Time is Money

Tobold asks the question when will WoW go free to play and how that might be implemented. Blizzard has certainly learned the lesson all good gym owners know– the neglected subscription is the ticket to success. Who among us hasn’t joined a gym or health club with a monthly fee and ahem how shall we say… neglected to make full use of it?

I have no idea what the average is, but it must be a significant percentage of members continue to pay but, even with the best of intentions, stop going to the gym regularly or at all. Call it guilt, call it taking a wee break, call it preserving your access should you want to play, it’s still recurring income.

Blizz may get there, but I don’t think they’ve lost enough people to justify going F2P yet.

For other games that, in Tobold’s words, don’t justify a subscription when compared to many players’ level of interest or commitment, F2P is just the ticket. DDO, LotRO and now STO are three that have come back on my radar specifically because they went free to play. Being able to match my spend with my level of enthusiasm and or time commitment is a boon to me.

Even with a traditional sub though, in theory I could maximize my return on the sub by consuming as much content as my time budget would permit. If I were only interested in the leveling game in SWTOR, and played obsessively since launch, I might have consumed all the storylines for all the classes/factions by now. I could see SWTOR going free to play at some point following the path others have taken– pay for fluff, utility items, progress enhances and or access to content areas/modules for progression.

Eve however remains the anomaly. One can legally buy characters, and effectively in game currency as well, but one cannot buy progression. Eve progression is skill based and skill training is time based. The only way to continue to progress is to continue to subscribe.

So why doesn’t Eve just sell time?

If I really want to spend the next year working through a skill training plan (not an unheard of amount of time) why not let me buy the time now, apply it to those skills I want to train and be done with it? If I’m going to spend $180 to learn to fly a Titan, why spend it over twelve months?

One of Eve’s major barriers for new comers is never being able to catch up skillpoint wise to friends who have played much longer. Granted that progression can go in any number of directions, but to switch from a hardcore miner industrialist to a 0.0 capital ship pilot would take a very long time.

Seems like a natural progression for Eve. Eliminate subscriptions, sell a time equivalent for skill training, or just skill points out right to be applied to skills of a players choice, make that freely tradeable like PLEX and you would have the most flexible model in the universe. Players could truly exchange time for money in whatever proportion they wish.

Earn isk by playing, purchase training and it’s truly free to play. Buy isk or training and your time budget is preserved. Of course the one element that likely prevents this from upsetting the games balance is that to survive in Eve, you still need to learn how to be a good pilot. Something that you just can’t buy.

9 thoughts on “Time is Money”

  1. I imagine there would be an outcry from veteran players if EVE started selling Skill points but in actual fact there is already a system that effectively allows it. CCP allows you to sell trained characters legally for ISK (they even provide a trading forum for it) and ISK can be bough tfor real money through the plex system. While it is not as fine grained as buying individual skills you can buy characters who specialise in various areas. I even get the impression that there is something of an industry in farming characters for sale.

  2. I completely agree. Unfortunately, this would cause seizures in the veterans who “were there first” and derive ego from having more SP than new players. (Despite the fact that you can already legally purchase a high SP character in game with PLEX…)

    My thought is that EVE should be free to play, but new SP should cost. Subscribing gives the current returns, or you can cash in PLEX for a slightly lesser (but instant) SP gain.

    1. Right on the mark! I’d be back in Eve in no time if CCP allowed me to design a plan, purchase it upfront and get to playing! As it is, I lose interest in logging every 24 hours in order to update that tiny skill queue allowed. Once I reach those looong skills, I lose interest in logging in while the clock ticks on.

      I’ve started over in Eve many times, selling my previous character each time I start over. I’ve never had a character with more that 10k SP but selling off 3 of them has put me in billions of isk and very comfortable, except for the waiting while I skill up a new character to do something interesting with.

      It’s a shame they spent so many resources on virtual shirts and skirts when I wouldn’t bat an eye at paying monocle prices to just make the skill clock jump ahead.

  3. My main in EVE has about 70 million SP. I can fly dozens of ships, most of the sub-capitals in the game in fact. And I can fly them well. But I can only fly one at a time. At any time, depending on the ship I am flying, only a fraction of those SP are actually relevant. That horizontal progression also keeps new players competitive and relevant.

