Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 30, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 30, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 
WildStar's CREDD System Explained
by Kevin Harwood on 07/18/14 02:59:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I rarely think it's worth talking about MMO's and the slightly innovative things they do - the scene has become too bland to see significant differences. That being said, WildStar has designed and implemented an exceedingly interesting monetization system that I wanted to analyze - so let's discuss WildStar CREDD!

How does WildStar CREDD work

This entire design concept is based around a monthly subscription model with options of payment. The first option is a "CREDD" system, which functions as an in-game commodity, which can be bought and sold like any other virtual good. WildStar CREDD can be consumed by a player to lengthen the subscription of an account by one month allowing players the option to exchange game gold for their subscription. If players don't want to bother farming gold they can just pay a regular subscription themselves. A real point of interest is that a normal subscription is $15.99 per month while CREDD costs $19.99.

I'll start by saying that I think this is one of the most brilliant monetization systems I've ever seen, and here's why. This system rewards whale users, who play substantially more than other players, with potential for a free subscription and WildStar earns more money each time WildStar CREDD is exchanged. Typically, an MMO relies on the heavy micro-transaction buying whales to contribute to the main revenue of the game, but this design supplements the time invested by whales to be a "play to pay" model.

What's interesting about this idea is that it potentially creates two distinct player demographics for their game and WildStar is aware of the nature of the two player types.

WildStar Credd

I know some of the folks doing the monetization of WildStar and they're not fools; they know exactly what they're doing. Here's the irony of this player type segmentation.

Players who contribute a ton of time to a game, far more than the average, are generally called Whales. These players usually represent less than 5% of a total player base and quite often are buying micro-transactions significantly more than the average casual player. WildStar is saying players who typically become whales in nature won't have to spend their money to play the game. It's basically the reverse of what happens in a typical MMO environment.

Concerns

Although my initial first thought of this model was positive, I found some immediate issues with the concept.

Value Drain - Because players have to spend their time in-game gathering gold to then pay for their month of play you can actually attribute a time frame of how many hours a player is playing to contribute his earnings towards his subscription rather than in-game pursuits. Have you ever been to one of those restaurants that lets you wash dishes for an hour in exchange for a meal? Rarely is the food they are serving top notch and a meal is usually less satisfying when you're eating at a table then working in the back.

Value Extension - WildStar isn't doing this because they are philanthropic care bears - they are experimenting with a new form of monetization that they believe will draw more players in and therefore earn them more revenue. This also isn't just a random addition they added to the game. This is a specific design meant to earn 25% more subscription revenue for WildStar.

Value Mis-match - This model has one assumption that I am unsure about - that a regular player is willing to pay $15 for their subscription and another $20 to earn more in-game gold in just one month. $35 for one month of game-play is just too high and I can't imagine how a game can deliver content that ensures players feel they are getting good value out of the exchange.

Variable Rate Value - This concept still doesn't make sense to me so I hope I'm wrong here. It is going to be far more difficult to earn gold at lower levels than it will be at higher levels. The issue I see here is that the price of WildStar CREDD will be too high for new players and exceedingly low for high level players able to do raids and end game farming. The price of CREDD needs to, in some way, be constant for all players regardless of income rate. My guess is in the early months players are going to be buying CREDD like mad to enjoy the gimmick experience which will drive up the price. As the game matures CREDD's price will fall after the regular player volume drop off occurs (always happens around 3 months after MMO launch).

Value Extension - This idea is somewhat basic. If the gold you have in game can be used for a variety of things like new items and repairing armor but also for CREDD, then any gold spent not on paying for your subscription now has real world value because you could have spent that gold on WildStar CREDD. This always ruins a game for players like me who want to feel like he's getting value from a game instead of having to fight to get value from it.

Potential Abuse

I'm not going to state this concept as something which may be happening, but something which is possible due to the system design. Imagine I decide to buy WildStar CREDD and list it on the in-game marketplace for sale. Now the very important role of the CREDD system is that the price of CREDD stays high in-game because no player is willing to pay $20 for just a few dollars of in-game money.

So what's to stop WildStar from buying up any excess CREDD in the market place to keep the value high? Letting the fox guard the hen house is a concept that any good design should stay away from if only to disprove any accusations of market manipulation.

On top of this, the desire to keep the in-game gold volume low is exceedingly high. If players have too much spare game gold, they will throw it into CREDD and basically play for free without even trying. WildStar has a strong interest in keeping your gold income low with money sinks like armor and item repair from dying. If there's any relationship between CREDD sales and how hard the game is (ensuring players die more) the very design of the game may be compromised.
This really isn't different from the controversy that Elder Scrolls Online faced with the collectors edition version which came with a mount. Essentially players could spend the extra $15 or $20 to purchase the special edition of the game which came with an in-game mount for players. To purchase a mount regularly with in-game gold was just too time consuming so it became an obvious pay-wall.

Summary

It's a brilliant monetization strategy and I'm excited to study the long term effects it has on the game. It creatively distributes the cost of subscription and will allow for some fascinating economic experiments. My guess is that players will really enjoy WildStar CREDD and it will enhance their experience.

I'm drafting a monetization design for another MMO in development right now but I wouldn't consider utilizing this design. I believe a game should belong to a player for 10 days or 10 years based on their decision without a variable fee dependent on their time invested.

What do think of WildStar CREDD? I'd love to hear your experience with it or ideas you've had about the concept!


