Microtransactions, MMOs, and Play Loops.

Scribe

Legend
As per the fireside chat today, there is a goal within Hasbro to further monetize D&D, one avenue being discussed here on EnWorld being microtransactions and the impact this has or has not had on MMOs.

I dont know that its on topic to the original discussion but my view on this would be.

WoW functioned best, under a feedback loop of having to 'put in the work', the work being playing the game, to achieve the goal of having the best stuff, that added an element of prestige within the game, that you had either done the work, or had been lucky, or had a level of dedication/skill, higher than your peers.

The addition of microtransactions shorts that feedback loop, by simply allowing one to swipe the card of their choice, and buy the 'prestige' or avoid the gameplay loop all together.

Examples include.

Paying to skip content - no need to level up your character.
Paying for cosmetics - no need to play through and earn it within the game, you just buy it.
Paying for character changes or services - decrease in attachment to the character, or degrades the community by having people just transfer.
Paying for mounts - Mounts in WoW used to be quite rare, in how you went about earning them. It was something unique that people had to either work for (Gladiators, Achievements) or get randomly via Boss Drops, or World Drops.

This 'everyone gets a prize, if you pay' decreases the motivation of going out and earning it, or in other words, decreases the motivation to PLAY THE GAME, because the gameplay loop was

Grind to Max -> Farm to Raid -> Raid for Loot.

Microtransactions allow you to skip all of that.

In a nutshell @Whizbang Dustyboots
 

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MarkB

Legend
Is this being proposed in the context of organised play (Adventurers' League etc.)? That's the only context in which I could see the MMO analogy holding up. It's not like you could buy a character level booster or magic items lootbox that would have any effect in a home game.
 

Scribe

Legend
Is this being proposed in the context of organised play (Adventurers' League etc.)? That's the only context in which I could see the MMO analogy holding up. It's not like you could buy a character level booster or magic items lootbox that would have any effect in a home game.

Thats why I brought it out of that thread. I'm not sure the model for MMO's works at all or even can work for D&D, at least not D&D as it is today.
 



Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
As per the fireside chat today, there is a goal within Hasbro to further monetize D&D, one avenue being discussed here on EnWorld being microtransactions and the impact this has or has not had on MMOs.

I dont know that its on topic to the original discussion but my view on this would be.

WoW functioned best, under a feedback loop of having to 'put in the work', the work being playing the game, to achieve the goal of having the best stuff, that added an element of prestige within the game, that you had either done the work, or had been lucky, or had a level of dedication/skill, higher than your peers.
Context for my comments: I have been playing WoW since vanilla alpha. I have been a guild leader since day one of retail. Except for breaks during Cataclysm and Shadowlands (caused by raiding alliance drama in both cases), I have been a raider since vanilla and have been a regular non-ranked PvPer (although with the solo queue for arenas, I hope to finally grind out a few vicious saddles in Dragonflight, especially as my raiding alliance seems to have permanently dissolved at last).
The addition of microtransactions shorts that feedback loop, by simply allowing one to swipe the card of their choice, and buy the 'prestige' or avoid the gameplay loop all together.

Examples include.

Paying to skip content - no need to level up your character.
Paying for cosmetics - no need to play through and earn it within the game, you just buy it.
Paying for character changes or services - decrease in attachment to the character, or degrades the community by having people just transfer.
Paying for mounts - Mounts in WoW used to be quite rare, in how you went about earning them. It was something unique that people had to either work for (Gladiators, Achievements) or get randomly via Boss Drops, or World Drops.
With the exception of the leveling issue, I categorically disagree.

None of the things WoW has for sale are things you can earn in-game. Riding around on a sparkle pony tells everyone you bought it from the store. No one looks at it and wonders what long questline you completed, what meta-achievement you painstakingly assembled or how many Alliance cloth-wearers you stunlocked to get it.

There isn't any inherent prestige for using the in-game store. In fact, there are wry chuckles about some of it, in the "holy (moley), you paid for that" fashion.

There are hundreds of mounts in the game. There are thousands of pets. There are who knows how many transmoggable items.

There hasn't been prestige in scarcity for a long time. And I say that as someone who rocked the Herald of the Titans title in WotLK while riding on my Blizzcon polar bear mount.

And honestly, I have a hard time seeing "people fail to be impressed with my gladiator drake because they have a flying cat they bought from the store" to be meaningful damage to the game.

Outside of rated PvP mounts, I have almost all of the prestigious crap in the game. No one sends me admiring whispers when I bring it out and I don't send admiring whispers to other people when they've got stuff I don't have.


