Posted by Homeless Bill on Dec 14, 2013

An Unpopular Perspective

As a few of you may have heard, the Clan Collection has been announced for pre-order. “The Clans?” you ask. “Now? Before Community Warfare? Before we even have the new UI?” Yes, indeed, and people are not happy.

It’s here, it wants $240 of your hard-earned money for the top-tier package, and you can even spend a mind-blowing $500 on a single, gold-encrusted ‘mech of your choosing. Jesus. H. Christ.

But let’s be honest: it’s not the price tag that everyone’s pissed off about; it’s the lack of progress. For over a year, UI 2.0 has been two months away, and Community Warfare is perpetually just around the corner. Beyond the interface improvements, all sorts of fun goodies like tonnage limits and private lobbies are bottle-necked by the new UI, which makes its release all the more pressing. Word on the street is that there’s a “strong chance” of it dropping in January, but it’s tough to believe given a track record littered with missed deadlines and broken promises.

So why now? How could they, having just missed their latest self-imposed deadline for UI 2.0, have the balls to come ask us for more money? Project Phoenix was only a couple months ago; how can they feel justified doing another sale so soon?

It’s Called Capitalism

Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost: they’re not doing this sale just to fuck with you. A lot of people seem to take personal offense, but it’s really just a calculated business decision:

  • It’s the holiday season – Christmas bonuses mean consumers have money. Everyone else is doing sales, so why would the flagship sale of MWO miss the shopping season?

  • Project Phoenix was a smashing success based on the number of those ‘mechs I’ve seen running around. Regardless of the size of the player base, a large percentage grabbed it.

  • Remember that stagnation and lack of progress? This early tease is meant, in part, to counter that sentiment and give us something to be excited about. Let’s be honest: a lot of us want (see: need) Clan ‘mechs badly. The concept art is beautiful, and the ‘mech choices could hardly have been any better.

  • The sooner IGP gets money, the sooner it can be re-invested into the project. Tinfoil hatting aside, at least some of this money is going to show back up in the development budget, and the quicker that happens, the quicker more resources are on the job and moving the project forward.

  • It’s been about six months since the last big sale. Though the Phoenix ‘mechs were delivered in October, pre-orders began in early summer. While many consider it “too soon,” they seem to be confident enough with that end date that it simply makes sense.

  • Disillusionment will pass. They were well aware of the backlash this would cause. They’re fine with that, and they’re confident that as they start hitting deadlines, more people will buy in. In the meantime, there’s no sense leaving the early-comers to spend their money on other holiday bargains.

  • Notice that there’s no end date on the sale yet. That’s not a mysterious coincidence – it’s more than likely because they want flexibility to extend the sale if things get pushed back (as they almost inevitably will). They will try to win the disillusioned over before the end of the sale with whatever they can get out the door.

  • And the big one: it costs money to keep a business running. As a game developer, I can tell you it takes an obscene amount of money (think anywhere from $10,000 to upwards of $100,000 per day) to keep a smallish-sized studio open. Rent, electricity, payroll, licenses, constant equipment replacements, software out the kazoo, and the list goes on – there’s never a good time to be cutting it close.

Full Disclosure

I’m truthfully not a fan of all this, either. As a consumer, it feels like a shameless betrayal. Another missed deadline followed immediately by another cash grab. I simply can’t help how I feel.

It’s a year’s worth of disappointment. It’s realizing collision won’t be coming back soon. It’s seeing backspace stay broken for three months. It’s that TAG is still not a toggle. It’s the inconsistent communication, poor decisions, broken promises, and constant inaction. They won’t be getting any of my money until they deliver on something I care about. Period.

Having said that, there’s also no point in taking offense to what is purely a logical business decision. I’m sure they largely expected this backlash – it happened to an extent with Project Phoenix, and I’m sure they anticipated even more anger considering it’s been another six months of missed deadlines.

