Wednesday, 28 October 2009

DDO: Microtransactions analysis

I'm going to look at two areas in this analysis: the types of items sold and the types of spender buying them. I will also be looking at the new items in the DDO Store that were launched today.

Types of spender

Impulse or planner?

Each of the following types can be split into impulse buyers, people for whom money generally burns a hole in their pocket and needs to be spent, and planners, misers who begrudge wasting a single point unless they see long term benefit and great value for money.

I'm a good example of the planner type. I only bought points because they were on sale (5000 TPs for $49.99). I plan to make these points last for as long as possible, ideally for the rest of the time that I play the game. I have only bought adventure packs that were on sale and (in a moment of weakness) the Monk class when it was on sale. I systematically work to grind more points in game whenever I can. I have about 3300 points left despite having bought over 3000 non-discounted TPs worth of content.

1. The Veteran VIPs

Long-term players of DDO were given a bundle of Turbine Points when Eberron Unlimited launched based on the Favour standings of their characters. Many had close to the Favour cap (which is around 3500) and had multiple characters across several servers. So many of these players found themselves with several thousand TPs, in receipt of 500 more TPs per month and with no plans to not be VIP in the future.

Effectively these players have money to burn.

These, I think, are a big part of the reason experience and loot potions are consistently high in the Bestsellers list for the store. There really isn't all that much for these players to spend their money on. While they could buy permanent access to content it's not worth it for them because they plan to stay subscribed for as long as DDO interests them.

They are very noticeable in game - players who have exp and loot potions running but who will patiently wait while some newbie is lost.

Impulse VIPs will burn through these points quickly. Whether it's permarunning exp potions or handing out guest passes to newbies they will spend them in the next few months if they haven't blown them all already.

Planner VIPs will stockpile points for if they ever quit. Having a large points stockpile will allow them to convert a lapsed subscription account into a premium account with most of the same features.

2. The new generation Premium/F2P grinder player

These players are paying as they go, whether by buying TPs from the store or by grinding Favour in Elite dungeons. I'm one of these.

We tend to be very cost conscious. Grinding 25 TPs takes an evening or two so we're not likely to blow 300 TPs on an exp potion.

Main attractions for us are adventure packs and other permanent account upgrades. Possibly sigils too as they're semi-essential and not everyone knows the optimal way to grind them.

Impulse pay as you go players may spend silly amounts of money. One forum thread recently concerned a player who had spent $200 on mana potions healing groups with his mid level cleric. He could have kept them healed using wands bought from vendors cheaply for in-game gold.

Planner pay as you go players will wait for sales and other discounts and then buy permanent content. We will promote the game by telling people how cheaply we got access to it all without generally realising that most non-planners will spend much more money to get to the same level.

3. The F2P tourist

This player just popped in for a look while his WoW server is down for maintenance. He has a very cursory grasp of the game and has no interest in saving points. In fact if he gets more serious about the game later he can always just make a new account if he wastes all his TPs.

These players are the reason healing potions and level 1 hirelings are so high in the Bestsellers list. They sign up, log in and spend.

Impulse players are actually the smart ones. There really is no reason for tourists to save points, they can always make a new account if they actually decide to play more seriously.

Types of purchase

1. Levelling enhancement potions. Experience and loot potions give you greater rewards for your time. In some cases these players are paying real money to miss the game because they are obsessed with end-game. Most of these sales are driven by VIPs who know the levelling content well and no longer wish to dwell in it for long.

2. New player experience items. Low end healing potions, level 1 hirelings, +1 weapons and armour sell well because people start with money and are encouraged to spend. For many players they simply don't expect to play for long and are better off spending their points than keeping them.

3. Account options. Shared bank is a significant upgrade for alt players for 2 main reasons. It allows you to dump loot for your Hagglebot Bard to sell (a character specialised in the Haggle skill for maximum profit) and it uniquely allows Bound to Account items to be transferred (they can't be mailed, so basically without the shared bank Bound to Account = Bound to Character).

For us miser types there are three workarounds to the shared bank. You can mail high value items to your Hagglebot. Not as efficient as the shared bank but it saves you 1500 TPs. Or you can just play a Bard. Or you can just vendor stuff for whatever price and simply not make as much gold. It seems that after a while people have more gold than they know what to do with anyway.

