold earned in-game to purchase C.R.E.D.D. from other players through our in-game C.R.E.D.D. Exchange. You can then redeem your C.R.E.D.D. for another month of WildStar game time. You can continue this cycle over and over again, enabling you to "play to pay" for WildStar.
[GAME TIME] ⇐
C.R.E.D.D. for subscription time
⇐ [EXCHANGE] ⇒
C.R.E.D.D. to other players
C.R.E.D.D. with real money
C.R.E.D.D. EXAMPLE | HERE'S HOW IT COULD PLAY OUT...
He doesn't mind paying a monthly subscription, as long as the game is top notch. He just wants a big, rich game he can bite into.
He doesn't have the cash, or he just doesn't want to pay a subscription. What Bro does have... is time.
JP loves the game... but he just wishes he had more time to play.
Bro loves the game too and he's been plowin' through content, so he's got some gold to spend.
Higgs is ready for his mount... but he hasn't had the time to earn enough gold to pay for it.
The Bro is about to hit Elder game... but his free 30 days are almost up.
Higginbottom buys C.R.E.D.D. online and puts it up for sale on the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange.
Bro buys C.R.E.D.D. from the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange with his huge pile of extra gold.
JPHigginbottom now has a pile of gold... and can buy the mount he had his heart set on.
Brofessional consumes his C.R.E.D.D. and now he gets to raid with his guild... for free!
Well, none of this affects her at all. She just pays her sub and enjoys her game.
Him and his sketchy gold farming website... Well they don't get sh*t.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to buy the game?
Yes, WildStar must be purchased in order for you to play the game.
Where can I buy WildStar?
You will be able to purchase WildStar both digitally and physically at all major retailers.
How much does it cost?
|Digital Deluxe Edition||$54.99|
What do I get for purchasing?
|30 days of included playtime|| |
|3 guest passes with 7 days of playtime|| |
|Housing décor item|| |
|Eldan themed hoverboard|| |
|Eldan augmentation costume|| |
|Special Eldan title|| |
|Eldan colored dye for your armor|| |
Will I need a form of payment when setting up my WildStar account?
You are asked for payment information so you can continue playing WildStar without interruption when your initial 30 days of game time is up. Redemption of payment can be done by all major debit/credit cards, PayPal or Game Time Cards.
How do I subscribe?
Once you have bought the game, you will be able to activate your free 30 days of playtime by entering a valid credit card number or Game Time Card during registration. You may be billed up to three days prior to your play time expiry date. If you wish to cancel your subscription prior to your play time expiring you will need to do so before your next billing date. Game Time Cards will be consumed upon use and will extend your playtime beyond the first 30 days.
What payment options do you accept for subscriptions?
- Major debit/credit cards
- Game Time Cards
How much does a subscription cost?
We offer a number of subscription options, with discounts for multiple months:
|Subscription||$ Per Month||$ Total|
|1 Month||$14.99 €||$14.99|
|12 Months [Best Deal]||$10.99||$131.88|
How do I unsubscribe?
You will be able to unsubscribe by editing your profile in the account management system. The subscription will be canceled at the end of your current billing cycle, so you will be able to continue playing on your account through the end of that time period.
Can I pay for my subscription with Game Time Cards?
Yes, we will offer 15, 30, and 60 day Game Time Cards.
Where can I buy Game Time Cards?
Game Time Cards are available for purchase online or in store from major retailers.
What is C.R.E.D.D.?
C.R.E.D.D. is an in-game account item that, when consumed, extends an account's subscription by 30 days. It stands for Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction and Development.
How do I get C.R.E.D.D.?
C.R.E.D.D. can be bought from other players in-game via the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange for earned in-game gold. Alternately, you can purchase C.R.E.D.D. online at https://shop.wildstar-online.com/.
What is the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange?
