The following editorial contains views that are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of Allakhazam.com
Last week Sony Online Entertainment announced Station Cash, which was met with an uproar from the community. Station Cash is a new virtual currency program that gives players the option buy in-game items from their virtual wallet. This has been seen by many as a short sighted attempt to put money in their pocket without consideration of tomorrow. I don't know about you, but my letter to Santa didn't say anything about getting screwed by Sony. That's how I feel though. I feel somewhat betrayed by the company that I've always talked about as one that listens to their players. It seems that this is no longer true of Sony Online Entertainment.
This isn't the first time that SOE has pushed the same kind of envelope. The launch of Station Exchange back in July of 2005 was met with the same criticism. So what's different this time around? Everything! First of all, we're not getting the choice this time. With Station Exchange they only implemented it on select servers that players had the option to transfer to. The same was true with the introduction of PvP into EverQuest II. First there was discussion which resulted in the creation of dedicated PvP servers because this was what the fans indicated they wanted. This time around it's being forced on everyone, and it was done that way no discussion, no warning and no choice.
My biggest question is why they decided to ninja implement such an important "enhancement" if they didn't already know it was going to piss people off. It's my opinion that they did know; they just simply didn't care. It seems that a simple compromise, like creating specific Station Cash servers for people to transfer to, would have been held with higher regard in the community. So why didn’t they go that route? That's a question as enigmatic to me as their choice to continue PS3 MMO development.
Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to make it clear that I was fine with Station Exchange. Quite frankly, it was a good idea. It cut out the middle man and replaced it with a secure source to do something most of the player base was doing anyway. I also respect the way they implemented it. We knew in advance what was going on, it wasn't forced down our throats, and there was a purpose for it. Again, this isn't the case with Station Cash and I believe that they've shown a cynical disregard to the player base with this decision.
Some may argue that this form of micro-transactions or 'Micropay' already exists in other MMORPGs. While it's true that the F2P (Free-2-Play) MMOs use micro-transactions instead of the traditional monthly fee -- typically you don't have both. Even though Sony isn't necessarily forcing players to use Station Cash, they're offering items that you can't obtain in game, so they might as well be.
That leads to a concern that I had when I saw what they were selling in EverQuest II. Most of the items available can be played off as fluff, but then there are some, like potions that increase your experience by up to fifty percent for four hours, that are serious play influencers. In my eyes, that creates an opportunity for an advantage, especially with new content. This has to annoy the players that enjoy racing to the max level. Guess you'll just have to buy potions come expansion time if you want to compete.
But is that where the ball stops, or will they take it further? Will they give players the option to buy something as ridiculous as level potions? Will I be able to pre order my level 90 Templar at Gamestop with the next expansion? Who knows? It honestly wouldn't surprise me at this point.
In an interview with Bruce Ferguson, Producer of EverQuest II published last week by TenTonHammer, he went on record saying "We were looking for ways to give people opportunities to enjoy the game a little bit more". Now I can respect that, but it doesn't make much sense to add something niche that doesn't add much value to the game(s) overall. In my mind, the resources that were spent on Station Cash could have been spent on something that actually adds said opportunities, rather than create opportunities to sell players more crap.
Of course all of this is my own opinion. I'm sure there are those out there that are excited about this service and who plan to take advantage of what it has to offer. What do you think? Was this a good move or simply another way to bleed our pockets? We'd love to hear your opinions in our forums.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle