What if the MMO Item Mall Was Never Invented?

Item Mall

If you look around, you'll notice most MMOs today are being launched on F2P models with some kind of revenue source. The age of the subscription based game is almost officially over - sure, the big names in the industry can still demand a fee based on branding alone, but statistics show that their numbers are falling. You simply can't launch a pay-to-play model in the industry today. While gamers are spoiled by the latest in graphics and engine technology, they've also become spoiled by free games that have little to no entry barrier, beyond minimum requirements of PC hardware.


Where Did the Item Mall Start?

In 1997, Matt Mihaly was looking at revenue options for the newly launched Achaea. While other online games at the time had a subscription-based model, Matt wanted his game accessible to all. After testing the waters with several successful in-game auctions, Achaea launched the first item mall in an MMO, thus pioneering virtual goods and letting Achaea focus on the player experience without worrying about overhead. 


Matt Mihaly once said in an interview that Achaea originally planned to charge by the hour. Sounds crazy, but that was normal for online games back then! I can't help but wonder, what if Achaea and the other Iron Realms games had been launched with a subscription fee? What would the game industry look like today?


For one, gamers would be stuck with what they're given. Without any free-to-play alternatives, major publishers would have a total monopoly on the PC market, like they do on consoles. Console gamers are used to it - shelling out $60 for a new title, beating it and putting it on the shelf, or trading it in for 1/3rd of the value. Fanboys might even defend publishers, arguing "they had to rush the product early due to demand!". Fortunately, PC gamers aren't as delusional.


Developing a Free MMO is Hard!

One major concern in the industry today is that developers put millions of dollars into designing a game and lose money not just due to piracy, but from players jumping to the free alternatives. Indie developers are becoming a fearsome competitor in the market. While some major companies are trying to bottle this energy, like when EA acquired Popcap Games, gamers are ultimately realizing that buggy console ports have become the accepted standard.


Consider recent popular title Dead Island - it quickly went from most anticipated game of the year to one of the biggest ragefests, despite months of hype. The PC version of the game initially received many harsh reviews from magazines and websites. The reason? A bug-filled developer's version of the game was accidentally released on launch day. The official forums were flooded with "DO NOT BUY" topics. A patch was released within a few days and it's now considered a fun game, but the damage had been done. Just one simple example of the expectations of the PC gaming community.


Most free MMORPGs today are either WoW clones or Korean grindfests. They either license an existing engine, which limits their revenue, or develop in-house which can be cost effective but laborious. It's not cheap to develop a fully-fledged MMO, and small scale developers hope by jumping on the pay-for-perks or item mall bandwagon, they can release half a game today and then invest money into polishing it as the revenue streams in. Of course, they're shooting themselves in the foot. As I mentioned earlier, PC gamers want a fully finished product, meeting their every expectation on release day.


Had Iron Realms launched with a subscription fee, they clearly wouldn't have been in business as long as they have. Or attracted nearly half as many players. As one player put it, Iron Realms succeeds because the pay-for-perks model is the only one that works. That wasn't the case in 1997 though, and while today's developers are only getting it half-right by releasing unfinished products, hoping to attract enough revenue to polish it up later, Iron Realms invented the idea of releasing a polished product and letting players get as much out of the game as they put in. While I don't expect the PC community to suddenly become fed up with the industry and make a mass exodus for Achaea, proper respect should be given to the pioneers of the industry.


Editor: Tony Celentano



The pay for perks concept really helps attract players and keep long time players playing. More recently they started the iron elite membership which is a good idea, even though 20 bucks a month is more than most over pay to play games, but it is optional.

I love the F2P format with the pay for perks option, but also that for every pay for perks option, there's almost always a way to get the same option in the game without shelling out a dime of real cash. The system is so versatile it easily suits every player demographic.

Why I play Achaea. Right here.



It's the sanest option.

I concur

Not even a question :P That and the lore/RP, draws me back no matter the other games out there

This kept me in the game for a long time, though insane credit prices are starting to make it less appealing.