But there’s no bad time to be making money. If you, like me, are not satisfied with the state of the game, then speak with your wallet and pass for now. But some people will buy it. Hell, it’s tempting to just do it now. As I sit here knowing I’ll probably be blowing that money at a strip club in Vegas in less than 72 hours, I can’t help but feel like I’d get more lasting value out of the Clan Collection. Many are weaker than I am, and they’ve already started buying.

Where are they, then? Why aren’t they out on the forums and reddit defending their purchases? Because who would, given the general sentiment is so hostile? It’s a guilty pleasure, and I’m sure a fair number have already indulged.

And that’s not a bad thing. If everyone stopped buying, the game might go under. While I don’t want to see that happen, I’m also a Darwinist when it comes to products and services: if you can’t deliver, I’m not going to pay you. My hope is not that everyone boycotts – it’s that PGI makes me want to spend money.

Take a Deep Breath

Even if you don’t intend to throw in any more money, there’s no reason to hold this against them. The vast majority of the disgruntled members of the community have been around a while. In fact, I’d wager that the longer you’ve been around, the more unhappy you are about this. We aren’t the target audience for the initial wave of this sale. The target audience is newer players, the most faithful of the old guard, and the people that absolutely have to have Clan ‘mechs right now.

They’re hoping they’ll be able to get important features out and working correctly to win people like you and me over. Too often, the community forgets that PGI is just a bunch people. They’re game developers trying to do their job and deliver you the best product they can. They’re not maliciously doing it wrong.

The spacey girl at the coffee shop that always fucks up your order isn’t a bad person – she’s just a little overwhelmed. She still has to try to sell coffee to you and everyone else that comes in. She’s not asking you to buy anything; she’s offering you the new special that you’ve been requesting all year.

A business isn’t about whether or not you “deserve” money. It’s about whether or not you can get money. Fault them for their performance all you want, but chastising them for offering to sell the very product that keeps them in business is misguided.

Another Unpopular Opinion: Golden ‘Mechs Are Awesome

Stop bitching about the $500 ‘mechs. Seriously. Make fun of them all you want, but whining about the price is the definition of missing the point. The crux of the ‘mech is that it’s ridiculously expensive and flashy. You’re getting something cool, rare, unique, and (debatably) functional in return for what is effectively a generous donation. Again, they’re not asking you to do anything – they’re just giving you an option.

Why pay $250,000 for a car when you could get a perfectly beastly one for $75,000? Why buy a garish, $10,000 handbag instead of a good-looking one from a thrift store? Why download this app? They’re status symbols. They’ve always existed and always will. They’re a way of saying, “Hey, I have money.” There’s no reason not to have them in MechWarrior: Online as long as it’s not pay-to-win.

If no one buys them, who cares? And if they do, who cares? Playing in one of those things will be an Insanity Wolf affair. It’s basically an expensive toy for your ‘mech bay and private matches, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Post a Comment

23 Responses to “An Unpopular Perspective”

  1. Bert Bargo says:

    Article TL;DR:
    -I’m not gonna grab this deal, even though I’m going to be thinking all about this deal in the strip club.
    -Devs gotta eat.
    -No one is MAKING you buy these mechs in this broken game at these broken prices.

    You’re making the same argument that has been whipping around MWO for the past 18+ months. I’m glad you’re probably not buying into their cash-grab, though.

    I do believe that releasing the Clans is a swan song. My friends (both on the forums and off) had cancelled their Phoenix orders over third person (among other things) so I’m not sure how much of a success the program was. Also remember that they kept the Phoenix offer running past the original deadline, so that says something.

    I for one do hope that the players wise up and stop rewarding PGI for their lack of progress. When will enough finally be enough, everyone?
    “But Bert! The game may DIE!”
    Good! Let another developer pick up the IP and take a crack at it. F2P MWO COULD have worked, so long as the pay-to-skip-grind made sense and you actually got some vague bang for your buck. Not this blatant “spend money or be stuck in your cadet mech until you roll a brand new cadet account.”

