Massively Overthinking: MMO monetization run amok


Over the last couple of weeks, the monetization of unreleased games has become a pervasive and uncomfortable theme for the MMO genre. Just in brief:

The frustrating bit is I could go on, and this is just for games that aren’t even formally launched yet. So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to take the temperature of alarm regarding these types of business models for unlaunched games. Is this all par for the course, in line with what we expect from the new MMO market? Have they gone too far yet? If not, what’s too far? How do we feel about this type of pre-launch monetization run amok?

Don't besiege me bro.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): For me, it’s gone too far. As various forms of entertainment are vying for our attention, I understand that things must change, including monetization. However, I don’t think sinking money into your hobby, especially when it’s still being created, should give you direct advantages, even if they can be destroyed/taken by other players.

King Mannus of Darkfall fame is a good example of how things can (and should) fairly play out: Mannus was a charismatic leader that knew his audience and won people over to support him. He actually didn’t play that much, but his cult of personality really left a mark on the game. He and his crew seemed to have fun, as did the rest of ‘the server. In fact, I actually bought into Darkfall because of players like Mannus. A good community sells your game as well as good will. I’m still disappointed that Darkfall didn’t succeed, but the multiple reboots have shown that it grew its community, just maybe didn’t monetize it well.

I thought SOE/Daybreak would be in better shape. For example, PlanetSide 2 and Landmark did sell boosts, and some abilities did give you quite an advantage, but I remember the skins a lot, especially the custom ones. As someone who’s paid for customization (so many League of Legends skins, so little time played!), I know there’s a strong lure there, but maybe outsourcing it to players didn’t work out. I’d like to see the numbers though.

That’s where flat play and customization lockboxes come into play. Maybe we don’t have time or patience to farm 10,000 ore like we did a few years ago. Maybe it’s why territory PvP games and survival seem to work better in older, more organized communities. But looking outside of traditional MMOs, I feel like we’ve seen that fronting “endgame” while focusing on customization as “progress” is valid, at least if your name is Blizzard or Nintendo. Even Grinding Gear Games (from an admitted outside perspective) seems to get this. We players love stuff.

I’m at the point where I barely look at MMO Kickstarters in my free time, not just because they may not make it to launch but because I’m tired of fighting the urge to throw money to skip boring content or get power. MMOs are huge time investments, so pay-to-win kills my motivation to even start the game, let alone want to see it succeed. Make MMOs more socially accessible, like The Elder Scrolls Online. Make them connect with potential real world goals, like Pokemon Go and getting outside the house. If you really can’t innovate, get some great artists and do customization lockboxes like Overwatch. Just stop enforcing the “time is money” idea and lure players in with thoughts of fun times.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): It’s been bizarre watching this happen to the MMO genre, that’s for sure. I remember when Bethsoft held back Oblivion horse armor for DLC and the positively massive backlash over that type of monetization. Some people bear grudges over that single event even today; it’s a permanent running joke when you want to talk about terrible, overt, no-shame-at-all monetization. But far worse examples have piled up and piled up and inured us to the ongoing damage over the last decade, whether we’re talking about early access single-player games or full-fledged eternal-development MMORPGs.

I understand that video games need funding and then need to make money. As always, I don’t begrudge them this. The problem isn’t any one model, either. There are good sub, B2P, and F2P models along with the bad; there are sustainable and reasonable models along with the odious. And you won’t find me bashing the concept of Kickstarter, as this website wouldn’t exist without it.

But we’ve reached the point that I’d rather have a smaller, poorer genre than continue to watch the monetization for unreleased games spiral out of control. Yes, I can refuse to participate in the $7000 castles and viral marketing and all the rest. But it’s distasteful. It’s tainted the genre. It’s gone too far. They think we’re suckers. Stop being suckers.

This is fine.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): On some level, I kind of respect the fact that several companies have realized that there’s a certain portion of the MMO audience who will now pay a lot of money for an idea. Because that’s what you’re paying for in all of these cases; if you’re dropping money on a ship that isn’t playable in any form or a palace you can’t use or anything else which is not actually a playable facet of the game, what you’re buying is an idea. You are paying money for an idea and a certain amount of hope. That strikes me as kind of a bad use of money, but then, it’s not my money, so any number of old P. T. Barnum sayings would seem to apply, right?

Except that in this case, these aren’t games really selling people on the concept of “pay for this idea/hope now and get it when we launch it, probably;” it’s presented as if it’s a sure thing. And this is kind of the problem that I have with crowdfunding and the like writ large, wherein crowdfunding becomes a mechanism for separating people from money without any actual assurances of producing anything at all.

I understand disliking aspects of the modern MMO business model, but this is something altogether different. You may dislike buying random items in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I get that… but you’re buying an actual thing. This is buying nothing and hopefully, at some undisclosed point in the future, getting something. And while it’s not a scam – Shroud of the Avatar, for example, has quite obviously produced a playable game – it’s the sort of behavior that speaks to why publishers exist in the first place rather than making this look like a positive alternative.

As long as it keeps being seen as acceptable, it’s going to keep happening. As long as people act like Star Citizen is passing boundaries rather than milking money from its audience without finishing the core game, the studio is going to keep selling people ships that don’t exist beyond concept art. And it baffles me how many people will state their vitriolic distaste for random item packs as a concept while happily ignoring how much is being asked to fund something that isn’t even in a playable state.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Honestly? This is making me start to really miss the old days. Initially I was very much on board for MMOs being developed and funding out from under the thumb of a producer. Freedom! No meddling! But the neverending process of crowdfunding to push these games through development is wearing and has turned me off to many of these titles well before they’re ever launched.

What’s at stake here is reputation and perception. When an MMO isn’t even out yet and it is building a reputation not for what gameplay content it will have but for all sorts of money-grubbing techniques, that’s going to hurt it in the long run. Sure, you might get your castle money now, but if people aren’t going to play your game in a year because you’ve established yourself as a title that is more concerned with a player’s wallet than their interest and imagination, what’s the point? You’re giving people a real reason to shy away from ever trying your game.

And while many of these games are of personal interest to me, I feel that interest ebbing away the more I hear about how other players are positioning themselves to have huge advantages prior to launch by using their money alone. It creates a haves and have-nots tiered community prior to launch, with the latter feeling behind and possibly disenfranchised. Do I want to play Elyria, knowing that players have spent money to obtain land and titles before launch? Or to venture into the lands of Shroud of the Avatar only to see that the crowdfunding community has moved in and taken up all of the prime real estate? Probably not.

I know devs need money to make these games. The lesson that I think some of these titles are going to learn, painfully, is that just because they can make bank in some areas doesn’t mean that they always should. There are drawbacks to being too aggressive and too shady, and caution and prudence are needed.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Can I just ditto Justin’s remarks?

As long as people are going to keep paying and supporting this method of development, it is going to continue happening. Should it? That is a whole different ballgame. I love the idea that more games can be developed — games that might push the envelope a bit more, or do something more risky than investors would tend to want. But I don’t like when folks become seriously disadvantaged because they can’t or won’t fork over oodles and oodles of real cash. Some of us can’t, and that doesn’t make us any less of a player or community member.

Now I am not advocating for the “everything should be free” camp. On the contrary. I’m happy to pay a sub for a game I am deeply invested in, and I am happy to buy a game. I prefer these methods really. I just really don’t like that the fact that I am not wealthy means I will be missing out on some favorite parts of games because I can’t toss in fistfuls of money during crowdfunding. Parts of the games that would be my whole reason for playing, like housing. As much as I love many of the ideas and plans in Shroud of the Avatar, I know there is no way I can earn my way up to doing what I really want to because it involves needing specific housing in a specific kind of area — stuff you only get for some hefty pledges. I have no qualms about working hard in game to work up to that point, but not only might it be impossible in game mechanic terms but others will be set from the get go because they happen to have deeper pockets, making my efforts too late to matter.

Honestly, if crowdfunding was a single equal fee that everyone is in on (like Steam Early Access), I am much better with it. (And that’s even counting the games-never-seem-to-launch problem.) But giving severe advantages to folks in game because they can spend more — whether they are richer or just less responsible with their money — is not OK. In the virtual worlds of pixels your standing should be determined by your efforts, not by your real-world wallet. Life has enough of that.

Your turn!

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Actually i have had a few thoughts about these kick starter campaigns and crowdfunding in general.

It would seem to me that if a game studio or a wanna be game developer came to a crowdfunding site knowing that their end product would cost more then they are asking for, and knowingly accepted funds with foreknowledge that they would eventually have to ask for 2 or 3 times or more, then what they originally asked for and did not disclose this information along with the actual projected cost that this would be fraud.

For example if one was to come to kick starter and create a campaign saying they need $200,000 to develop this game, it implies to the donor that $200,000 is all they need to complete their game so as far as anyone donating to it knows the developers received any other funding they needed prior to coming to kick starter.