For the holidays. Trust me, I'm still gwaking at the prices right now. I love this model though, along with the item mall options (but even then the devs. can be a bit stupid with the items they put up. There does need to be a line drawn somewhere that you don't cross.) I won't on this topic I never knew they charged by the hour to play a damn mud. To me the idea of paying by the hour is obscene. I like the perks/artifact system personally, if you offer items that are worth buying, and using people will buy said items or perks. Simple as that. Thanks for that informitive bit~

Yeah, credit prices just keep going up forever. They do give out free stuff every month though, which definately helps counter that.

The free stuff is definitely helping keep my interest. I think back to playing Achaea prior to the credit market, and the promos, and wonder how we did without. 

That's also because the lower standard increased insanely. Nowadays you need 6 trans skills + arties. At those times, you needed dsl + a trigger that could heal paralysis.

Lusternia has a complex economy system but at the same time, very high credit prices. I don't even look at the credit market these days.


I really love how you can get them in game as well. Adds a good sense of balance.

So true! Having the opportunity to get the paid for benefits for in game currency is great for the balance of power. Those that cannot afford to use real money are not at a complete loss.


Even though -I'm- totally broke, Perdy's never been short on credits. I just had to actually work a lil' for them.

Except for I've been short on credits at times.

I'm always short on credits. But I'm too broke to buy, so it's great to be able to scrounge them IGly.

You summed that up perfectly.  It is a well balanced versatile system.

Not to mention the business' needs. Pleny of players wouldn't have picked up the game if it wasn't free to begin with, but inevitably chip in for some of those perks once they've found they like it.

The Elite Membership was one of their best ideas to date, in my opinion.

it's cheaper getting credits from it than buying them unbound

good to know, thanks. i wonder if that includes promotional prices though...


Definitely the best thing they have done so far.

I completely agree. It's pretty awesome value.

I think it was, it's completely optional, and gives IRE a verifyable source of income, if I was running the business end of things having a known amount of income would be great, even if it's minimal and set to subscriptions it at least sets a base amount outside of the impulse purchases and other sales boosts, offers they run.


I think it also makes it easier for beginning players once they get hooked to see the benefits. I know I wish I had Elite when I first started, instead of slowly buying the credits I needed just for transcending skills.

Agreed. I'm probably to get it soon!

There needs to be pay for perks to generate revenue for the developers but there also needs to be balance to retain those cost-conscious people. That balance is required for optimal participation and revenue. It reminds me of how the music industry is handling sales despite piracy and a strong Indie base.


I'll pay a fair price for a game I enjoy.


It would be even better if they'd cut the amount of xp you lose without a starburst in half as a 5 month elite membership perk! *hint* *hint*

The Elite is awesome

TOTALLY overpriced...

I opt not to buy anything for my play in Achaea, IRE offers several limited, but free, ways to earn credits, this being one of them, and this falls under getting out what you put in.  If you're willing to invest time/alternate resources other than money, you can still very much enjoy your time.  But investing money doesn't ruin your/others time within the game at the same time.  Definitely a good plan, but like the article said, doesn't work unless the game is awesome from the start, I'm not gonna buy into a piece of trash.

Though for aetolia...

nice article. I know I would never have started playing Achaea if it was subscription-based.

Yeah, me too. I'm sure another free game would have filled the void if this were a pay-to-play game.

I think we can all agree that iron realms has done a great job with what's available for their players.

I never knew that Achaea had the very first item mall, and I'm definitely thankful for it. Item shops not only make games more accessible, but they have the additonal bonus of clearly defining what you're paying for. For every game bought and subscription maintained, the buyer inevitably loses out on the value, even if just in tiny amounts. Pay for a month and lose interest for a week, and that's a fourth of total subscription value lost for the month. Then you have all the characters you -could- have made, all the skills you -could- have taken, and you really lose it. Item mall doesn't just make it easier on the players financially, but it's not so iffy with what you bought. You know X moneys will become X credits, which you'll use as you please. Even with all that aside, what really can't be argued is that it's changed the way the business works, and finally we see a business change in something that's good for both sides of the bargain. Here's to hoping that subscriptions continue to crumble.

I also found the history in the article pretty fascinating. It's really strange to think about how different things were a decade ago.

I am glad there is an item mall, I cannot (at this time) buy things online due to parent paranoia, so if they had a subscription instead I would not have been able to play at all!

I'm happy your not forced to buy something with irl money in IRE games.

It's definitely the reason I was able to start playing years ago.


