Free for All: So what else can you get for 150 dollars?

Recently, fans of the upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic had the pleasure of plopping down 150 clams to pre-order a special collectors edition of their favorite game they have never played. I've seen this before, and have even pre-ordered a few in my day (I'm looking at you, giant Warhammer Online box.) Pre-orders are the oldest form of virtual goods...they were cash-shops before cash-shops appeared in every game. The funnest part is seeing hardcore cash-shop haters gladly paying huge sums of money for a robot pet or a cool looking cape. Somehow, they see it as a different thing altogether than buying a shiny mount or pink dress from in-game.

Still, I understand the impulse. I get it every time I am in the check-out lane and the new flavors of gum have been released. Even worse is when one of my favorite games releases new items in their cash shop. New mounts, housing goods, heck even new weapons or stat-increasing potions...they make me drool.

So, I decided to take a 150 dollar budget and see what I could get for it. Click past the cut and let's look at the list!

OK, before we get to spending this wad of cabbage, let me say that in a lot of cases you will have to buy virtual dollars to spend in certain cash shops. That means sometimes you will have to round up, or buy twice as much as you really need in order to cover costs. Don't worry, critics will say that this is some sort of gimmick to force players to spend more money, but spending more money is what we like to do. The leftovers always go to good use, and 99 percent of the time, never expire. That means you can check back on a game you haven't visited in months and find some money sitting there, waiting to be spent, sort of like finding a five dollar bill in a pair of dirty jeans.

Also, items go on sale all the time. A smart virtual shopper waits for the deals, or knows which items will stick around and will more than likely drop in price. If it doesn't have an expiration date on it, wait as long as possible. If, for example, your cash-shop of choice is known for its mounts... wait. As soon as the new ones come out, the old ones you lusted after will probably drop in price. Virtual shopping is like any other, minus the harmful packaging.

So, what do we get for 150 dollars?

Free Realms: I already have a ton of stuff in Free Realms, but in this experiment I would get a blank housing lot, some items to build an obstacle course with, and a killer BMX mount to take through it. I would buy one 2000 chunk of Station Cash, and one 500 chunk. I will still have 205 Station Cash left over, which will come in handy later.

  • One BMX bike mount, 495 Station Cash
  • One Shrouded Stairs lot (think empty housing lot,) 360 Station Cash
  • Eight rectangular blocks for building, 135 Station Cash each
  • Two large Launch Pads for building, 180 Station Cash each

= $25.00

Mabinogi: Mounts and pets are the best in this game. The coolest part? You can play as the mount or pet. Although I have around a dozen or so pets and mounts already, I really wanted a new one. 10,000 NX equals 10 dollars.

  • One Crow pet, 5,100 NX. (10,000 NX is the closest denomination, so I'll have some left over for later!)

= $10.00

Battlestar Galactica Online: Recently the developers started to sell the actual older model Cylon ship -- you know, the dish-shaped ones from the old series -- so I would have to have one.

  • One Cylon ship, 45,000 Cubits (would need to buy one $12.99 and two $2.99 chunks of Cubits)

= $18.97

Lord of the Rings Online: My one main gripe with LotRO's cash-shop is that it will actually hide items from you that are out of your level. Why in the world the developers would want to hide a single item from potential customers is beyond my comprehension. I am fully open to the fact that I might be missing something, so feel free to correct me in the comments section. Still, I thought a nice pretty mount would be the best purchase.

  • One Algraig mount, 1295 Turbine points ($19.99 for 1600 points)

= $19.99

Wizard 101: this one was debatable, but in the end I would go with the Mega Bundle. For $39.00, it packs more punch than almost anything I found. Just check out the following list!

  • One Massive Sultan's Palace (a huge house)
  • One flying carpet mount
  • One mystical genie in the lamp
  • 5,000 Crowns (cash-shop money)
  • One random mini-game kiosk housing item
  • One charmer's mystical flute
  • One snake-in-the-basket pet
  • One sultan's attire clothing set

= $39.00

Illyriad: I love playing this browser-based MMORTS, but it's even nicer when you have some Prestige to throw around. Prestige essentially helps speed up building and trading processes, but does not effect learning skills. These boosters are very, very handy.

  • 200 Prestige (105 Facebook credits, $10.00)

= $10.00

Wurm Online: Easy choice on this one. I would simply buy myself 10 in-game silver, either for paying rent on our Massively village deed or for buying some goods from other players.

  • 10 silver ($14.89 through PayPal)

= $14.89

EverQuest II: This game has featured a wonderful cash-shop for some time now. I love the items in it, but they can sometimes be a little pricey. SOE is a good one for bargain shoppers, though, as they have often featured double (and even triple!) Station Cash offers. What would I get, though? Well, at this point my funds are running a little low, I'm only left with about $12.15 ...I think I might have to sacrifice something. 1000 Station Cash for $10.00 sounds good, plus the leftover 205 Station Cash means 1205 total. Some of the following items are on sale, and the mount in particular is awesome looking.
  • One black clothing crate (appearance armor,) 300 Station Cash
  • One Cinderblade (a killer looking vanity weapon,) 150 Station Cash
  • One Arcane Battlehardened Fire Warg Mount, 750 Station cash

= $10.00

My total comes out to $147.85. Wow, that's cutting it pretty close. If you really pushed, squeezed and schemed you could probably spend exactly the $150.00 amount. I even made this super-fancy chart to illustrate that I know how to make charts:

When I asked on Twitter, many of my followers had some great ideas, but most came down to "I would buy a bunch of stuff from game X." It seems as though the prospect of using all of the funds to create one massive pile of virtual cash to /rollaroundnakedin is too much for some people.

In the end, you spend your money on what you want to spend it on. That's the beauty of it. If you thought that the SWTOR collector's edition was worth that amount, then it was. Remember, no one else is going to be controlling your characters but you. I tend to want to spread my money out, and you can see why. After doing some of this research, I am finding the urge to literally buy everything on this list very hard to resist. To be very honest, though, I already have many of these items or have tons of other virtual goods. For me, virtual shopping is as good as real shopping, minus the annoying trash to go with it.

Until next week!

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
This article was originally published on Massively.