A look at Turbine’s monetization model
I used to like the way Turbine created their free-to-play model with microtransactions. But somewhere along the line, things started going sour, real fast. Where did it all go wrong? As you might expect, somewhere around 2012 is when everything started falling apart. Here are numerous examples of how Turbine’s monetization techniques have gotten more and more shameful ever since the golden age of DDO ended in 2012, in no particular chronological order.
This happened alongside the great loot-pocalypse sometime in 2013. After one update, people started to observe that tomes were very rarely, if ever, dropping from chests. And then once skill tomes were introduced, we started seeing stat tomes become more and more sparse. And then finally, once upgrade tomes were introduced, we’ve had almost no shot at getting normal tomes from chests anymore.
Of course, this doesn’t stop Turbine from selling tomes in the store. That’s practically the only place to get them these days. Really Turbine, it’s not so subtle what you’re doing.
On a side note, the update that forever changed loot tables also resulted in clickies no longer dropping from chests anymore. RIP Clickies. And while I can understand that changing Tomes and SP pots to no longer drop was a move driven by sheer greed, I can’t understand the rationale behind the change to clickies. Clickies were in no way overpowered, and if anything, simply provided another way to have fun by way of Burning Hands or Grease or to give your character maybe a slight edge by way of maybe a Heroism, Jump, or Rage. They added another dimension to the game, especially to more vanilla characters like Fighters and Barbarians. There’s absolutely no good reason for Turbine to have removed these beloved items from the loot tables, and nobody benefits from it: Turbine gets no money from it, players derive no satisfaction from it, and everything is left off worse for the wear.
This one isn’t so bad, considering that Turbine goofed and allowed us to get hundreds, if not thousands, of major mnemonic potions in that one anniversary card event. Anyway, this one also happened alongside the loss of tomes and clickies. Mnemonic potions of all sizes used to drop from chests, and then one day they suddenly stopped appearing. Ok.
I believe that this change was done in order to encourage players to buy SP potions from the shop instead, but this is really a laughable rationale when considering the tens of thousands of mnemonic SP potions that everyone got for free from the card event. I don’t know whether to laugh at Turbine’s incompetence or to shake my head in disdain at their shameless greed. I think I’ll do both.
Expansion Packs and Epic Destinies
June 2012 was a huge slap in the face for many a VIP subscriber. Previously, for the past six years of DDO’s lifetime, subscribers had access to all of DDO’s content. This was how it was and how it always should have been. But Turbine decided, nope, you VIPs are going to have to pay for this new Expansion Pack and Epic Destinies just like everyone else. How awful! Though I’ve never been a VIP, I can’t begin to imagine how short-changed VIP players felt at this time. Honestly, if I were a VIP during that time, I would have unsubscribed simply out of spite. This was the first hint at many repulsive changes that Turbine has since made to the game, both in terms of overall game design, and in regards to monetization.
I’m firmly of the belief that the only reason that Warlocks are so overpowered and have been for the past half year is so that Turbine could attempt to cash in on an “easy button.” They must’ve taken a lesson from Riot Games. The formula is simple: release a character who is so blatantly overpowered, and charge $15 for it. Enough people will buy it because they’re excited about a new class, and they will soon let word out that it’s extremely powerful. People will suck Turbine’s dick on the forums and say “nah it’s not OP,” while still buying it, knowing full well that it’s indeed OP. Cue everyone else buying that class in order to get ahead. Then start nerfing it a few months later once the hype dies down.
This wasn’t the case with Monks, Artificers, Druids, or Favored Souls because back when those classes were released, DDO was doing very well; I can only assume that Turbine was more focused on producing quality content back then as opposed to floundering about and trying to keep the game alive through desperate attempts at getting paid.
A bestiary is cool, but in the end, it’s a feature that we all know should be free and come with the game. At this point in the game’s life, though, Turbine can and will try to charge for anything imaginable.
Harper Enhancement Tree
We’ve been charged for classes.
We’ve paid TP for races.
We’ve paid for character slots.
We’ve paid for content.
We’ve even paid for extra inventory space.
But never before had we had to pay for a simple enhancement tree. What the actual fuck, Turbine? It’s really not subtle what you’re doing. I can read you like a book.
Going along with the “Turbine can and will try to charge for anything imaginable,” we get astral shards. They’re like the ill-fated astral diamonds cranked up to eleven. DDO Wiki has a list of everything purchasable with Astral Shards, and even then, I’m not sure if that list is complete. Take a look at it if you dare.
Oh yeah, and then eventually, Turbine graced us with this beauty, which pretty much singlehandedly destroyed DDO’s economy by overcentralizing it around real-world currency. Way to go, Turbine. All in the name of…
Hall of Heroes
I think one day, a Turbine employee was looking at some of the never-used store items and stumbled across the Bracelet of Friends.
“Oh, Cordovan, look at this item! It turns out nobody uses it. Maybe that’s because it’s easy enough to travel anywhere in the game on foot.”
“Oh yeah you’re right, lowly employee. What do you think we should do about that?”
“Isn’t it obvious? We create a means of transportation that can only be accessed with TP!”
“Brilliant! Let’s do it.”
Raid Bypass Timers
While I personally don’t like the fact that raids have 3 day timers, I’m staunchly against allowing players to bypass those timers by way of paying with real money. Not only have these stupid things had a catastrophic impact on the raiding scene–you’ll see people grind out 20 completions within the period of a couple of days, thereby dividing the raiding community into two groups, making it harder to find people to do raids at any given time–it’s yet another attempt of Turbine to make a quick, cheap buck. Anything that can be monetized will be monetized. That’s how it’s been with Turbine for the past three years and that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the foreseeable future.