There are two possible exceptions to this:

1) For several expansions now, Blizzard has sold the ability to level up one character to the new expansion's starting level as part of the expansion purchase, to avoid EverQuest's mistake of making players slog through all of the expansions (they're up to 17 now, I think) in order to be able to catch up to and be competitive with their friends.

This does take away people grinding their way through multiple expansions, some of them extremely dated, in order to reach where everyone else is. If grinding through levels is somehow virtuous, this chips away at that.

I would argue that there's nothing virtuous about grinding and that Blizzard's very mercenary decision -- lower the barriers to entry and let people jump (back) in and play easily -- is all good.

2) Retail formerly, and apparently Classic currently, had a big problem with gold farmers, who would monopolize any areas perceived to be lucrative places to make money and then would sell it to players in return for their credit card numbers.

Leaving aside the apparent not-rare incidents of credit card hanky panky that's happened with this, the gold farmers really hurt the game for all players, from something as innocuous as leaving their corpses all over Stormwind, spelling out the URLs of gold sites, to making it that no one could quest in portions of the Plaguelands during vanilla because there were 24/7 gold farming groups there killing every spawn instantly.

When my wife wants to farm transmogs in old dungeons or raids (it's a large part of what brings her back to the game each expansion), there's now a cap on how many instances she can go into in an hour, which Blizzard put in place specifically to slow the gold farmers down.

So when Blizzard started selling in-game items -- first a now-removed pet, and later the game time token -- for in-game gold/real world dollars, depending on which world you bought it, it meant that Blizzard was now enabling whales to drop their credit cards down and purchase effectively unlimited gold with real world dollars. (Since the value of the tokens fluctuates with how many are purchased, eventually, it would get prohibitively expensive to buy gold this way, but as I am not a whale, I don't know how fast the value changes.)

Now, a large amount of people were doing this anyway, illegally, so we can't know for sure how much of an impact this is having on the game. (I'm guessing someone at Blizzard has a spreadsheet that tracks this stuff and has a rough idea, but I doubt the public will ever get that data.)

Using that gold, they could buy whatever good gear other players have made available for trade or the Auction House. But there's a limit to how much is out there -- there's nothing at this point in Dragonflight that I could buy with real world dollars that would make me as well-geared as someone just running dungeons would be -- and while it can move the needle, it's not game-changing. The most expensive stuff on the Auction House is cosmetic, typically rare mounts and pets that other players have farmed. Being able to ride on a rocket for a mount is fun, but it's not PTW.

Now, there are people who argue that the artists and animators working on the store cosmetics are doing that instead of working on items that would be available inside the game, which may be true, but we don't know how much cosmetics are bringing in, and if they offset the cost of hiring additional animators and graphics folks, or if Blizzard has done so. That's a potential minor harm to players (I don't know how much damage one store mount per quarter does to overall productivity), but it's not one we're ever likely to know real numbers on.
 
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Scribe

Legend
None of the things WoW has for sale are things you can earn in-game. Riding around on a sparkle pony tells everyone you bought it from the store. No one looks at it and wonders what long questline you completed, what meta-achievement you painstakingly assembled or how many Alliance cloth-wearers you stunlocked to get it.

There isn't any inherent prestige for using the in-game store. In fact, there are wry chuckles about some of it, in the "holy (moley), you paid for that" fashion.

I think the issue here is the concept that...they shouldnt be sold at all. Put that content into the game and let it be earned via play.

2) Retail formerly, and apparently Classic currently, had a big problem with gold farmers, who would monopolize any areas perceived to be lucrative places to make money and then would sell it to players in return for their credit card numbers.

This is true for sure, and in combination with GDKP runs in Classic (I quit end of TBC this time around) essentially removed the game play loop of getting into a raiding guild.

Now, there are people who argue that the artists and animators working on the store cosmetics are doing that instead of working on items that would be available inside the game, which may be true, but we don't know how much cosmetics are bringing in, and if they offset the cost of hiring additional animators and graphics folks, or if Blizzard has done so. That's a potential minor harm to players (I don't know how much damage one store mount per quarter does to overall productivity), but it's not one we're ever likely to know real numbers on.

