I am so over having cash shops embedded in my MMOs. One hundred percent, totally, totally over it.
Almost three years ago I wrote that for some, pay-for-hats is pay-to-win and while that post got a lot of pushback at the time I think we’re starting to see Cosmetic Fatigue now that a huge swath of the MMO playerbase is older and more casual. It turns out that many people currently play MMOs to make their character look good, and when your only alternative for the best / newest (or any at all in some cases) outfits or furniture or hats or mounts is dropping cash, it’s pretty demoralizing.
I spent $5 on a pair of sunglasses in Blade & Soul, took a screenshot, and promptly never logged into the game again. I wouldn’t even have remembered them if I wasn’t writing a rant on cash shop purchases. On the other hand, I spent weeks running Emerald Isle meta-events in RIFT classic for an absurd hat, and when I look back at some of my favorite moments in gaming, I think about that hat.
I earned that hat. When I think about it or see it in screenshots (or in the old days logged on and looked at it) I have good memories that make me smile. It’s not a huge deal, but that hat means something to me, something more than dropping pocket change and getting a hit of instant gratification.
I fear that in most MMOs, this is no longer an experience that people get to have.
And that’s just my own personal cosmetics hobby horse. I could talk about how the atrocious pay-to-win cash shop in ArcheAge caused massive imbalance in the North American release and chased people away from a game that was literally beloved — and with good reason — in the shop-free alpha and beta periods. I could talk about how the $30 price tag on outfits in Black Desert has killed my interest in the game completely, or how selling gear with stats is walking a pretty thin pay-to-win line.
I could talk about how the feller and I were all excited to get back into the ostensibly free-to-play SWTOR after seeing The Force Awakens, until he realized about 4 levels in that he has to pay cash to use more than one hotbar and quit rather than be nickle and dimed. Or how about that moment that we’ve all had trying out the latest cash-shop-centric game where you realize that you’ve being given woefully inadequate bag space and character slots and XP gathering rates to force you to shell out cash right now?
I have absolutely no problem paying for games, either once or as a regular subscription. But this fantastic world of cash shops that we’ve all bought into, my play experience is becoming more and more like having my own assigned panhandler who asks me for spare change every couple of hours. There are things blinking on my screen and messages in my mailbox and contextual tooltips and new NPC symbols and lockboxes in my loot drops and they all want cash, all the time.
Say what you will about WoW — and there is plenty to say — but at least as of this moment in time it doesn’t constantly badger me to spend more money.
MMO cash shops: you ruin games and you’re never going to go away. You suck.