#245 A word of warning to Blizzard about Microtransactions

Following the story of the introduction of the XP boosting potion in the 5.4 PTR patch notes, Bashiok has appeared on the forums to confirm that Blizzard will be testing the in-game store market model in the Asian region and seeing where it goes from there.

It looks like Blizzard has officially jumped into the world of microtransactions. and for those playing at home it is time to readjust the WoW is Dead timer ™.

This thing gets moved around closer to Midnight more than the actual Doomsday clock. *BOOM* Political joke

This thing gets moved around closer to midnight more than the actual Doomsday clock. *BOOM* Political joke

With more and more games (MMOs and A.R.T.S/M.O.B.A in particular ) are  following the F2P model and compensating the production cost by offering XP boosts, more character slots and very other not-quite gamebreaking buffs to the players, I want Blizzard to heed my warning, to do not follow the business model of the granddaddy of all microtransactions in the videogame world. I am of course talking about the one and only Team Fortress 2.

Team scramble!

I have just been getting back into it by working through some of my backlogs and this game is paradoxically the best and worst example of the implication of microtransactions.

 

For those who do not know, Team Fortress 2 is a wildly successful first person shooter created by Valve and a few years ago this game went free to play and fully embraced the microtransaction model of selling hats and cosmetic items to the players.

First introduced in 2009 with nine hats (one for each class and it just escalated from there)

First introduced in 2009 with nine hats (one for each class) and it just escalated from there.

The cosmetic hats and weapons comes in different rarity and they can be collected my randomly spawning boxes (which requires you to buy a key to open) which then can be traded to players and there are a slew of other hats and collectibles can be obtained through other games on Steam or participating in exclusive holiday events.

On top of that, Steam also allows players to make their own custom hats and add input on which hats should be welcomed on to the battleground. This model Prints money, the players have started creating a collectible cosmetic hats based economy with millions of dollars circulating in that economy.

That’s all well and good (great for the stockholders at ) but one might be asking where’s the problem with that?

The problem is that with the players gaining power on what to be added into the game the atmosphere and the brand of the game has been comprised. I don’t want to be THAT GUY talking about ‘the product’s brand‘ but along with my Political Science degree I also minored Marketing and I will be damned if I do not use both schools of learning for this post.

With the introduction of some of the crazier hats the atmosphere and immersion of the game has taken a hit. The game was designed and created to take place in the late 60’s early 70’s in the American west and during that time you would not see someone walking around with a pair of shutter shades or a floating unicorn balloon that, at least for me takes me out of the game for a bit.

There is a line to be drawn and some players clearly crossed it.

There is a line to be drawn and some players clearly crossed it.

With a major shift in focus on hats and collectibles it also changed how the public and gaming community views TF2. The game’s opinion changed form a well-balanced fps game to a “America’s #1 war-themed hat simulator”. There is not one video game humor website that has not made fun of the fact that there is now a heavy focus on collecting hats in TF2, rather than the game itself.

Through charisma and pure marketing genius Valve was able to take the punches and avoided becoming the  laughing stalk of the FPS/F2P videogame world

a list of promotional tf2 items from other games. its easy when tf2 is the backbone of steam. (full list here: http://wiki.teamfortress.com/wiki/Promotional_items)

a list of promotional Team Fortress 2 items from other games ,a lot can only be received if you preordered a game  (full list here: http://wiki.teamfortress.com/wiki/Promotional_items)

This amazing business model could not work with Counterstrike or Half-Life 2 (two very realistic games) and it defiantly did not work with Portal 2 and would not work with World of Warcraft.

I started thinking about it with the introduction of the transmogrification but that was subsided when I remember that all material used were made by of professional designers instead of player-crowded art style. I do not think World of Warcraft would seriously survive if we had transmoggable gear that was on par with the silliness of the Darkmoon Faire top hats.

hat

I know it’s a consumable and not an actual piece of equippable gear but it could have been

***DISCLAIMER** Despite what some people might think after reading this I do enjoy playing TF2, I do respect Valve’s decision to make TF2 free to play & their decision about hats in-game, but I also believe that what happened in TF2 was like catching lighting in a bottle and can not be duplicated with the same success

You know what? I’m getting a bit feeling a bit burned out talking about m, XP boosts, and leveling I need a change of pace. Something different, something I haven’t done in a while maybe I’ll do a  fir- *RING RING*

Hello. at it again I see. Alright I'll be right over...

Hello. At it again I see. Alright,’ll be right over…

I’m sorry but you’ll have to excuse me, something came up. I’ll see you guys on Friday.


I’m also on Twitter

Be MOP focuses on the Mists of Pandaria expansion of World of Warcraft with my own reflections about the current news and developments that happens throughout the game’s life cycle. Updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “#245 A word of warning to Blizzard about Microtransactions

  1. Pingback: Suggested Reading: Of the in-game store, pay-to-win, statistics, weapons, legendaries, nostalgia, and warlock utility | Kor'kron 501st

  2. Pingback: #254 The moral dilemma I face with hats in TF2 | Be MOP

  3. Pingback: Playing Poke Night at the Inventory | Polygons and Pixels

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