It Turns Out Spending Limits Are An Awful Idea After All
So I posited earlier this week that the notion of a spending limit, enforced by the game's developer, would be a maybe-sort-of-maybe-not-that-awful idea for free-to-play games. Magicman and I spent a chunk of time in the latest F2P Cast talking about it too, and he agreed that he mostly liked the idea as well and didn't think it was truly awful.
Last night, completely by accident, I came across an article about the South Korean gaming market, where it looks like my idea was implemented, albeit forcibly by the government:
"Years ago, the government set a curfew at game cafes and stopped online game play after 10pm. In February this went a step further as the government essentially capped gaming revenue. Today, an individual in Korea can spend no more than US$300 on online games per month."
Interesting. So, what were the results? Was it as I suggested, that the goodwill generated by such a move would counteract the loss of the most extreme whales and that it might encourage players to spend, knowing that the games would be on a more (relatively) even field?
The rule devastated game developers. NHN took a 50 percent loss across certain game genres, Neowhiz undertook massive layoffs, and CJNet reported a 24 percent loss in revenues year on year.
Oh. Well, that's not so good. Still, a lot of the games over there are probably using "bad" F2P models that blatantly exploit players by locking off content, or are pay-to-win, or go crazy with the gacha, a.k.a. random lockboxes. I'm sure a good and fair F2P game could still do all right.
Many online gamers spent all of their money on League of Legends and when they hit the limits, fled to mobile devices where they could play uninhibited.
Seriously? League of Legends? How do you spend more than $300/month on League of frickin' Legends?
I realize that they may run things a little different over on that side of the Pacific, but I booted up my LoL launcher and took a look at the store. $300 would get me 45,000 Riot points, if I bought three packs of $100/15,000 RP each. The worst I could do -- and I'm sure some people do this -- is to buy my RP $5 at a time, in which case $300 would net me 39,000 RP.
39,000 RP would buy me:
* About 50 champion unlocks, going by average champion RP price on my unpurchased champs; or
* About 47 skins, going by the average RP price for skins I have available to purchase; or
* A "combo pack" of a month's worth of IP/XP boosts, every ward skin, ever summoner icon, seven pages of runes, a summoner name change, and transfer to each of the other eight regions
Remember, this is all per month. Who unlocks 50 champions every month?
Someone does, apparently. Whales gonna whale.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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