Now if the developers intention is to actually just get started for the $200k and then continue to garner further investments, weather it be from an in game cash shop, or further kick starter campaigns without having notified potential donors prior to accepting any of the original $200k this would not only be considered fraud and being as it would be across state lines this would be a federal offense at the very least. It would seem to me that it would also be actionable by any of the original donors as a breach of contract, and they could possibly not only ask for their original donation back but possibly a part of any funds raised in said cash shop. Being as it would be revenue from an uncompleted game vs if said cash shop was instituted following the completion of said game. It would further seem that said investors/donors would also be allowed to form a class action lawsuit which would not only have the possibility of derailing said project irrevocably, it could possibly bankrupt any entity or individuals involved in the fraudulent activity.

So then what if the miscalculation of funds needed was an honest mistake? I’m not sure how it would apply, but in most states when a quote or estimate is given the person giving the quote most often is required to come within 10-20% before facing severe penalties.

In any case it will be interesting to see how the laws develop concerning crowdfunding projects in the future.

So i guess a good guideline to follow before investing in any of these crowdfunded MMO’s would be to first not fund anything on a site where they allow with drawls before 100% of the goal is achieved, secondly as my buddy Nathanial Downes suggests that it costs at least 10-30 mill to develop an MMO. You should treat anyone asking for considerably less then that amount as being most likely a scam and not donate to them. These two things would at the very least ensure for the most part that you don’t donate to a MMO project that will never come to fruition, and force those coming and asking for money from the gaming community to be truthful with their intent.

Nathaniel Downes

I used the term “Typically” for a good reason – it’s not a hard limit. And many Kickstarter campaigns purposefully list that the money raised is to fund a core, and that further fundraising will be used afterwards. Each campaign is unique, after all. Some state that all they need is a set amount, others that it’s the core to continuing fundraising and yet others say that they will be raising funds from other sources following the Kickstarter, such as from a Publisher or other investor.

As this all began in a discussion of Shroud of the Avatar, I pulled up the crowdfunding history of the title. Turns out that they were crowdfunding before they even went to Kickstarter, kept crowdfunding through a separate system alongside Kickstarter, and kept it up after the Kickstarter ended. As such, there is no reasonable expectation that the funds raised through Kickstarter were the only funds needed to develop the game. Through the updates, and website at that time, it was clear that they would need far more than just the Kickstarter funding to finish development, and were transparent about that need from day 1.

As ever, always read the specifics around each campaign. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.


This actually had nothing to do with shroud of the avatar. Actually has more to being clear and precise about what is needed, rather then some vague bottomless pit, that and if in fact you can’t be clear about what it’s going to actually take then perhaps it isn’t worth funding said project.

Because the way these campaigns are currently being run is akin to you bringing in a contractor to do an addition to a house, having him give you a quote for $30,000 just to have him come ask for another $20,000 before even getting half complete. It’s dishonest, it’s dirty.

Nathaniel Downes

Not even a close analogy. Instead it is akin to an investment. Investors have a level of expectation of knowledge for the risks beforehand. To proclaim one thing, when history shows another, shows only poor preparation on the part of the investor, poor research and planning. Investment is a risk, it always has been, it always will be. Cash, time, or emotion, it matters not, the risk, and payoff, remain. Kickstarter is no different from a publisher backing a project, or private investors, it is a risk. The advantage of Kickstarter is that for once, that opportunity is given to joe public, without the drawbacks of direct corporate investment. You are arguing that no Kickstarter should ever be completed if they require anything outside of the funds raised there, when those who do invest in it wish to see it completed, regardless of anything else. It is unfair to try and take that away from them.

If you feel it is unwise to back a kickstarter, then don’t do it, simple as that. I’ve backed multiple, gotten burned on a few, but got what I went in for with a lot more. And I plan to back more in the future. This is an exciting time for game developers, because it opens up opportunities for games which do not fit the traditional publisher model.


Oh i was hoping you’d fall for the bait, you didn’t disappoint. Your analogy of an investor is quite wrong. I am so happy you tried that analogy.

Now in the real world, if you were to bring an idea to a corporation, venture capital firm, bank or other source for investment. These investors would require you to prove the viability of the product or business, this would include research into the marketability of the business/product they would also require a disclosure of actual costs to complete the project.

