When did it become “OK” to have a subscription fee AND a cash-shop?

Listening to the latest MMOvoices podcast and their discussion of EverQuest Extended (and its horrible implementation of the ‘free2play’ model) reminded me that EverQuest 2 already has a cash-shop within the regular, $15/month subscription, retail boxed-product. This made me think of Cryptic, who I consider to be the most dirty and unapologetic violators of this heinous act. You could go out on a limb and even say Blizzard does this as well, with their $10 vanity pets, $25 mounts, and handful of account services – but none of that is accessible in-game and most importantly none of that is intrusive and blatantly being commercialized to you while in game. When I think “cash-shop” in an MMO, I think of a big button on the in-game UI that is begging you to click it (read: EQ2 and Cryptic’s games).

I could probably name-drop a few more “subscription & cash-shop” games, but let’s stick to EQ2 and Champions Online (and breifly Star Trek Online). These are the ones that I have personally experienced and felt that the cash-shop was an impediment in my enjoyment of the game and left a very bad taste in my mouth.

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Real Money Trading

station-cash

With the recent addition of Station Cash into Everquest and Everquest 2 the MMO community has been abuzz, mostly full of angsty forum kiddies with their pantaloons up in a bunch, crying foul as if Sony has just killed their dog. I know a thing about SOE and wrongdoings to their game fan base (Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE, yeah hi), but this is nothing of the such, but rather a horrible misunderstanding from the community, on what RMT (real money trading) means in MMOs and why it is here to stay.

For as long as I can remember, Americans have been wary of RMT in MMOs like the plague. I think it has something to do with consoles, and how this generation of gamers has grown up on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, and they have seen the pyramid scheme of paid download-ables that Microsoft and Sony plop on their respectable marketplaces. That said, the micro-transaction and RMT method has worked WONDERS in every market besides the western market, where it hasn’t hit the hardcore mainstream yet. RMT *is* alive here, it’s just not in your big hitters yet. Kids go bananas for Nexon cash and Webkinz and the like, essentially RMT. I still remember a trip to Walmart where I saw a kid drag his mom to a store clerk to ask if they had any “Nexon cards,” and of course they did, to my surprise. I had no idea Nexon had soaked in that much.

But my main focus of this post, is to share my astonishment at the overall astounding negative response to Station Cash in EQ and EQ2. SOE has said that they will never sell any items that create imbalance in the game-world, obviously, yet it’s as if players are just completely ignoring that sentiment. I’ve heard accounts of people who just reactivated right before the announcement, who are now claiming to be canceling already, just because of this inclusion of Station Cash into their game. Sad.

I think gamers, for whatever reason, have some natural knee-jerk reaction to RMT, that tells them to be afraid and react aggressively, without even trying to understand it and why it is becoming more of a standard. Games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and EA’s Battlefield Heroes will be, in my opinion, the first games that will illustrate how RMT can work in the western market. Gamers may be shy at first, but I think SW:TOR will have critical success based on the graphic style and how it will be marketed alone (Bioware + EA + ‘Star Wars” = $$$), and this critical success will eventually lead to acceptance.

So friends, don’t fear the RMT. He is your friend, and he won’t bite. No one is forcing you to spend any money on RMT goods. It is just an option added to broaden the appeal to more players who might be just as afraid of a $15/mo fee, as some are to RMT.