SWTOR: How Not To Run Your Cash Shop

I love you too... NOT

1) Remind Free2Play players what idiots they are for not subscribing at every juncture

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Treating Free 2 Play customers like they are second class citizens makes it obvious that you want them to subscribe. Some may, just so they don’t have to endure all this nonsense. Others will simply give up, not bother, not feel valued enough and voila, you lose the long tail – those who might have kept buying in small amounts and those who just don’t believe in sub games these days but will spend big money on microtransactions.

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Constructive solution? Instead of bashing F2P people with a stick to tell them how horribly -penalized- they are in -reduced- xp because they aren’t subscribers, sing the praises of a subscription BOOST or BONUS. F2P is the baseline and paying customers get it FASTER, doubled, twice as good and so on.

The hardcore will bite, guaranteed. No matter how fast things are, they’ll always want it faster.

2) Promise things your shop doesn’t deliver

promisethings

Yeah, well, I really don’t see this item in the shop right now, no matter how hard I look.

This one specifically annoys me because SWTOR feels built to be slow and inconvenient to get around at the default sluggish run speed. I do not really approve of the stick and peer pressure method of getting people to pay up, but I was indeed considering making a token payment of 5 or 10 bucks to get Preferred Customer status and sprint at level 1 instead of level 15 – since it is taking eons to get to 15 and I feel bad that my friend is always waiting up for me.

However, if I am going to give them real money in exchange for shop tokens, I’d like to be able to buy something -attractive- and -desirable- in the shop with them.

Since convenience and speed is a priority for me in this game, so as to get to the quest givers and cutscenes more speedily without endless jogging, I asked myself, “What is the thing I would love to unlock the most?” The answer: Faster recharging Quick Travel.

The Free 2 Play default is 2 hours, and it is way too long for me, being used to zipping around maps with Guild Wars 2. Even at a one hour recharge, rather than the 30min cooldown that subscribers get, this would be a desirable item for me.

Except said permanent reduction time item does not exist, despite the website saying it does.

What does exist is a one-off consumable that costs about 90 cents a pop.

qtconsume

Screw that.

I don’t do consumables, unless they’re really really cheap. Permanent unlocks for me.

Constructive solution? Well, the ideal would be to offer said item in the shop. If the design decision was made to not offer this and there’s no way it will ever come in, then… for goodness’ sakes, proofread and edit the marketing copy on your website to reflect reality.

3) Offer bundles that contain the same item so that it is not worth it to buy both

OR Confuse customers with lack of clarity and shady tricks of omission

This one confuses me greatly. I have been looking at the two currently discounted bundles that appear to be designed to tempt new players into dropping some cash.

One of these things is just like the others...

One of these things is just like the others…

The Newcomer’s Bundle includes a Quick Travel Pass (I assume this means the 90 CC single use consumable), a Czerka Cruiser Speeder (that I have serious difficulty researching but appears to be a cheap basic mount that costs 8000 credits in-game), 5 minor XP boosts (60CC x 5 each) and the Legacy Perk: Improved Speeder Piloting I (475CC.) Total Discounted Cost of the Bundle – 405 CC.

One of these things is... exactly the same?

One of these things is… exactly the same?!

The Preferred Access Bundle includes one helping of the Inventory unlock of 10 slots (175 CC), a crew skill unlock (420 CC), Legacy Perk: Improved Speeder Piloting I (475CC), and Customization unlocks of Display Title (100CC), Display Legacy Name (100CC) and Unify Colors (350CC.) Total Discounted Cost of Bundle – 972CC.

I note the repeated Legacy Perk: Improved Speeder Piloting I in both packs.

Now one possibility that occurs to me is that this particular item is not account-wide, but only character-wide. But it is certainly not stated in the shop that way and seems rather like selling stuff under false pretenses or convenient omission.

Which then immediately rings alarm bells and makes me wonder which of the other items are only also character-wide, instead of account-wide? I had -assumed- that the crew skill unlock would apply to all characters. The inventory unlock becomes significantly more questionable then as well.