So in the case of you, essentially you are starting a small business gaming studio (this is assuming you plan on making a profit off the game), so you would be required by these people to calculate your costs, this would be the building, utilities, employee wages, then you would have to show that you have an actual design for a game, which would mean you’d have to sit down and have planned how everything is going to work (this does not mean a working prototype) and can be done on paper. After you have the design, you should have a good idea of the manpower and tools, number of employees, computers etc that you are going to need to complete the game. Which you’d then be required to figure out what it’s going to cost to actually produce said game.

Only then would you be ready to approach investors, they would go over the idea and all the data and costs that you put in front of them, and run them by their people to see if it’s an idea worth investment. Now if these investors were not satisfied by what they saw they may ask you for some more data or flat out turn you down. However if you did your work, and your idea was considered to be sound. These people would invest into your business. That money would not be free, it would go either one of two ways and be treated as either a loan where you would be required to pay the money back with interest, or you would sell them stocks in the company and if successful you would have to pay dividends, etc etc..

Now every investor knows there is going to be cost over runs, and pretty much expect you to come back and ask for more money, this is why banks will often set max amounts on loans (go in to apply for a $100k loan they might authorize you for a max loan of $250k).

Now, lets see what the SEC has to say about crowdfunding.

Now the important thing to look at for a small business is TITLE III of the jobs act. Important bullet points here are the max you can ask for in a years time is $1 million. Notice too that there is a max amount investors can make over all crowdfunding offerings, not just one particular one and that is 5% of their annual net worth or $2000 whichever is greater, or 10% if annual income or net worth is over $100,000. (So here you can see where you could run into a big problem, if a guy giving you $500, but previously gave $500 to 4 others in the same 12 month period, you just got money illegally.) Notice also that it says that the the exchange must be securities for the investment, this means stocks and bonds, things that can actually be exchanged for money, it also states that all transactions must be done through a single crowdfunding portal. Notice that it does not mention things like virtual little tidbits and glamour items, or any of the things for that matter that are being offered on kick starter as a reward for funding the project. There’s a whole bunch of other interesting stuff you might want to read in that link.

One thing to remember is that the title III rules did not take effect until May of 2016. So those of you who got money prior to this are not affected unless you got money after May of 2016.

Now let’s look at Kick Starter, first for it to be a crowdfunding portal for business it must be registered with the SEC or FINRA and as far as i can tell it is not. You know why? Because it’s not meant as a means for small business investment, in fact kick starter states “We built Kickstarter to help bring creative projects to life. ” Notice that it does not say we built kickstarter to help bring your small business to life.

What this means for these MMO projects is simple, if your intention is to create a game and bring it to life then give your contributors the game for free and never put the game up and run it as a business (this means no cash shop, no subscriptions, no one time fees) and that your full intention is to support it through volunteer donations which would mean the guy giving you no donations would have as much access to it as anyone else. Then your good to go no worries.

However what this also means is if you intend to have a cash shop, charge subscriptions, you know make a profit and run it as a business you are using the wrong crowd funding site and are in for a whole world of trouble if anyone lets the SEC know what you have done.

There is a reason the SEC puts rules into place, it’s to protect the uneducated investors, the whole existence of the SEC is to make sure those that have no clue what they are doing when investing are protected from predators.

Now your current use of the word of “Investment” and investor and investing is actually totally wrong. You would have us believe that it’s ok to go out and ask for a small portion of money to complete a project, then come back for more later, and come back for more later and to keep coming back for more.. and then not giving any return on investment for their “investment” and eventually having a business capable of making millions being set right in your lap at no cost to you… is ok.

Here’s the truth there is a type of person that will come to people that have no real knowledge of how to invest properly and use cleverly twisted words and never really let you know the full truth when they ask for money, then come back and say oh it wasn’t enough i need more, oh this happened i need even more… That person would be known as a con man and what he is doing is what is known as the long con.

Now that is not to say that I believe even for a second that you are a con man, I simply believe that your a guy that saw a way to make his dream job come true got really excited and didn’t do his due diligence.

What this also means, now that i did the research, i need to go take the time to find out when Richard Garriot’s last kickstarter ended.


Well, Seems Richard beat the law being implemented, he’s now using the proper type of crowdfunding site.

Seems at this point Mr. Downes, unfortunately, you have two choices… Keep developing it as a 100% free to play game, and having it survive on donations like SWGEMU… which means you are going to have to be really careful and keep a strict accounting of funds, while your allowed to build up funds for future costs, your going to want to be really careful just how much you build up so it does not appear to be profits and you’ll have to only touch it to support the game. This would include paying yourself a wage.

