Chip Lange, Vice President of Online Commerce at EA, stated that the publisher was only providing consumers with a choice and that players can instantly unlock something – such as a golf course in Tiger Woods, rather than put 40-50 hours into the game – something which Lang claimed only 20% of people would do.
When drawn upon the issue of charging for what once might have been a cheat code, Lange argued, “There are places where cheat codes are free but those are on websites and those websites are making money by selling advertising.”
Setting aside for the moment that you can’t get actually find a paid Xbox360 unlock on “a website making money” through tiny classified ads (something the EA PR person responded to with “Uh, I need to research that”), the point remains that, according to Mr. Lange, there’s a pressing market for people too lazy to actually play games. Which, judging from the success of some folks in the MMO sphere, you might think he’s on to something, hmm?
Well, no. One of the quickest ways I can usually start an argument with others in the MMO industry is by saying, flat out, that if your MMO has an RMT problem, then your MMO has a design flaw by definition. Simply because if someone is paying money – the measure, by almost any criteria, of the value of a person’s time in our society – to avoid part of your game, that part of the game is not fun. Because if it were fun, why would they not, you know, play it?
After all, they theoretically are paying you already for the privilege of playing the game. Why should they pay for what essentially is a fast forward button? It’s like picking up a DVD of the Lord of the Rings, and then paying an intern/illegal alien/teen runaway/whoever you prefer to exploit to constantly skip straight to the battle of Helms Deep. Sure, you COULD, but you miss a bit of, you know, the rest of the movie. By doing so, you’re saying you don’t care about the rest of that movie – it holds little value for you, and your time is valuable enough that you’d pony up the cash to skip ahead.
This is an arguable point in MMOs, because of the multiplayer nature and people wanting to catch up to their friends, engage in the social community that congregates on the high end, et cetera. But in single player games? It’s just mindbogglingly stupid. If you feel the need to skip ahead to the end of a single player game… why did you buy it again? I am reminded of Old Man Murray’s reaction to when RMT was first announced in Ultima Online; they immediately threatened to sell their Half Life save games on eBay. Which makes about as much sense as anything else.