F2P MMO Cash Shops
I’ve played several Free-to-Play games that have what I colloquially refer to as “cash shops”. These are in-game interfaces that take some kind of currency that can typically only be obtained by an expenditure of real world money.
Thus far, my favorites have been The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each of them has something I like.
For The Lord of the Rings Online, you can purchase piles of Turbine Points for use in the LOTRO Store, or you can acquire TP through finishing optional deeds in the course of playing the game. Kill 30 wolves here, get 5 points. Use a skill 150 times, get 10. Finish this much of the storyline, get 20. Also, you can do them again and again courtesy of having multiple characters which allows you to effectively grind these points. Grinding is right, as many of these deeds are tedious time wasters. You often get a bigger bang for you buck if you just buy the points outright or even subscribe for the monthly stipend. I love this alternative way of getting points though. Further, they consistently add wonderful items to the LOTRO Store like extra mounts, cosmetic equipment, and more. Some of the more straight-forward purchases are in fact things that I think should be available from every cash shop such as character slots, more inventory space, and convenience skills/items. This is pretty much the ultimate example of an in-game store (it could be better, but not by much).
In Star Trek Online, you can purchase Zen (used to be Cryptic Points) to spend in the Zen Store (used to be the Cryptic Store). You can acquire Zen in another way though… by selling refined dilithium to other players via the dilithium exchange. The rates change based on the demand, so keep an eye on it if you want to make a bundle. You can also sell Zen in exchange for refined dilithium, so it does go both ways. Refined dilithium can be made in a variety of ways in the game, but it’s a primary ingredient for a ridiculous number of game mechanics and I know I’m forever running out. The store offers my favorite staples like ship costumes, extra character slots, extra room for bridge officers, ships, bank, account storage, inventory, the list goes on. Further, you can buy whole new ships with special abilities and unique appearances and many of them are Zen Store specific. My favorite purchase to date has been the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit. The developers are regularly adding stuff to this store, so it’s often a joy to keep an eye on it.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has had its Cartel Store for a very short time, so it’s got plenty to grow into. I’m disappointed that it didn’t have spare character slots for sale since this would appeal to my friends. Further, I’d like to see a wallet increase (F2P has a 200k credit cap but if you throw some money at the game you get a 350k cap for being “Preferred Status”) and I think they could make a good business out of offering stacks of companion gifts through the store. Thus far, they have a few cool suits of gear (no set bonuses unfortunately) and some of the more standard purchases for the F2P crowd (extra inventory, weekly passes to flashpoints, etc). At this stage, there’s two really cool things that the Cartel Store allows. One is that you can preview the gear from the store on your character without leaving the store. Very nice. The other is that you can spend Cartel Coins on other parts of the game like expanding your bank or inventory normally but also on anything on your Legacy perks pages. This allows your lower level characters to get some of those fancier items without having to have a huge pile of credits on hand. That said, I’m holding onto my pile of Coins until I see some things I just can’t live without. So far the only thing that’s remotely appealed to me has been the Carbon Freezing Chamber animation and that’s more whimsy than anything else.
So, there you have it. Cash shops are here to stay, but they certainly add something fun to the game. Plus, when I have some down time I love to go shopping. It’s fun to see what’s available. All the developers need to do is frequently add more stuff to the store. If they ever stop and the store stagnates for too long, well, they’re in trouble.
Until next time!
P.S. “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.” – Benjamin Franklin