Lots of games are taking the FTP with pay for perks route these days. With the advent of micro-transactions proving you can make LOTS of money off it, people are moving to this new method quickly.

Some are sticking to subscriptions, but yeah. It's a pretty good thing for both sides, considering.

I like having the option of buying credits when I have extra money, and still being able to play when I'm broke/unemployed!


rocks! I like being able to get free credits and slowly work my way up to getting artifacts :)

Yay free stuff.

Pay for perks won't let you get money directly from people with no interest in paying, and it also won't help you get more people willing to pay (if they're willing to pay for perks, they'd be willing to pay for the game itself.)  What Pay for Perks accomplishes are firstly to allow you to get money from those who will pay, while attracting those who won't (either in hopes of hooking them on the game so they'll pay later, or for advertising revenue), and secondly (and this is where Iron Realms really pioneered the model) to allow a dual-currency system to monetize even the nonpaying players (as other articles have noted.)

Of course, these are both essentially business advantages, and will do nothing to actually attract players.  For that, you need good gameplay and worldbuilding, which IMO Iron Realms has done even better than it's done the business end of things.

The large number of players who come into it based solely on the fact that it *is* free, and they can play as much as they like, without feeling overly restricted by not buying, but still, once they've been around a while, become willing to pay. I wouldn't have 'bought in' on the elite membership I pay for now without having been on IRE games for years now, for example.


I am trying not to laugh at "today's developers are only getting it half-right by releasing unfinished products, hoping to attract enough revenue to polish it up later"... that's true of far more than just game developers anymore, is sometimes all too true of pay-to-play, and... it just makes me laugh that the phrase could be applied to MKO (which would also be a valid point on "only half-right", as evidenced by the rather sizable drop in MKO playerbase over time). This isn't to say I don't quite enjoy MKO... as I said, I pay monthly, myself.

I have elite too, even after things I'm not happy with. There was a reason MKO was released early, so that isn't entirely true, although I agree mostly. It has done well though to fix up what its missing.


The best thing about IRE is not having to pay until you like it, as you said, I really wouldn't have spent much if I didn't like Lusternia and then MKO.

Nice little read.

I'm just bad about capitalizing on the ways to get credits in game


I hear you, bro

Wait, IRE really invented that? :S

I'm surprised/skeptical too. [Citation needed]?

I am also sceptical, wiki sources an interview with Matt Mihaly for the claim there but that is a bit self referential for my liking.

Would not exist and Valve would not be where it is today.

Good topic to read






elite membership is awesome

One problem with games that aren't free is that if you buy them, you're also paying for content you don't want. 60 dollars for a game you beat in 10-20 hours, and end up with a bunch of uninteresting content, and then you end up not playing it again. There is a reason rental stores exist.


The pay to play model has never been good to me. I've spent some money on those, but they give back far too little to be worth what they're asking. It is for these reasons I really like free to play. I'm not being cheap, I just don't think most games are worth what people ask for them, because they hardly bring enough enjoyment.



still, it would be nice if there was less of a massive time or money investment on simply getting all your class skills...

I agree. I actually enjoy and support the pay-for-perks model but I find it a little curious that those who can't afford to put much money into the game will have a hard time learning some of the skills essential to their class. That's more necessity than perk. I realize you can get credits in game but that can be pretty difficult for a truly new player unless they have significant bardic skills. At least the hunting abilities are on the lower end which gives them things to do and ways to advance. I personally can budget for the elite membership which I don't mind paying if I'm playing often and enjoying the game.

Agreed. I don't think it should be given to you as a matter of course but it should be feasible to transcend at least one skills without spending gold or real money.

In Achaea the easiest way to do that (probably similar in the other games) would be to give 15 bound credits at levels 50, 55, 60, 65 and then 20 bound credits at levels 70, 75, 80, 85. Which would be roughly one skill transcended by level 85 or so, that requires a fair bit of work but it is at least feasible if you want to achieve it.

Of course you could also argue that commenting fulfils the same purpose (yoink!).

yay for elite?

Totally wonderful for credits and elite

Paying by hour would be totally crazy

I also almost choked on my coffee when I read this.

I'm sure I remember MUDs in the mid nineties that were about fifty pence an hour.

