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Richard Bartle has a fairly decent analogy of different ways of pricing MMOs (subscription, F2P, charge per hour) over here and comes to the conclusion that charging people for the time spent online is the fairest way to pay for playing. I can’t say I disagree with him, although I have a natural distrust of people using the word “fair” – everybody has a different definition of what’s “fair” and at least in politics it far too often boils down to “he’s got something I haven’t got so I should have it too, regardless of what he did or didn’t do to get it”. Anyway, regardless of the fact that I’m a flint-hearted conservative, a per-hour charge seems equitable – you want to play, you pay. When you don’t play, you don’t have to pay. And paying doesn’t buy you any advantage over other players apart from letting you play more, and most of us are OK with letting people who play the game more earn more in-game.

However, I don’t think charging per hour is a good idea. It’s fair, but it sets an incentive for regarding time as precious. Impatient players yelling “GOGOGO!” in PuGs are bad enough without them feeling aggrieved that your mana break is costing them 10 cents each and every hour it lasts. Your DPS being 4% lower than the benchmarked optimum means the dungeon run lasts 4% longer (assuming the entire party is 4% below optimum, and that the instance run is continuous combat…) – that’s real money! Stopping to chat or look at the scenery is wasteful profligacy of the sort that created the banking crisis, and of course any waiting for a world boss or event to spawn is obviously an evil conspiracy by the devs to fleece us of our money. You can just imagine the reaction if GW2 ran on this model and the Claw of Jormag waited until the end of his 75 minute spawning window – that would be twelve and a half cents stolen from each player by this cynical mechanic.

No, I’m sorry. Pricing per hour might be fairer, but the way gamers would react would just show why we can’t have nice things.


  1. Totally agree. I came to the same conclusion a while ago too. There needs to be some downtime in order to take in that there is a ‘world’. At least if you want a good balance of achievers, explorers, socializers and killers. A traditional pay-per hour puts a dent into that.

    But… isn’t all the F2P stat-boosting items a form of pay-per hour? Tomes run for a set time. Some items are one-time use, effectively paying for a few hours of game-time, even if not explicitly. If you can hide that countdown timer from the mental focus, would that be enough?

  2. The difference is that the F2P items are pay-per-hour for an advantage. While they last, you get a ‘better’ (less grindy) game experience than some of the people around you. When the hours run out you can still play but you get a ‘lesser’ experience (i.e. more grindy). So with thew F2P model you get two classes of people in the game – the ones paying something and the ones who are freeloading but having to grind more. With a pay-per-hour then everyone in game is equal.
    However, you are right – if you’ve bought a time-limited boost then you feel the same pressure to GOGOGO and not waste it. You might actually have the worst of both worlds, in a group where some players have their timers ticking down and the rest of the group don’t give a shit because hey, they’re playing for free. I can see that ending very badly indeed 🙂

  3. I noticed Dataferret’s point was particularly true in DDO. Some people love to blitz dungeons and can essentially solo them. So sometimes a dungeon run would be done so fast that I and most of the group would never even attack a monster, just run after some dude leaving corpses everywhere. Asking them to slow down would see the response “exp pot active”.

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