New World, Same Shit
Once again at the eleventh hour defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory and another MMO has fallen victim to the false god of "pay for convenience".
Todays' victim is New World.
Last week, a post from the NDA'd New World alpha forums was leaked detailing Amazon Game Studios plans for monetization in the upcoming MMO. The post outlined the strategy for not only cosmetic items such as weapon and armor skins, but also "pay for convenience" features such as XP boosting in the form of extra rested experience (keep this in mind, we'll come back it it later) and profession boosting.
We really just can't catch a break can we?
Obviously, when this information hit the public, people in the MMO community reacted accordingly. After spending the last decade getting fucked in the ass by a never-ending carousel of dicks powered by greed and incompetence, they were angry about it. Seeing yet another highly anticipated MMO with promise be compromised with cannibalistic microtransactions only adds to a long list of disappointments and betrayals MMO players have experienced in the last ten years.
Today, I want to talk to you all about why "pay for convenience" achieves the opposite effect and I also want to talk to you about why cosmetic microtransactions matter. I don't expect to convince everyone, but I hope to transform some peoples' apathy into awareness. The reason I write this is not for awareness however, it's for change. The fact is that New World has already undergone several permutations and the development team has shown to be extremely receptive to feedback. This CAN change, because the entire game has changed. Multiple times.
The first thing I want to say is that I am categorically against all microtransactions, however, this exists on a spectrum. Cosmetics are better than pay for convenience and pay for convenience is better than pay to win. Because of that, I'm going to focus first on the pay for convenience features and how they erode a fulfilling game.
To put it simply, pay for convenience creates a profit incentive to make the game inconvenient. It creates a paradigm that encourages developers to create problems in the game so that they can sell the solutions for them. While there will always be players who are completely end-game focused, having a dogshit leveling experience sure as hell creates a lot more of them.
I'm sick of MMO's that start at max level and the success of Classic WoW shows that I'm not alone.
This problem in New World's case is especially egregious considering the game isn't even out yet. Why are you even considering pay for convenience in a game that's not even done? Why not just make it convenient?
If leveling taking so long is a problem that needs to be bypassed with a microtransaction, then why not make leveling take less time or make it more fun? The answer is obvious: because they make more money when it's bad.
They're making the game worse on purpose to motivate you to give them more money. The same money you spent hours of your life working for, they're asking you to give them on top of paying for the game to solve a problem they created. All of this is done in the name of making the game more "convenient" for you, the ̶p̶l̶a̶y̶e̶r̶ consumer.
Earlier this year, in the New World alpha patch notes, rested experience was nerfed. Earlier this week, rested experience was suggested as a potential microtransaction (Credit to KiraTV for this catch). They think you're stupid, and they want you to pay for it.
It's time to wake up and stop pretending like this is okay.
Companies DON'T have to do this. The misguided understanding of fiduciary responsibility in the gaming community has led thousands of people down the path of wrongfully rationalizing these consumer-unfriendly practices as "they have to make their shareholders happy" or "it's a business, they have to make money".
If a company has to make as much money as possible, why are games priced at 40 dollars instead of 45? They'd make more money at 45 dollars wouldn't they? Even a fool could tell you this isn't the case, because less people will buy the game the more expensive it is.
People will spend more money on something they find more value in, and the more expensive something is, the less people will buy it. Now let me tell you that this idea does not exist as a single data point but as an entire spectrum. The projected value of a game is diminished when it's integrity is compromised. This isn't felt in a quarterly earnings report, but over years of lessened interest until it's too late and the game is condemned to managed decline. Don't ask me how I know this.
If we let this go through and infect another game, it will serve as another data point to prove that consumer-unfriendly practices are indeed profitable. It will serve make more companies feel safe in eroding the integrity of your favorite games. It will serve to take us further away from the games we grew up playing, and further towards the games we now pay for.
Every time a company gets away with this, handicapping players and then selling them solutions becomes further normalized in gaming.
Another thing is that I'm tired of game companies assuring players that these features are okay because they don't effect the ****max level uber elite competitive content****.
Who gives a fuck? What about everyone else? So their sense of accomplishment and fulfillment for achieving goals doesn't matter? How great are you going to feel after you spend 50 hours working towards something when you know the guy next to you who has the exact same thing paid 15 dollars for it instead?