The C.R.E.D.D. Exchange is unique in that when a player wants to buy C.R.E.D.D., they will only be able to buy it at the lowest currently offered price, with no awareness of who's actually selling it. Once the stock of that commodity at that price is gone, players will then be able to buy from the available stock at the next lowest price.
How much does C.R.E.D.D. cost?
- The cost of C.R.E.D.D will fluctuate based on the current player to player trade rate on your realm's C.R.E.D.D. Exchange.
How do I redeem C.R.E.D.D. for subscription time?
Any character on your account can access your Account Inventory, from which you can redeem C.R.E.D.D. and your subscription is auto-magically extended from the day your current sub runs out.
Does my game experience differ if I am a paying subscriber or if I am using C.R.E.D.D.?
Can I give / gift C.R.E.D.D. to my friends?
Yes! C.R.E.D.D. can be gifted to other players, but only by the original real money purchaser, and only if the C.R.E.D.D. has not yet been bound to the account. Unfortunately, players who have already bound C.R.E.D.D. to their account or have purchased it with in-game gold from the C.R.E.D.D. Exchange are unable to gift C.R.E.D.D. to other players.
Can I stockpile C.R.E.D.D. stored on my account?
Yes, you can build up a bank of up to twelve C.R.E.D.D. so you can use it at a later time. However, stockpiled C.R.E.D.D. on inactive accounts may expire after three months have passed since the original subscription expiration date.
Why does C.R.E.D.D. cost more than a monthly subscription?
This allows us to protect our users and provide secure player to player transactions with in-game money.
Breaking It All DownI know the above was a lot to take in but if Blizzard does decide to implement a system like this I'd imagine it would look a lot like this.
I wanted to point out a few things from the above that I think really clarify who this particular system was aimed at. Both in who it was targeted to benefit, harm and pass by.
The "Weekend Warrior" and the "Hardcore"The two "players" mentioned in the example above fall squarely into the "I have more time than money" and the "I have more money than time" camps.
The former is often touted to be the majority of players that buy gold from third party gold-selling sites. Those type of players who might work all week and want to "catch up with the Jones'" and have the disposable income to afford buying gold to accomplish that.
These type of players are often stereotypes as older players who have higher paying jobs but they might also be parents who don't have as much "free time" to play the game due to family etc.
The latter is typified as the player who has less money (or is unwilling to spend real world money on the game) but has lots of "free time" to devote to the game.
These are what you might consider your more "hardcore" players. They are often stereotyped as younger players (teenagers and "kids" who have much more "free time") or players who are unemployed or still live at their parent's house.
Both of the above stereotypes are, of course, not true of all players. The spectrum of the players e who might want to buy game-time for real money and sell it for gold and those who want to buy game time with in-game gold is likely very broad.
The "Normal" SubscriberAs mentioned after the example, a "normal" player who just wants to pay a traditional subscription fee is more than welcome to and simply "enjoys her game".
I kind of doubt that "normal" player won't be affected by this change but if you consider that third-party gold is already being sold into the game through illicit sources it might actually be true now.
A system like this would simply move the gold-selling inside the walls of the game and make it much safer for those who want to buy gold with real money (indirectly through the intermediary of game time) and those who want to buy game-time with in-game gold.
The "Sketchy" Third PartyThe most telling part of the example above is how the writers looked down on third-party gold selling sites.
Let's listen to it one more time (emphasis mine):
"Player D - Xxxxxrrrrppsss88: Him and his sketchy gold farming website... Well they don't get sh*t."
I'm not sure how much more blunt you can be. It's fairly obvious that these third-party gold-selling sites cause a lot of trouble for the game makers.
A few ways gold-selling third parties have classically affected the game:
- Hurt the in-game economy causing inflation and making players lose buying power.
- Bots and farmers run automated programs that break the game's terms of service and take resources that players might have received.
- Bots placing tons of bot-farmed materials into the economy encourages players to take advantage of the cheap ore and set an unrealistic expectation for pricing on not only materials but the items made with those materials those driving prices down artificially and causing "normal" players to make less gold.
