Landmark Monetization - Is There Such a Thing as Pay2Win in a Building Game?

Landmark Monetization - Is There Such a Thing as Pay2Win in a Building Game?

EQN Landmark will be a free-to-play game. This has been known for some time; indeed, John Smedley announced some time back that all SOE games going forward will follow the free-to-play model. Competitive games like Planetside 2 or League of Legends follow their sets of rules for what is ethical and appropriate to sell in a cash shop and what isn't. The most elemental rule-of-thumb is, Don't Sell Power. But how does that apply to a building game, like Landmark? Is there such a thing as power in Landmark? Is there such a thing as competition, and if so, how does it manifest if not in direct conflict between players? Will the competition take the form of who can build the best, prettiest, most imposing buildings? If so, then would the cosmetic purchases that typically constitute the bread-and-butter of an ethical cash shop in any other game suddenly be *power*, something that confers an unfair advantage upon the purchaser?

Difficult questions, on a subject I will revisit multiple times in the coming months as more details emerge and the NDA is lifted. This week, I reached out to the community to guage their opinions on what would, and wouldn't be appropriate to sell for real money in the Landmark microtransaction shop. Here's what some players had to say.

  • "I'd be ok with purchasing vanity items only. Anything else is pay to win, pay for advantage etc. It's really really really something I hope doesn't show up in EQN, as it's currently the only thing that would keep me from playing."
  • "I don't necessarily have a strong opinion (for or against) microtransactions. However, I would really like to see monthly fee option as a type of "premium membership" that provides guaranteed benefits each month. I could go play another MMO (WoW for example) and pay $15 a month and not really get anything for my money. I'm ok paying that $15 for a landmark membership (even though I COULD play for free) because I'm supporting the business and also getting something in return in the form of station cash or whatever other hypothetical perks.
    (Editor's note: This is a confirmed feature, as per SOE's latest unified-subscription plans for their entire portfolio of games.)

  • "The one thing that will upset me is if the only way I can get increased inventory or bank space is by paying for it by a microtransaction. It just seems like a really low blow to me. I'd probably pay it, but I would go out of my way to avoid paying for anything else I could possibly avoid."

  • "Personally I think that monetization should be a booster, not a mark of privilege. I'm kind of sick of seeing things that people can get ONLY by paying, such as special mounts, or keys to a lockbox that you find ALL OVER the place. (Yes I'm looking at you Neverwinter.) The blatant and obvious attempt to shove the monetization into your face is really irritating. I am of the opinion that anything you can get through monetization, you should also be able to get in game, even if it's quite difficult. So if you have a chance to get a drop for a coin, and you need about a hundred of these fairly rare coins to get a key, and you need a certain number of these keys to open more and more rare boxes, then perhaps you could instead spend a dollar, and get the key without having to do the extra work. So time-saving, avoid-the-grind, simplification monetization, yes. Items, abilities, etc only available for those who can afford them? No."

  • "I think anything sold in the cash shop should be able to be re-sold in-game with game currency. Whether that's an XP pot or a name change token, if I buy it for $5 in the cash should I should be able to re-sell it for 500 platinum (or whatever I deem fit). This tears down the wall between the paying and the non-paying and doesn't put anything out of reach of the non-paying, which I think is extremely healthy for a game's social dynamic."

  • "If an increased amount or size of a plot is behind a paywall I'd be upset. If you could also earn it through normal progression/play I'd be okay with that."

  • "The two things you cannot buy or sell are integrity and respect. See Path of Exile cash shop for f2p micro transactions done right. Oh and if there are lockboxes or RNG items (which are a pox on the industry) I am so outta here."