Or return the funds to the contributors and restart your efforts by forming an actual business..

Either way, you really need to contact an attorney and see what your options are at this point.

Until you know for sure I would highly suggest you turn off donations on kick starter.

This is not what I actually intended to have happen. I was just having fun with a good intellectual debate with a fairly good opponent.

However I hope at the very least that i saved you from running into legal problems in the future.


Ok well, looks like you closed down the kick starter in 2014, so fortunately you have the option of doing the same as Richard.


On Crowfall:

Any elements in the store are cosmetic only or can only be used in the Eternal Kingdom player housing worlds (separate from the game campaign worlds)

Anything you can buy via the store you will also be able to build for free via in game resources.

See also statement with regards the high store prices from Creative director J Todd Coleman

“A few people will buy them, but not many. A handful of guilds, maybe.

Mostly, they’ll be crafted, which makes the numbers theoretical. When an eve battle results in “$150,000 worth of ships destroyed!” that is technically true, but most of it is virtual money. Do some people spend that kind of money? yes, but it’s exceedingly rare.

These are the biggest, most impressive strongholds in the game. If we want it to take a long time to build one (even for a large guild) then the resource cost has to be extreme. Multiply that out into theoretical dollars, and it’s big numbers.”

Strict stance against pay to win or free to play payment models and tactics:

the company doesn’t believe free-to-play, which “so easily turns into either pay-to-win or nagware,”

Coleman said that customers are tired of “slash and burn tactics of free-to-play where your goal is to get people in and to monetize the hell out of them for days or maybe weeks and then churn them out and replace them.”

They dont want to “design the game around constantly hounding the players for money.”

“We’ve been very reluctant since the beginning to go the traditional fundraising route for our game, which is the big box publishers.

We philosophically like the idea of being answerable to our players first and foremost”


Yea it’s getting out of control, especially with these indie games. But really the one that has ticked me off the most is Shroud of the avatar, here you have a game that got almost 2 million from it’s kick-starter campaign. Now up to over 11 million just through it’s in game shop. To me that seems like the development of the game has been paid for a few times over. Pretty good haul for an incomplete game that is not even out of alpha yet. Now i recently went to download the free trial that they had going for a limited time, and while it was downloading, i browsed through the online cash shop.. $80 for some emotes.. I quickly canceled the download and will never look at that title again. Just made me sick.

Maybe I’m too old school, but yea I’ll gladly buy a box game, and pay a monthly subscription but asking for anything more is just gouging the market and ruining the atmosphere of the game. You might say, it was only emotes and nothing in the cash shop was pay to win. However that depends on your point of view, if your a role-player then emotes is a pay to win. Cash shops just seem to spoil the fun of a game, leaves you with the ever present feeling of them trying to snake money out of peoples wallet that they just are not owed.

I’ll be honest here, I think these indie games need to disappear. Yea they get some good ideas, they come ask for money, but then most the time it’s proven they just don’t have the knowledge or ability to produce the game, a lot of them it just seems like some guy woke up one morning and said, “I used to program text based games on my old Atari 8 bit, i think i can make a modern day MMO.” They come asking for money, and we have no idea if they can pull it off… To me it’s like paying a guy to come in and do drywall, without checking references and such first, yea i know people do it all the time and i also know they end up having to call in another guy after the first one messes it up.

That being said, I know large studios seem to be shying away from the mmo market, my guess is primarily due to the fact that their wow clones are not panning out as well as they had hoped.. Also since the only other non-wow clone that was tried by a big name failed miserably, mostly due to unrealistic development cycles and corporate greed pushing it out the door with only 20 months of development time caused it to be nowhere near the hit that it had the potential to become. It becomes obvious to big studios that the mmo market just isn’t worth the risk of investment. Without some big name to sell it..and since there isn’t any…

Now what I would hope is that a big studio with the actual knowledge on how to pull off a unique and in-depth game would do is come to a crowdfunding site and lay out the game they want to develop and ask for investors as some other person suggested on here. Sure I’d gladly pay out $100 for a 0.001% interest in the game, if what they brought to the table was intriguing enough to grab my attention. At least then I’d know i wasn’t tossing money away on some wanna be developer with no clue how to get the job done.

Nathaniel Downes

MMO’s typically cost tens, to hundreds, of millions to develop usually. No, $11 million is not sufficiently funded many times over.