- Player's accounts are often hacked by individuals that are associated with third-party gold-selling sites many of which require you to give them your login information for things like power-leveling services.
- Players whose accounts are hacked often lose all or their gear, gold and have their accounts used for things that break the game terms of service like spamming and ripping off other players in the game.
- The game's customer support needs increase as they have to spend time working with players whose accounts have been hacked and stripped.
As I mentioned in a previous post and video I believe the design of the garrisons was a large step to reduce the demand for materials in the game (therefore starving bots and farmers out). In addition, the placed crafting behind mechanisms that reward continuous logins and not simply buying cheap materials from the auction house and processing them en masse.
If I were reading the tea leaves I'd say that garrisons are Blizzard's first strike in a vicious one-two punch with the system for buying game time with real money and selling it for gold as the second part of that combo.
Like the makers of WildStar and Eve Online, it would seem Blizzard is taking a much more proactive approach to eradicating bots, farmers, and third-party gold-selling sites.
Weeping and Wailing And Gnashing of Teeth
As this news spreads I expect to see all sorts of knee-jerk reactions and plenty of "OMGWTFBBQ WORST DECISION EVER! I'M QUITTING!" tirades.
However, you won't hear that from me. As am MMORPG developer who has spent considerable time trying to unravel and develop MMORPG monetization and business model strategies this is an area of extreme interest to me.
I've written about Blizzard's slow move towards a more "permissive" game where alternate sources of revenue sit side-by-side with their traditional subscription system.
In 2011, I wrote How To Boil A Frog - Thoughts On Tradable Blizzard Store Pets where I discussed how the Guardian Cub was Blizzard taking a step toward real-money transactions.
In 2013, I wrote the follow-up piece Warcraft As A Free-To-Play Game - Part 2: The Freeaning where I came to accept that Blizzard might be moving toward a free-to-play model and what warning signs to look out for to know that it might take a bad turn.
And here we are almost 2 years later in late 2014 and I'm talking about how it might not actually be that bad to have a system like C.R.E.D.D or PLEX in World of Warcraft.
It's (Not) About The Benjamins
I expect that there will be some who say that a system like this is just naked "cash-grab" by Blizzard trying to make *even more* money off its player base.
The way I see it this simply isn't true. Blizzard has so much more to gain with a system like this than simply money.
The positive benefits to Blizzard from a system like this:
- Work to cut the third-party gold-selling sites out of the equation.
- Allow players to buy gold in a safe, secure environment.
- Allow players who don't have time, but have money a way to "catch up" to others in a way they see fit.
- Allow players who would rather spend time than real-world money a way to continue playing the game.
- Reduce the customer support burden (thereby saving payroll and/or allowing reps to help more players) by reducing the number of hacked account which I would guess a large percentage of them come from people who have used third-party gold-selling or power leveling services.
- Potentially provide a small increase in revenue (if, for example, the game-time tokens cost slightly more than regular game time as is the case with WildStar where C.R.E.D.D. is $20 vs. $15 normal subscription).
How would Blizzard be harmed by implementing a system like this:
- Some potential for blow-back from the player base who sees this as something they don't want.
- Players will reject the system for some reason/it won't be a good fit with players and no one uses the system at which point the game pretty much plays as it currently is.
- The price for the game-time tokens remains substantially above the price on third-party gold-selling sites and players continue to buy their due to price sensitivity and no one uses the system (see above).
And that's about it as far as I can see.
But What About Gold-Makers?
And now, as I often do late in my pieces, we come to the question of how will the implementation of a system like this affect gold makers?
I'll answer that in a similar fashion to the above question of the costs and benefits to Blizzard.
Potential positive benefits of a system like this to gold-makers:
- Ability to eliminate the need to pay a real-money subscription fee through the collection of in-game gold through our normal means.
- Potentially more players in the game looking for ways to make gold (to eliminate their own sub fees with gold) which could stimulate the markets as people get engaged in making gold.
