Are you hurt by your neighbor’s Rolls Royce?

Diminishing Returns is pondering the $50 hobby horse in LotRO, and thinks that it is like the tree in the forest philosophical dilemma: “Players’ rage is not directed at the actual horse (which they will rarely encounter) but the idea of the horse and what it represents.” Most people agree that Free2Play designs in which the free players are armed with sticks while the paying players get mega-cannons are bad (I hear WarZ works like that). But what about items shops selling expensive fluff? Nobody really has an in-game advantage by buying an expensive mount or pet. So on the other side nobody really has an in-game disadvantage by some other player owning an expensive mount or pet. The only “hurt” it produces is jealousy.

Now being jealous of what other people have is a very natural reaction. In a way one could say that it is the force that powers the “American Dream”. Of course the downside is that it also was the force behind the sub-prime mortgage financial disaster, because if you need to keep up with the Joneses you might make some unwise financial decisions. But ultimately that is a question of self-control. Are you really hurt by your neighbor driving a Rolls Royce? It doesn’t make your car drive any worse, it only makes it look worse in comparison.

With Free2Play games there is another factor to consider: The people buying the $50 hobby horse are effectively financing the game for those who pay nothing. If everybody decided to pay nothing and just play for free, the game would be closed down after a few months. As much as the entitlement kids seem to think otherwise, game companies are not charities; they are businesses that need to make money to pay their employees and investors. If you see somebody with a $50 hobby horse in Lord of the Rings Online, you should /thank him instead of raging at him. It is him who is paying the game for you, and that merits some gratitude.

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19 Responses to “Are you hurt by your neighbor’s Rolls Royce?”

  1. Loque Nahak says:

    > Let me get that straight: You would
    > rather that Turbine makes no money
    > and shuts the game down than allow
    > them to "break your immersion"?
    > Sounds extremely selfish to me.

    I guess he was referring to the bad idea of adding a "silly/funny" item in the game. That would work in WoW, where you can see dancing pumpkins and other funny stuff. But not in a game like this.

  2. Unknown says:

    Tobold Stoutfoot said…

    There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH.

    Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to "break your immersion"? Sounds extremely selfish to me.

    5/12/12 13:58

    Immersion is more important to some of us than it is to others. Those of us who are playing solely for immersion will leave to find some other game to play when we can no longer find it in our current game.

    I want gaming companies to make money, I am paying them to provide me with immersion.

  3. Dàchéng says:

    Tobold, you wrote:

    Nobody really has an in-game advantage by buying an expensive mount or pet

    It depends what game you are playing. If you're playing the part of an adventurer, then no, you are not hurt. But if you a pet- or mount-collector, then yes, you are hurt. You cannot have a complete collection without paying real money.

    What is fluff to the raider or leveller or explorer is not fluff to the collector. And LotRO, like most MMORPGs, includes all kinds of players, not just people who play the way you do.

  4. 4c22cb52-3723-11e0-95c0-000bcdcb2996 says:

    I haven't played WarZ in a couple of weeks but unless they changed everything that's just not true.

    You can buy a baseball bat with nails in it for cash. That's about it as far as weapons.

    It's the same thing you see with premium tanks in WoT; a lot of people resent the people who buy these tanks for being wallet warriors.

    People don't think about these things rationally; people's economic instincts are based on a 30 person hunter gatherer troop. It doesn't work for the economics of MMOs.

  5. Michael says:

    Pet peeve. You mean envy, not jealousy.

    Envy is when you see someone with more than you, and want what they have. Jealousy is when you see someone wanting what you have, and you don't want to give it up. I covet your girlfriend, I am envious. You covet my girlfriend, I am jealous.

    And yeah, envy is almost never a good thing. In real life someone else having a bigger house, a nicer car, a higher salary, does not in any way _reduce_ my house, car, or salary. There's no harm done to you, so envy cannot be justified.

    In games, if someone else buying stuff really does cause harm to you (like they could use their bought stuff to lessen your own independent enjoyment of the game), then that seems more like really shitty game design, than a problem with cash shops. In an ideal game other players would always improve your gaming experience, never detracting for your own enjoyment.

  6. Ephemeron says:

    "Players’ rage is not directed at the actual horse (which they will rarely encounter) but the idea of the horse and what it represents."

    Or is it? Let's consider two alternate scenarios:

    A) Turbine adds an obviously cartoonish hobby horse as a normal in-game drop/reputation award.
    B) Turbine adds a lore-appropriate Numenorian Swift Steed via the cash store.

    Which of the two scenarios is likely to generate greater outrage?

  7. Gerry Quinn says:

    I suppose there is an issue with the culture of the MMORPG environment itself – Blizzard can put just about anything into WoW without problems because their world is comic fantasy steampunk, and sparkle ponies are just another thing (actually this robust-to-modification world may be part of the secret of their success, irrespective of the cash shop). Middle Earth is intrinsically less suited to embracing such flashy stuff.

  8. dobablo says:

    Assuming their is no gameplay impact then the player is not harmed, however an item that is hugely immersion breaking does harm the gameplay of others. Paid for re-skins should not trample the 4th wall. A mûmak or sparkly pony would be strange but justifiable so it would work. A hobby horse or Toyota Tacoma would not.

  9. Tobold Stoutfoot says:

    There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH.

    Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to "break your immersion"? Sounds extremely selfish to me.

  10. Helistar says:

    Funny, you don't hear these complaints about Blizz, although their cash shop is a more naked money grab than even a F2P's cash store.

    That's because 90% of the WoW playerbase does not even *know* that there is a cash shop….. it's not like they have multiple "store" buttons in every UI window, you know :)

  11. spinksville says:

    I'm hurt if not enough people want to buy the super expensive daft hobby horse to support the game. I don't actually understand why anyone would want one of these, regardless of price.

    I wouldn't mind giving them money if they need it, but I won't buy something overpriced that I don't want in order to do it.

  12. asmiroth says:

    Where were you when the sparkle pony happened?

  13. Redbeard says:

    Funny, you don't hear these complaints about Blizz, although their cash shop is a more naked money grab than even a F2P's cash store.

  14. Loque Nahak says:

    > I don't mind my neighbours Rolls
    > Royce, but I do mind that some
    > people buy a Rolls Royce out of
    > pocket change while others barely
    > have enough to pay for a roof over
    > their head and food on the table

    No need to talk about expensive cars. As you can see, we're here typing random stuff on a gaming blog, while others are begging for a dollar under the rain (or almost dead of starvation).

    As long as people buy things with LEGALLY earned money, who cares about WHAT and WHY? It's just jealousy.

  15. Helistar says:

    It seems to me that the rage is against Turbine and not against other players who have (not yet, isn't it on the test server only atm?) bought the horse.

    I also agree very much with Chris K.: Turbine seems to do a nice job of alienating their RP base. Maybe it's a lot smaller than we think it is…. but is it really smaller than the number of people who will buy the horse?

  16. Ulrik says:

    I don't mind my neighbours Rolls Royce, but I do mind that some people buy a Rolls Royce out of pocket change while others barely have enough to pay for a roof over their head and food on the table.

    But a $50 horse isn't in the same league as a luxury car.

  17. Mika Hirvonen says:

    It's not the fool who asks, it's the fool who pays. Even if it's a hobby horse for the price of the proverbial Rolls Royce.

    Maybe this is kind of like those Nigerian 419 letters that are ridiculous on purpose. Rather than waste time convincing people who are skeptical or downright hostile, they make the initial offer ridiculous to weed them out. That way they can focus their marketing efforts on people who are most likely to pay.

  18. Chris K. says:

    Errr…. no

    There is nothing more immersion breaking, than seeing someone on a Hobby horse going with the same speed as your mount, IN FREAKING MIDDLE EARTH. The fact that Turbine thought this would be a nice addition to an MMO that features one of the largest RP communities says a lot about them.

    This is worse money-grabbing than the whole monocle thing in EVE and look how well that turned out for CCP. Companies are not charities, but cosumers shouldn't be treated as sheep either.

  19. Loque Nahak says:

    Unless you gather MILIONS of players, keeping a free game alive while making money at the same time (by selling hats and other cosmetic stuff) is extremely hard.

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