Reverse Psychology

http://www.perrinwatchparts.com/images/prod/73.481-300.jpgSome people wonder – how does this B2P or F2P model really work? How can they give away so much stuff? There’s gotta be a catch, I bet the game is just bad!

…Of course it isn’t. Of course they don’t just give away stuff for free. Well, they do – but not in the way one might think. They’re way more devious than that.

If there’s something to be said for GW2 by now, then that it’s a master of opposite effect. Scores of players who never knew the word journey before are suddenly confessing to putting on that explorer’s hat every night, looking to climb mountains or swim down the deepest caves, for another vista, a point of interest, a jumping puzzle – or just one more stunning land mark discovered. Because the world is vast and beautiful like that and the next bend of the road is rewarding. To anybody.

Players proud to be die-hard soloers, sick and tired of stale grouping mechanics, find themselves partying up with strangers on a regular basis, chatting and cooperating more than ever – even crossing half a zone just to get a fallen player back on his feet. Finally, an ally. Not somebody to race to that next node.

Those sworn off questing permanently still enjoy the more random, dynamic events that spawn around heart areas, following narratives up to the big baddie at the very end. Maybe there’s a chest, maybe not – either way it’s fun and while it’s still questing, it lacks the orchestrated linearity to actually feel like it.

Then, there’s people like me – done with the holy trinity. Done with setup gripes and inflexibility, to a point where the idea of tanking or healing has become appalling. Lo and behold, GW2 brings back some of the fun about these jobs. Why? Because roles aren’t strict and nobody expects you to stick to one of them.

“Hear me, I am a fickle creature! I don’t want what I have and I crave what I have not! That which I am forced to do, I loathe – that which I choose freely, I cherish. I am homo sapiens!

The ultimate move

So, by that same rule of reverse psychology, how would a smart MMO developer (with the whole package) go about his B2P (or F2P) business model, getting his audience to spend a little more than just what they “have to”?

….But of course –

ColinJohanson.2394:
“No need to buy them, Gw2 will feature consistent free content updates and in-game events going forward. Our goal is to make it so you get more from Gw2 for free than you get from a game you pay a subscription for.
On top of a large amount of free bonus content, we will be expanding on offerings in the Black Lion Trading Company going forward, as well as be doing large-scale expansion content down the road.
We’ll cover a lot of the details on the kind of support and plans we have in place over the next month or so on the Gw2 blog and with our press partners.
We do appreciate that you’d like to buy lots of new content, but we’d prefer to give a lot of it to you for free, cause that’s what we think a responsible MMO company does!”


“Thanks for the response and I’d just like to say that the attitude you just described is why you guys are my favourite games company! It’s also why I’ve bought bank space, dye packs and 2 character slots already, even though I normally spend nothing in cash shops & never buy dlc.”

Of all the comments and articles on GW2 I have come across these past two weeks, this forum conversation is the most remarkable, awe-inspiring and uncanny one of all. Love or hate this MMO, think of ANet whatever else you like – this is free-to-play marketing done to perfection. This is convincing your audience that they’re making such a superior deal, they might as well re-invest those imaginary savings! And all delivered with an air of casual frivolity. My god ArenaNet, you do know what you are doing!

In that same spirit of effectiveness, I wish you all the most horrible weekend and many awful adventures in Tyria! I know you will have lots of them.

11 comments

  1. I love the FTP aspect of GW2, and I like the idea of the Black Lion Trading company. I haven’t bought anything off of it yet, however the fact I can get something I want from it with my money, and then they are getting money to help keep making the game (instead of a monthly fee where I get no special item that I want) I think is awesome.

    1. It definitely feels like a very direct, active support using the store. Of course subs serve a similar purpose, but with cash shops players actually get to choose when and what they want to invest in (which is especially nice for more casual gamers who’d never get a sub’s “worth”). I like that too.

  2. The flipside is that without financial motivation, players can’t be sure that content will keep on being developed as fast as they’d like. My current game of preference, DDO, charges for content, but I know that they are motivated to add new content because that’s a moneymaker for them. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that the content is good, so I usually wait before dipping into new content for them to fix bugs, or perhaps for a sale.

    As much as I admire that stated attitude, keep in mind that NCSoft is a business. As soon as people are loaded up on character slots and dye packs, NCSoft isn’t going to keep running the game for free out of the kindness of their hearts. So, it’s really a question of what they will start charging for in the future.

