Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s cash shop is finally on the right track

Many of you will immediately turn to the free-to-play model of Star Wars: The Old Republic and reject my even thinking about the cash shop working the way it should, so let me allay your fears: I am not going to talk about the hybrid, F2P-trash model that SWTOR employs, the one that earned SWTOR our (and our readers’) worst business model of 2016 “award.” I am simply going to talk about the Cartel Market itself and the changes that BioWare has made to make it more player-centric – and how, if this trend continues, we could see more positive changes to this particular storefront.

If you haven’t heard, in the recent Update 5.5, BioWare changed not only the look of the Cartel Market but also its functionality and the number of items in it. On the Bad Feeling Podcast, Community Manager Eric Musco said that with some of the new functions, like the ability to search for specific items versus scrolling through menus, has allowed BioWare to add more direct-sell items to the market and also bring back some items that people enjoy.

I’m not an advocate of everything that BioWare has added or is doing with the Cartel Market, but I believe that great strides have been made in the right direction. Let me explain what I mean.

A valuable mechanic

Just yesterday, we posted about a fellow MMO blogger who broke down the value of lockboxes versus direct sales. And that’s kind of the elephant in the room in regard to SWTOR‘s cashshop, right? Yes, BioWare sells lockboxes (and lockboxes within lockboxes). Right up front, I am not a fan of that. Although I can see the value of lockboxes on the corporate side of making money for the game, I believe that lockboxes are anti-consumer and create a false sense of rarity of items in the game.

However, if an online game is going sell lockboxes because of corporate pressure or other capitalistic reason, I believe that it should be done the way that SWTOR does it. Each Cartel Market item, whether a direct sale or lockbox item, can be given or sold to another player on the same server. Of course, this means that cash-shop items dominate the in-game auction house, but that is a different issue. It could be limited in other fashions and doesn’t impact the overall value this mechanic has for the player.

An increased number of items

Besides the unlocks for the preferred or free-to-play players, the Cartel Market used to sell very little as direct-sale items. And many times, these direct-sale items would sit on the main market page for a week or less then be gone again for an extended period of time. This gave the impression that BioWare was desperately looking for quick cash at the expense of the consumer. But that’s changed slightly with the 5.5 changes.

Currently, BioWare has 170 direct sale items. These range from unlocks and lockboxes to in-game furniture and armor to dye packs and character customizations. The changes to the Cartel Market introduced several pages of items that have never been seen on the Market before. For the first time, there were older items that used to be lockbox exclusives now sitting on the Cartel Market for players to purchase directly. And according to Musco on that same podcast, the devs are looking for more items to put in the cash shop.

Ultimately, this might cost the developer some money, but overall it adds value to the player’s dollar. You could argue that if you’re paying for a subscription, you shouldn’t have to buy anything from the cash shop. I would turn around to say that $15 subscription is antiquated, and building a game costs a lot more than the $15 a month can provide. Having some sort of secondary source of income for an online game is not only encouraged but necessary for many MMOs’ survival.

The value of a credit

A strange and positive occurrence has also cropped up since the launch of the new Cartel Market: The value of the in-game credit has risen. As a general rule, this means that it costs less to get what you want than it used to from the GTN, and it also means from a real-life perspective, your dollar goes further in the game.

There are a couple of ways to judge the value of an in-game credit. The most legitimate way of doing that is looking at the value of the current Cartel Market lockbox. Out of nearly every other item on the auction house, the current lockbox sells the most consistently and carries a value that we can use to judge the value of a credit.

A month ago, the current Cartel Pack sold for about 5 million credits on the GTN. It has the Cartel Market value of 300 Cartel Coins. Each Cartel Coin is worth about one US penny each. This makes the value of a credit out to be 16,666 SWTOR credits per US cent. Currently, the most recent cartel pack sells for 2.2 million credits, which would put the value at 7,333 SWTOR credits per US cent. This means that the value of the credit has gone up.

We can also look at this from another perspective because I dislike using a single source to judge value. Unfortunately, there is only one source through legitimate means. We wouldn’t suggest players should use gold farming websites in games that forbid it, but they can be used to judge the value of a credit. One such site that will remain nameless sold 10 million credits for $3 not too long ago, which puts the credit value at 33,333 SWTOR credits per US cent. And as of yesterday, that same site sells 10 million credits for $6.

Unfortunately, you can see that the value of the SWTOR credit is significantly less through gold farmers than it is through the primary market, but comparing the two does give us a general value of the in-game credit. If the in-game credit is healthy, that is usually indicative of a healthy in-game economy, and hopefully, a healthy game.