Related Jobs

Churchill Navigation
Churchill Navigation — Boulder, Colorado, United States
[10.30.14]

3D Application Engineer
CCP
CCP — Newcastle, England, United Kingdom
[10.30.14]

Senior Backend Programmer
Guerrilla Games
Guerrilla Games — Amsterdam, Netherlands
[10.30.14]

Animation System Programmer
Square Enix Co., Ltd.
Square Enix Co., Ltd. — Tokyo, Japan
[10.30.14]

Programmers






Comments


Rodrigo Wilhelmy
profile image
Isn't this exactlly what EVE Online has been doing for years with PLEX?

Kevin Harwood
profile image
Sort of. The issue here is less "what" the system is and more "how" it's being used. The Plex system in Eve is the same price as a subscription, this one is more than a monthly subscription.

Instead of giving an alternative to a subscription cost like in Eve (player value oriented) the model pushes for users to compete driving up the cost of CREDD sold on the open market at a higher cost than a subscription (business profit oriented).

James Morgan
profile image
If you look at prices, just like CREDD, one PLEX costs more than a single month of subscription. You can get cheaper PLEX by buying in bulk, but the same is true for a subscription.


You can look online for historical PLEX prices in ISK within EVE. Overall, they seem to be doing a good job fighting inflation. It will be interesting to see if a more "typical" MMO model can keep inflation in check and the price of CREDD balanced. It seems unlikely as I've already read complaints about how the in-game price for CREDD is changing.

Ivee Feria Padua
profile image
In systems that allow currency exchanges, some form of regulation is required to make it a sustainable one, and this is critical for MMOs that intend to operate for years. If they do not control the supply, they risk devaluing both currencies, and that's not good in the long run (for obvious reasons).

It doesn't really matter if a player throws all their excess spare game gold into CREDD and buy themselves a lifetime of access, because at the end of the day, someone else paid for it.

Another advantage of such a system is you essentially undercut & kill gold farming businesses in your game - players will buy gold from other legit players through a regulated system rather than risk earning gold through black market transactions where they can be scammed of their money.

EVE's PLEX system and RuneScape's Bonds have this system implemented, lots of insight can be learned on how this can work sustainably in an MMO.

James Yee
profile image
Yeah this is not a new system, hell I created the "Play to Play" page on Giant Bomb's Wiki to describe this like two years ago and just added WildStar to it when they announced it. Is it a cool system I'd like to see more MMO's try? Yep. It's just funny to see folks calling it new when it's been done before.

Yulan Cardoso
profile image
Check out Guild Wars 2's Gem Store as well. Even if paying monthly fees isn't required there, people can buy gems with real money (creating more gems in the game world) or virtual gold (draining the game world's gem pool), which puts the value of the currency at player hands. You're even able to go the other way around and trade your gems for virtual gold, creating a legit way to buy gold, which works for GW2 because gold can buy you new cosmetic options but not raw power.

Tarik Takasu
profile image
Tibia, an old time MMORPG has installed a similar mechanism through "Premium Scrolls", players would buy premium account time through the website and send the premium time as a tradeable in-game object, I think it was introduced on Summer 2012, at the time the developers told the players that their intentions were pretty similar to what Wildstar told the players, whale players would play and get money to pay for their premium time, while people who don't have as much free time would get some more in-game gold.

Rik Spruitenburg
profile image
I feel like you are missing all the points.
1) Players will decide how much in-game gold is worth $20. At launch it will be a small amount, then later it will be more. But it will be what the market will agree to.
2) While I don't expect Carbine to start buying CREED from the players, I don't see a problem with it. The people spending $20 would get more in-game gold than if Carbine didn't jump into the auction.
3) Your point about "Value Extension" seems to imply that if you had a chance to turn your in-game gold into a mount or a $20 coupon for Wildstar you would have some sort of internal conflict. Eh, if you have a day job, get the mount. The other option is for hardcore players who really don't have income. Not sure how the got the upfront costs covered, babysitting maybe?
4) This is about Gold Farmers. Make no mistake, that's why the gold farmer looks so sad on the Wildstar page you took Player A and B from. If players have a safe and official way to turn cash into in-game gold, then they will most likely take that path instead of risking having their account banned or worse. Carbine hopes this will stop or slow down a gray market for in-game gold. That market sometimes uses non-players to gather materials creating an uncomfortable play experience not unlike being at a bowling alley and having someone steal your beer and pizza when you aren't looking. Further they hopped it would slow hackers from stealing accounts -- something that doesn't seem to have happened but maybe it would have been worse?

Kevin Harwood
profile image
Hi Rik! Thanks for your response.

1. The issue here is that if the amount fluctuates (which it will, and Carbine knows it will) then players who previously paid their sub in gold will no longer be able to as the cost increases. This pushes them into paying cash (making Carbine more money). Nothing wrong with this, but very corporate minded.
2. This would be a HUGE conflict of interest. If this happened in any other scenario, like a real financial market, it would be market manipulation and you could be prosecuted for fraud.
3. What I mean is that if gold can always be used to pay for a month's sub, then it will always feel like im losing money when I pay for regular in game things. Imagine how discouraging it would be if LoL had a sub price per month and you could pay in influence points. Losing a match would be so much more frustrating because that's a game that could have gone to pay for your sub. It creates an evaluation metric for every other commodity in the game.
4. Gold farmers are in every game - that's just life. WildStar is boxing them out of the market and making money in the process. Game's don't collapse because of goldfarmers and WildStar exaggerates them. They are appearing to "save the game" but make a ton of money doing it, therefore they can't claim it's player-centric.

Not sure how gold farming leads to stealing accounts.


none
 
Comment: