Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Irrational Entropia

(Preface: There's a palpable buzz about inflation inside Entropia Universe these days. Read some players thoughts here. )

Yesterday I was talking to the wealthiest person I consider a friend. His family's net worth is pushing half a billion. He asked how much one would have to deposit to become a high level player if you were just now joining. I'm not sure what the right answer is, but my best guess was $100,000 and he promptly told me what a tool I was for playing such a game.

I'm not sure what market Mindark is going after. Many people assume it's the ultra-wealthy. But I think few of them can be arsed. They know how much money they have and they don't need to flaunt it online, when they can do their flaunting IRL and actually get laid from it. I think their new target market has become addictive personalities. And maybe that's a winning business plan. Just because they've failed to gain any traction in the gaming space for five years running doesn't necessarily mean continuing down this same path won't suddenly start working. After all, they're the experts.

The real question, which has been enumerated dozens of times, how many new players will they be able to find who will enthusiastically join a game where $20,000 is the absolute minimum investment. And that's just to become a very average player that probably won't last 60 seconds in PVP.

Maybe they'll surprise us all. But I think Sony, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Linden Labs, and the US Government are conspiring against them. I bet champagne popping after the bank auctions closed was a lot of fun, but the coming hangover could prove to be a bitch.

6 comments:

Chris Hackard said...

I will have to admit I do have a slight addiction to video games in general which stems back to my days playing Pong or Atari 2600 wishing there was just a tad bit more to it.

These days gaming has grown by leaps and bounds and I think this just makes things more addictive. What attracted me to Project Entropia was its Sci Fi theme, First person perspective, open ended play, and the ability to grow your avatar via playing the game and investing as much time and money as you wanted. Project Entropia seemed to embody this type of play and I personally became more involved in the game.

I have always had a difficult time trying to explain to other people just what Project Entropia was all about and as time moved forward and Entropia Universe has came to be I have an even more difficult time trying to justify the rising costs to people outside of the RCE realm.

Project Entropia was and is definitely "not everyone's cup of tea" but I adopted it with all its faults realizing just what it could be.

Maybe it was the record sales of Treasure Island or the resort Asteroid "Club Neverdie" but something fundamentally changed. Instead of making Project Entropia a place where a gamer with a limited budget could scrape their way to better economy and more efficiencey it became more of a "if you want that you gotta pay for it" type game.

There are many issues within Entropia Universe these days from simple inflation to blatant market manipulation.

While the (L) system was supposed to be the every day players way into Entropia Universe I think it has done nothing but at fuel to the fire of inflation and market manipulation. While it gave crafters some meaning and its quite sucessful in some areas (ie. Mining amps) for the most part in an effort to push this system Mindark has limited repairable item loots some to the point of non existance and made (L) so much more easy to use and use efficiently that any other crafted weapon (except for things like the Maddox IV pistol and some other carbines) is virtually pointless to craft unless you want the skills.

In my opinion the mining equipment and mining amps were time well invested in the (L) system. Subsquently slapping an (L) on anything new is not working well at least from a players standpoint. If it was then inflation would not be at its peak.

I don't forsee Mindark changing though, since (L) gives them more control, it inflates the repairable items which increases deposits, spurns crafting with all its risk.

Its very much like the California Gold rush these days. The only people making money then were the equipment sellers (crafters, malls and shops in EU), Bar keeps and Land Barons (OLA owners and Mall owners). The people out there grinding away trying to strike it rich were very few and far between. That dream they had however made other people very wealthy indeed.

Well it surprises me each time I see someone come into our little back water world in the virtual universe like gangbusters throwing money around but one thing is for sure Mindark wants people to succeed at some of these ventures because then it lends credance to dropping 100K USDs for some server space and pixels.

Ohhh well just like Real life some fall into deals and others well......have to work at it and never get off the ground.

Matt Barlow said...

It used to be that I felt like there could be an awesome loot on the tip of my loot finger, I just don't feel that anymore.

Loots are incredibly boring, equipment is stupidly expensive, and MindArk are doing nothing about it.

Chris Hackard said...

Matt,

What can I say you summed up just about exactly how I have been feeling.

I have had some interesting loots in the past but nothing wow OMG knock me out of the chair. Much of my motivation then was "if I am getting loots like these then something good can come at anytime" I never did get that "knock me out of the chair loot" but my motivation for depositing and trying to become more skilled and efficient was to have access to loots I saw people, like Starman, getting when I first jumped into Project Entropia.

It has seemed like the closer one gets the further Mindark pushes the carrot away and the more disheartened and disinterested I become.

