Shooting Myself in the Foot?

March 19, 2009

In my youth, RMT was just a trade union who, when they went on strike, caused a few troubles to my getting to and from work or off on holiday around the country. Now as a hardened MMO veteran (how scary that I can call myself that and semi-mean it), RMT is a far more isidious thing to me: real money transactions.

When Ultima and Everquest launched, I was very sceptical about the idea of paying a monthly fee to play a game. It felt wrong that a company could take money from me over and over again. And then my sister lured me into Dark Age of Camelot by letting me play her beta account while I was living at her place for a few months before moving to the US. I was hooked by the beta, or at least I started to see the point to it. A few changes in my mindset later and I was signed up with a 6 month subscription and a game for the next two years or so. I still thought it was a rather strange concept, but I could accept it took the place of other entertainment (ie. cinema) in cost and actually, there was enough content there for me to justify it.

And that’s where we’ve been for a while. Happy to pay for a subscription for as long as I’m enjoying the game. Increasingly though, we’re discussing playing 2 or 3 games concurrently and it’s still a little hard for me to get my head around paying to play a game a little more casually (thankfully LotRO has the lifetime subscription so I’m not actually paying twice at the moment).

Games a while back suggested they might look for other revenue schemes and I’m sure we’re all aware of developments in that area. I understand the idea, but I always want to see it in practice before I pass judgment. I don’t mind if it’s little things that need paying for, but we all know there are some fine lines that could easily be crossed. I shouldn’t mind, except my entire life is based on earning what we need to live and then enjoying the spare time we have because we’re not working full-time. So every expense becomes a bit more important to me.

It’s come up recently because I glibly said I’d quite like to see how Vanguard is doing for a free trial period (or even resubbing for a month since I have the game and characters) once I’ve played through Book 7 in LotRO). The following week, they announced they’d be bringing in RMT, and my heart sank. I always said I wouldn’t play an RMT game. In the same way as I said I wouldn’t play a subscription game. So maybe I’m looking at needing a new mindshift… but not yet.

A lot of people have been discussing RMT lately, and I’m sure all have better perspectives on it than my very judgmental self. It’s certainly something desirable for games companies, new revenue streams are good for all of us if they allow top-class games to keep their quality. But I think I’ll remain a little nervous of them for the moment.



  1. The problem I have with RMT is that instead of making just one decision to spend money and then forgetting about it for a while, you’re being asked to make lots of little decisions whose outcome may effect your eventual enjoyment of the game.

    I’d hate to be making decisions about whether to spend €1 on this or that all the time. Why would I want to play a game that forces that kind of angst on me!?

  2. The better games don’t force it on you. I’m discovering that “RMT” doesn’t have to be what most of us still see as the realm of gold-farmer gaggle-groups killing the quest mobs we need and hoovering up whatever else may be in the area.

    There’s a much wider range of RMT now — Wizard 101 has a pretty inoffensive version, other games do too.

    What bothers me with Vanguard is the suddenness of it, which is — come to think of it — 100% SoE’s MO. In EQ2 you at least have the choice of whether you want to be on the RMT servers or not, but now all four VG servers are getting RMT’d up? No warning, no option, no retreat to one without it?

    *That* is what I don’t like about that particular issue. RMT the wider issue is a little less clear-cut for me these days, because it doesn’t *have* to be done in an “I’m selling my account on eBay, aren’t I cool!” or “you’ll have to shell out $10 so you can have a vaguely competitive weapon” kind of way.

  3. For me, the largest issue I have with this trend is a design concern. Developers now have a significant financial incentive to design the games, including subscription games, to encourage microtransactions or RMT character purchases. Case in point, EQ2’s AA exp tends to lag players’ real exp substantially, but SOE will happily sell you a potion that improves that by as much as 50% for $5/hour. At that price, though, it may actually be cheaper to buy a level 80 character with maxed AA outright from Live Gamer (which isn’t active on most EQ2 servers yet, but I expect that it will spread to all of EQ2 unless the changes literally kill Vanguard).

  4. @GA – isn’t that symptomatic of a greater problem where content is designed for “mercenary” means? The subscription model has a lot to do with the ridiculous treadmills/grinds we see in games these days, so it’s not blameless either. (Mostly Devil’s advocating here.)

    For the time being I think I have little problem with a company selling me “fluff” stuff, but a bigger problem with other players trying to sell me stuff. I don’t know why, I haven’t articulated my discomfort yet (and it may not be rational). Maybe part of it is that I find it odd to profit financially from a game because that warps the game aspect, which isn’t really much of a basis for disapproval. After all, poker does just that and still has a dedicated user-base. 😉

  5. Unfortunately, from what I understand, Vanguard’s brand of RMT is of the “player to player” variety rather than the “item shop” where you can buy XP potions and vanity pets. I’m not an anti-RMT purist, but I have vague feelings of unease as it applies to Vanguard. It seems to me that there aren’t quite enough people playing to sustain both an in-game economy and an RMT economy. So will those who don’t want to do RMT find themselves without an outlet for purchasing the items currently found on the broker?

    I’m beginning to wonder if my buying the new EVE expansion on the day the RMT coming to Vanguard was announced was total coincidence, or my subconscious speaking to me.

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