Anti-Aliased: "Cash shop" shouldn't be a dirty phrase pt. 2

Microtransactions that dominate gameplay

The second of the sins is creating a game that is centered solely around the cash shop for progress. Games that use intense leveling curves and offer experience boosting potions, or offer other gameplay shortcuts to get around their poor design are examples of this type of sin.

People play games for fun, period, end of story. If your game isn't fun from the moment they log in, and you expect a player to purchase items from your shop to make the game fun, then you're not doing it right at all.

Cash shops should compliment gameplay, not dictate it. Cash shops should be a lucrative option for players, not a mandatory function of the game. When players are having fun and you offer them more fun things in your shop, they will be more than happy to give you money. And, if you don't believe me, look at Myst Online. That's a game that has no cash shop, only asked for donations, and they got enough donations to keep their game running for their fans and then some. If you offer fun gameplay, people will be happy to keep you going.

"Build a community that enjoys your product, and you don't have to force them or trick them to buy anything."

Incomplete gaming experience leads to cash shop spending

As David Allen said when we opened up the article, many games like to make a whole wealth of content, take out a good chunk of that content, and then offer it in the cash shop when it should have been in the main game.

As with cash shops that dominate gameplay, you shouldn't use the cash shop as a crutch to your game. It needs to be fun and complete from the get go. Sure, the cash shop needs to be lucrative so you can make money, but using it as the groundwork of your game isn't going to win players over. They came to game, so be sure that the game is in place before you start assaulting them with your cash shop.

Make sure they're having fun, having a good time, and don't feel impeded. Put the cash shop to the side, and offer them items that give them fun alternatives, not mandatory alternatives. Also, make sure the game feels like a quality game. Poor content, cut and paste quests, and bad game design isn't going to help players want to purchase items from your cash shop.

Why Dungeons and Dragons Online works so well

If there's one game that works perfectly with a cash shop, it's Dungeons and Dragons Online. It's a quality game that delivers a complete gaming experience for everyone who walks through the door.

The cash shop itself offers fun extensions to the game play, like new classes, new adventure modules and other goodies that feel like fun additions to the game instead of being mandatory purchases. It feels a bit like your standard game and downloadable content, except that you never paid the 50 bucks to pick up the game. Plus, through the ability to earn Turbine points by playing the game, they introduce you to buying things in the cash shop by giving you a taste of the content. It's genius.

I'm more than happy to pay for content for a game that's fun to play and doesn't force me to buy content. That's the true secret to cash shops. Build a community that enjoys your product, and you don't have to force them or trick them to buy anything.

They'll gladly do that themselves.


Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who dumps crazy money into Second Life, and those items don't even have gameplay effects! When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog,The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.