- Create new customers of people who are buying gold with the game time tokens. With gold-buying becoming, "legalized" within Blizzard's system more people might buy gold and would, therefore, have more gold to spend on our items.
- Because the gold being sold comes from and was generated legitimately within the server itself the potential for inflation is tamped down a bit as opposed to illicit third-party gold coming into the economy which is often produced by hacks, exploits and bots which circumvent the normal avenues for gold acquisition.
- Provide potential for a "game time flipping" market where gold-makers buy game time tokens when cheap and sell them later for a profit if/when the price for tokens increases. (This is the weakest of these but still a possibility.)
- If you create gold-making instructional or informational resources there is potential for an increase in audience as interest in finding ways to make gold in the game increase due to players wanting to not have to pay real money for their subscriptions.
Potential negative side effects to gold-makers with a system like this:
- There may become more competition in gold-making markets as "normal" players enter the gold-making game. With increased competition comes a lowering of prices, an increase in undercutting and an overall harder market to make gold in.
- Some sort of unexpected and unforeseen effect on the economy that somehow kills it and makes it worse to make gold in than before.
I just can't see too many potential downsides to a system like this. As successful as EVE Online has been over the years it seems that PLEX has worked out good for them.
The same can't be said for WildStar as far as it becoming a huge hit ut I don't think that was due to them having the C.R.E.D.D system in place.
Pulling A Diablo III
There is also the chance that a system like this could turn out to be a miserable failure like the Diablo III real-money auction house was.
Whether you loved of hated the Diablo III real-money auction house you can clearly see how it warped the game into something that, at least in my experience, simply wasn't fun.
The reward mechanisms were all messed up and it made playing the game much less enjoyable as nothing you received was an upgrade and you could go spend a bit of gold on the auction house and get way better upgrades.
More importantly I don't think the real-money auction house ever made anyone rich.
By making the thing that is traded in a system like this game-time, Blizzard has "closed the loop" so-to-speak. It has made it so that the only way money goes into the system is via something that must be consumed in the game.
There is not way to "get rich in real life" with a system like this unless you consider having years worth of World of Warcraft game-time rich.
I'm sure we'll see people bragging about how they are so good at gold-making that they have bought 2 years worth of game time. Three years! They will brag they don't have to pay a World of Warcraft subscription for the next ten years! Just you wait. We'll see it.
(I also can't wait to see "Pay For Your Subscription In 10 Minutes Guaranteed!!!!11OMG" YouTube videos come out. #sigh)
Putting a Dollar Value on GoldOne last side effect of a system like this being implemented is that eventually we will be able to build a real-world money to gold "exchange rate" so-to-speak.
I wrote about this in my Guardian Cup post linked above, but you simply take the average selling price for an item that can be purchased with real-world currency and divide it by the real-world selling price.
Once these tokens have been in circulation for a while we should start to get a feel for exactly now much our in-game gold is worth in real-world currency.
(Don't get too excited. It's likely to be so low that it'll make you reexamine what you've been doing with your life making all this gold. lol)
ConclusionThere's a chance that Blizzard will never implement a system like this. That'd be a shame because I'd love to try it out and see how it worked.
Until we learn more we'll all just have to keep our eyes out and keep rolling this around in our brains.
On a final note: f' you've ever wondered what Blizzard thinks about third-party gold-selling sites be sure to peruse their very own The Consequences of Buying Gold explainer page on Battle.net.
(I like that the URL they chose includes anti-gold (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/shop/anti-gold/), the page title is "Impact of Buying Gold", and the post title is "The Consequences of Buying Gold". Slightly mixed-messages.)
I'm guessing their warning page didn't quite do the trick which is why we got garrisons in the form we do and will potentially get this game time/gold buying system.
I've always thought that the above page could do with a nice section at the bottom that says: "Don't buy gold. Learn to make it yourself by visiting these online gold-making resources!" And there would be a nice list of places on the web to learn about gold-making.
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