  • "I'm willing to spend about 10-15$ / month in every game that I play, but I refuse to play games that make me feel like I'm constantly being asked to make additional purchases beyond that. My preference would be some kind of tiered sub plan (which would include all of the maintenance costs on my 'X' claims/tier) with a bit of SOE Cash that I could save to buy the props that I want (moving doors / windows / fireworks launchers etc). This is the absolute easiest plan for me, just set it up and go without having to actually remember to buy the SOE Cash each month, but it would have to be very delicately put together so as to seem like people are getting a solid value for their real-world money each month. If they can't manage a tiered sub plan, then I would rather there be no sub plan at all & that we just pay onesie-twosie for the items that we want. This would allow people to purchase items a la carte and stock up SOE cash for specialty costumes and such."

  • "I'm all for microtransaction (hard currency) payments for anything which does not give direct power to your character. Cosmetics, bank slots, server transfers, name changes, etc. I do think, however, that ALL items in game should be attainable through in-game currency. Two possible options are that each item is purchasable directly with both soft currency and hard currency, or that there is some method to transfer soft currency into hard currency. Personally, I think GW2 handles this elegantly, with a fluctuating conversion rate based on demand. I wouldn't mind seeing EQN(L) be based on this model."

  • "I'm really hoping that SOE will make most of their money from taking a % of player sales. A subscription is fine, but as someone else noted, if it is like Planetside 2 that will be disappointing. Something more like league of legends, where the vast majority of items in the store are cosmetic would be preferable, assuming a percent of player sales isn't enough money."

  • "Ah, I so long for the days of the original Everquest monthly reoccurring subscription. I liked memberships personally you had access to the entire game and everyone was on the same playing field, but most of all what I liked most was that it created a more mature player base. 10 years ago I'd rarely see anyone under the age of like 18, mostly I'm assuming because back then parents didn't so freely disperse their credit cards to their children."

  • "They're already selling pretty much everything in the founder's packs. Inventory/vault space, better tools, better results from crafting, more resources from gathering, cosmetic clothing...I guess I'm okay with all of that because I did in fact buy one of those packs. I do hope the non-cosmetic items are craftable (we know the vault access is) and that an optional subscription will be available that makes additional purchases unnecessary."

  • "Keeping an open mind on this one. For example some kind of resource gain boost. Someone getting material faster than me doesn't really matter. I'm not racing against anyone. Not every build is going to be about stockpiling vast amounts of resources, most are going to be about creativity and design. I don't see how I could ever really be bothered that some guy can gather 20% faster than I can. Hell, I probably wouldn't even notice. The only thing I could think of that would seem to be inappropriate would be materials that can ONLY be purchased from the shop, rather than found in the world, created, or resold by another player."

  • "P2W in a building game? Isn't that exactly what they're offering us? You can outright buy the templates and the resources to make just about anything you want. You're just buying them from other players instead of straight from SOE. Not complaining."

  • "I should never feel like I have to pay an additional amount to have a full experience if I'm paying a $15/mo subscription. Whatever else you want to do to gouge the F2P players, I don't care. But if it's like Planetside 2 where the subscription is just the beginning of the spending treadmill, I'm going to be pretty disappointed."

  • "The only thing I'm really okay with for microtransactions is xp boosts. I hate when cosmetic items are put in a cash shop, I love customizing my character and actually earning or making my own cosmetic items in the game."

A dizzying array of opinions, with little overwhelming consensus - though perhaps the cosmetic-sales-only camp wins out by a certain margin. Despite the great wealth of opinion to be found in this piece, this is only the smallest segment of a far greater conversation currently taking place. Join the ongoing discussion on reddit, or let us know here in the comments - what do you think Landmark's cash shop policies should be? 

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About the Author

Filip “I Don't Need No Alias” Nonkovic has been gaming since an early age. Coming into this land of colorful lights and sounds from the wrong side of the iron curtain, his parents got him an NES for his birthday. He makes his living as a writer. When he isn't writing plays and poems by the light of one fitful candle late at night, he's gaming. Filip favors hybrid, one-man-army classes in online games, which he has been playing since the late-90s. He is a staff writer for EQHammer, with a particular fondness for anything to do with voxels, and an interest in analyzing the ever-changing relationship between developer and gamer.