Monday, February 13, 2012

WoT: What's The Alternative to Free To Play?

A question put to me last week has laid the foundation for this weeks blog posts. It is relatively easy to say "I don't like this" but not so easy to come up with interesting, viable alternatives to those dislikes. I've done a lot of talking about the Free To Play mode in World of Tanks and how I feel it is motivated by profit which ultimately hurts the players.

I will again say, for the record, that I have no problem with the company making money off their product. I have, and continue to put money into WoT with few regrets. I just wish it was slightly different or that more options existed and this week I will be answering some questions posed by Stormtrail who is also a fan of World of Tanks, and not afraid to call me on some of the crap I spew here :)

1) What pricing model would you prefer?

This is the question, isn't it? If I don't like what's on offer then what would I propose? I think free to play is a good idea because it gets players through the door. WoT is a player-vs-player game only. There is nothing else on offer so it is dependent on a sizable player population. Paying players don't care if the players they play with, and against, are paying or free. We just want them there. No players means no fun.

If the game was a traditional pay-to-play with a fee for the box I dread to think what the daily numbers would be, especially on the North American server where populations are very low compared to the EU and Russia. This could only hurt the game and with so many games starting in the 'traditional' pay-to-play mode and quickly dropping it to keep players (RIFT, Star Trek) it is apparent that this is the way to go for gaming success and/or survival.

There are a number of alternatives (additions really) to the current WoT pricing model I would be in favor of.

Downloadable Content

Lets face it- anything in the game can be bought (except, at the moment, wins as I maintain WoT is not ammo aside). Many players (Stormtrail included) are grinding away on the US line in anticipation of the changes which will give additional tanks, slots, and in this case, a premium tank (normally premium tanks can only be bought with real money in the form of gold so this is like a 'freebie'). I on the other hand am considering converting some of my 550,000 free experience to unlock the entire US heavy tree, buy the T34, and wait for it to go premium. I could also then skip the rest of my IS4 grind and unlock the IS7........... It would be costly, however, as I've not unlocked a lot of US heavies (I figure $80) so it isn't likely I'll do it even though there is some debate on weather or not the tank will actually be for sale in the store later. (I'd rather just drop $30 on it if it turns out to be good to be honest).

My point is that I can buy any tank I like with free experience, so why not have downloadable content for cash? The content, in this case, would be tanks. I could buy the "IS7 package" or the "Russian Heavy Package" which would save me the time of playing through some tanks I don't like (sorry everyone I don't like the IS4 yet even though that makes me a freak because its THE BEST TANK EVER, or so I'm told). I'm also dying to try the Maus, but who has the time to grind through all those other tanks (many that I'm not remotely interested in playing). The option is already there in the form of 'free experience' so why hide the fact I can buy tanks? In fact, it would save me the time of buying gold, then converting the free experience, and then unlocking the tank, and then buying the tank, and.... you get the idea.

Additional money making ideas (if you use any of these WoT, my fee is free gold for life and/or a moderator position) could include downloadable content in the form of cool skins, decals for your tank, garages, etc. People love that, and most of its available in game anyway.

One of the potential arguments is that if this were available people could jump into top-end tanks immediately and cause havok in the game with their 'noobness'. So what? Lots of top-tier players aren't very good and currently anyone can buy a Lowe and grind out the free experience and convert it to buy the top tank they want. Another problem is that the lower tiers may become ghost towns as 'everyone' plays the top tiers. I personally don't think this would happen as the top tier tanks are too expensive to use exclusively even with a premium account. This is another one of my pet-peeves which which leads me into some of my other ideas for pricing/gaming alternatives which I'll talk about this week. Among them are:

  1. Extra Premium- a two-tier pricing model for premium accounts.
  2. Faction Rewards/Faction Battles- allegiance to the country of your choice yields perks and rewards.

I will also be revisiting the credit system which is a common complaint on the forums and in chat. This is an essential component of the game and one that I think they've got wrong. I've argued this point before, but I don't think any customer should be limited in their game-play options once they've paid. It's bad business and one that I know is pretty pervasive in the MMO community (seen in the 'grind' players are put through to reach a goal). It turns the 'grind' into the focal point of the game, and the game-objectives into a side show.... but more on all this tomorrow!


  1. "gold ammo aside"

    Are you saying gold ammo isn't significantly stronger than standard ammo? Back during beta it really seemed like gold ammo - even in the hands of only several players on a team - would make a lot of difference.

  2. No, no, it's very powerful indeeed and, if used exculsively would surely buy you some wins. I realize this but don't think its a huge problem in the random battles. It's used in Clan Wars where the stakes are land (which nets your clan gold, which is used on gold ammo I presume). I say it's not a problem in randoms without really knowing as there is no way of actually telling if someone is using gold ammo. Im my 5.5k matches I can only cofirm a couple cases where it was used on me (I was in tanks that were pretty invlunerable to normal ammo given the tank that was attacking me) and I have used it very sparingly myself (20-sih matches or so in the last 3k battles when it was a very close match and my competitive nature DEMANDED a win which I didn't always get).

    You are right, if a platoon of guys all used gold ammo they could shred everyone in the battle. The potential to 'buy wins' is there, then, but due to the nature of the randoms (you still have to depend on 14 other people...12 if in a platoon) and the cost involved vs. the reward (winning a single random battle isn't a big deal really) I don't see it as a problem. The forums never discuss it, for intstance, and if it was a problem or even percieved as a problem it would get lost of press, trust me. The recent T-59 is OP discussions (which led to the removal of that tank from the store) is a good example. There were hundreds of posts about that tank being overpowered (even though it really wasn't, but that's another topic all together) but very little on gold ammo and its use.

  3. You do NOT want tanks accessible without having to play any experience. It already is a problem now when only one of the top tier tanks is, erm, inexperienced. Imagine a team with 5 such people. The horror! And now imagine the amount of whining and raging when those people get their ass handed by a lower tier tank: "I have the best tank, I should be able to kill them all, you are a cheater, yadda yadda". Terrible idea.

  4. My point is that it is already possible and currently happening. Some of the premium tanks are at the top of the list at the start of a match. Whenever I see a Churchill as the top tank I have to laugh.... These can be purchased regardless of experience.

    The idea that a player will drive the tank better (or be a better player in general) because he has 'grinded' there is nice, in theory, but I don't think it really happens that way. I've been in all sorts of high tier matches with high tier tanks that don't seem to have clue.

    You could also limit the 'downloadable content' so that, say, once you hit Tier 8 in a given tree, then you could purchase the 'pack' which would open the next 2 top tanks....or something like that.

    As far as the whining and raging, well I can't exactly do anything about that! It's going to happen no matter what.