Item Shopping

Today in Tobold’s blog he asked whether people prefer to buy “useful items” or “useless fluff” in Free-to-Play MMO’s. I’d agree with the statement that the discussion is normally dominated by people who wouldn’t buy either, so they naturally don’t want anyone buying anything useful. Since I’m not one of those people, I’ll address how I view these things.

My experience with item shops comes from LOTRO, STO, a Facebook game Starfleet Commander, and in an abstract way, SWG.

SWG did it by far the worse way (I haven’t played since 2009 so keep that in mind). With the addition of the trading card game, a bunch of really cool items were added as loot cards in the card packs. Randomly. So to get some of the coolest things they had added to the game, it was entirely random. So you had to be lucky or spend hundreds of dollars. Now, none of these things things gave you character more power, but since at this point in it’s life my only enjoyment in SWG was it’s unique house decorating features, it was pretty annoying to not be able to get these items. At that point, I would have paid for the items, if they prices were reasonable. But since it was random, I did without.

STO comes in second worst, which is a tremendous step up. Now, STO is not a F2P game. There is still a subscription, though I dropped the money for a lifetime subscription pre-launch (it’s Star Trek). Many of these items straddle the line between “useful” and “useless”. Uniforms are a perfect example of “useless fluff”. They provide no power advantage and are just more options for people to dress up their characters. Ships, however, are on the edge. Most of the ships in the C-store have unique abilities. Now, these things are reasonably balanced with the other ships in the game though they have some unique features. The stuff I’ve bought in the store has mostly been for cosmetic reasons though. A particular uniform I liked from the shows, or a particular class of ship. I’ve never bought a ship for it’s unique ability, only because I liked it’s look.

Starfleet Commander is a game that started on Facebook, but has since mostly moved off. It’s a space empire game where the idea is to build up your planets and fleets of ships and then try and destroy other players ships. It’s not very involved. It is free to play and there are somethings you can buy in their store. All of the stuff you can buy would be classified as “useful” as there isn’t really any fluff to the game. However, none of it is game breaking. You can speed up how much resources you can acquire, how fast you build stuff, give you a slight espionage boost but all only slightly. The bonus is enough to be worth it to some but not enough to make it required. It’s also invisible. If I buy stuff in the store, no one else knows. I also can’t buy more ships to use to attack other players or buy anything to help protect my ships, so while the stuff is useful, it’s not game breaking. I’ve spent money there gladly. It’s useful stuff, the games free otherwise, so I don’t mind giving them some money.

And finally LOTRO.  When they went F2P they did their store very well. There is a nice mix of Useful and Useless items. All of the items help make the game more enjoyable without being necessary. And nothing is overpowering. If you want the best armor, you still need to go raid for it. You want to improve your legendary items, you still need to go earn iXP, but you can buy stuff to customize it the way you want and speed up the amount of xp you get. You can also buy quest packs if you don’t want to pay the subscription. They may push their store a little to frequently (everytime you earn free Turbine points as part of a quest a pop-up tells you that you can go buy stuff) but it’s a good balance of Useful and Useless.  So I’ve been happy to spend some points and make my game experience a little bit more efficient. I’ve not bothered with any cosmetic items.

So that’s my experience and opinion on item shops. As long as it doesn’t feel required to play or provide the coolest items that you have to buy in addition to paying a subscription, I’m happy to buy useful and useless items.


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