This I think is probably it. So I do believe, all told, there is an impact, and I dont think its positive. :)
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I think the issue here is the concept that...they shouldnt be sold at all. Put that content into the game and let it be earned via play.
I get what you're saying -- I am a fairly hard-nosed DM in this manner -- but I don't know that being philosophically opposed to the store (which is not an uncommon position) constitutes real damage to the game.
This is true for sure, and in combination with GDKP runs in Classic (I quit end of TBC this time around) essentially removed the game play loop of getting into a raiding guild.
Well, having been a raider for most of WoW, I think the gameplay loop of raiding is that raiding is (mostly) fun. (I mean, it's not fun wiping on the end of expansion boss 100 times.)

I don't think raiding was meant as a money maker and it's not for most raiders. But yes, selling the token impacts on that. (On the other hand, someone with a nice GKDP cash flow going can, with tokens, play without ever spending real world money.)
This I think is probably it. So I do believe, all told, there is an impact, and I dont think its positive. :)
I am not a professional artist or animator. I'd want to hear from them how many man hours are involved in the fanciest of the mounts in WoW's store before deciding it's serious damage.
 

Scribe

Legend
I am not a professional artist or animator. I'd want to hear from them how many man hours are involved in the fanciest of the mounts in WoW's store before deciding it's serious damage.

I'm not saying its 'serious' damage, even if I DO believe it lead to a decline in the game. I would have to go looking, but I want to say that I saw in some Blizzard financial reporting's that microtransactions, made more than subs.

Personally, I dont think that is healthy, as it (if true) would mean that they can prioritize stuff outside of the gameplay loop, and turn better profits.

In that scenario, its not about the gameplay, its not about quests, and its not about raids. Its about selling a new thing to dress up with and ride around town.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I'm not saying its 'serious' damage, even if I DO believe it lead to a decline in the game. I would have to go looking, but I want to say that I saw in some Blizzard financial reporting's that microtransactions, made more than subs.
Wow, if that's true -- and it doesn't include Hearthstone and Diablo Immortal -- that's shocking. I don't know what those microtransactions would even be. Other than the item that lets people look like raid bosses, which seems to get dropped constantly in raids, I don't know that I see that many shop items in-game.
In that scenario, its not about the gameplay, its not about quests, and its not about raids. Its about selling a new thing to dress up with and ride around town.
World of Warcraft has hundreds of people working on it. Even the most elaborate in-game stuff only has a small handful of people and they don't even put out one item a month. The manhours can't be that big of a piece of the pie.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
Oh, and speaking about unhealthy and toxic in-game microtransactions, Diablo Immortal is a much better example.

But even there, it's a good counterargument to the notion that microtransactions will doom D&D, since Blizzard has had a relatively light hand with them in WoW, while going to grotesque lengths with them in Diablo Immortal.
 

Scribe

Legend
Wow, if that's true -- and it doesn't include Hearthstone and Diablo Immortal -- that's shocking. I don't know what those microtransactions would even be. Other than the item that lets people look like raid bosses, which seems to get dropped constantly in raids, I don't know that I see that many shop items in-game.

World of Warcraft has hundreds of people working on it. Even the most elaborate in-game stuff only has a small handful of people and they don't even put out one item a month. The manhours can't be that big of a piece of the pie.

I'll poke around and see if I can disprove what I was saying, I've not been as invested for some time.

Oh, and speaking about unhealthy and toxic in-game microtransactions, Diablo Immortal is a much better example.

Oh man, I watched some of that stuff, and it was grotesque. I just have to shake my head at the naked greed and exploitive behavior sometimes.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The Venn Diagram of (Games I Play) and (Microtransactions/Subscription) looks like a pair of binoculars.
Never once in my life have those two circles ever overlapped, and D&D won't change that.
 
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Retreater

Legend
I mean, they could have microtransactions to sell boons, magic items, feats, etc. Level up your character without playing the game.
And yes, they did this before (selling booster packs of boons in the 4e era).
 


MarkB

Legend
I had a good solid couple of years of enjoyment from WoW, around the time Cataclysm came out, but I've tried going back a few times and couldn't get back into it. The extent to which MMOs incentivise tedium just isn't something I can find the time or attention span for anymore.
 

As per the fireside chat today, there is a goal within Hasbro to further monetize D&D, one avenue being discussed here on EnWorld being microtransactions and the impact this has or has not had on MMOs.

I dont know that its on topic to the original discussion but my view on this would be.

WoW functioned best, under a feedback loop of having to 'put in the work', the work being playing the game, to achieve the goal of having the best stuff, that added an element of prestige within the game, that you had either done the work, or had been lucky, or had a level of dedication/skill, higher than your peers.

The addition of microtransactions shorts that feedback loop, by simply allowing one to swipe the card of their choice, and buy the 'prestige' or avoid the gameplay loop all together.