Hmm lets see wow 2003 was $60m, vanguard 2007 was $35m.. Ever quest 1999 was $3m.. the fact that large studios will hit up investors for $50-$100 million to produce a title does not mean that’s what it actually cost, Wow was not much better of a game then EQ, the only difference really is the amount that someone is willing to put into the development so they can use the big name graphic artists and musical artists to create their game. Let’s see SWGEMU took 3 years to create at a cost of less then 2k a month, granted they worked for free and the client was already built they just had to pull it apart, still it shows what can be done on very little money..

Now fast forward to today where there is a plethora of server hosting services, many with the game engine provided as low as $99/month, so even if you figure 15 game programmers with a annual salary of between $40-$120k figure an average salary of $80k that’s 1.2 million a year, and that a lot of MMO’s these days because of said services can be produce in about 2 years instead of 4 years.. your looking at $2.5 million to actually produce and come up with a viable game. So the only real extra cost would be if you had teams of 200 or whatever…

Now i seem to remember, but i am too lazy to go check, that you said you were developing a game, of course you’d say it actually costs more, you don’t want to put a limit on the amount of money flowing into your pocket.

Nathaniel Downes

Content is the majority of the cost, and time, and ignoring those costs because you want to make a point does not help your argument.


Ok, that’s fine I’ve had more time to research a reply and was hoping you’d respond again. Here goes you’ll notice that many studios today will launch like 5 games in 6 years, they will go as far as to claim each game cost $50 million to produce, however when you look at them closely you notice that all 5 of them use the same engine and are not really that much different from each other, usually there is a slight graphics upgrade through the 6 years, usually there is small variations in game play and more often then not they changed the UI around to fool you into thinking it’s a different game.

Now if you really want to know how they make those claims and support them, and why they do so you have to look at corporate accounting practices and the different type of investors out there. Now to understand the corporate accounting practices you have to know how corporations work, I’m going to use some random numbers which are by no means factual numbers to explain it.

Essentially, each corporation splits up into divisions each one has their own ledgers that they use to prove to corporate HQ that they are in fact a profitable and integral part of the company. So lets say there’s 5 divisions, here is basically how it works. Division 1 will need something from division 2, division 2 supplies it and charges $100k to division 1, step is repeated division 2 needs something from division 3 and is charged 100k, division 3 needs something from 4 and another 100k charge is produced, division 4 needs something from division 5 and another 100k charge, division 5 needs something from division 1 and another 100k charge is created.. So suddenly you got a cost $600k for making something when all these charges are added together that actually have nothing to do with the actual cost of keeping the lights on, paying employee benefits and renting the space.

So why would they do this sort of thing? Because of investors, most venture capital firms are not looking to loan a few million, they are looking to invest 30+ million, so these companies looking for investors actually have to get the 30+ million loans in order to get the money to build the game instead of what they actually need. That’s not saying some do not actually spend this money as they will outsource a lot of work to graphic design companies, etc etc… But those are foolish people, why outsource when you can just recruit a few extra people to do the job.

OK Since you want to bring up content as the highest cost, once the client and the server are created the tools are put in place to create content. Been there done that, helped with remaking a lot of content which usually ends up being a bunch of script files and a graphics patch to add it to the client. Do you think people are dumb? We have watched companies churn out content patches every 2 months without breaking a sweat.

Now as far as actual costs to produce a game i actually believe that the $3 million that is claimed with EQ is closer to reality and i suspect even that price is inflated a little bit. Here you had verant interactive near the start of this industry being sold to a larger company, no matter what it actually costs your going to bloat that price as much as you think you possibly can to get as much for your company as you can possibly get.


Oh yes, i even forgot to mention there is a quote in the past few years where John Smedley himself states it would only cost him $2 million to make a game these days… should have saved the link.

Nathaniel Downes

It all comes down to how much you need to make. Code is not the lions share of cost in any MMO, it is the art. I recall one time I’d gotten ahold of an audio studio’s bill for an MMO I will not mention, but for a single voice actor’s work, it was near half a million in total, not counting the actor’s salary. That’s for the studio rental, staff, mastering, balance, and cleanup.

I am enjoying this conversation btw. It’s rare I run into someone who actually has given it thought beyond simply the numbers.


Hmm i would think instead of wasting money on those voice actors you could go to the local high school and find plenty of people willing to talk into a microphone for you, and I’m sure there’s some A/V kid that would jump at the chance to make it sound really really good. I’ve actually been surprised at some of the stuff coming out of the local high school. This just goes to the aspect of throwing money away by outsourcing the job. I always look at every possible way to cut costs on stuff. I will squeeze that penny to make it scream. Essentially what your doing by contracting the outside companies is paying for someones bloated ego, you can always find good talent in the least likely of places.

