Subscription-based MMOs used to be everywhere. There was a time when you couldn’t walk outside without accidentally bumping into one. During World of Warcraft’s heyday pretenders to the throne rose from all corners of the internet, Warhammer Online and Aion are two which spring to mind. Recently though, the games industry has seen a shift towards the free-to-play business model which often sees user numbers increase along with income boost which exceed prior revenue levels. As time has worn on, this system has become something of a norm in the industry and the majority of new MMOs have used this business model. Carbine Studios’ latest, Wildstar, is different in that it clings to the subscription model and adds in a little something else; the CREDD system.
CREDD (Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development) in its simplest form is a resource which can be purchased directly from Carbine for $19.99 and exchanged for a month of game-time. It’s not exactly something new, E.V.E has been using a similar system with PLEX for the past 6 years and the game’s still seeing increases in user figures. While there are big differences between E.V.E and Wildstar, one has humongous fleets of players tearing around in spaceships while the other has angry Chihuahua things on steroids, in both titles they fill the same role; a subscription option purchased by players from players.
It does raise a concern though; will CREDD help Wildstar’s economy gain the kind of stability many countries in the real world would kill for, or turn it into a maelstrom of monetary madness?
NCSoft and Carbine expect people to purchase CREDD to push up their own Wildstar funds as a person already happy to pay the subscription fee ($14.99 a month) but who may not have enough time to go earn the gold themselves for luxuries. In other games of this type, this often leads to the nefarious purchase of gold from a gold seller. By essentially cutting out the middle man and providing a method for players to purchase gold directly from Carbine. More to the point, it could actually curb gold selling as a problem to be dealt with.
The reason people usually buy gold is to get better stuff, often disregarding the risks that come from using suspicious websites which are selling currency often obtained by immoral means. At its most basic, this is a black market. Both buying and selling gold are illegal. Both could, in theory, lead to legal repercussions (although this is incredibly rare). By offering players a legal way to transfer real money for digital money, players who might be tempted to go down the route of buying gold from illegal sites. This would severely lower demand for gold-selling services and lead to supply drying up. A drop in supply would lead to the price pushing up and demand dropping and so on.
Perfect? Well probably not when you take a gander at the other side of the CREDD exchange. The player who’s buying the CREDD may find that they can purchase the necessary currency from a third-party at a cost lower than the standard subscription free. At first glance this might sound like a totally victimless situation. Carbine gets their CREDD payment, the seller receives currency, the buyer saved money, and the third-party gets a little cash. However, that’s not necessarily the case. It reduces the value of CREDD to a point less than that paid at source. This would push its in-game value down until it becomes so low the alternative is worthless and buying gold from the black market becomes the more attractive option.
Whether or not it will pan out is up in the air. Looking away from third-party gold sales for a moment though there are other possible benefits to it – not to mention disadvantages.
By putting a set price on CREDD the inflation on servers can be slowed or even stopped. Assuming everyone who makes a great deal of currency within Wildstar is going to be using that money to buy CREDD, the actual price of currency could stablise as a ‘standard’ price formed by supply and demand. If 100 sellers bought CREDD at $19.99 each and 100 buyers happily pay 10 platinum for it then you know that the average value is 10 platinum. However if 200 players want to buy it but only 100 are selling it, the price in platinum will jump up as CREDD suppliers see the speed it sells. Up and down it will go until a stable level forms where demand and supply meet perfectly in equilibrium.
Sure, as both fluctuate the price will jump but after a while a standard price is likely to form if you assume no external factors sneak in. Of course by the same notion as above, if demand outstrips supply the price will skyrocket and terrible inflation will set in. For the most part though, economies are fairly good at self regulation when no powerful outside influences are at hand.
But, there are outside influences. Other games.
Any experienced MMO player has seen the World of Warcraft expansion exodus in full swing. For several months surrounding the release of a new batch of content, people flock away from other MMOs to return to World of Warcraft for the new stuff before coming back. At times like this it’s nice to think that there will be no effect because both supply and demand will fall. That’s assuming a little too much though.
World of Warcraft can’t be played for free. Expansions have to be purchased and there’s no system for buying game-time with gold. However the people who have a larger disposable income will not see this as an issue and flock to the new shiny things before returning. During these periods then, the demand for CREDD will explode upwards as gamers who pay for their Wildstar time through CREDD due to a lack of available funds (that’s not to say everyone who buys CREDD is in this situation of course) keep playing. Meanwhile those who make up the supply lines are not around to fulfill the supply in Wildstar. Prices soar and those who rely upon using their game-time to earn currency of their next month’s play are trapped. Do they try to compete with everyone else to purchase at an inflated price, or go for a subscription purchase and lose out on necessities?
Where CREDD’s value will actually rest in Wildstar depends upon how much time it takes to earn currency in-game. If a casual player can make 50 gold in 2 hours play in an afternoon and CREDD costs 10 platinum (this being 100 gold) then they have to play for 20 days to pay their dues. If you can call it play when you’re earning the currency to pay for your time. Could this lead to a ‘minimum wage’ being set in Wildstar inadvertently by the arrival of CREDD? Could it actually become a second job rather than a game, where you work for 20 days to get 10 days of free playtime.
Conglomerates may form. Whole industries could be monopolized on a server to server basis by commercially-minded players. CREDD becomes a form of investment rather than a way to get some gold. Groups invest in the digital currency to protect themselves in the future much like actual companies do out in the real world?
There are so many other questions raised by the existence of CREDD that it’s a little too early to start predicting what could happen because, like everything in life, nothing is certain. Who saw the credit crunch coming? Hell no-one foresaw the 1983 games industry crash which almost destroyed the entire American market, and probably would have if it weren’t for a few opportunistic manufacturers capitalizing on the failure of Atari and others.
With so many economic factors possibly feeding into this there’s literally too much to talk about on CREDD than one person can think of. Why not leave your thoughts concerns on the matter in the comments box down below.