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