    People are saying “10$ for each mech isn’t bad!” But do you remember the founders’ packages?
    2 months of premium in $60 founders, vs 3 months in $240?
    20000 MC in $60 founders vs 0 in $240?
    There was a deal.

    It’s my firm belief that they’ll keep ‘working on the game’ until June when the Clans are released. After this final possibly-huge cash-in, content/patches will start to trickle down to once a month, then once every other month. The staff size will shrink, we will simply stop hearing from them, and then the game will become “too expensive to maintain” in about one year’s time. Certainly by 2015.

    PGI just wants your money. If they cared about you, the player, or this franchise, the game itself and the various forums would not be in the state that they are in right now. They don’t care: enough excuses.

    It was fun while it lasted, boys. I’m sure I’ll see you in space.

    • Homeless Bill says:

      It’s certainly worrying sometimes that it’s all just been a pyramid scheme and they’ll bail out after a final cash-grab. But not worrying enough to take it seriously. I’ve spent around $150 on this game, and I’ve gotten over 5000 matches out of it with some of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. It’s been well worth it.

      If you’re right and shit does hit the fan, Star Citizen awaits.

      • Sgt.Glory says:

        I’ve already spent way too much time staring at my ships and fish tank in my hangar. I hope MWO survives, but boy am I ready for Star Citizen.

      • AdamBaines says:

        I’m on board with what your saying Bill. And I agree that I have had a ton of fun and met a bunch of Awesome people playing this game with my $200 investment thus far.

        Software Dev is EXPENSIVE! Gotta eat (as I write this while doing QA).

        I’m on board with StarCitizen, but again I have to pay for my content there so Ill stick with MWO till I can’t stick no more! :-)

        Full disclosure: I bought both the Founders and Both Phoenix packs. I’m sure I will buy one of these beasts as well.

  2. Eagle Falconhawk says:

    Make sure you do it right – Spearmint Rhino or bust.

    Fully agree with everything you posted by the way. A business has a right to make money and a consumer has the right to decide where to spend your money.

  3. Kris Blais says:

    golden mechs? meh… i want gem encrusted platinum

  4. Salient says:

    It disgusts me how massive of a PGI fanboy you are. Do they pay you? in MC? They must. You cry occasionally and sound like you’re finally waking up to the scam that is MWO. Then I turn around and your writing articles about how much you love the taste of PGI cock. Wake the fuck up.

  5. Talrich says:

    Bill,
    I agree that a business analysis is appropriate, but it’s equally damning. The 0’s and 1’s that make up these clan mechs are the lowest marginal cost goods of any business. High fixed cost (to design and code) yet no cost per unit sold. From a business perspective, these prices suggest that PGI has no hopes of high volume. I don’t resent the prices because I can’t afford them, I can. I am sad that these prices are yet another sign that they failed to achieve broad appeal.

    • Homeless Bill says:

      It’s hard to have broad appeal without features. If they ever get persistent warfare going, I’ll bet the game could draw in some decent numbers; for now, you’re right that they’re probably coasting on a relatively small player base.

    • GhostBear64 says:

      1 and 0’s might be cheap but I can tell you this I work in a software company and it costs $350 a day to keep me at my desk and working and we have 20 People doing my same job in this build some of home probably cost more to keep at their desks so your though that the content is cheap because its just 1’s and 0’s is all wrong. The money is spent in production of the item not in its replication !!

  6. doktorvivi says:

    My problem with the ridiculous $500 gold mechs isn’t the price. They’re ludicrously ostentatious, and if that’s all they were, I’d just laugh at the people who paid $500 for a skin. The big thing that worries me is that ‘unique module’ that only they get. Knowing how aggressive this community gets with the very idea of Pay-2-Win and still including that without some further explanation to calm us down makes it look very much like these modules WILL impart some advantage (however small) but they’re not going to tell us how until they drop in 6 months.

  7. Very well written, Bill. I myself have formed the opinion that I will not spend another dollar on MWO until after CW is out and I give it a test run. If, CW works out, I will continue playing the game, But until then. the $$$$ stays in my wallet.

