Vitae Aeternum: The uncomfortable truth of New World’s lax monetization


I have a pretty laid back approach to monetization in online games. Bar mandatory subscriptions and a few egregious outliers, I am generally fine with any mainstream monetization systems in online games.

But not everyone feels as I do. Monetization remains a deeply controversial topic, and developers often face harsh criticism for how they try to extract money from their players.

Almost every game on the market has had some kind of drama around its business model. Lockboxes are decried as predatory. Battlepasses get hate for preying on FOMO. DLC is criticized for fracturing the playerbase. Anything with any kind of gameplay effect is usually labeled as pay-to-win or at least obnoxiously inconvenient.

There’s a vocal minority that still holds up subscriptions for entry as the holy grail, but subscriptions alone are a failed model in our corner of the industry. The few MMOs still using them started double and triple dipping with other monetization strategies long ago.

About the only thing that most people seem to be OK with games selling is cosmetics, and even that gets its fair share of criticism, but by and large the consensus seems to be that’s the way to go.

Overall what the community seems to want is a game that sells cosmetics directly, with no randomness or grind, and maybe an initial box price, but no other monetization.

In other words, they want New World.

New World has no lockboxes. No paid content. No battlepass. No boosters. No pay-to-win. No pay for convenience. No way whatsoever for anyone to gain even the slightest advantage over another player for cash.

The only thing it sells that isn’t purely cosmetic are server transfers, and Amazon has given those away for free in the past, and the aggressive (and flawlessly smooth) server merges means there’s no risk of being permanently stuck on a dead server.

I’m not a big fan of monetizing server transfers due to the social implications, but in light of how utterly toothless the rest of the game’s monetization strategy is and how unnecessary transfers are in many cases, I struggle to see it as an issue. I’m fairly confident the price tag on transfers isn’t even there to make money so much as it is to discourage people from jumping around too often and disrupting server politics.

So by and large New World seems to fit the image of what most people consider the ideal MMO business model. And yet I see very little praise given to New World‘s monetization.

Part of it seems to be that there’s a prevailing perception that NW‘s model isn’t really sustainable — that the game is probably operating at a loss while Amazon Games builds an audience. Since most companies don’t have the nigh-infinite budget of Amazon, this isn’t something other developers could replicate.

I hesitate to take this as a certainty because ultimately we don’t know for sure, but it does seem likely that the game is not currently profitable. It’s hard to imagine New World is making money off naught but a small selection of skins, dyes, and furniture.

Another possibility I have considered is that perhaps New World is intended not to turn a profit directly but to be a “gateway drug” to the greater Amazon ecosystem. Twitch drops and Prime Gaming rewards drive New World players to other Amazon properties, and New World‘s log-in screen has even been used to advertise big name shows on Prime Video.

If New World is being used simply as a way to extend the audience of Amazon’s other products, that does feel a bit creepy, but at the end of the day we still have the choice over how to engage, so it’s not the worst thing. I’ve yet to buy a Prime subscription just for the promise of some extra skins.

Regardless, even if that is the strategy behind New World, it doesn’t really change the fundamental point: If this is the case, once again this is something other developers couldn’t manage, meaning New World‘s generous business model wouldn’t be enough to keep another game afloat.

But if — as seems likely — New World‘s current monetization isn’t enough for the game to be profitable, doesn’t that prove that the systems people have railed against for being greedy were actually necessary after all?

There’s this prevailing narrative that things like cash shops, lockboxes, and the like exist only because of rampant greed on the part of executives and investors – that games could get by just fine without these things if not for those greedy suits.

I don’t deny greed undoubtedly plays a role in game development, as it does everything in society, but this narrative has always struck me as a bit simplistic. If most gamers truly don’t want heavy-handed monetization, and if it’s not necessary for games to survive, why aren’t more companies taking advantage of this niche in the market?

We finally have a game that ticks the boxes most MMO gamers claim they want in a business model, but it’s from a company that could afford to light a mountain of money on fire for toasting s’mores and still be in the black. And gamers don’t seem to be rewarding it for that generosity, either. Something’s not adding up.

I suspect that cash shops and all they hold are more essential than many people believe and that many gamers are not as motivated by the quality of business models as they’d like to believe.

I’m not saying all monetization strategies are equal or that you can’t criticize them. But if you want to actually make changes, you need to be consistent and realistic in your criticism and support the games that are doing it right.

“Support” doesn’t need to mean forking over gobs of money; it can mean talking up the games that do it right and spreading positive word of mouth to help tip the scales. These games aren’t charities, but if you don’t reward the developers that do it right, the ones that don’t have no incentive to change.

We’d all like to get everything for nothing (I know I would), but realistically, compromises have to be made. You don’t want your game to have lockboxes? That’s valid, but how do you suggest the developer make up the loss in revenue? Will you accept a battlepass? NFTs? A subscription higher than the traditional $15 a month?

(Please don’t say NFTs.)

And if you want a game that’s nothing but a box price and some optional cosmetics, and nothing else? That game exists, and it’s pretty fun, too.

New World’s Aeternum is a land of many secrets. In MassivelyOP’s Vitae Aeternum, our writers delve those secrets to provide you with in-depth coverage of all things New World through launch and beyond.
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