    1. That’s what I always expected; tbh it’s surprising to me they would release any extra content and expansions for free. I am more than happy to pay for that. either way, they will find ways to get people to invest in the game – and the way “how” they currently do that (the fact “that” they do that is not up for discussion, ofc it’s business) is what’s so fascinating to me. they’re riding that f2p mantra hard right now and their subtle jabs at other sub MMOs (WoW first and foremost) are quite entertaining. ;) it certainly feels like they have their sneaky masterplan all figured out.

  3. They’ll charge for the large scale expansion content, likely putting it in the gem shop as well, similar to the digital upgrade. This gives players alternate choices to obtain it and some will rather just spend the rl money buying gems.

    The currency exchange is also quite fiendishly devious. They’ve taken a page from Spiral Knights and Puzzle Pirates. At present, it’s serving as a huge moneysink as the majority feel it’s more worth it to use in-game gold for gems. Even so, how stable it’s been for the longest time seem to suggest there’s a pool of players who are throwing irl money at it to balance off those converting gold to gems.

    Eventually, that trend will reverse once more people hit 80 and develop efficient ways to earn gold. (To my eye, it’s starting to trend upward. I managed 100 gems at 18 silver before, then 22 silver, and it’s hovering around 24-26 as an average now.) At which point, you might see more people buying gems and converting the other way around.

    Just as in Guild Wars 1, bank account slots are a money maker. People collect too many items and refuse to throw away any of it, and voila, they’ll buy bank tabs.

    The only thing I worry about is how the gold sellers will screw up the equation. They seem to be cashing in on offering gold at a cheaper rl money rate than the exchange, which tempts a certain sizeable subset to buy them and feed that into the currency exchange. Which means the botting and the hacking will go on, and gems will continue to inflate in value, costing more and more gold.

    1. Although I’m tempted myself, am holding on tight to my ingame gold. it’s way more hard to produce than spending real money on gems for myself. so I know which currency to hold on to. like you said, there are tons of gold sinks ahead. agree on the goldsellers btw – an MMO where money is scarce is farmers paradise.

      and the bank tab is also what I invested in right away :D so many shiny items you don’t want to trash…jep, they have it all figured out, haven’t they. ;)

  4. It sure seems like there’s a little of Smith’s Invisible Hand at play in the marketing (in-game and out) and interplayer interaction. I like that ANet is positioned more like the Sheriff than Big Brother. A soft touch (with an iron fist for cheaters) always plays better to me than the thuggish nature of subscriptions backed by ham-fisted grouping/trinity game mechanics.

    It’s as though ANet is treating customers like adults and punishing them when they act like children, rather than treating them like children and punishing them when they try to go their own way.

  5. I do think purchased content will feature in the future, regardless of what they have said. Anet are perfectionists. Look how long it took to get GW2 out and even before that, look how long it took to get us a release date. It’s safe to assume that the same creative process will go into the future content release, with the same mechanic processes and procedures. However, gamers who are waiting for more content simply won’t wait as patiently as they did for the original game. They will be a lot more vocal and will put pressure on Anet for more content.

    You can argue as much as you want on the amount of original content they could still do, however these people will have power levelled to 80 asap and done all the dungeons a billionty times for bragging rights and will be bored. If the expansion experiences the same design issues as the actual game and release dates get put back and back, it would only make sense to release some purchasable content to keep the punters happy – or even if not this, as an apology for trying to be perfectionists. Only a small amount of people would forgive this course.

    So the two options would be release small content ahead for cash or settle for a shoddy release, but reflecting at the staggeringly high standards the GW2 release has set, i really can’t see that happen.

    1. Yep…I suspect the fast kids are going to be an issue for this MMO – however, GW2 is probably just not going to be for them longterm. It is simply not the kind of end-game heavy MMO like WoW and ANet never claimed they were that.

      That said, I definitely expect a lot of expansions at greater speed than WoW (lol) to keep the average gamer happy. it was surprising to read they intend to release new content for free, so I’m with you in not buying it fully. I would certainly pay for it, anyway!

    2. The other side of that coin is that being subscription free, ANet is under no pressure to provide a return on that subscription “investment.” Those bored with the current content can just go play something else until the inevitable ex-pack. (He said “content” not “expansions,” see also business model for GW1.)

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