What's WildStar C.R.E.D.D. trade gold for game time
WildStar, will fly in the face of massively multiplayer fashion by charging a subscription, developer Carbine has announced. you'll also be able play for free by trading in-game currency for game time with other players.
The system, called CREDD, is similar to the PLEX system introduced to Eve Online's economy a couple of years ago. It effectively enables authorised gold buying for one segment of WildStar players and free gameplay for another. Cash-rich and time-poor players will buy CREDD as an in-game item direct from Carbine, and then sell it for gold over WildStar's trading system to their time-rich and cash-poor cohorts.
CREDD (which stands for Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction and Development) will be priced higher in real money than a standard sub, to protect the system from exploitation, but its price in game gold will be subject to the market forces of WildStar's economy. You'll only be able to trade it through the game's Commodities Exchange, an automated 'blind' auction house where you can only buy commodities at the lowest available price with no awareness of the seller's identity. CREDD can't be gifted.
Everything else about the way WildStar will be sold is true to the formula established for MMOs in the late 1990s and popularised - somewhat fatally for its competitors - by World of Warcraft. The game will be sold digitally and in boxes for £35/€45/$60. It will include 30 days of game time and three one-week guest passes for friends. After your 30 days, you'll need to pay a subscription (or buy game time cards) at the rate of £9/€13/$15 per month, with better deals available if you buy in three, six or 12-month blocks. CREDD will cost £12/€17/$20.
The announcement is surprising because for some years now, the writing has appeared to be on the wall for subscription-funded MMOs. You can count the successful examples still in operation on the fingers of one hand, very few recent launches among them. Meanwhile, many games - including BioWare's high-profile Star Wars: The Old Republic - have rushed through new business models as they try to stave off competition from the rising tide of free-to-play online gaming and abandon their assaults on WOW's dominance. The results have been mixed.
CREDD is an exceptionally elegant solution to two problems facing online worlds: how to enable free play in a game designed around the idea of a subscription, and how to combat gold trading and all its associated problems (farming of resources, account hacking, credit card scamming and so on. "Anything we can do to clean that up, we like doing," Gaffney said). By trading the desires of two segments of players off against each other, it potentially resolves both. PLEX is a proven success in Eve Online, where many players use it to fund secondary accounts.
"We looked around at a number of systems," Gaffney said. "Each system you look at, there's one or two generally strong contenders using that system well, and it tends to be the strongest game in the category. So we looked at PLEX; Tera did Chronoscrolls, which was another variant on the system. We have our own variant on it... We're a very different game than Eve, obviously. And that's a good thing. But I have a ton of respect for Eve, it's one of the games that's just quietly been sitting there making money for a decade now, when so many other games have come and gone."
By offering an alternative to a subscription, perhaps CREDD will help WildStar stave off the switch to free-to-play which has seemed inevitable in so many recent MMO launches. But the question remains: why go for a subscription in the first place?
Gaffney is pragmatic: for him, it's about knowing exactly how much Carbine can invest in the infrastructure and ongoing development of the game. "To us as developers, a subscription model is great because you know, per player, how much money you're making. If you are in a very variable system like a pure free-to-play, then... you don't know.
"The benefits for the user are pretty clear. If we're running our business right and we're re investing heavily into what the game is, then every player is having a significant impact - hey, we're going to make the content, we're going to make the updates and the patches that it needs to retain players in the long haul. You're not having to pay all the costs for players who are not paying a dime into the system. So they're getting a better return on their money, because it goes into the updates. But that requires some trust," he admitted.
Gaffney also argued that subscriptions aren't just economically simpler for a developer to run - they're ethically simpler, too. "It's very hard to ethically run your game [as free-to-play]," he said. "You know, every time you figure something new that makes you more money, are you gouging money out of your users and pissing them off in a way that you're really going to pay for in a long time? Or have you tapped into a new user need? It's very hard to do right. Players don't care if it's hard for us, they care about what they want in a game. But it's very difficult."
Gaffney isn't opposed to free-to-play in principle, and cited League of Legends as an example of a game that integrates its business model well with the game design. However you're asking players to pay, though, his belief is that it's important to commit to it.