The Real Cost of F2P MMO Item Malls versus P2P Video Games
Here's the thing about video games - unless you're a pirate, they cost money. Lots of money. It's not that video games have become "more expensive", because those cheap little plastic Nintendo cartridges cost $50 in 1994. Remember, the ones you had to blow on before you tried to play? These numbers haven't changed in 2011. It doesn't matter if you're buying a physical retail copy of a sandbox MMO or purchasing it via digital distribution, like Steam. Let's take a quick rundown of the most popular titles on Steam today;
How Much Do P2P Games Cost?
Call of Duty 3 - $59.99
Dead Island - $49.99
Red Orchestra II - $49.99
Two Worlds II - $24.99
Now, my Steam library is about 31 online games. Granted, a few of them have been bought during super Summer sales, but at an 'average' price of $30 per game, that's over $1,800 spent on video games in just a couple years. Now, how much playtime have I gotten out of my "most played" collection?
Battlefield 2 - 150 hours played
Borderlands - 48 hours played
Grand Theft Auto 4 - 24 hours played
Call of Duty 4 - 20 hours played
Total = 242 hours, or 10 full days of play time. I have spent $1,800 to be entertained for less than 2 weeks. How does this compare to my Iron Realms text game addiction? A quick look at my character's STATUS shows the answer;
"You have played for a total of 150 days, 12 hours and 39 minutes."
By no means impressive, but this is only on the character I've been playing for 3 years. I've been playing the addicting games from Iron Realms for about 10 years now, so you can imagine what those numbers are actually closer to. Now, how much have I (entirely optionally, without any pressure from game administrators) spent on Iron Realms?
Initial character investment = $300 (because I wanted all the pimptastic goodies right from the start)
Optional elite membership for extra perks = $300 ($25/mo, had for about a year)
Of course, I have purchased some other 'perk' items here and there. Stuff to increase my maximum health pool, etcetera. But even if I calculated those in, it's still nowhere near $1,800. It always cracks me up a little when friends say, "I can't believe you spend money on those text games", when they have a collection of Xbox games to rival any GameStop store! They can't imagine how in the world I get any entertainment value from a text game. It's funny because, one of my friends who says this kind of stuff was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player in middleschool. You wouldn't guess it now since he's joined the Army and beefed up, but if you couldn't find him during lunch, you just had to check the Dungeons & Dragons corner in the lunchroom.
Are Item Malls Unethical?
Moving on, I'd like to quote a comment from a videogame developer, regarding Iron Realm's business model; "That's not a business model, it's an enabled addiction."
While some folks decry Iron Realms for their "pay for perks" model, insisting that it's "unethical" to not shout from the top of a mountain that players can purchase slight advantages, all of us Iron Realms players know the truth; your characters progress is only limited by how much time you're willing to invest. Anything in the item mall can be bought entirely through hard work in-game. I've gotten so much more out of them than any shooter the big name companies put out every year. War doesn't change, but Iron Realms only constantly improves.
Editor: Tony Celentano