    Under your system, I would have split this up long ago. I’d likely have about 10 characters, with 1-20mil SP each, specialized into their own ship or role. All on their own accounts. I’d almost certainly need to run several at a time to compete at all, because multi-boxing would go rampant. Worse, CCP probably wouldn’t see another dime from me – I don’t have any real need for more SP at this point.

    1. Well, as far as I can tell, multiboxing is and will likely continue to be rampant. I’m pretty casual and have two accounts that greatly facillitate my enjoyment of the game when I’m unable to coordinate with other time limited corp mates. I think probably about 1/2 of the people I know in the game are multiboxing for the same reason and their play style varies wildly from missioning, industrial to full on null sec territorial wars. Couple that with the fact that high SP and highly skilled players can generally earn quite a bit of isk means that the cost of multiboxing could be reduced to almost nothing if the player is buying plex with isk off the market.

      Those players aren’t paying CCP a dime now.

      Ultimately, what drives the Eve economy is the destruction wrought by PvP (or to a lesser extent, PvE) losses, so there is a constant demand for isk by the consumptive players. Now, a player always has the option of buying PLEX for cash which can be used for game time or sold on the market for isk. The more you play, the more consumption, the greater need for isk which CCP could supply for cash.

      Even if you don’t “need” more SP, you’ll still need isk. And whether its pathology or not, I don’t know any Eve player who doesn’t have some skill training at all times.

      You could go play and earn isk or buy it from CCP. From CCP’s perspective (in my view), if the cost (in time) of earning sufficient isk to replace losses is too great, they run risk that a player will not renew the subscription. That’s lost revenue, separate and apart from the value of accelerating the revenue stream from a player and/or removing the revenue rate cap by letting a player buy all he can consume.

      The greater threat I see would be circumventing the market with a cash shop that sold essential goods directly (i.e., ships, ammo, etc.). That would destroy the industrial underpinnings of the economy and lead to great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      1. “Those players aren’t paying CCP a dime now.”

        Currently, for every active non-trial account CCP is collecting their ~15$. It doesn’t matter if it’s paid in Isk with PLEX or by credit card – CCP is still getting their money. It’s just a question of who pays it. The described system would mean you would literally have hundreds of thousands of accounts, trained just sufficiently to ‘accomplish role x’, all playing, none paying. The 100th time you got mobbed by one guy multiboxing 10 accounts of 5mil SP drake pilots, you’d realize what a big problem you had. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of 2mil SP macro miners, their accounts paid for permanently for10$ worth of skillpoints.

        That said, now that I’ve given it some more thought, I really would support a system where you paid CCP for a month of playtime, and got your month of skillpoints up front. Or your 6 months of play time, and 6 months of skillpoints up front. Or a year. That would continue to keep multiboxing reasonable, but let new players who want to dive in do so. That would be pretty cool actually.

  4. Okay, where is the 100 million SP player who is obligated to show up and tell you that “catching up” is not a problem and that you can effectively play the game in your tech I frigate?

    Yeah, the time lag of training is a double edged sword. It requires some discipline and patience, which is not a bad thing. But there I was at 70+ million skill points on getting into null sec and the alpha fleet ship I needed to fly was a tech II fit Maelstrom, for which I needed another 45 days to train because I chose to skill up in missiles and lasers in the past as opposed to guns. I am still a week away from being done and the war is pretty much over. I had to do my bit in the trusty old Drake.

  5. Seems like Wilhelm should have /flexed his mighty vet muscle and bought a Tech II Fit Maelstrom Pilot with ISK. Isn’t that the whole argument here?

    1. Heh, I suppose that is one option. But I spend most of my ISK on PLEX, so I don’t have the deep pockets required, and I am one of those people who grows attached to their character. Every bizarre skill in those 70 million skill points represents a story. I chose each one, often for some half-assed or pie-in-the-sky life doesn’t really work that way reason. The same goes for all four entries on my employment history.

      So I will grant that buying a character is a viable option. It just isn’t one I would ever consider. Somebody elses character would be a stranger.

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