Istaria: The grind, the economy, and me (Part 2 of 2)

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
3. The veteran populace, like any other in any other game, are highly resistant to changes that would be helpful to Virtrium (but take the offering closer to mainstream interests for product-market fit); so much so that most attempts to engage discourse and present ideas is frequently derided to the point of silencing new opinions/eyes.

The fact is, today's gaming market IS shorter on TIME than it is upon MONEY:

And of course, the “other side” (and the economists continue to debate, though mostly over what should be valued as opposed to what IS valued, and by whom):

This isn't going to change, just read those links and you'll understand that game companies and the industry at large are moving in this direction with all possible haste.

Additionally, today's market is MUCH less willing to endure the tedium of repetitive effort than it has ever been. In this report particularly, they call out that microtrans are eclipsing DLC (and that monthly sub? Not even mentioned!!).

Consider that impatience and the higher degree of consideration over “value proposition” in today’s gaming market and understand that, somehow, this has to change in Istaria if Virtrium intends to service more than the current, highly engaged but woefully niche market.

This reality is increasingly unpopular among "lifestyle" gamers (such as myself, admittedly), even as the industry itself has accepted the reality of this change and undertaken business models that allow them to access customers/players who will simply bypass any game that doesn't allow them to play the way they wish to play. Rather successfully, truth be told. But the industry is still figuring out “what works well” (to business considerations) so there’s a lot of diversity that we didn’t see in “the early days”:

Spending on microtransactions and DLC is currently healthy, but game publishers and developers must not lose sight of the importance of looking at areas that will stimulate spending growth without compromising real and perceived value of the content they’re providing,” - Sam Naji, industry analyst, The NPD Group.

While these criteria are not universal and ARE subjective within persona groups, they are relatively well researched and understood and are well known and respected in the gaming industry, as demonstrated in the GDC links (above).

I find that the argument of "pay2win" has become something of a stock line to shut down what is demonstrated to be an important and valuable consideration of how a company like Virtrium can leverage these evolutions in business models and thus, earn the money required to continue pursuit of business goals (e.g., porting to another, more current platform, etc).

I suppose part of the disconnect in the player base comes from having a decade+ of "sustainability" in which, while likely somewhat profitable (I certainly hope!) cannot hope to be profitable enough without new players to actually support the manner of goals I have heard (engine migration, asset updates, etc).

That said, it would be a good idea to consider the following as well:

- Create regular issue, limited edition (time or style) skins and sell the heck out of them.

- Create a matrix of achievements that combine social, cooperative, competitive, and crafting so that players can raise the status they want to have (and Virtrium benefits from the added stickiness that these player investments (be they time or money, frankly) deliver.

- Get an online store offering short-term stat boosts and bonuses for cash. This is NOT the same as “pay to win” because the boosts last no more/less than regular buffs, BUT they provide access to specific boosts that the play can select AND which stack (this is the value proposition, but does require balancing). Empower players to choose and they will. (Note: I JUST found a post dealing with this and now understand Virtrium is not interested in this.)

- Get a referral code going for current players. Put some status/vanity/title items into it.

- Create as many leaderboards as you can imagine and let that data bring you players (as well as provide insight to the difference between what players SAY they want and what they actually USE/DO).

Let me be clear – I am not asserting that these things (a) aren’t being done, (b) aren’t in planning, or (c) any other variation on the “you assume too much”. I have not seen/heard/read that they are, so cannot assume they ARE, either.

Owen Mahoney, chief executive of Nexon, a company credited with pioneering the concept of using microtransactions to make money in free games, said many game companies were simply too aggressive, comparing their behavior to pushy waiters trying to persuade diners to buy a more expensive dish in a restaurant. “The No. 1 job is not to monetize,” Mr. Mahoney said. “It’s to keep the user coming back for years or months on end.” - NY Times article (emphasis added, original article at: )

Istaria has people coming back, which is amazing overall. But things could be a LOT easier for Virtrium with a little savvy monetization; monetization doesn’t have to be bad, doesn’t have to be “pay to win”, and is not some slippery slope leading to soul-crushing crags of doom.

Unfortunately, much of the "hard numbers" are proprietary to the companies that use them to earn their own revenue; add to this that this industry (like so many others) is now soaking in an ocean of "competing authorities" that divide the discourse so much around detail and debates over said details that it's very difficult to have any fruitful conversation. Particularly in that most forums outlets are NOT representative of even the current base, let alone those outside it.

(The 2006 link is old, but I use it to point to the place in time where we “knew” this was credible; the numbers ebb and rise, but are still largely consistent over time, relatively speaking. There are others for those who wish to look for them.)

Since research also reveals that opinions held dearly become more entrenched rather than less in the face of facts (i.e., confirmation and dis-confirmation biases), I'm certain this will not receive much kindness from the previously mentioned segment. I do hope, however, that people will remember that I am “one of us” when left to my own preferences. This post is intended to help others understand that we are a diminishing segment.

That said, the question becomes simpler – Are we willing to risk losing Istaria to keep things the same as they’ve always been? Or are we willing to accept that, regardless our preferences, the market has changed and offerings that do not find a way to remain competitive do, eventually, die? (I admit that sounds a little like perfectionist fallacy, but look at the industry numbers and you'll realize it's not.)

I remain hopeful that the folks at Virtrium who read this will recognize the effort, interest, and time invested. Ultimately, my intent and hope is that I am being helpful to Virtrium... because I like this game, I care about its longevity and sustainability, and because I can see a minimum viable product (MVP) that supports the current preference/culture of those who’ve been here “all along” AND makes the larger and more lucrative market accessible.

Also, I really want to see a wild influx of players for what are fairly basic adjustments and feature additions. (It all costs money, but that would be the perfect kickstarter moment that I would eagerly and readily not only support, but market/promote, and stream to aid.)

THAT said, I “get” the wisdom of taking “one chance to make a [new] first impression” to heart, but I also see the strategy of using open access to the CURRENT game to backers while using their money to do the heavy lifting of porting/migration and new feature/asset creation as a winning strategy.

Indeed, having a stable game (legacy or not) to enjoy while the new shininess is underway would be an almost singular achievement in the current “indie” morass of less-than-stellar deliveries.

I’ve tries to avoid loading this too full of links but would be happily to provide MUCH more extensive reading lists and references (albeit subscription required, etc) to industry outlets and reporting/analyst groups who have established authoritative competency, credibility, and (relatively) balanced reporting and business intelligence.

Thank you for reading any of this, let alone all of it.

Updated December 14th, 2016 at 09:51 AM by Beryl (typos pwn me, especially at 2:45am)

Tags: None Add / Edit Tags