Extra character slots will sell particularly well to players going from VIP to Premium as the number of slots drops dramatically from about 14 to 4.

4. Spells and potions. Most of this stuff is stuff you can pick up pretty easily in game and seems rather pointless to me. The unique utility though is that you can get them instantly in a dungeon. So if you've soloed a long dungeon and get blinded right near the end you can buy a Cure Blindness potion rather than quit.

The most interesting buy here are the Teleport Rods and Friend-Summoning bracelets. These significantly improve travel times. Of course you still have to do just about everything in the game as part of a group so I'm not sure that teleporting to a dungeon while your friends have to run there is a huge advantage. Also most content is pretty centralised.

5 Healing. This is a huge money pit for the unwary. Basically it allows players to throw Turbine Points at problems to solve them. Obviously it appeals strongly to people who don't pay for or grind TPs.

I honestly think most sensible players will get their healing supplies in game for gold and/or go somewhere easier, take more than one healer in the group. It seems daft to me in a game with healer classes to spend real money on healing. I'm mean, I know.

6. Stat buffs. Buying temporary stat buffs can be a way to unlock certain runes in the game which will let you access additional areas. You can however find potions in game that boost stats or even clickable items that buff you 1/rest or 3/rest.

Buying permanent stat buffs may seem appealing but it's really not. If you really like the character you will raid and in raids +3 or +4 tomes drop. So why spend real money on a +1 or +2 stats tome when you may get a better one later? Also tomes used are wiped if you True Reincarnate. "Permanent" stat buffs are less permanent than they sound.

7 Levelling sigils. These sell quite well as many players don't know how to farm them. They drop as quest rewards for appropriate level quests so if you want a silver sigil you have to run short level 5-8 quests with an end reward. They don't drop in Korthos or in wilderness areas. You are not farming them efficiently if you do long quest chains with rewards only given at the very end like Waterworks.

For many people it's best to just enjoy the game and get one if you get one without optimising your farming. If your mates want to try a wilderness area it's a bit churlish to say, no, I've got to farm Harbour quests.

For what it's worth I've had about 10 characters to level 4 now and every single one has got his Copper Sigil from questing. Another tip is that you can go over your maximum level and still collect exp while your bar is blue. I think it caps out at +2 level's worth of exp.

Personally, being the miser/altoholic type if I couldn't farm a sigil before I maxxed out on experience I'd probably just make a new character. At least I'd earn some more TPs levelling back up.

8 Bigger bags. A staple of every cash shop game. As a miser my advice is just to empty your bags of junk more, you don't need 30 different types of potion. Coin Lords rep gives you more bag space, one of the other rep gives you more bank space. You have enough, really people. Medium size bags are available for in-game gold from a vendor in one of the Houses (House P maybe?). Large bags occasionally drop as loot or can be purchased in the Marketplace for an in-game shard turn-in.

Unlike many games you don't accumulate quest items in your bags. You may pick up quest items in a dungeon but they are dropped when you zone out.

9. Hair dye. An extremely popular seller and one I have regularly seen in the cash shop Bestsellers list. People love to make their character look unique. Vanity items have been at the heart of the microtransactions revolution.

New store items: 28/10/09

4 new products were added to the store today:

32 Point Build Characters   
Allows you to make more powerful characters! This account upgrade allows you to make characters with 32 points to spend on stats at character creation instead of the standard 28 points. Without this account purchase, you can still unlock 32 Point Builds on a specific server via the total Favor reward.
Price: 1495 Points

I can see this appealing to a great many players. It's a hell of a grind up to 1750 Favour to unlock this facility on a server.

How much do you really need those extra 4 build points? On casters and fighter types not much. On MAD (multiple ability dependent) characters like Monks, Paladins and Rogues it's pretty useful.

It doesn't seem to have much effect in-game. Grouping is mainly a matter of good character build and not doing stupid things like running into traps.

Hair Dye Reversion Tonic   
Permanently changes the color of your character's hair back to the original color he or she had at character creation.
Available in single and x5 applications.

Price: 15 Points for single application
Price: 50 Points for 5 applications

Heh. Well I suppose there must be a demand for it. Thanks for financing my game to whoever is daft enough to pay real money for this.