Nowadays, you not only need to pay TP in order to merely progress meaningfully in the epic levels (1000 TP for destinies), but you need to pay TP in order to maximize the benefit from these destinies. I’m not sure what’s worse: this system, or SWTOR’s $25 tax on allowing your character to simply equip endgame loot.
For years, this was something that older players have wanted. And although I only started playing in 2009 or 2010 (I forget what year exactly; it’s been too long), I can completely understand why. You see, back in the old days, there were no Green Steel crafting planners, nor did the altars have the recipes displayed in game. Everything was trial and error, and because of this, you could do a dozen Shroud runs only to end up with a subpar item which you couldn’t even deconstruct. For a long time, players clamored for a way to make GS crafting easier and to be able to deconstruct these failed experiments. Turbine eventually gave them the former, but by that time, Perfect Web and Cubicle Ninja already had their planners up and running, rendering Turbine’s in-game crafting displays somewhat useless.
After enough time elapsed, Turbine eventually fulfilled the other half of their bargain. But, of fucking course, you had to pay 400 TP for the item that allowed you to deconstruct your failed GS—the Yellow Dopant, or as I like to call it, the Yellow Derpant. Originally, Turbine said that we had a chance of finding the Derpant in Shroud Runs. But then months passed, and only a couple had been found. It was clear as daylight what Turbine’s intentions were: to make a cheap buck off of desperate older players who had waited so long for this coveted feature.
Talk about a fucking slap in the face to the players who had supported you from the beginning, Turbine. You devise an imperfect crafting system to start with, then reward all of the community’s hard work and requests with this obvious money-grabbing scheme, years after the fact. I’d say you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for treating your most loyal players this way, but who am I kidding? You’re probably run by money-hungry sociopaths who have not a shred of empathy for even your most loyal players and can’t even feel shame. It’s fucking despicable and things like this are why I’m never going to give you a single penny ever again. And I’d advise every other player to do the same, because Turbine’s obviously not going to change anytime soon, if ever.
It’s not even subtle anymore, Turbine. This game has become pay to win. It’s so blatant, it’s laughable. Not only do we pay for the ability to progress (destinies and fate tomes); not only do we have to pay to power up our characters (tomes), not only do we have to pay for enhancement trees; not only do we have to pay for content; not only do VIPs have to pay for content that they should get for free; not only do we have to pay for a bestiary; not only do you want us to pay for an obviously overpowered and game-breaking class; but we have the fucking option to pay for EXP. Plain and simple, unadulterated pay to win transactions. There you have it.
Why stop at experience elixirs?
Why stop at tomes of experience?
Instead of selling items which encourage players to run content and reward them more greatly for doing so, let’s just sell them the experience points outright! After all, I’m sure that there are many people who’ll buy the experience, right? And of course, there are many people who have. Honestly, I have no idea why. Why are my fellow players paying to not play the game? That’s essentially what Otto’s Boxes are; you’re paying to get experience which would otherwise only be obtained through playing the game as it should be. You’re paying to not play the game, plain and simple. Why would you do that? And more importantly, why are you supporting Turbine after they pulled a scumbag move like this? Above all else, this is the most prominent, most notable, most obvious, and most despicable instance of a pay-to-win model in this game. There’s absolutely no way that any sensible human being would conclude otherwise. Because that’s what it is. To conclude otherwise would be denial, plain and simple.
People like me are straightforward. Personally, I’m willing to pay money to a company who does what they do well and who cares for their players. Previously, during the golden age of DDO, I was willing to buy Turbine Points because none of these money-grabbing schemes were in place at the time. And when I see things happening like tomes being taken out of normal loot tables—when I see that Turbine wants to monetize the game like this and encourage us through less-than-wholesome means to spend money—what it does to me is it discourages me from spending money. By Turbine trying to encourage us to spend money this way, it discourages me from spending money on these things out of spite, and it ultimately makes me disgusted at their management and less motivated to play the game. I’m sure I’m not alone in this camp, because looking at the game’s current population now, it would seem that less and less people feel impelled to play this game—let alone pay Turbine for any of it.
Back in the golden age, Turbine got a lot of things right. Unlike every other MMO with microtransactions, Turbine got these right as well. The idea of paying for well-crafted adventure packs, races, and classes was an actual decent way of handling monetization while still preserving a free-to-play model. And judging by the amount of people who used to play the game in its golden age, it would seem that many people agreed with me! Back then, Turbine didn’t rely on cheap pay-to-win tactics and blatant money-grabbing schemes, and their old model proved itself to be quite popular. But instead of going with a tried-and-true system which worked, they elected to try these cheap monetization tactics instead. Look where it’s gotten them. DDO now has a fraction of the population it used to have.
Don’t get me wrong—of course I want Turbine to succeed as a business and to create a fun, enjoyable game. But I just look back on the 2009-2012 era and I thought that Turbine succeeded at both aspects pretty well. And ironically enough, since 2012, in trying to sacrifice one aspect (fun, enjoyable game) for the other (being a successful business), they’ve jeopardized their chances at both. I liked the old microtransaction system Turbine had in place, and I gladly would pay to support that model. In fact, I did pay to support that model. That model was one of the beauties of DDO, and now it’s long gone thanks to Turbine’s neglect and constant mismanagement over the past three years.