It’s a good time to pile on predatory cash-shop models, especially if you’ve got a better one, and in-development hardcore MMORPG sandbox Saga of Lucimia is doing just that. While citing EA and Star Wars Battlefront II as the lead villain, however, Lucimia dev Tim “Renfail” Anderson isolates microtransactions as a whole, not just the lockbox phenomenon that saw EA dragged to the principal’s office.
“While the cash shop model has risen to prominence in the past decade, to the point where the vast majority of MMORPGs have shunned the subscription model in favor of larger profits, it is a system rife with poorly executed versions,” Anderson argues. “While there are some examples of microtransaction systems that work relatively well — I would argue that Elder Scrolls Online is a prime example in this category — the vast majority of them do not.”
It’s worth noting in passing that the handful of MMORPGs that maintain subs also include microtransaction cash shops these days, but Anderson is leading up to his point: that it’s only major studios, beholden to shareholders, that disgrace themselves with nasty, player-unfriendly monetization policies in the pursuit of money over everything else. Indie MMOs, like Lucimia, he believes, have other options, including the option to cater to smaller playerbases with other models, like the sub-only model Lucimia aims to have. In fact, Andrerson says he’s turned away two publishers for the game already because he refuses to consider free-to-play-with-MTs.
“That’s not to say that we’re completely against microtransactions. We’re not. We’ve spent a lot of money on microtransactions (I’ve personally spent a good chunk in SWTOR and ESO for cosmetic items). We feel strongly that ESO is a great example of a game that has, more or less, managed to blend a cash shop relatively well (though not without controversy) into the game, and it is almost entirely based around cosmetics. Which is very important to note: cash shops are at their worst when they offer players some sort of competitive advantage or some type of game-altering buff or effect. But for the type of game we’re building, we don’t see the microtransaction route being the one that makes the most sense for our MMORPG. Which is why, for better or worse, we’re opting for a subscription-based model.”
“We’ve heard multiple arguments from players that at some point we’ll have to move to a cash shop, because there just won’t be enough money in the subscription model to keep our lights on,” Anderson concludes. “Our point of view is that if we can’t manage to offer enough of a value for players to feel justified in paying their monthly fee to play our game, then we haven’t done our job as game developers.”