I have roughly 5280 hours of gameplay.... that would be so expensive if charged by the hour!

I started playing Achaea in the earlier years of it's existence and didn't realize Matt was the creator of Macro Economies.  You see it everywhere now.  Many free to play games with the "artifacts" available for those who wish to advance in the game by paying for bonuses. Very interesting!

aquaintences, have come to it to do Elite. I came here because the mud I used to play on the bbs (pre-94) was free... I was looking for the same kind of community atmosphere

While other online games at the time had a subscription-based model, Matt wanted his game accessible to all.
Fortunately the existence of other F2P MMORPGs (like Tibia and Darkeden in 1997) didn't prevent Matt from inventing this innovative business model and pioneering virtual goods.
Achaea launched the first item mall in an MMO
In MO may be, Achaean playerbase is (and was) hardly massive by any means.
That wasn't the case in 1997 though, and while today's developers are only getting it half-right by releasing unfinished products, hoping to attract enough revenue to polish it up later, Iron Realms invented the idea of releasing a polished product and letting players get as much out of the game as they put in.
Too bad they didn't use this idea in practice? They released two carbon copies of Achaea and polished them later then released basically unplayable mess MKO and polished it later. Not sure about Lusternia, was it the same fail as MKO at launch?

I like being able to earn free credits. Like this one! Yoink!

I am very new to Achaea, and it interesting to know how the business model developed from the beginning.

The Pay for Perks model is sort of responsible for IRE's success despite its limited market.  It's done wonders for IRE as a whole, players and company alike, and I'm glad they take full advantage of it. 


Of particular note though is that a lot of the revenue isn't just from things like buying beter artefacts and the like, but from buying customisations and aesthetic changes.  Subdivision housing, custom descriptions, pets, and that sort of thing are all fairly unique pay for perks options that I really think add a lot of fuel to the IRE engine.  And I'm glad for it, it adds flavour and excitement.

There are many ways to Rome, or to make money from a game, or to achieve in a free game what you want to achieve. Malls and toll-roads may get you to Rome faster, but you are not obliged to take that path (all the time or at all) and that's what I like.

I probably would not be playing IRE games today had they gone with a subscription model. I'm glad they're pay-for-perks!

Another advantage of the model that is used by IRE is that it has created a credit market.  There are some games out there with pay for perk models where you can ONLY get the perks with cold hard $$$. However IRE allows us to grind our faces off in the games and then exchange game currency for credits which can be used to get perks.  This makes it so as long as you have time to invest you can eventually be as strong as those with a whole lotta $$$ to throw around... much better than having to whine when you lose to someone simply because they have $ and you don't!

And thus should be treated as such

tis why i never play actual "video" games anymore!

IRE's concept is a good one. I agree with what has been stated.

The only flaw I see in it is this.

The way a game is "balanced" now is based on the perks purchased, not on the skillsets created for the game alone. People need to remember even though there are alot of people who pay for the perks, there are also alot who dont have these perks. To balance a game mainly around the ones who have paid money to IRE games for perks is almost like running a pay to play game. And as this article states pay to play games are a dying breed. (Something I would never want to see happen to IRE)

This can lead to a very frustrated percentage of the playerbase, mainly the ones who cannot afford these perks or are slowly working to purchase these perks through in game methods.

It can (and has in some cases) cause them to search out another gaming community where balancing is not based off a demigod with every artifact in the game but based off what is considered the median playerbase.


Sure this will mean that people with artifacts that effect certain skills may end up with an edge over those without these artifacts. But isn't that what a pay for perk is? If it is balanced by the "perks" then they end up not being "perks" anymore but the "norm".

Basically I don't know who  IRE or the individual games. But the problem still ends up falling into IRE's lap.



definitely a good model for IRE


I agree. Being a MUD, people would shy away if expected to fork out cash. The pay for perks allows the casual player who becomes hooked to invest in the game he/she/we love.


I wonder what the statistics are on age versus F2P model. Curious to know the percentage of young kids in F2P compared to P2P. Any ideas?

Yay first innovator.

I would have stayed with DragonRealms

I think the elite membership should be rejigged some. I know it is optional but at over twice the monthly rate of WOW and PSU. It seems a big ask to me.

I love having the option to be able to put some cash into the game when I have some free for credits but still get to play for free when I want to spend my spare cash on other hobbies and pursuits.

