IMC Games Normalizes the Price on Tree of Savior Founders Packs Across All Regions

Yesterday, IMC Games announced that they would be increasing the price point for the tier 1 and 2 founders packs in certain regions in order to ensure players on the same server were receiving the same dollar to in game silver value for the Token. For those unfamiliar, the tier 1 and 2 packs offered a 60 and 30 day token respectively, similar to CREDD in WildStar or the WoW Token in WoW, which provides players with trading abilities and additional bonuses much like a subscription would.

However because the game did not launch with server regions to match the price variations, players on the same server had access to these tokens at differing real money prices while still being able to sell them in game for the same amount of silver. Imagine living in Canada and being able to buy the WoW token for $10 US dollars while still receiving the same amount of in game gold as those players spending $20 US dollars in the United States. Commendably, IMC took notice of this and did something about it.

Despite my respect for their taking action on this by normalizing the price across regions, the problem would have been avoided all together had they launched the game with the same regional servers they now have available. Nevertheless, the amount of flak they’ve taken for making this decision is ridiculous and is predictably driven by players who were able to take advantage of the higher ROI on selling the Token. The result is that Tree of Savior’s rating on Steam which was never sparkling continues to steadily decline.

To make matters worse, IMC also announced that the free to play launch would be delayed to an as yet undetermined date which caused even future players to unleash their well-honed internet rage, never mind the fact that the decision was the right one to make under the circumstances. IMC has decided to make sure existing players that have requested to transfer to either the South American, South East Asian, or European servers are able to do so before opening the doors to the free to play crowd. This should prevent the need for future players to be transferred as the regional servers will be set up and the founders players will already be situated.

One last note regarding changes to the founders packs, the tier 3 pack which was sold for $10 in the North American region was removed entirely prior to the price increases because the low price point allowed for repeated abuse by gold sellers and bots. This decision puzzles me considering the game will be launched as free to play before long. If $10 is too low a barrier of entry to prevent rampant gold selling what do they think is going to happen once Tree of Savior is free, which is a decidedly smaller barrier than “not free.”

However not all is doom and gloom for Tree of Savior this week, if you are a part of Steam’s North American region, the regular prices on the founders packs didn’t change at all and the discounted price that began today, April 21st, was increased to 50%; up from the 30% off originally announced. Not only that, but even if you had previously bough these packs you can now buy them a second time and take advantage of the steep discount on Tokens, cosmetics, and TP, which is the cash shop currency for ToS. Considering there is no other way to purchase more TP until after the game goes free to play and the dollar to TP ratio appears to be more favorable when purchased through the founders packs than it will be later, it’s pretty much a no brainer for anyone invested in the game to pick up one of the packs. Initially I purchased the now absent tier 3 pack for $10 but with the start of today’s sale I’ve added both the tier 1 and 2 to my account as well.

Tree of Savior deserves many of the complaints it has received on Steam and elsewhere from the excessive lag at launch to the dystopian levels of restriction on player to player trade but most of these changes to the founders packs were warranted. And if you have any interest in playing now or in the future, I highly recommend snagging one of the tier 2 packs at the $15 discounted rate. It’s one more way you could chose to spend $15 on an MMO these days.

Dual Wielding: Precision of Language, Please

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Make sure you don’t miss Kunzay’s take.

Whoever came up with the phrase “Free-to-Play” is an idiot. Not the business model itself; there are some excellent examples of games that monetize by providing the gamer with some content for free while charging for other elements. However the phrase “Free-to-Play” is problematic. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to advertise a game as free when generally speaking, it’s a partial truth at best? With the announcement of WildStar changing business models to one that is “Free-to-Play” and with so many other bloggers writing on the topic, Kunzay and I thought it was a good time for Dual Wielding to tackle the subject. Personally, I don’t have a favored model; I’ve enjoyed games of every kind. However I do have some strong feelings about the overall atmosphere created by the Free-to-Play market specifically. First of all, I’m tired of studios playing the semantics game with their business plans and I believe the phrase “Free-to-Play” is largely dishonest. I would love to see studios be more upfront about what is being offered. On the other hand, those of us who are consumers need a splash of reality with regard to our expectations in paying (or not) for games. It is unreasonable to request “all the things” and be unwilling to pay for good content.

First of all, at some point in time MMO studios began marketing their games as Free-to-Play. I’m a little ignorant on my history here, I don’t know who first coined the phrase or when the business model was introduced into the MMO genre but I suspect that it had something to do with publishers realizing that no one was going to duplicate World of Warcraft and a new monetization plan was in order to keep their games afloat. Free-to-Play has allowed many MMOs to survive much longer than they would have been able to in a subscription only environment and that’s a good thing. Population is important to creating a virtual world and providing a game with at least the illusion of health. Free-to-Play provides this for games that cannot drum up the player base on a subscription model alone. With Free-to-Play the virtual world feels full and players can subsidize the game according to what they feel the content is worth. Or at least that’s how I think it should work. When studios are developing quality content, many players will pony up more than $15 a month while others may settle into $5 or less. So long as it’s enough to continue development and pay the bills, everyone wins.

