Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why we buy

Sellers don't exist without a market to sell to.

While I've never met an MMO player who didn't profess feelings for gold farmers that fell somewhere between disdain and violent hatred. The fact of the matter however is that gold farmers and character levelers are fulfilling a market need. If the customers weren't there, they'd find some other way to make money.

So the fact of the matter is that "normal" players, despite their avowed hatred of these members of the community, are patronizing them and doing so in great enough numbers to support a fair sized market with quite a number of sellers.

Why do the players do this? I'd argue its our fault as game developers. In order to succeed in our games we require that our players pay in pain. Everyone knows the term "the grind" but how many have stopped to really think about how negative a term that is. The fact of the matter is that the players gave tht name to MMO "gameplay" and its NOT a compliment.

The discomfort is severe enough that at least one player decided it was less uncomfortable to have sex with a stranger then spend the time grinding.

The question i have is, WHY do we put our players through such misery? If we wanted to be honest Id say it was two reasons:

(1) Laziness on our part. Repetitive boring gameplay is *easy* to implement.

(2) Fear of users consuming our content too fast. We want to streatch out their time on line because they pay us by the month, so we make them do these repttitive boring things to make it take longer for that inevitable end-game to happen.

Neither of these are good reasons IMHO. Someone at the IMGDC conference which I have been attending this weekend made the excellent point that noone buys gold from gold farmers in order to get basic quipment. Its always the VERY expensive carrot we hang out there, be it mount or whatever, that drives the players to conclude that they'd rather pay a gold farmer then do it our way.

Clearly, these mechanics are un-fun. Otherwise noone would be paying someone else to do it for them. So who is responsbile ultimately for the prevalence of gold farmers?

We are, when we design un-fun games. Lets fix the problem where it really lies.

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