I remember when i first started playing Lusternia.  One of the things that upset me was my first character was deleted due to inactivity.  It took me a while to realize why and then I got over it and started over.

The Iron Membership is a fantastic idea.  It makes your character permanant as well as gives you pretty good perks that get even better with time.  

The item-mall concept is sweeping online games as well as console games pretty quickly. I agree that the credit prices in Lusternia should be lower.  I also wish artifacts and dingbats were purchasable on the item-mall.  However, it is kind of nice that they aren't on the mall because it's a special event when they are.

Props go to the pioneers!

If Achaea required a subscription way back when I first started playing, I would never have started. It was the free-to-play aspect that made me start, even if I'm paying a subscription now.

When I spoke to Raph Koster about MUDs at this year's GDC Online, he said that Achaea was "historically relevant" among developers for pioneering microtransactions in games. Pretty cool, and it's neat to see that kind of thing acknowledged outside the web.

seems good to me

Never really seen one. I should look for one near me! Sounds awesome.

I will spend real currency on this game... so I am quite glad it is just an item mall and not ncessary to play.


Interesting to read. I wonder sometimes if I should at least buy credits online just for a permanent character. But then sometimes I wonder if I really want this character to be permanent!


free baby!

MMO Item Mall?

Yeah no idea what that was prior to the article/


free games are awesome!



Unless you want to enter combat.

While combat is the greatest draw for me, the investment has been large.

Achaea has always been and continues to be very good at getting revenue from its players without being a pay-to-play game, that is not as easy as it sounds.. keep up the good work Achaea!

Look at how popular/big LoL has gotten.

i would say Achaea has been successful and it would stand as a good business model.

Most of my experiences with F2P games have failed horribly once end game becomes more about gambling real and in-game money just to keep up with guildies. I've only bought credits a handful of times because they were a bit expensive for me at the time, but I like subscription based alot better honestly. The Elite membership pulled this off pretty well, imo. 



very nice read.

commented and dugg


Plus the fact that these games are very addicting!

if you could like advance on your elite credits, hahaha




It would be bad;p


it would suck

"they can release half a game today and then invest money into polishing it as the revenue streams in. Of course, they're shooting themselves in the foot. As I mentioned earlier, PC gamers want a fully finished product, meeting their every expectation on release day."


With PS3 they release games like Resident Evil 5 then months down the road another version is released with all the downloadable content (almost all of the multiplayer content has to be downloaded), that's, in essence, releasing a half-finished game then using revenue to polish it, and it sold well. I don't think PC gamers are all that different.

I hate what has been done to the Resident Evil series. It is no longer Survival Horror but an Action game with Ammo/Health drops from pretty much everything killed. I also dislike the AI on that stupid woman that follows you around.
That said it is a great game and the rebundled game was worth it.


I can't agree more to the statement! :P

One reason I began playing was that I was tired of those, being Korean myself.



Thank god that Mihaly rejected the idea of charging for time played. Apart of, most likely, Achaea and IRE not existing today, I would have missed the great experience of meeting a good number of people along the years, which makes up a good part of my enjoyment nowadays, and navigating the complex system of combat/politics that keeps me coming back .


I much prefer F2P+micropayments monthly subscriptions, but the subscription-based games do have some benefits to it.

I think they way IRE has it now is quite nice.



Oh man. I remember the old auction system. That thing all in all was pretty neat, but no way to maintain status. But, they were really fun. I wish there was still some neat little auctions like that from time to time. Maybe player based? I dunno...it'd be neat

What if...

Every now and then I buy a few credits, but I also earn them in game. It makes it so I'm not breaking the bank playing this game, but I'm also contributing to keeping it running.

And it's good that Achaea is not "pay to win." There are some goals that buying credits will really help with, mainly combat-related goals. But there are a bunch of others where the benefit is minimal. I spent years with no access to credits, but it didn't bother me, because I felt totally unfettered on the political/RP side of things which was what I was interested in in the first place.


the mall needs to be cheaper

hahaha, this

Haha this was a great article.  I agree though, the mall definitely needs to be cheaper!

Eh, sells skill, doesn't afraid of anything.


Good reading!


I did some reasoning after my first comment.

