Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Wonders of PLEX

I would like to think of myself as a seasoned MMO player from my time in World of Warcraft, but the truth is that I'm probably still a noob. I have been playing video games all my life, but I have only been playing Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games for 2-3 years now. The fact is that MMOs have ruined my gaming experience everywhere else. I don't get as much enjoyment from playing a RPG on my xBox 360 as I used to. NPCs just don't seem as exciting as playing with real people from around the world.

Now the real kicker here is that I don't spend a lot of time raiding, or running PvP with corp-mates so a lot of my game time is spend playing solo. Just that fact that there is multiplayer aspects available is enough to keep me emerged in the game and ready to go at any moment. I dream about the day when I can get in a fleet with 8-10 of my corporation buddies and fly into worm-space make ourselves heard. But until that moment comes I'm content with leveling my skills and working the market so I can afford that shinny new battle-cruiser.

I have listened to several podcasts about MMOs and how the market is changing to 'free-to-play' models. Yet these large, sucessful MMOs are sticking to their subscription models. Which one is better depends on the context of the questions. The subscription model is better for the businesses because it is guaranteed income for them each month. Is it better for the player? An argument could be made that a free-to-play model with micro-transactions would make more money for the game designer because more people would play. If your player base increases by 500% then you only need to make 20% as much from each player to maintain your income.

Which pay-model is better for the player depends on what type of player you are. Some players are content paying 15 dollars a month and having that be it. I was one of those players, justifying that it was about the cost of going to a movie and getting popcorn and a coke but gave me many more hours of entertainment.

If you look at how much I have paid to play WoW over the last 2 years the number is a bit staggering. 24 months at 15 dollars a month is 360 dollars. But I also bought the game itself in the battle-chest for 40 dollars (which included Vanilla and the Burning Crusades). Then I bought the 2nd expansion (Wrath of the Litch King) for 40 dollars and the 3rd expansion (Cataclysm) for another 40 dollars. Bringing my grand total for 2 years of WoW to 480 dollars. Now that is a lot of money for a video game. Would I have spent as much in a free-to-play model? That is a hard question to answer.

Getting back to PLEX and what it has done for EVE. PLEX stands for 30 Day Concord Pilot License Extension. Basically it is an item that you can buy for real money that can be sold in-game for isk (Intersteller Kredit) or applied to you account to add 30 days of play time. Here is the BIG difference, PLEX can be bought for isk in-game and then used to add 30 days of play time. So you can pay for you game time with currency you have earned in-game; or more simply you can support your MMO habit by playing the game. This makes EVE self sustaining, which is the big difference between the near 500 dollars I have spent on World of Warcraft.

At this point I has spent about 35 dollars on EVE because I bought 2 PLEX after my 14 day free trial. I used one to convert my game from a trial account (by adding 30 days of play time) and I sold the other one on the market in-game for about 450 million isk. Notice that I did not have to purchase the game, it was free to download but I needed add game time to continue playing. Now you can go with the standard subscription model and continue to pay 15 dollars a month to play EVE, but they offer PLEX as an alternative approach. I paid for my PLEX with my paypal account rather than giving my credit card to another MMO. I hope to eventually cut my gaming costs down by at least 50%, or maybe more.

Now you may be thinking, isn't selling a PLEX in-game for isk counter intuitive to cutting my monthly gaming costs. Effectively I spent 35 dollars on EVE this month with no guarantee that I can make enough isk to afford a PLEX next month. The way I look at it is that it takes money to make money. I'm using the extra currency to buy bigger ships and more skill books that I can use to make more currency in-game. I'm pretty sure that I can't make 450 million isk in the next 30 days. However it is my goal to be able to eventually afford to play EVE by playing EVE. I just think that this is an interesting way to approach playing and paying for a MMO. Thoughts?

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