The cost of business?

Cryptic’s announced another round of lottery boxes for Star Trek Online. I was mildly interested in them as I was reading through the Dev Diary, until I got to the part at the end where I read you need a key from the C-store in order to open them.

Blarg.

I really don’t like this. For starters, I’m not a gambler. I don’t like going to casinos or race tracks or buying scratch offs.

Beyond the gambling aspect, I prefer to have the store ties in games as minimal as possible, since I’m a subscriber. I can develop selective blindness so I can ignore the C-store and D-store buttons on the UI, they’re much more subtle than the gold bordered boxes Turbine uses in Lord of the Rings Online. But I really don’t like the idea of getting a lockbox as a loot drop from regular play and then having to go to the store to get a key to open it. Suddenly there’s something that is coming into my inventory which is directly pushing me towards the C-store. That’s okay for non-subscribers, after all Cryptic needs to make money both to stay in business and to reinvest in the game, but not for a subscriber.

Before F2P, C-store items were always nice optional things to have, and I spent money on quite a few uniforms, bridge packs, and ships. But as far as I can remember, there was never an item or mission that I came across in the game that directed me to go make a purchase, I always had to go to the store to seek it out.

So, depending on what the market looks like, I’ll either be discarding any lockboxes I get or putting them on the Exchange (too bad there’s no way to sell them for dilithium). Despite this lockbox stuff, I’m still completely excited for the start of The 2800 Feature Episode Series 4 this weekend. It’s like Star Trek is back on television!

13 Comments

  1. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    Just because LOTRO went through the same thing, and I was playing it for years before STO just let me add this:

    I prefer to have the store ties in games as minimal as possible, since I’m a subscriber.

    No, you’re not. As of four months ago, you’re a moocher — your Lifetime Subscription is paid off.

    So, just like LOTRO, they still need a way to occasionally still get money from the Lifers like us. LOTRO charges for expansions. Fine. At least they have them. I’ll buy the inventory and bank slots from both games. Some cosmetics.

    PWE has years more experience in the F2P market, and bottom line: “lottery boxes” are exceeding popular (and profitable) for F2P games for years. It’s absolutely like gambling, that’s apparently part of its attractiveness to some people. The main difference is you’re paying for pixels and you will always get some pixels, just a very low chance of getting the pixels you want. In real gambling you pay up but you either win something or get nothing at all.

    If you don’t want anything in the box, why get upset that the box (or its keys) exist? If people didn’t fall for the trap, they’d go away. In the meantime, we have suckers subsidizing Cryptic to pay for more FEs being built, eh? =D

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Technically true, my subscription is paid off. But that’s not my mindset when I’m in the game, and I really wonder how many people who don’t have lifetime memberships are actually subscribers. Personally, I think if I were I on a monthly subscription, I would’ve cancelled when F2P went live and gone with a silver membership. Cryptic is proving very capable of monetizing the game and getting things into the store to make money, so why pay $15 a month plus store purchases when you could just pay for store stuff with a small upfront purchase to remove any of the silver plan limitations that you didn’t like?

      As far as the box, I don’t care that they exist, but I don’t like that they’re loot drops. I had no problem with the gift boxes from the winter event. You either did something special in-game or you bought them from the store. Had Cryptic just made the lock boxes a store item only, I wouldn’t have cared. I’d never have one show up in my inventory and be able to ignore the whole thing.

  2. YeeboNo Gravatar says:

    What I read somewhere is that the main reason they are doing boxes again is that they made a ton of money off of the last round of boxes, and the game was ostensibly sub based back then. I can totally see your perspective, and it would piss me right the hell off if they added “useless without keys from our store” lottery boxes to LoTRO. But cash speaks louder than fans apparently.

    Just out of curiosity, do you get a monthly stipend of store points like lifers in LoTRO do?

    • RaptorakNo Gravatar says:

      The biggest problem here is that most players who are unhappy will not quit a game over something that small. Sure, they may dislike it, but it’s a huge step to go from “I don’t like what you’re doing” to “Alright, I’ve already quit now!”