I started playing Achaea in 2011 lured by the fact that it was a "free to play" game.

After a while, I realized that I was too weak to gain experience decently. The denizes simply were too tough for me. So I subscribed the Elite Membership to get a boost, and now my character is progressing fast and transing skills quite quickly, I admit.

While I am very happy, the fee is way more expensive than WoW or other games.

However, I had the unfortuante idea to browse the Artifact shops. The stuff there is extremely expensive. A pair of spiked knucles costs 1400 cr (i.e. one year of membership). So it really does take years to create a very efficient character, even for Elite members, and I find it a little bit frustrating.

What can I say? IRE business model is pretty efficient, and I am totally hooked. Stlll saying that IRE games are "free to play" is somewhat deceptive. In fact, as to addicting products, the first dose is always free. It is an old trick.

That's why I ask IRE for perfection, nothing less.

Definitely why I came here.


me too!

all admit, not sure if the item mall is a blessing or the worst thing ever



Brokeded! I want my Elite back *cries*. I used to brag that I got where I was without spending any rl money for like my first 7 years of being in Achaea. Then they came out with Elite and I've gotten it for multiple months, til my job went poof *sniffles*, plus taken advantage of its discount and bought creds as well. Damn you, yummy perks! :P

I tried to buy most my stuff IC, but as always, if you consider the amount of gameplay vs the perhaps 100$ I spent on Driga then it's nothing.




I'd love to create my own one someday as an educational exercise, but I'm sure it's waaay more time consuming than what I'd have time for. 

and then if I feel linke treating myself I can still buy extra. But it's nice not having any pressure to spend money as a casual player.



I'm seeing a lot of people talking about Item Malls lately, and it seems people are slowly starting to really get used to the idea of having them instead of forcing people to pay a subscription fee to play a game. Its nice to have the option to buy extra, but when you force people to buy extra just to be able to play the game, an item mall is no different than a subscription. IRE seems to have found a good balance overall with their games.

Thinking about if Aetolia had been a pay-to-play model..I'd have never played it, since I started playing when I was like..14. My first batch of credits I bought I had to give my hard earned chore money to my dad to get me a money-order to send in. Oh the days..And they were put to good use! Trying to wrap my head around how lessons/artifacts etc would work or just..be gone with a sub system is kind of frightening. They made a good choice.

As much as I like the concept of the F2P/'item mall' method of making a game, it does still bring up one fairly heavy concern, which is drastically evident in IRE's games, and that is the matter of balance.

IRE games sell themselves heavily on their PVP system(for good reason). However, the artifacts available take the 'pay for perks' concept and turn it towards 'pay for competitiveness' the instant even a single person decides to flex a credit card.

Ideally, there would in fact not be such significantly combat-influencing artifacts as currently exist, and the 'perks' you pay for would either have small effects on combat, or be more flavor/utility oriented.

However, I do still powerfully appreciate the work IRE has done to influence the game market, and the products they've turned out. Nothing is perfect, but these games have kept me coming back for years.

is that on the photo really a store or is it a museum?


Since I'm still not at the right age to be working a full-time job, I definitely wouldn't be on Aetolia if it were P2P.

On the topic of pay-to-win, many so called "free-to-play" games are not actually free. Sure, you can start to play them for free, but there is no way for one to progress without spending exorbitant amounts of money. I know only of a few games which work the free-to-play model correctly, Achaea and the other IRE games being part of this group, and Team Fortress 2 being another.


Let me explain TF2's model first. TF2's model consists of players paying for hats, purchases which have no value in the game itself, other than raising your own ego. The other items that it is possible to pay for can also be obtained simply by playing a lot. The more you pay, the more free items you receive. Hats are bought by those who love the game and wish to support the developer(Valve).


Achaea has a somewhat similar system. While people can, and do, pay exorbitant prices in order to immediately tri-trans, one can also earn credits via various IC means, never having to spend a single cent on Achaea. This makes for an incredibly diverse system, one in which those who do not have enough time to earn credits via IC means, obtain them by paying real money, which they obtained by spending time and working hard in real life. From a business standpoint, it also works well, because the prospect of being free-to-play attracts many new players, and once they are in, they can choose to pay for benefits.

