Matching the payment model to the product
August 28, 2012 1 Comment
I briefly touched on this topic when writing up my post yesterday, and it was one of those mental moments of clarity. The time where a thousand light bulbs go off in your head to shine a line on a topic and idea, that seems so foolishly obvious that everyone should have realized it. I wouldn’t use the word epiphany, because moments after the realization, the full vision of all that the idea encompasses starts to fade, akin to a dream upon waking. In a desperate attempt to retain the idea, I’m typing this out on the same day as writing my last post – highly uncharacteristic of me.
The idea essentially goes like this: theme parks in real life charge you a ticket to get in. You then run around and go on all the rides and entertainment that you want. When I go to Islands of Adventure, I can spend all day riding on the Hulk, or I can hit the Doctor Doom after, and continue forth to the Jurrassic Park amusement. It won’t cost me any more as the day precedes. However, if I didn’t smuggle in food/drink, or buy a revolving day pass, I may be stuck spending money inside on other things: food, drink, trinkets, memorabilia. Some theme parks even let you purchase a “jump to the start of the line” that you can use a limited number of times.
You should see where I’m going here. If not, here’s an interesting glimpse at a full post about the topic of themepark revenue. The image of the annual pass at the bottom should look familiar to any MMO’er who’s glimpsed at a F2P tiered structure.
Theme parks, of both the real world variety and the gaming kind seem to follow a great pattern on the price point, and is why you see so many theme park MMOs of late moving into the F2P market. You bought the box, and now you can go on all the rides you want, but the cotton candy is extra, and that $7 burger is going to be $15 if you buy it at the park. These conveniently located extras, time-saving tools, and impulse buys are where a good chunk of the revenue comes for these parks. So, why have companies been trying to bill you for entrance, and then ding you again at intervals just for playing in the park you bought a ticket for? The traditional myth was operating costs and expansions (oh wait, I bought that separately…).
When I talked yesterday about GW2 being able to charge a monthly, and no one would be surprised, I meant it. We’ve all been conditioned to accept it in our traditional theme park MMO. But the more I think about it, the more it feels like the traditional square peg/round hole scenario. It feels like a carnival instead of a theme park, and no one walks away from a carnival thinking, “Yeah, that was money well spent.”.
Now, I need to think on how my outlook on sandboxes fit into this. Should they follow the same price point methodology and sell convenience items? In an (ideally) infinitely, horizontally expanded sandbox, what does convenience really mean in the long run? Are sandboxes, by nature, more likely to output more systems and less content. I argue that systems are more challenging to design, develop, and implement than content. It’s the difference between taking your kid to the gym for a game of H-O-R-S-E, and being the first person to invent the game, then build and install a basketball hoop in your driveway to play it. So, I’m not sure how I sit on that still. It’s something I still need to work through and think on.