WildStar was good, it just wasn't enough to compete with other subscription games for my money.

WildStar was good, it just wasn’t enough to compete with other subscription games for my money.

Take WildStar for example. I played this title for a total of three months but did not enjoy it enough to warrant a monthly subscription, certainly not with so many other options on the market. Nevertheless, I would be saddened if the game was closed down all together. It’s a beautiful world with an intriguing story and combat mechanics that I personally enjoyed. The game is good enough I hope that Carbine is able to continue production for years to come in order to build on the current foundation. However the subscription model would run them into the ground (and possibly already has); there’s simply not enough people willing to pay the fee for WildStar to feel like an inhabited world let alone to provide the necessary population for group finder tools to function properly. There’s also been a need for further iteration on the game, but that takes time and money. Free-to-Play, if done well, may infuse the studio with enough income to buy the developers’ time in order to take the game where it needs to be to succeed.

Adapting the range of available business models in order to broaden the market is a good thing. The problem I have is with the phrase “Free-to-Play” (as well as some of the sleazier implementations). The term “free” insinuates something  provided by the generosity of the developer without compensation on the part of the recipient. That, of course, is only partially true. Generally speaking, F2P titles are more of a trial, the purpose being to hook the potential consumer and then convert them to a paying customer at which point the “real” game becomes available. President Satoru Iwata of Nintendo referred to the model as “Free-to-Start” earlier this year and I think that’s closer to the truth. These MMOs offer an extended trial, they are not truly “free.” Sure, some gamers manage to play without ever spending a dime, but it’s clear from the way these games are designed (and from the obvious need for studios to make money) that this is not the intended outcome. As an industry, MMO developers and video game studios in general need to come up with a better way to communicate the intentions of their business models and game design such that there is more integrity between what we the consumers are told and what we actually experience.

This is pretty much how I looked when I found out how much I had to pay to access

This is pretty much how I looked when I found out how much I had to pay to access “hide head slot” account wide in SWTOR.

However studios are not the only guilty party here. The problems associated with the Free-to-Play business model may have been initiated by the MMO publishers who egregiously misused the word “free” but the atmosphere has been made decidedly worse by the overall mindset F2P has cultivated in the wider gaming community. In the mind of the average gamer, Free-to-Play has devalued gaming software. If you’ve ever participated in an MMO economy, you’ve experienced this first hand. If someone grossly undercuts your product it hurts the overall market value; suddenly everyone has to start dropping prices lower and lower to try and compete. With Free-to-Play it is worse because the notion of “free” is false—you’re not actually trying to sell a product for less, only appearing to— nevertheless it functions similarly to undercutting in an MMO economy in that it leaves the consumer questioning why other developers are charging when the F2P studio is “giving it away.” We start to expect free and purchasing content becomes the outlier. Video game development is a business, games survive or die depending on whether the development is subsidized by paying customers—just look at Infinite Crisis. If we as consumers play hundreds of hours in a Free-to-Play game without spending a dime and it goes under, it is partially our fault for expecting to continue to receive goods without compensating the provider. Nevertheless, the blame still rests primarily on the publishers; it is precisely their insistence on the phrase “Free-to-Play” that has devalued the worth of a game in the average consumer’s mind.

Ultimately what it comes down to for me is that I want studios to be honest about what they are offering. Unless they are pro bono, the product they are offering is never truly free. However as consumers and players, we need to reengage the reality that games do not make themselves out of rainbows and wishes, they require cold hard cash. I think this will correct itself over time, in fact, I believe it already has begun to do so. I have a lot more faith in the current F2P/ B2P market despite the erroneous name due to some of the more recent business models including ESO, WIldStar, and Trove. All three provide a quality game with complete features either for free or for a base price and then monetize in a way that for the most part does not devalue the game nor the buyer’s intelligence. With respect to Trove and WildStar, you genuinely will be getting “the game” for free. While I still detest the phrase, at least both titles appear to be taking it seriously using cash shop items as an extension of the base experience rather than a means to sell back to the player core systems required for a full feature experience.

Trove is an excellent game, but will players pay for the quality content Trion is producing or simply take the freebies while they can?

Trove is an excellent game, but will players pay for the quality content Trion is producing or simply take the freebies while they can?

Still, I worry that all of this will hurt games that would otherwise be successful. The damage has already been done with regard to devaluing video game content in the collective mind of the consumers. Take Trove, for instance. It’s an amazing game but I fear that given the market the developers have already felt pressured to be overly generous just to stay competitive. This is the result of needing to keep up with the competition that has already bottomed out the market value and will lead to too many people playing the game without paying a dime regardless of quality. In the end, “Free-to-Play” as it has been marketed was short-sighted and self-defeating. The business model that the phrase represents within the MMO genre is often fine, but the damage the phrase has caused to player perception with regard to game value has already corroded the marketplace. Yes, I believe the free market will eventually correct the issue, but how many good games will become a causality simply because the word “free” was so badly misused?

MMO developers and publishers, I have one request of you in your marketing endeavors: precision of language, please.