I'd still support making it easier to at least tri-trans. THe time required to make enough credits can be rather intensive, and tri-trans is barely enough to even mess with combat


As someone who started playing their first IRE mud when they were fairly young (nearly 10 years ago now) I've been through multiple phases. First, I was too young to buy credits myself, and didn't have the money anyway. Then I got older and I'd progressed in the games I played significantly, and was figured I could spare some money and buy credits. If I hadn't done it that way, I'd have never spent a cent playing it, and I would have found something else to do. 
The idea of paying to play just seems wrong, especially in such an expansive environment as the IRE games. An hour-by-hour rate would become incredibly expensive. If you work it out, even at something like $1 an hour, just on the one character I still play, I'd have spent in excess of $4500. And that's just since the opening of imperian. With characters on both Achaea and Aetolia as well, the amount of money spent would be obscene, especially in times when I haven't had money spare to pay that.


I do like elite as a hybrid of sorts.

nice article 



Perfect model for the free credit

Cant beat Elite and credit sales.  Don't for lessons sales myself but I have most things I need transed already.


Free stuff is great too, more of that is never a bad thing.  Helps the younger(in real life) who can't afford credits a chance to earn enough to buy their very first artefact or get their skills up enough for combat.

I agree with everyones assessment, I really love the elite

nice read

The Elite would be nice to have

Good insight on how macro economies work.  Thanks for the article!

sound like Achaea is the first MMO to implement the Item Mall. Not disputing it, but I am curious if it really is the first... From my own experience I agree that most item malls 'sprouted' after 1997 though.

Achaea and other IRE games are so community-focused compared to large MMORPGs. You have the majority people who don't pay anything fleshing out the community, which makes it a worthwhile game to play for the minority who do invest in credits. And that community is really important - lots of fish in a small pond. If it was subscription-only, you'd probably have about 10% the playerbase. Far less people to chat with, buy refills from, sell crafts to, PK, steal from, raid, etc.

In a graphical MMORPG like, say, Runescape, the "community" is a bunch of silent strangers with dumb names competing with me for mob spawns, or spam advertising their trash in the marketplace with bad grammar. I don't care about these people, they're just milling noisily about the edges of my single-player experience.

Most people I knwo who've bought credits have done so at least once to prevent character deletion. That was my reasoning the first time. Most others were because of some kind of promotion. (Big sales, Mayan crowns. The silly globe things that bumped my frriends limit to 75.) I'd probably buy them again but the reason would be circumstancial, based on why I felt I needed them versus my current financial situation.

That's why I stopped playing that game years and years ago.  It used to be free on AOL back when AOL was in its prime.  I guess they have enough people that just pay money, but you're limiting the people that are willing to do this.

Free credit.

I'm awful at making money in-game.


I concur too.

Obviously Iron Realms had the right idea.  In my openion they've been extreamly successful I love playing Lusternia more than I ever did any console game

Another credit would be nice too

I play Achaea.  love it

IRE is amazing. I hate it when people crap all over the free-credit/free lesson/double-xp promotions. They make it that much more possible to keep up with the people who are able to fork over hundreds of real life currency for in-game credits.

I've yet to see another game, text-based or otherwise that can do it as well and as successfully as IRE.



supporting a business financially that has given me years of entertainment.

cheaper credits plox



I love ir's artifacts It gives me something to always work for.  the game never gets dull because of this.

I know one major reason I've stuck with IRE as long as I have is that it is free to play.  Paying for an advantage is fine, although it's nice that it is still possible to be effective (to some extent) without those advantages.

I think that it would be a different world in any other model. If you want it bad enough you'll pay for it if not you can still have fun.

interesting read

Play the game --> like the game --> spend money over long time


Spend a bit of money --> play the game --> maybe like it, not feel obligated to spend more.


I like model 1!

I definitely never would have tried Achaea if it costed money just to play. Love its item mall, and I'm sure they earn plenty from people like Penwize and Tanris.

While I feel my addict side turned on by the collect-em-all aspect of credits and arties, I feel like combat would be a TON more balanced without arties.

The best is that the paid options are not even necessary to have fun! If a player wishes not to spend any real cash, they can still be competitive.

I think if the item mall haden't been invented we would see far better MMO's In my opinion.

Eh.  Hit and miss.

yall are great