Which results in universal confusion and worry that one is being cheated somehow, and reluctance to buy anything for fear of it being a lemon, rather than temptation to buy both packs and be done with it and get maximum bonuses that way.

Constructive solution? Consistent clarity in your store descriptions please. State clearly if this applies account-wide or character-wide.

What makes it even more confusing, I have discovered, is that each server’s character slots appear to share one Legacy, so in addition to account-wide and character-wide, we need to stick the term server-wide somewhere in there too.

Finding forum posts like these dating back just three months ago, expressing serious confusion over the Improved Speeder Piloting Legacy and its account-wideness (or lack of), does NOT build confidence or trust.

No, seriously, if I buy this thing, how many characters of mine are going to have this? I need the clarity of information in order to make an informed decision to buy or not to buy.

(I’ve bought character-only stuff before, my main in GW2 has easily got four extra bag slots because I use him for high-level farming and dungeons and got tired of my bags constantly filling before I was done. I just need it made clear. This is clear. Just Google it and the second link confirms it. As for this, every webpage I click on gives me conflicting information on whether it is account-wide, legacy-wide, server-wide, character-wide or whatever.)

Update: On re-logging in to check the store ONCE more, I have JUST noticed two teensy tiny icons in the lower left picture of each respective unlock in the bundle. Mousing over those brings up the tooltips that the item can be bought for one character or for all characters in your account.

Ditto mousing over the actual blue or purple item itself, which brings up another tooltip that states it is for the player character only.

So my rant is not quite accurate, but it took me around eight very long fueled-by-suspicion-and-paranoia scrutinies at the store to finally find the very small print. It’s still very deceptive UI. And confusing to new players.

(Nor do I understand yet how to buy it for all characters should I want to. Clicking on the icons doesn’t seem to change the price around any. I guess I will have to Google again at some point.)

4) Give them problems logging into your website, after they’ve decided they may want to buy something off you anyway

Even after maximum confusion, I was still game enough to convince myself that a smoother game experience for five bucks (despite knowing very well the game was designed to be un-smooth so as to part you from your money just to make it nice-to-play) was not really worth agonizing over, cheap cash shop tactics notwithstanding.

After all, the quality of the cutscenes and entertainment value I was deriving out of SWTOR was worth putting down an initial outlay of a Starbucks coffee.

Except when I tried to click on the Add Coins button in-game, it assured me that it would open a browser window.

browser

But it didn’t.

I switched to Windowed Fullscreen, thinking that Fullscreen might have given the game some trouble. No go. Browser remained closed.

I helpfully opened the browser (Firefox) and clicked the button again. No new tab. No redirect. No nothing.

Um, okay. Nevermind.

I went to the SWTOR.com website itself and clicked on the “Buy Cartel Coins” option and got looped back to the same page. Nada.

Oh, maybe I have to be logged into my account. Makes sense, right?

So I click on the Log-In and type in my username (I have no email linked to the account, the free-to-play page here never asked for one) and my password and…

failedwebsitelogin

…This happens.

Again and again. I switch browsers and try Chrome. Then Internet Explorer. Still nothing.

I’M TRYING TO GIVE YOU MONEY HERE, GUYS.

Why won’t you let me log in to my account on the website, using the exact same password I just copied and pasted, which worked -fine- in the launcher to get me into the game itself?

No system maintenance or alert messages to suggest the website was under maintenance. The Customer Service FAQ and the forums made no reference of this particular problem I was having, leaving me just staring at the webpage thinking that like it or not, I would remain stuck as an SWTOR free-to-play status player for good.

I got no constructive suggestions for this one – only a semi-snide remark that if you make it difficult for customers to buy anything from you, a good lot of them would be much less persistent than me.

Epilogue

Because I love a good mystery, I sat there trying out various configurations, thinking some of the special characters in my password might have been throwing the website form off.