I’m not sure that I would call SWTOR 100% healthy right now, but it’s getting better. But as I said earlier, I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think of the changes to the Cartel Market? Is BioWare on the right track? What other realistic changes can be made to the Market to make it that much better? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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41 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s cash shop is finally on the right track"

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Erik Heinze-Milne

Great, who let the micro-transaction apologist in here?

You get a sub, or you get micro-transactions. If $15 a month for a game you aren’t even generating meaningful content for is not enough to keep you going, you should not continue to keep going.

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Fallanassi

“I’m not sure that I would call SWTOR 100% healthy right now”

I think it’s incredibly disingenuous to even insinuate that SWTOR is even remotely ‘healthy’ just because after many years they’ve finally learned how to *sell things*.

The sad fact is that, beyond selling directly in their Cartel Market, the game is incredibly UNHEALTHY… the release of new content is virtually non-existent, major game breaking issues go unfixed (like the fact that the entire West Coast is dealing with server pings that make regular game play difficult and a solution isn’t expected for at least two weeks), their ‘roadmaps’ are basically reiterations of mission statements without any real substance, and their developers consistently sit in their own echo chambers breathing their own fumes.

Once a very vibrant and sophisticated MMO, SWTOR is now going on two years without any real meaningful content (one lackluster dungeon and one raid boss in the past six month is *not* meaningful content.) That awful subscription model combined with their Cartel Market — and yes, their sudden ability to figure out how to SELL THINGS – is the only thing that keeps them running on empty. (Remember, one of the major selling points in one of their earlier patches was all about a brand new “pack experience”… valuable programming done purely to complement OPENING LOOT BOXES. This would be funny if it wasn’t so ludicrous.)

So, no, not even remotely near healthy. Are you really advocating selling pixels as a legitimate tool to keep this game afloat? Because you’re doing an enormous disservice to the gamers who are just holding on, HOPING that somehow they pull this game out of its death spiral.

Shintar
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Shintar

I’m not sure where this “SWTOR has no content” meme is coming from. In the past year alone, we got ~10 hours worth of story content (expansion), 10 mini-dungeons (uprisings) with three difficulty modes each, a new planet/daily area, one “proper” new dungeon, two new strongholds etc. Maybe you personally didn’t like any of it (though then I wonder what exactly it is you’re waiting for) but it’s still there and “meaningful” to those who like solo/story and small group content.

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Trippin Ninja

I probably had around 18k-19k cartel coins saved up from my sub over the years. It’s nice to finally get to spend them because I was never gonna spend it on lockboxes. The cartel market has definitely changed for the better.

Estranged
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Estranged

Sorry, I need content, don’t care about boxes.

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Ben Madden

They lost me when they pulled operations passes from the cartel store.

Estranged
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Estranged

Ben, it sure didn’t help my cause.

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zeko_rena

Good first step in the right direction, lets hope they carry on

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Alex Hyer

Lol.

Sure.

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Stormwaltz

I’m glad to see more a la carte items, definitely.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that SWTOR lockboxes used to be purchasable in three different quantities — one, five, or twenty-five. The stack of 25 was massively expensive, and the single one was massively marked-up. The five was a relative sweet spot, and after they nerfed lockbox contents, I only bought those.

Now, the five-packs are gone from the store. You can only buy a single overpriced box, or a giant stack of 25 for like $40 worth of cartel coins.

I think that’s the final nail in SWTOR’s lockbox coffin for me — the cost to benefit ratio has gone too far down. I’m not sure it’s right to express regret, but for a long time I’ve been able to hold them up for making lockboxes worth what you pay.

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Psi

View post on imgur.com

They are not gone.

True, they are fewer, but to say they’re gone is a lie.

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Stormwaltz

Well that’s interesting. I hadn’t seen any 5x packs the last two times I checked (but the last time I looked was last week).

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Psi

BioWare seems to be rapidly cycling all manner of things in and out of the Cartel Market lately.

I wouldn’t put it past them to offer none one day, and then three for sale the next day.

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NeoWolf

Functionality is all well and good but If a lightsaber on sale at 25% off and is STILL 5700 cartel coins! is an indication of them being on the right track..i’ll eat my hat (metaphorically speaking).

They have a long ways to go..

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Bullwraith

I agree, it is nice to see them adding more direct sale items. I’m not a big cash shop warrior but I do spend once in awhile (in addition to my sub) and it is much more likely that I’ll buy direct sale things than lockboxes.