RoM uses a traditional cash shop. It's not a hybrid like Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons and Dragons Online. It's entirely run on a cash shop, like Perfect World International, Allods Online, or Zentia. But one difference I see with RoM's traditional cash shop is that it encourages players to exchange real cash for in-game gold. Other MMOs have allowed this, but usually it's not integrated. Exchanges are often terribly lopsided and see players charging other players ridiculous amounts of in-game currency for a cash-shop item that cost a few bucks. Cold, hard cash has become a seamless part of RoM's in-game economy. Real cash has taken on a balanced pricing-scale for items because money can be injected into the MMO. It can then be changed into gold to buy anything. A player's real money has not only been integrated into the game but become balanced in the same way any game-item is.
This is only one unique aspect of RoM that could allow for the removal of any perceived pressure to spend in the cash shop to fully enjoy the entire game. RoM already has a great system in which you can experience everything by sacrificing more time, but I think Runewaker and Frogster could do more. I say blow the doors wide open. Give players every little bit that RoM has to offer. It would be like dropping the monthly fee on a subscription-based MMO. I'll tell you how and why after the break.
Remember the 89/10/1 "rule" of F2P business? No? OK. I'll wait, again. Great, you're back. My little proposal -- of sorts -- is based around seeing RoM thriving off of this rule and perhaps breaking away from its shackles. Let's apply this to RoM.
Hardcore. Endgamers. Call them whatever you want. This is the first of two player-types that I see as dominating many MMOs. Endgamers are the players playing long and hard. They want to reach the bleeding-edge of content fast and stay there. In RoM, I hypothesize that this playstyle dominates the one-percent of the rule. There's no reason to think that hardcore players spend more in a game than anyone else, but in RoM I think the gear system is a big draw for the one-percenters and endgamers. They gobble up purified fusion stones, experience potions, and phirius potions like there's no tomorrow.
Again, the name is not important. Casual players are the second type and can spend, but would they spend extravagantly? Maybe. I'm going to speculate this playstyle dominates the 10-percent portion of the rule. Housing and other systems outside of dungeon-running are big in RoM. Players can easily spend as much or more on housing than players who are constantly modifying gear for the next hardest dungeon. The constant upkeep-costs and different pieces of furniture keeps driving spending on housing.
Who spends the most?
RoM's already generous money-exchange doesn't necessarily leave high-level players paying the most. Once you reach the level cap and have spent more than a few greenbacks on getting exceptionally geared, it becomes easier to make swaths of gold to spend on diamonds instead of opening your wallet. After the zerg-rush to max-level and the best gear, what is there to spend on between expansions? A lot of that spending continues in other areas like housing, potions, equipment aggregators and pets. These are also systems that have big spenders, so spending big isn't exclusive to endgame in RoM. Don't these systems seem to allow RoM to break the 89/10/1 rule? Maybe no MMO can actually break it regardless of content, but I think RoM blurs those numbers a bit.
Take off the chains
RoM already allows players to get anywhere they want to go without having to spend money, but there are some areas that are a bit tedious. Anyone who's hit around level 50 or 55 can tell you that if you want to continue on, you will have to start spending a lot more time grinding for gold. I say we should remove all pretenses and allow players a 100% hurdle-free journey through content with minimal boredom or hang-ups.
It does make sense
RoM is almost totally free anyway. Just push it over that last little hump. The insane gear-modding feature has that one-percent spending oodles of cash regardless of whether they can do the content without it. Why? Because RoM created an awesome system that lets players become as super-powered as they see fit. There are already groups of players that can down Manticos in as fast as five seconds. That's far above what's needed to be able to experience that level of content. The housing and other features have great cosmetic items as well. The house-renting system keeps players paying regularly and then some. There are quite possibly a lot of players -- of any level -- who fall in the one-percent of the rule.
Frogster and Runewaker should give customers what they want, and they'll gladly pay for more. RoM is an MMO with awesome systems that let players go above and beyond what's necessary to see all the content. That one-percent of players who spend extravagantly are already doing that. They'll continue to spend. The 10-percent will continue as well. Keep the cash shop the way it is. Little has to be changed. Just throw in a more even spread of minimal gear that players would need as they progress, enough to smooth out those rough spots that needlessly pressure players into spending or create a boring grind-fest. The 89% who never pay already have shown they will grind to the ends of the earth in other MMOs. That same philosophy will still hold true in RoM. Throwing in areas that are a bit of a boring grind for those who will pay anyway is just that: throwing boredom into a game that could be better. If you open up the game entirely, there will likely be more attraction for new players and an increase in profits over whatever profits are seen through pressuring non-spenders to spend.
Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or an in-depth look at the Rogue/Priest combo, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.