Monday, December 5, 2011

Biting the hand that feeds them

Imagine a guy walks into your bar and orders a round of free drinks for everybody. While you are sipping the free beer he just paid for you, do you think it would be a good idea to insult the guy for his "obvious" lack of social skills that he is trying to overcome with his wallet? The only place on earth where that is considered acceptable social behavior is the wonderful world of multiplayer online games.

As this blog has comment moderation, most readers moderate their own language, and I rarely have to actually delete a comment. But when linked to my post about gold tanks from their World of Tanks Facebook page, I had to delete several comments full of hate, filled with insults and profanity directed against people spending money on World of Tanks. Wallet warriors was still the most polite term used.

I find that curious, because obviously if these players wouldn't pay for gold in World of Tanks, would be broke, and World of Tanks would close down. While patch 7.0 will introduce the option to pay for skins and logos, up to now everything you can pay for in World of Tanks gives you some advantage: Faster advancement, access to tanks that earn credits faster, more penetrating ammo. Thus insulting somebody for having paid for an in-game advantage is insulting him for having paid at all, for having effectively paid the game for you. Insulting the guy who pays for your free game is about as intelligent as insulting the guy who pays for your free beer.

Apart from the social aspects, these insults are also getting the facts wrong. Most of them are along the lines of only bad players paying for stuff in Free2Play games. But numerous surveys and published data from game companies show just the opposite: New and casual players are not engaged enough with the game to want to pay much. The overwhelming majority of payments in Free2Play games come from the people who play the most, are the most experienced, and veteran. That is kind of logical: Somebody unwilling to even spend much time in a game is naturally unlikely to want to spend much money either. Somebody for whom a game has become a major part of his daily life is a lot more likely to also be willing to pay for a minor advantage. It is the top guilds that shoot with gold ammo in clan wars battles, not the noobs with tier 2 tanks in random battles.

No business model is perfect, and the Free2Play model isn't the perfect model either. But it certainly has the advantage that it allows people to play for free, financed by other players. Is it too much to ask from the people who play for free to have the basic decency not to insult the people who pay the game for them?

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