I am still waiting to see the "advantage" of their changes so far I really only see less than honorable resellers and Mindark having any advantage in the systems they put in place and maybe that is how Mindark wants it. They never seem to do anything towards the contrary.

I was OK with Entropia Universe and adapting to the changes from the many VU nerfs but I guess the last straw was the Version Update in which they changed the loot and I can't seem to put my finger on it but in my own self evaluation I noticed the negativity letting loose even more so soon after that Version Update.

I guess if Mindark throws enough punches it can knock anyones "Rose colored" glasses off.

Anders said...

"Yesterday I was talking to the wealthiest person I consider a friend. His family's net worth is pushing half a billion. He asked how much one would have to deposit to become a high level player if you were just now joining. I'm not sure what the right answer is, but my best guess was $100,000 and he promptly told me what a tool I was for playing such a game."

EU is supposed to reflect real life right? In that case 100,000 USD wouldnt be that much if you want to be one of the most wealthy and equipped induviduals in the "universe".

However I do agree, its way to much and the way it is now... its not very balanced. I have come to a point where I have to chose if I want to advance IRL or "IVL", because I cant afford to do both. The choice is easy, but it I still find it sad that I wont be able to upgrade my equipment, or unlock any new skills in the next 2-5 years. And the loot system gives me no motivation what so ever.

I really hope MA will take this issue seriously!

The only reason why I deposit now is because I can, and Im still addicted to EU. I have too many friends and I have, in my opinion, invested too much money to quit. So I hope that one day my addiction will pay off.

Sad isnt it? lol

Kabalyero said...

I'm not really spending that much on Entropia. I just play to enjoy and hopefully meet new friends around the globe.

thoreau said...

I disagree with your basic premise.

You seem to be saying that MindArk is either directly or indirectly reponsible for the inflation in EU.

First, let's start with a definition of inflation.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Inflation.html

"Inflation is the loss in purchasing power of a currency unit such as the dollar, usually expressed as a general rise in the prices of goods and services."

It is with this definition I start to disagree. I do not see a 'general rise in prices of goods and services.' In EU, what I see is a rise in the price of elite goods. What we call uber gear.

Looking at low-level and mid-level items we can see things are cheaper than ever. A MK2 for TT+5? Ghost armor at TT+120? Pixie for almost TT? Everyday handguns go through auction without a single bid over TT value.

2 years ago a mid-level player could not purchase the amount of goods and skills they can today for the same dollar. Ghost + Mk2 + 5000 rifle skills today is much cheaper than Nemesis + Mk2 + skilling to 5000 was 2 years ago.

So, it is not inflation as you say but rather a rise in the cost of uber items.

So, is MindArk responsible for the rise in prices of elite gear?

Let's look at some other possible causes.

1. Resellers. There are many resellers in EU and by definition they cause the price of items to increase. Some resellers are so blatant that they include 'Reseller' in their avatar name.

2. Market speculation. Just this week, after the announcement of the 'Chinese planet' a well-known player posted they were selling their hangar for 30-40k PEDs OVER current market value. Once prices get inflated by speculators it is difficult to put the jack back in the box.

3. Increase in number of players. As the number of players increase it stand to reason the amount of PEDs in circulation will increase as well. Since most MMO players strive to be 'l33t' they want to purchase the best items. More PEDs chasing around a limited supply of items would cause a rise in prices.

But if MA was to blame, could they do anything to fix the problem?

Sure, MA could increase the drop rate on uber items so that supply comes closer to meeting demand. This would cause prices to level on these items and perhaps drop. But this could be problematic.

There is a unwritten agreement between MA and its players. That agreement is that some items are more rare than others. And other items are rarer still. Increasing the drop rate so that 10% of the active player based owned a Modified FAP would break that agreement.

MA could control the amount of PEDs in circulation by limiting deposits or instituting a subscription model. But there are so many problems with this idea that there isn't enough time to discuss them all. In short, a 3rd party market would develop quickly for buying and selling of PEDs. Also, items in game that are not essential (clothing, furniture) would see a price crash as the limited amount of PEDs would be used mostly for primary purposes such as hunting and mining.

In conclusion, there is not a general rise in prices in Entropia. Rather, the prices of uber items have sharply risen on the past few years. This increase could be caused by the influence of market speculators, resellers, or due to a increase in the number of PEDs in circulation caued by the increasing popularity of the game.

In my opinion, MindArk is not targeting the wealthy. They are creating a virtual universe where the wealthy have a considerable advantage.