Nathaniel Downes

Been thinking, and I was being a bit boorish to you there, and I apologize for that. You have a point, so let’s explore that a bit. See, there is a title which proves your thinking, Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn. In 14 months, they, in effect, built a new MMORPG. The reason why they could is because they had the majority of the art assets already done – recycled from the original Final Fantasy XIV. Programming is not what takes the majority of time, which is why the SWG emulator was done so quickly as well – it didn’t need new art assets.

But, for the majority of games, they have to make art, the content of the game, and lots of it. Sure, you can purchase or license some, but what you can’t, you have to make, and that costs time and money, lots and lots of both. My own title, City of Titans, can purchase the majority of our worlds assets, only then needing someone to assemble them how we need them, but our character models have to be custom due to the extreme customization needed for our game design. We are all volunteer as well, so our costs are low, but the man-hours needed remain the same.


If any of the bigger developers actually made games that were different and something there is a chance I enjoy I would gladly not support the above mentioned money schemes.

However as it stands the ONLY way I have any chance of getting an mmorpg I want is if one of the above mentioned developers manages to deliver and because of that I am all for it.

I don’t like the monetization most popular games go with either nowadays and they don’t even have a chance of delivering an experience I want. Because of that I end up with a situation where I don’t think it is optimal, but if the alternative is no chance of a game for me, well then I say go nuts.

I would rather spend my money for a chance of something I like than an actual thing in a game I think is bad.


If I knew back in 1997 what I knew now with respect to MMORPGs I would have played the games I was playing much more and gotten more fun out of then so that I could walk away happily forever in November 2005.

Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

Personally I think crowd funding needs to move away from selling ingame items and simply sell equity / profit sharing. Its the only way this can work in the long term. We all know game development is expensive. Worst yet in there is no project plan that survives the real world. you can create the best plan ever but you can be sure something will not work out as anticipated incurring additional unforeseen costs. Worst yet crowd founding as is makes a developer try to be as conservative as possible when asking for funds because if they ask too much and they dont reach the target in many platforms they end up getting nothing. In turn that generally means they must continue raising funds during development which generally means selling in game stuff. Now lets face it, few people will spend good money buying cosmetics for a game that hasnt even released yet so devs have no choice but sell valuable stuff. How do you make digital items valuable ? well there is only two ways… make them unique or very hard to get. In turn this will end up having a negative effect on game design.

Lets take star citizen for example. my biggest worry with star citizen is that the way it was financed will make it impossible to have a balanced game. let me explain. We’ve all seen the awesome multi crew video… nice juicy derelict, go in to salvage it, rival crew warps in, battle to the victor go the spoils. Exciting game play how is it going to work in truth? Can we expect to run into ships that so many people have paid 100s if not 1000s of dollars for? Dont think thats going to be the case no one wants to anger their best paying customers. But more over what will it mean for people who didnt spend 1000s to buy big ships with lifetime insurance? but lets forget the very big ship lets go with a constellation which i assume will be the most popular multi player ship… costs $330 or so to buy. How much will that cost in game? $330 is a lot of money they cant afford to make it cheap or once again best customers will be angry. then you have insurance. I’d say it probably will be 10% of ship price? reasonable assumption. So if for the sake of argument it would take say 3 months of grinding to afford a constellation insurance cost will be close to 1 week of play time. That means at best you can afford to loose 1 per week which is okey until you factor there are people who have the same class of ship with unlimited insurance and thus can afford to loose as many as they like, for them a lost ship means a few minutes to just move back in place. That in my opinion will end up killing the game. If I dont have unlimited insurance i need to steer clear of danger. would I risk going to try salvage a derelict knowing probably every ship with an LTI thats in range will also be there?Now to be fair there is a ton of assumptions here, i am sure they have clever super experienced game designers that might have found a solution to this problem but until such a design is provided I must say as a backer I worry. However on the other hand what choice do RSI have? they’re making one behemout of a game with a huge developer base… they cant afford to loose a steady income stream and who’d pay $300+ for a ship that you can easily earn in a week by playing the game? This obviously isnt an issue specific to RSI most companies need a stead stream to finish development so what choice do they have? well selling something thats valuable without effecting game design and thats equity.

