Warning:  This is going to be long…

There has been a lot of angst on the forums lately about a PTR item datamined – Enduring Elixir of Wisdom – a potential in-game purchase item for real cash “officially” confirmed by a blue post.

Speculation is that it is targeted (at least for now) to the Asian market who are on a completely different business model (pay by the hour) and are purportedly more comfortable with these features.

There are the “pro” and “con” opinions about F2P – full disclosure I am firmly on the “con” side – so this isn’t an argument about whether or not it’s a good thing for gaming companies or consumers.

All the Enduring Elixir will do (PTR so this could change of course) is boost your character’s experience gains by 100% for whatever length of time.

Not exactly game-changing or pay-to-win in itself, but there is also speculation that Lesser Charms would be purchasable in-game as well.

Again, this might all make sense from the Asian market perspective and since I don’t have a clue about it I’ll leave that discussion for the experts.

It did get me thinking (dangerous, I know!) about the F2P model and exactly why I despise it to the point of actively avoiding games that even remotely smell like F2P.

So I did what I do best (no, not dps on my Priest) and researched a little about F2P.

There are a lot of opinions out there disguised as “fact” so I focused on information I could find from confirmed experts (some with a relevant degree, credentials and/or industry experience) and oh boy – no wonder I get bad feelings about F2P.

More disclosure – I am not a psychologist.

Jamie Madigan however, is a real psychologist who blogs about game psychology.

His article, The Psychology Of: free to play (Edge Magazine) is a very interesting read and quite an eye-opener on how games are designed to get you to keep paying -note not playing, paying.

Yes, I am fully aware the WoW is designed to keep me playing so I maintain an active sub and yes, I am also aware of various game mechanics (e.g. the infamous RNG) are psychological tricks to do it.

The game keeps me playing, and I pay.

F2P keeps me paying, so I can play.

That’s essentially what stirs up my intense hatred for F2P games.

“But,” you say “You don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to.”

It’s a nice theory, but game companies have to recoup their investment and make a profit somehow so it’s in their best interest to specifically design F2P games to keep you paying so you can play.

Industry expert Ramin Shokrizade has a series of articles at Gamasutra on the F2P model and how it effects you as the consumer.

What does this have to do with WoW?

Well, if we look at some of the recent “features” implemented in the game (and some proposed new features in the PTR) a few raise some red flags.

For example, Shokrizde’s “premium currency” as related to Blizzard Wallets.

I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion about each one because the articles explain it and if you take a bit of time to read them, you can easily identify which “features” would be easily implemented into a F2P model.

Yes, we can all put on our tin foil hats and blame “easy raids” and “catering to casuals” and “LFR” and whatever the flavor of the month “reason” is so we can claim “WoW is dying” and has to go F2P.

But two points:

First:  All of this is “WoW is dying” is speculation unless you are a Blizzard executive and can confirm that the game is dying.  Personally, I suspect it isn’t.

Second: You don’t have to be a failing game forced to go F2P to switch to a F2P model.

Pet Battles – A Set-up for F2P?

Let’s look at something simple originally advertised as a “mini-game” – pet battles.

As it stands right now, pets have certain attacks and abilities with many set to percentage points to determine whether or not it will hit or miss.

RNG at it’s finest.

It can be frustrating to *almost* win a pet battle and ultimately lose because RNG kicked in and your percentage to hit went south.

Since we are all playing with the same mechanics at the moment, your opponent has to deal with percentage points and RNG just like you.  A win might ultimately depend on who is the “luckier” player with RNG.

Percentage hits and RNG could be considered a “crippling” mechanism – all abilities that have percentages attached to them will not hit 100% of the time.

But what if you had the option of purchasing an in-game “potion” that allowed all your abilities to hit 100% of the time for an hour?

You don’t need to buy it, but if you want to do PvP pet battles you don’t know whether or not your opponents have purchased one.  What about wild pet battles?  Let’s assume all wild, fable, spirit, etc. pets have been re-tuned to hit 100% of the time.

You are still “crippled” with percentages and RNG.  Your opponents abilities hit for 100%.

If you think it’s frustrating now to get a win with everyone on a level playing field, think about how much “fun” it might be when you are “crippled” against everything and everyone else.

I won’t even talk about how much “fun” it would be battling to get rare spawn pets that hit 100% when your pets are still “crippled.”

Now think about extrapolating this to game mechanics that are “important” in WoW.

You would have to pay if you want to play.

Is it pay-to-win?

In PvP pet battles it’s a possibility.  In solo play (tamer pet battles, collecting) it would be more about “un-crippling” yourself to level the playing field so you would have a chance to win.

I should also note that WoW is in a sense, F2P with their trial edition.  You can play all you want for free with certain restrictions.  You have to pay if you want to play the full game.

The worst case scenario in my opinion, is a hybrid subscription/F2P model.  We would still be paying a sub (as it is specifically payment to access the servers) with various crippling mechanisms designed to make us pay more if we actually want to play.

You might love the F2P model because well, it’s “free” but if you do a little research it’s not “free” at all.

Of course you have the option to never pay anything and perhaps you are fine with crippling game play but you are not the game’s target audience.

To quote Shokrizade, “. . .key techniques used in coercive monetization model based games to defeat a customer’s ability to make informed choices about the costs and values in these products. The more subtle the hand, and the more you can make your game appear to be skill based the more effective these products will monetize.”

If you don’t mind paying a few micro-transactions, then thank you for subsidizing all the players who don’t pay.

Other News…

I blew a couple of hours gathering supplies with my favorite Horde Priest and finally got her the title.

Darkspear Revolutionary

Darkspear Revolutionary

Not nearly as awesome as “Hordebreaker” but now she has it before it goes the way of the dinosaur.

I had to get supplies the hard way – one flipping mob at a time – as the overturned caravans were once again, nothing but stone.

Being decked out in some fine gear helps a lot to get the mobs down quickly except when I got a little too confident and ended up pulling a couple of those oil machines and a dozen engineers.

I also have to switch up my keybinds a little as I kept hitting Psychic Scream for some reason and I don’t have the glyph so…yeah.

Mobs running away in fear have the annoying habit of bringing more mobs back with them.

Yes, I died a couple of times and yes, I am ashamed.

But I got it done, got my title and picked up another pet with my mojo.  I was checking out some of the other goodies available and I should probably pick up a couple of things like Xan’tish’s Flute before it’s over.

I’ve also been wondering if I should invest in the Kor’kron gear set.  Not because it’s any use, but it might be something to keep for transmog.

I just don’t know if I can deal with the mind-numbing, grindy boredom of farming up more supplies.