Fulfillment in MMO's is an iceberg and high-end competitive content is only the tip of that iceberg. That's why when a new MMO sails into that iceberg with microtransactions, only seeing high-end competitive content, they sink.
To summarize: pay for convenience is when you pay to make the game worse.
If they want to add some of these features way down the line with something like an expansion on the horizon, that will probably be fine with me. But they shouldn't be anywhere NEAR the launch or even within 6 months of release, more like an entire year.
Next, I want to talk about cosmetics and why I think they matter in MMO's and how having store cosmetics ends up hurting in-game visual progression.
For many of us, we had an experience many years ago of seeing a player on a really cool mount, or a full set of raid gear, or both, and thinking to ourselves "I want to have that". That experience for many motivated them to continue to play the game, to have that north star to look toward and think "one day".
Imagine how soulless and meaningless that journey would be if instead of needing to venture into the lair of a dragon matriarch and to the peak of a mountaintop to obtain those items, all you had to do was open the store. That's what games with cosmetic microtransaction shops are.
What do you think more people are going to buy? An armored horse or a flying armored horse with golden wings that has a rainbow sparkles that glow when its moving? Cosmetic shops provide a profit incentive for companies to paywall the best designs and cosmetics behind the shop because they will generate the most sales. I don't know how many games I've seen that have bland and boring items that are available in game and super cool and awesome looking items that are available for real money.
If a game has a cosmetic store, you can expect items on that store to have a generally better standard of quality and uniqueness than the items available in-game.
While you personally may have ascended beyond the realm of earthly desires, most people have not. Everyone wants a Lamborghini, not so they can drive 200 miles an hour, but so they can park it in front of a restaurant and show off to other people that they can afford it. It's a real life cosmetic mount and people work their entire lives for it.
Supreme tshirts, Rolex watches, 400 dollar pairs of sneakers, brand new iPhones.
Nearly everyone in the world looks for something to denote status and it's naive to assume that just turns off the moment they start playing a video game. In fact, I think it's even more powerful.
Video games used to serve as an equalizer. It didn't matter how tall you were, how much money you made, who your parents were, you were equal. The items and accomplishments you achieved inside that world were a result of YOU. This form of empowerment was instrumental in building the self-esteem of many people who didn't have the ability to do so in real life, like me.
While this was never true in an absolute sense, it certainly used to be a lot more true than it is now.
Rewards from in-game accomplishments should look like they are the pinnacle of achievement, because they are. Not something you spent 35 dollars on. If the visuals of something aren't a reason to work towards a goal, that's one less reason for people to play the game.
While I know for many, the integrity of cosmetic items is not something that's a high priority, I hope you'll understand why it matters for some of us.
Ultimately, New World stands on a razors edge. Between being another dogshit pump and dump MMO that lasts for at best 3 months or being a game that we can look forward to playing for the next coming years. Designing the game to intentionally obfuscate the players' goals with the hopes of demoralizing them into buying a microtransaction is not the way into the future.
If Amazon Game Studios wants to make a real game they can't design it with artificial roadblocks.
The preview event last year showed everyone how great of a game it could be, and how empty of a game it was. The development team has spent the last year re-calibrating and redesigning the game with that feedback in mind. They stand to throw it all away if they can't earn the players trust. If you can't invest into your game, how the fuck do you expect the players to?
The MMO players, the neckbeards, they're not gone. They haven't left to play Fortnite, they're not playing Among Us. They're sitting at their computers, waiting.
If your game isn't good enough, they will keep waiting for as long as it takes for another game that's worthy again to waste their lives over and recapture the dragon they started chasing over 10 years ago.
Planning boosts before release isn't good enough and you know it. That's why you hid it behind an NDA. That's why when you tried justifying it on social media you got ratioed into oblivion to the point you had to change your social media strategy into just saying thank you for the feedback.
Here is my feedback: if you put out a game that's designed on release to be in managed decline, I'm not going to play it. I've been waiting years for a game that's worthy of wasting my life on again which is precisely why I say this. I won't do the remnants of our neglected community the disservice of playing and promoting dogshit.
Make the game good and the neckbeards will return.