Examples include.

Paying to skip content - no need to level up your character.
Paying for cosmetics - no need to play through and earn it within the game, you just buy it.
Paying for character changes or services - decrease in attachment to the character, or degrades the community by having people just transfer.
Paying for mounts - Mounts in WoW used to be quite rare, in how you went about earning them. It was something unique that people had to either work for (Gladiators, Achievements) or get randomly via Boss Drops, or World Drops.

This 'everyone gets a prize, if you pay' decreases the motivation of going out and earning it, or in other words, decreases the motivation to PLAY THE GAME, because the gameplay loop was

Grind to Max -> Farm to Raid -> Raid for Loot.

Microtransactions allow you to skip all of that.


In a nutshell @Whizbang Dustyboots
I agree to a certain extent with the bolded part. Paying for a level boost allows you to skip part of the "Grind to Max" part if we're also factoring in gearing as part of that. If we're considering gearing part of the "Farm to Raid" step, then yeah, I'd 100% agree with paid level boosts allowing you to completely skip the "Grind to Max" step.

Buying a WoW Token and selling that for in-game gold allows you to skip the "Farm to Raid" step of getting consumables and enchants paid for, but as @Whizbang Dustyboots pointed out it also basically killed gold-buying so there's an argument to be made that it didn't cause any damage that wasn't already being caused somewhere else.

The WoW token (or buying gold) allows you to skip the "Raid for Loot" step if you just pay someone to carry you through the hardest content for gear. In TBC Classic while there isn't a WoW Token for sale, gold-buying is definitely a thing and it wasn't unknown to see a fresh 70 warrior with a mix of blue and green gear with a pair of Warglaives because they paid for them in a GDKP. Same thing in the current game with rewards from Mythic raids being sold off in Trade chat for gold. Want a Mythic+ timed key completed? Gold can get that for you too. Didn't like grinding Choregast in Shadowlands? Gold can get that done quickly too. I just don't know if I'd blame the WoW Token for these issues because if it wasn't there, people would just pay some website cash to sell them gold anyhow.

Paying for cosmetics/mounts being harmful? Eh... idk. They don't sell anything for cash that you can earn in-game that I'm aware of and as @Whizbang Dustyboots said you pretty much immediately know who paid $25 for a sparkly horse when you see them.

Paying for character change services degrading the community? Leveling is so fast now that I think if someone was unhappy with their current character/server, they'd just reroll if there wasn't an option to pay to change so I'm not sure that holds up from my experiences. People tend to reroll as whatever class/race is the flavor of the month for the current season anyhow so I don't think there's much character attachment to begin with. Years ago, I played Final Fantasy XI which allowed you to level all of the jobs (classes) on the same character and the server community ended up stronger because you formed more of an identity/reputation playing the same character for years. WoW imo doesn't have the same sense of community because people switch characters so much and I don't know that paid services causes any significant harm to that.
 

Oh, and speaking about unhealthy and toxic in-game microtransactions, Diablo Immortal is a much better example.

But even there, it's a good counterargument to the notion that microtransactions will doom D&D, since Blizzard has had a relatively light hand with them in WoW, while going to grotesque lengths with them in Diablo Immortal.
Some of the math I've seen on that game of how much it would cost to get a maxed out character based on typical loot box odds... they should have just offered that as a loot box and called it the Jeff Bezos bundle. lol
 

Thats why I brought it out of that thread. I'm not sure the model for MMO's works at all or even can work for D&D, at least not D&D as it is today.
I think the only way the MMO model works is if WotC really pushes the 3D VTT concept. I find it hard to believe stuff like character boosts would be a thing, but nickel and diming people using the 3D VTT on assets to fill the VTT with? Absolutely. Want a kobold model? $2. A cool looking throne to sit behind your BBEG? $3. A massive Tiamat for the end of your campaign? $5.

I could definitely see that being the worst case scenario. I think it would be far more likely stuff in the Basic Set would be free to use and if you buy an adventure book on D&D Beyond, you'd get the maps and assets in it loaded into your library for use (similar to how Roll20 does it now). Maybe they go with a subscription model for using the 3D VTT with them tossing in some models each month as long as you keep your subscription going.
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
The Venn Diagram of (Games I Play) and (Microtransactions/Subscription) looks like a pair of binoculars.
Never once in my life have those two circles ever overlapped, and D&D won't change that.

Same here. Anything other than just being able to purchase extra scenery and background stuff in the VTT would just be messed up, in my opinion.
 

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