      The companies are using risk vs. reward. *If* they lost 1% of the population, would the other 99% earn them more? If so, then it’s a good business strategy. If not, then it’s not.

      And to answer your question about the “stipend,” yes, you get points to use every month.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Oh yeah, every interview I’ve read or listened to with a Cryptic developer has mentioned that the gift boxes sold extremely well. The difference to me though is you bought the box and opened it. The lock boxes are just loot drops and then you have to buy keys to open them. I’d rather they were just store items.

      Yup, subscribers (both monthly and lifetime) get a 400 point stipend every month. So I could buy 4 keys if I cared too without spending money. Also, just like you can earn Turbine Points by completing deeds, you can earn Cryptic Points in-game by doing missions that reward dilithium and then selling refined dilithium for Cryptic Points. So for someone who has a lot of time but not much money could earn a ton of dilithium, convert that to store points, and then buy keys.

      Whoops, looks like Scott beat me to it. :)

  3. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, lifers get 400 points per month stipend.

    The other things is that both the box (drops as loot in-game) and the keys (bought from the store only) are tradeable. Also C-Points (formerly cash only) can now be purchased by trading Dilithium (and in-game currency awarded by certain mission types). So technically players can grind missions for Dilithium, buy C-Points with them, then buy the Master Key. Or, people are also putting boxes and keys on the exchange (auction house) for a few million credits each. Prices are fluctuating rapidly but the boxes and keys have only been live for a couple hours.

    • TeshNo Gravatar says:

      It’s worth noting that as far as I can tell, C points on the dilithium exchange are only there because someone purchased them, and wants to sell them for dilithium. It’s very similar to how Puzzle Pirates handles doubloons and pieces of eight. In other words, Cryptic isn’t just fountaining them out into the economy, each C point on the exchange represents money that Cryptic has already earned, and it’s just a matter of changing hands between players at that point. It’s maybe a subtle difference, but it’s crucial to note that it’s not C points from nowhere or the Cryptic magic coffers, they represent money Cryptic already took in.

      …incidentally, I hate gambling mechanics like this. I won’t call the game or marketing a failure for it, but I really don’t like them. Of course, I hate low-percentage loot drops, too. They are very much the same philosophically, which is why raiding for gear is something I never want to do.

      • ScottNo Gravatar says:

        In a sense raiding — or specifically the old-school raiding — is very much like “gambling” too. You invest X hours of time hoping for Y drop. Chances were high you wouldn’t be the one winning Y and would go home empty handed (or with vendor trash to pay some of your repair bill).

        These days it seems raiding is “everyone gets a cookie” but it takes N cookies to trade for Y item now. And I’m fine with that, assuming I enjoy repeating the content.

        I don’t mind the gambling mechanics either, myself, because I’m not going to fall for it. I buy what I want, when I want it, the end. I don’t “need” anything, it’s just a game.

        And yes, the Dilithium Exchange is players trading Dilithium for C-Points since there’s no official store method of doing so. That’s also why the prices fluctuate. Today prices are rising because people want these Master Keys…

        • BrianNo Gravatar says:

          Well technically all of the PvE activities in MMOs could be considered gambling if you want to take it that far.

          Again, it’s not the gambling aspect that bothers me, it’s that the lock boxes aren’t something that I have to seek out. They’re going to start showing up in my inventory, which means I’ll have to discard them, drop them on the exchange, or put them in the fleet bank. I’m lazy and that’s a hassle to have to mess with.

      • BrianNo Gravatar says:

        Yes, the dilithium exchange is completely player driven. Cryptic has limits on the minimum and maximum exchange rates, but that’s it as far as I’m aware. All of the points and dilithium on the market are from players.

  4. AnjinNo Gravatar says:

    This whole thing has me shaking my head. Assume I remember to blog at all, I feel another rant coming on.

  5. [...] been thinking more about last week’s post on Star Trek Online, F2P, and lock boxes. I’ve looted a few lock boxes since then and left [...]