So I've written a couple of posts about Forsaken World's economy. Here's where I explain how currency is gated, and how much things are worth in USD, and here's where where I talk about how PWE has elegantly solved the 'gold faucet' problem that's plagued the genre since MU* days. This post has more details on how the core Pay-2-Win stats are tied to the game's economy and currency.
Since I wrote those posts, PWE has made some brilliant adjustments to the entire game economy that I'm willing to bet a month's salary ;) has boosted their profit appreciably, and possibly massively.
It's also led to this being the first time I've seen a virtual economy model the RL problem where the rich get richer, and the poor, poorer.
Best of all, these adjustments are so Machiavellianly (lol word?) brilliant that, instead of causing players to blame PWE for these changes that benefit the few at the cost of the many, PWE has cleverly framed it so that players blame EACH OTHER. Not PWE. Not the instigators and architects of the changes who stand to gain the most.
People were blaming each other, calling each other greedy, having occasional (it's died down a lot now, 6 months later) rages on World Chat about how avaricious other players were. And not a single time, not in a forum post, not in world chat, not in local chat - NOWHERE have I seen anyone point out why and how PWE is at the heart of this change - not mercenary, greedy players who 'overspend' in the CS and then 'lord it over everyone else'. ;)
Such brilliant framing and manipulation of psychology cannot go unsung!
Sing it here, in all its glorious goldenness, I shall!
The Back Story
Before PWE 'tweaked' the economy (about 8 months or so ago), people could only convert a maximum of 5 Mercury Statuettes to gold, per day, per character, via a quest - and (iirc) how many times you could do this was also linked to your level.
For purposes of clarity, I will do a direct conversion from gold to USD. This is NOT how PWE does it, PWE gates you through 4 different currencies, and if you're not from the US, you can count that as 5, because you have to think about it in your own currency as well.
This means that people could only gain a maximum of 25g (US$2.50) a day on average per character via direct gold conversion.
This in turn meant that 'whales' would buy Mercury Statuettes in the hundreds from the cash shop, and then vendor them to other players for anywhere from 3g50s to 4g. The reason for this (if you didn't read / don't remember my previous posts) price range is: If you buy a Mercury Statuette from the Cash Shop (US$0.50) and sell it to a specialised in-game NPC, the NPC will give you 3g (US$0.30). If you do daily quests x 5, you'll get anywhere from 4g80s (US$0.48) to 6g (US$0.60) per Statuette+quest.
Whales were thus buying wholesale, then selling to minnows and plankton, because it was the fastest and most profitable way for them to get a lot of gold within a single day.
Of course, this meant that the only people seriously spending in the Cash Shop were the whales.
The minnows (small spenders, say... US$15 a month...) were only spending the bare minimum, and might not even be spending that much a month, because they had no incentive to do so. Because *in general*, unless they were looking for a large chunk of change NOW for a big purchase - say a mount, or a skill scroll - they could slowly build up their cash via Statuettes bought from the whales. Not much reason to purchase anything from PWE, other than impulse.
The plankton (truly free players) were obviously spending nothing! Because if they were willing to sloooowly increase their cash via Mercury Statuettes bought in-game from whales, and playing longer / smarter / etc... they had absolutely no reason to buy from PWE at all. Patience and buying stuff from whales was always cheaper than buying from PWE. And of course, buying from whales costs no RL cash.
PWE studied the situation, doubtless came up with a much more nuanced analysis than I gave above. They then quietly, strategically, and subtly changed one thing - with a ripple effect that I'm pretty freaking sure boosted their profits immensely.
They made it so people can now convert 25 Mercury Statuettes a day, rather than just 5.
Statue prices shot up from 3g50s to 4g75s minimum. 4g60s you can get... if you find a special whale to do a special deal with.
This was met with an initial massive outcry from the plankton and some minnows... not against PWE, but against the whales. GREEDY WHALES! OMG U PPL! SO GREDY. NO1 WILL BUY UR STATS! OMG! etc etc blah blah. This particular noisy state of affairs lasted for at least 2 months, but now, 10 months later, it's a non-issue.
4g75s. Suck it up, or buy your own from the cash shop.And not once, not anywhere, in-game or out of it, did I see players blaming PWE, instead of each other, for the price increases. Simply brilliant.
But Wai Nuggeet, Wai Brilliant?
Because in one fell swoop, PWE:
Converted some plankton to minnows.
You see, with this change, and the corresponding hike in prices, it's no longer viable to try to get your cash via Statuette quests if you're a plankton. Minnows with a nice little nest egg (which I was), and whales (should they choose to buy from other whales) weren't all that hard hit by the change.
In truth, both whales and minnows benefited - the changes made it possible for them to trade in bulk. So if you had enough gold on hand (minimum 1Diamond - US$10), you could invest, buy at least 25 statues a day, and either not be affected by the price hikes, or else, get even more back - since more statues can be converted.
If not - then as plankton, you'd be best served by *buying* US$10 worth of statues from PWE as your starting capital. And, you know, it's almost never 'just a this time' after you make that first purchase.
Made sure being a plankton was a lot less attractive, and a minnow a lot more so.
No capital to make the initial purchase, and can only buy one or two Statuettes at a time? Tough luck, suck it up, peasant. ;) Watch 'everyone' getting richer while you get poorer.
Acquired a lot more paying customers, and changed their economy to encourage paying customers from the ground up - without alienating their existing customers, whether plankton, minnows, or whales. There was no community perception of PWE as the greedy one, and certainly no hostility. Some, in fact, widely viewed this move as doing 'everyone' a favour.
Ahhh PWE... if you can't grow up to be good, you may as well grow up to be good at being evil. ;)