  8. Novakine says:

    NO CLANS BEFORE COMMUNITY WARFARE.

  9. HammerSwarm says:

    Bill you aren’t going to find more ardent supporter of capitalism and industrial Darwinism than I am. Every point you make is valid and well put.

    However. it’s hard for me to find the words to describe the gut punch this sale was. I like battle tech, even past this specific IP I enjoy the large stompy battle mech game play of slow deliberate shooters. Armored core, Steel Battalion, and the list goes on…. This sale just made me realize Community Warfare is never coming. Nothing of what made me excited to join open beta will ever come to light. PGI will quietly declare bankruptcy(or the Canadian equivalent) and disappear.

    Capitalism has made me sure this will happen. Companies that blow past internal deadlines, and plow ahead with cost over runs pursuing perfection don’t last. PGI does not have the management to get this game functional. They can’t do it and other companies can, which will choke off the money and kill PGI.

    I say good because I want this IP to land in the hands of someone who will finish this game. This game is a concept that can make money. The fact that the ask is even set at 240 dollars should be a give away that some one would pay 240 dollars for all digital BT content.

    This game will be a cautionary tail moving forward, this is why artists don’t run fortune 500 companies, and bean counters do, the accountants know how to count money.

  10. Soy says:

    Bill, you were always one of the most naive players in the community. Good grief…

  11. Remarius says:

    Mostly agree with you Bill but I’m one of quite a few people I play with every day that have already spent their $240 or intend to do so on the next pay period or bonus. I just look at the amount I will spend per night of my holiday in iceland this year just for my decent but nothing special hotel. One night = £161 x $1.86 per GBP = $299.46. It puts the package in perspective and my only decision was ultimately when not if to buy the package.

    I may not want the golden mechs unless there’s more than the skin but $10 per mech is a bargain compared to my Boar’s head bearing in mind the 20+ hours a work week I sit in matches alone. Looking back to beta I have no idea how many 1,000’s of matches I’ve played by now.

    Mysteriously, as with many friends I drop with, my views don’t mirror most of the outraged trolls and drama queens on the forums. But then we spend our time playing not forum whoring.

  12. Heatsinq says:

    I thought this was a good article, altho it may fall on many deaf ears.

    I personally didn’t buy the Phoenix package and compare it to the Clan package. Its basically early content. For all the people that don’t/won’t pay for the Clan package, you’ll get the Clan mechs later, just like how we’ll all get the Phoenix mechs later.

  13. Kazly says:

    Bill, I think you made some good points.

    I don’t think you’re arguing for people to spend money, nor supporting PGI – just simply pointing out some facts.

    Overall though, and as much as I hate to admit it, after a year of playing MWO almost on a daily basis for 2-3 hours a night….

    I’m done. I haven’t played for the past month, I stop by the forums once in a while, hoping to see some progress, and just laugh now that there is no progress, only new promises. It used to frustrate me, now it feels liberating.

    I’ll admit, at first I was a little shocked at the audacity of having a new sale, and the unconscious promise it sends that the game will be complete…but I just started laughing again.

    I just wish there was some way I could warn new players what’s happening, but realize it comes down to having to experience the failings of PGI themselves.

    Oh, quick note: If you couldn’t even read the main article (TL;DR…) I also don’t waste time on your comments.

    Good article bill.

  14. weriweriwer says:

    A business doesn’t have an inherent right to make money. I’ll start making sculptures out of my own feces and try selling it. Hey, where are you going? Why is noone buying my crap? I have the right to make money off my business, dammit!

    • Homeless Bill says:

      I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. Read this again: “A business isn’t about whether or not you “deserve” money. It’s about whether or not you can get money.”

      You can’t GET any money for your dog shit. They CAN get money for the Clans. They don’t deserve money, per se, but they can get it.

      And that’s why this sale is happening. Again, I don’t encourage anyone to throw money at them. But it’s also ridiculous to demand a halt to sales until we get what we want. It’s just not going to happen – particularly with a free-to-play title that relies on continuous income.

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