The Path of Inspiration Adventure Pack   
Level 17-19 quest series with 5 adventures.
The Inspired rebuilt Stormreach’s Old Harbor, but are the Inspired a dream come true or a nightmare? Explore 5 hand-crafted adventures that take you beneath the Harbor, to a savage island, and into your own mind as you discover the Inspired’s terrible secret.
Price: 495 Points

Definitely one I will be looking out for in the sales. Can't fault them for adding end-game content (well almost end-game).

+1 Shuriken x50
A small circular throwing weapon with a serrated edge. These +1 weapons give a small bonus to your attack chance and do 2 to 3 points of slashing damage. NOTE: Requires the Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Shuriken feat. Contains a stack of 50 shuriken.
Price: 120 Points

You can now literally throw money away! Huzzah!

Again thanks to Daddy's credit card for financing my game. This and the other +1 and +2 weapon and armours are just junk for clueless new people. +1 and +2 stuff drops all the time in quests and chests. It's sub-optimal anyway, elemental damage weapons is apparently what clued up twinkers use.


  1. Great series of posts Stabs. The best seller list on the store gives us an interesting insight into what people are buying.

    I haven't felt the need to spend any real money yet but I am quite happy to spend money on content (leveling sigils / adventure packs) instead of grinding to unlock it. As a matter of personal pride I intend not to spend money on potions / gear / stat upgrades etc.

    I am not sure yet about the 32 point character builds. I imagine most of the content is balanced for a 28 point build so 32 point builds sound like easy mode and I don't want that. On the other hand I can imagine that those 4 extra points could become vital at end game. Its a pity you cannot put off buying the 32 point upgrade until your character has already reached maximum level.

  2. You can true ress though in fact it's easier for new players to true ress than for veterans (who face the wrench of losing all their Tome bonuses).

    Once you true ress once you become a 34 point character whether you started as 28 points or 32.

    I also agree that you don't need to make the game easier. Pretty much all of the problems I've seen so far come from plain old-fashioned bad play like walking into traps after the rogue shouts Trap! or everyone splitting up in unsolable elite content.

    Not that I'm innocent of any of that *blush*

  3. Hi Stabs. As I understand true re-incarnation you have to start again as a level 1 character. I would prefer to see an option to advance to a 32 (or even 34) point build at the level cap without starting over.

    This is all a moot point for me anyway - I tend to spend a few months in a game and then move on so I doubt I will ever get to the stage where I really need those four extra stat points.

  4. Ok, Having readup a bit more about it I think there is something called Greater Re-incarnation which does exactly what I want.

    My noob understanding is as follows:

    True Re-incarnation: Rerolls you character as a level 1 with 34 stat points. Start again from scratch.

    Greater Re-incarnation: Keeps your level and current achievements but upgrades a 28 point to a 32 point and allows a free respec.

    Lesser Re-incarnation: Like greater but without the upgrade to 32 points.

    A far as I can tell the components required for re-incarnation can either be bought in the cash shop or can be got in game (via grind I am sure).

    Not sure why someone would opt for lesser rather than greater but perhaps it is for purists.

    Anyway it appears my rant was groundless - above seems to meet my needs exactly

  5. I'm pretty sure you can do absolutely fine with any class as a 28 pointer. I haven't raided yet but it seems like a community where you can find "casual" raid guilds.

    You probably won't find it easy to get into an extremely hardcore raid guild with a 28 pointer but you don't strike me as the type of player who wants that.

    If you are playing a class based on one main stat you can be almost indistinguishable from a 32 pointer by taking an 18 in your main stat and a 16 in Con.

    For example Fighter/Barb 18 Str 16 Con
    Sorc 18 Cha 16 Con
    Wizard 18 Int 16 Con
    Cleric 18 Wis 16 Con

    A 32 pointer can't reach 2 18s so all they can do is pad out some fairly irrelevant stat.

    (NB racial adjustments not included)

    If you need stats as pre-requisites for certain feats or you are playing a class like Paladin that needs several stats (Str, Con, Cha and possibly a little Wis) you will feel the missing points.

    My own attitude is just to play what seems fun and be prepared to re-roll if I ever find myself wanting to get serious with this game.