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More Thoughts on Darkfall’s Trial Pricing

February 25, 2010

I had a thought experiment after writing my previous Darkfall post, and decided to go search for more information about Darkfall, as well as reflect upon the matter more. In my haste to write about my fears, I realized that I neglected to fully think about the reasoning behind putting a mild price barrier to the game.

Previously, I had noted a fear that the possibility of paying for a trial might become commonplace if people saw that it could be done to great success. There are some possible counterpoints to this idea.

One would be that most MMO companies already have a strong, established fan base that would hurt them in the court of public opinion at the idea of paying for a trial.

The other counterpoint I had to this was what I call the “obligatory Allods reference,” in which I casually mention a free-t0-play game that costs more to play if you were to buy something there for general use than for paying for a trial to Darkfall.

Another thing to note would be that free or paid trials for certain types of games would have vastly different effects on the game world depending on the economy the game world uses. Agon uses gold, a lot of it, and a game like this may require some amount of grinding to get the resources you need. The price barrier keeps all but the most dedicated exploiters and gold farmers from making the leap to Darkfall and spamming or harvesting their way to success.  Not only that, but the credit card check, while a bit annoying personally, makes it so that they have a record of who is making the purchase and can find potential exploiters or gold spammers accordingly.

As Fat Sun of the Darkfall forums explained to me,

It would be very easy to ‘exploit’ the trial system if it did not cost a dollar or have some kind of protection. Gathering skills up very quick, so in a matter of hours, you could have a pretty good miner or lumberjack. People could just make a bunch of trial accounts and get a ton of lumber/iron fast. They could also just make an army of low-levels to zerg hamlets or whatnot. A lot of things could make the system go awry if it was free and easy.

My last point with regard to Darkfall’s trial pricing is that it isn’t actually too restrictive in the general sense. A dollar for seven days of game time isn’t too bad when I compare it to a few years back, when a game didn’t come out with free trials to begin with. Now that trials seem commonplace, we kind of forget that they simply ways to entice us into the game, and there are different ways to entice people to try a game out.

To that end, I will say that their new player community is quite mature, and very helpful. In addition to links to helpful videos and overall advice, they mentioned that some of the clans in the game have actually banded together to create NEW, a neutral guild for newbie players to try the game out with helpful folk and like-minded players. The game might have open PVP, sure, but it takes civilized folk to make a haven in a sea of chaos, and that’s something that Darkfall tells me will entice new players coming in for a trial. Heck, the fact that I’m writing about a game I haven’t even begun to play, based solely on introspection and a few hours on their forums is already a sign that something is different in the way I view Darkfall.

Whether Darkfall ends up being the game for me or not will be a discussion for another day. For now at least, these ruminations on Darkfall’s trial pricing have left me open to the game and to the world of Agon, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 08:30

    This concept is intriguing but I’m not sure I buy the argument that the free trial could be exploited so we need to charge for it. There are LOTS of other in-game changes that could have been made if that was their primary concern. Many games don’t let trial account use auction services or in-game mail for example. Why not require a credit card for the trial but state you will be auto-subscribed in 30 days unless you cancel? They could put a $1 hold on the card to make sure it is valid and they’d have all the means to track down gold-farmers if necessary.

    If I were playing DF it seems like (assuming you can make alts) you could roll an alt just to farm materials and then have your main sell them. And if it is that easy, wouldn’t the market crash and those materials would no longer be valuable?

    I’m not suggesting this isn’t completely without merit, it just seems like there are other options that don’t smack of being greedy and/or desperate.

    • victorstillwater permalink*
      February 25, 2010 20:21

      Hi Doc.

      My thinking is that while other changes might have been instituted to combat unfair practices or use of the trial mechanics, they would end up watering down the essence of Darkfall, both for new players and for existing players.

      For instance, if we made it so that it was free, but you couldn’t engage in certain activities (like trading or harvesting), that would detract from the overall experience of the full game. Even trading can be a tense experience, so I’ve heard, as a trade can easily be interrupted by some bastard with a penchant for violence.

      At the same time, making a paid trial insulates the existing player base from exploits which would ruin their experience.

      Anyway, all I’m saying is conjecture at the moment. While I’m not exactly a fanatic of open World PVP, I am willing to adopt a mindset that accepts it as a possible point of entertainment, and a dollar to see if the game appeals to me seems like a better investment than paying for the full game as is. :)

      • February 25, 2010 21:28

        That’s a good point as I could see trial accounts missing out on the thrill somewhat. I’m just worried that this starts game companies down a slippery slope as everyone is trying to boost their bottom line in this economy.

        I guess I would’ve preferred for them to come out and say they’re trying a new pricing structure out as opposed to saying they’re trying to combat gold selling. As what’s to prevent me from using a pre-paid card that’s not traceable? ;)

        Mainly, I’m more opposed to the concept of a paid trial then the $1 price tag. But I would be more supportive if they admitted the real reason.

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