Now I understand some devs go to crowd funding specifically to avoid giving away equity but developers like gamers need to understand there is no such thing as free lunch. Right now things are really getting crazy. Like sure its great when you get your players to finance your game for you and then you get to sell a subscription back them for the product they essentially developed (in terms of financing) in the first place not to mention you probably have to intentionally gimp your design so you get more financing.

Essentially right now with crowfunding Players who engage in it take a lot of risk. worst case they loose everything they invest. Best case scenario they get a game that in order to finance is less then the best it could have been and more likely then not they need to keep paying for it as well. Doesnt seem fair or balanced and certainly doesnt seem sustainable. At some point players will realize there is no win scenario and then everyone looses.

Nathaniel Downes

The problem here is that such equity crowdfunding is illegal in many cases. I know that, as a Washington corporation, we could never participate in such a setup due to our states financial laws.

Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

I understand there are legal issues in some places. but thats not the point. The point is simple, people need to be incentivized to invest large sums of money into games. Either devs do that with digital carrots until players stop to biting and/or crowd funding gets the same reputation as f2p (business model ruins game play) or we find a different incentive and the other thing i can think of is the possibility of actually gaining money from your investment. thats the way to go imho for many reasons.

1. game design will not suffer
2. risk players take at least has a potential reward
3. whatever future costs game will levy (say subscription) it will not feel like you paid the developers money so that they can continuously charge you money in the future

besides while like I said I acknowledge there are legal issues for this, it seems workarounds have already been found since some games have already done this (crowfall and shroud of the avatar)

Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor

Don’t throw any money at a game that you cannot afford to lose, and even then with your mind wide open to the possibility that you may get NOTHING in return.

It’s a free market out there. Enjoy it with common sense.

Shiro Madoushi

Your sentiments would have earned you a 7 day ban over on the ArcheAge forums. Can I interest you in a $360 gold car? Outrun pks and earn gold faster in style!

It’s not just before the game’s launch. Monetization is out of control at all stages of a game’s life now. Even if I don’t buy that $1000 space ship with free insurance, whatever game I am playing now has inserted some sort of roadblock that I can overcome with a large sum of cash money.


Monetization in MMOs has been changing for a long time and Kickstarters are the next level of it. Investing into a game so deeply, let alone financially that early into their game creation is absurd and it won’t be until we see a few spectacular failures that people treat them the way they should. I mean Repopulation. Here we have a game, through what we’ll skeptically say was no fault of their own, blew up in their face. When you’re developing a project like that things can change, ideas can not work out, and what you were told you were going to buy can be completely different.

Now I’m all for being able to drop money on a game and if it’s a game I actually like and designed well I’m fairly generous and love convenience. But it boggles my mind that people are dropping that kinda money on the IDEA of a game rather then actual game itself. A $7000 castle raises a lot of questions but most important which what kinda impact does it have on the game? Before you answer “None” consider why anyone would buy a $7000 castle in the first place if it does nothing and more importantly how likely are they to listen to the people who dropped $7000 to make it do something over people who didn’t?

And lets be clear, this is pretty much all the future MMO games are because they’re all pretty much kickstarter titles. Their hands were out for development, do you honestly think they’re going to pull their hand back AFTER the game launches? Hahaha…


Actually the Re-population is back, Ideafabrik/Heroengine acquired it from ABT.. But before you go running to dowload it again or god forbid buy it again. It’s been back up and running for 3 months with no updates, very little communication, too many bugs to expand on, crash to desktop so often that you think logging in is a feature of the game.

Also after extensive testing, i’ve discovered some very fatal flaws in it’s skill system. Basically you can afk macro several skills at a time to max, and to fix the flaws i am almost 100% positive they would have to gut and redesign the game from the ground up. This is a game people should just let die.

ichi sakari

what a beautiful high horse we’re all on today

and me too, I see whales buying gamble boxes and throwing cash at assets that should be earnable in-game, and think ‘what fools’, because Homer

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I’ve supported one game in particular because the devs have promised something that is substantially different from the rest of the crap out there right now, and I have hope that I’ll be rewarded for that support.

I’m doing that with eyes wide open, knowing full well that it might end up a smoldering heap. Sorry if I’m mucking it up for y’all, but I see one (and only one) game that has the potential to be primarily about gaming instead of being a way for a corporation to increase revenue.

In my mind that’s different than buying gamble boxes in the hope of getting an asset that I should have been able to earn in-game. I guess Schrodinger’s cat isn’t out of the box yet, so its too early to tell if I’m a fool ruining it for everyone else or a smart guy who made a good call and got into a good thing early.