The irony of this is that when you sign up on their uber-easy free to play page, the tooltip says that some special characters are not allowed, but never tells you which ones. I figured that if I typed in the password and it was accepted, it would be fine. And certainly the launcher accepted my password just fine too.

I did eventually figure out exactly what was perplexing the website.

The sign-up page stated that the password had to be 8-16 characters in length – among other qualifications. Being somewhat paranoid, I entered a pretty long password without counting how many characters were actually in it. I’d assumed that if I exceeded the requirements, it would spit it back out at me as an invalid entry.

Turns out that my password had 18 characters in it.

Sign-up form accepted it just fine. Launcher accepted it just fine. (Perhaps they truncated it automatically.)

Website log-in, on the other hand, was NOT happy.

But typing in the first 16 characters of the password sent me right into the account page.

Go figure.

I just don’t know if I want to give them money anymore.

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3 thoughts on “SWTOR: How Not To Run Your Cash Shop

  1. Valyrius says:

    Worst part is that the best perk of subscribing is the extra xp. As someone who’s been with this game since its Beta days, and has only just recently cancelled/downgraded his subscription, I can say that even all the $$$ that the game is taking in is not translating in to new quality content. So you don’t really need all the perks they shove down your throat and want you to buy. The best stuff really is the free stuff, the rest is just a well presented illusion of quality where there’s actually very little substance. You can see my latest blog entries for my own reflections that led to my subscription cancellation.

  2. Nyaore says:

    I recently started playing and frankly if it weren’t for the fact that I’m a die hard KoTOR fan I’d have been run off the moment I noticed how EA sees fit to treat their freemembers like dirt beneath their heels. It’s a horrendous business model, particularly when combined with the fact that many subscribers outright sneer at you for not forking over the money, and it literally makes you feel like a second class citizen if you’re going to play for free. Which is not an attitude you should have when you have a vested interest in encouraging more people to pay for subscriptions – as most will get sick of it long before they’re willing to pony up any cash.

    I can understand limiting quite a bit for free players, about the only thing I’m not fond of is the lack of bank access and could live with pretty much everything else, but it’s the way they’re wording everything that’s basically making me feel quite unwelcome for not being able to afford a subscription.

    I’m also not fond of their cash shop for the same reasons you are, I WAS going to fork over some money for the Preferred Bundle in order to gain a few perks – but what’s the point? They don’t tell me if it’s for one character or all of them on that item – in fact a lot of their bundles are like that – and frankly I have no interest in buying it separately for all characters when money is so tight right now.

    All in all I really hope that at the very least they change their attitudes towards free players – for their own sakes. I don’t expect everything on a silver platter, and realize that the game needs to make money somehow. However right now it feels like they’re throwing a fit over the fact that the game had to go free to play and are taking it out on the people who are now entering the game without a subscription. At the very least they need to stop shoving all the things only subscribers are allowed to do down everyone’s throats, and do away with the subscriber only loot items appearing in a free to play member’s loot acquisition box.

    • Jeromai says:

      After a LOT of Google research, I eventually discovered that SWTOR will only tell you that you can buy an item for character or for account, -after- you’ve clicked on the “buy item” button.

      Assuming you already have sufficient Cartel Coins to click said “buy item” button (which I didn’t), and possibly assuming you’ve enough for the extra additional cost of the account option – else you can only buy it for a character. Enjoy buying it a la carte for the next character you roll up, I guess.

      As for the newcomer and preferred access packs, which don’t have those two sneaky little character or account icons, those are undeniably character-only.

      To find out, click on the “Show Items” button, then mouseover the shown items to read the teeny tiny small print in the tooltip.

      It left a seriously nasty taste in my mouth. After hitting level 16 and trying out sprint to find it was still too slow for my preferences, I made the decision to give myself 20gb extra free space as a present instead.

      Sorry, EA/Bioware, you’ve lost yet another potential customer for now. Maybe I’ll be back if/when the cash shop is less draconian. Else I suppose I can just watch the storylines on Youtube.

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