Debate between the Albion Online and "Pay to Win"
The question whether Albion Online should be called Pay to Win often comes in various discussions here in the forums. As the debate has become really hard to follow, we thought it would be good to have one master thread for the topic, starting with a summary of how the game works right now, followed by a summary of the arguments that are being made in the debate. Other threads on the subject will be forwarded to this thread, so we have got everything in one place.
In a previous debate on the subject, the result of a user poll was that 49% of users did not consider Albion Online to be pay to win, 31% did - with 20% being undecided. As our main goal is for Albion Online to be successful in the long term, we determined that 31% voting "yes" was too much for us and made a significant change to the business model by removing gold payments from the game with the exception of premium status and vanity items. As before, gold remains freely tradable between players.
Consequently, the arguments outlined below have been updated. Those that are now obsolete have been struck through, while a new one has been added.
Economy of Albion Online
- All items and buildings in Albion Online are player crafted (with a few exceptions, such as beginner towns, harbours, etc)
- Resources for making items and buildings can be found in the world. You can also obtain them from other players via trade.
- The main currency in Albion Online is silver. You obtain this by killing enemies in PvE combat. Also, again, you can trade it with other players
- Players can own land in Albion Online: Player Islands, Guild Islands, Player Cities, Open World Plots (inside of Player Cities) and Open World Guild Territories
- You use the land for farming and placing buildings.
- You can allow other players to use your buildings, either for free or for a charge, giving you a source to earn money
- Once bought, Open World Plots require regular rent payments
- Once claimed, Open World Guild Territories and Player Cities require upkeep via food
- Player Islands and Guild island do not require rent or upkeep
The role of Gold
- Gold is the premium currency of the game
- Gold can be bought for real money
- Gold can not be directly converted into silver
- Gold can be freely traded with other players (in exchange for items, but also in exchange for silver, whatever the other player wants to trade with you really)
- Via player trade, you can get gold without spending real money
- Gold can be used to buy (once it is implemented) a premium status for your character, which will give you additional silver yield and fame gain, and possibly some other small perks.
- Gold can also be used to pay certain in-game expenses instead of using silver, such as the silver cost for crafting an item or for paying the rent for a city plot.
- Apart from the premium status and possibly some vanity only items, there is nothing that you can do with gold that you cannot do with silver
- Gold cannot be used in the player market place, all trade in the player market trade happens via silver only
Gold also plays an indirect role in so called swap transactions, depending on the gold/silver exchange rate in the player-driven market. These work as follows:
- For certain in-game expenses, we will be introducing a player market driven swap mechanism that will give discounts on silver prices if there is too much gold in the game. You will get the discount whether you have gold or not.
- The mechanism works in the following way:
- Assume that the gold/silver rate set by the game is 100 to 1 (last alpha, it was 10 to 1)
- Assume that a certain action such as repairing an item would normally cost you 1.000 silver
- Now, if the gold/silver rate in the player market is lower than 100, say it is 80, you will actually get a discount on the repair: instead of paying 1.000 silver, you will only pay 800 silver.
- In general, the discount on your silver costs is the same as the percentage that the player driven gold/silver rate trades below the reference rate.
- If, on the other hand, the gold/silver rate in the player market is higher than 100, then you will still pay 1.000 silver - you will not have to pay more. So, in a nutshell, if there is too much gold in the world, the silver cost for doing certain activities will decrease.
This is how the mechanism will work from a player point of view. What our system will do “in the background" - but only if the gold/silver rate is smaller than 100 - is the following: it will take the silver you paid. It will use that silver to buy gold from the player market. It will take that gold out of the game. If the gold/silver rate is higher than 100, than nothing special will happen, the expense will simply be taken in silver. From an economic point of view, what this does is the following: if there is too much gold in the game, everybody will benefit as the silver prices for certain activities will come down. On top of that, if there is too much gold in the game such that the gold/silver ratio is higher than 100, it will act as a gold sink, which will help our business model. We believe that this creates a really cool win-win-win situation between us as a developer, people who do not mind spending some money on the game and people who want to play entirely for free.
Main Arguments in the P2W Debate
1. The "Indirect advantage via trade argument" (Pro P2W)
The argument says that you get an advantage by doing the following: Buy gold with real money. Trade that gold away to other players for items and/or silver. Therefore, indirectly, you have just bought yourself an advantage.
The counterargument does states that while you do obtain items or silver in this way, it is not an issue because i) Another player has gotten the benefits for your trade, in terms of the gold you paid him. So it is not just you who "wins", it is the other player or other players as well. So you could call it "pay for others to win". This is very similar to the Plex system in Eve Online, that is widely considered not be to Pay to Win.
2. The "Reduced Need for Silver Farming" argument (Pro P2W)
The argument says that if you obtain gold via real money, you can progress in the game without having to worry about earning silver that much. As a result, you can advance faster.
The counter-argument states that while this is true, it should rather be called "pay to save time" or "pay to farm less" or "pay to play less". It also states that to build and craft, currency alone is not enough as you will still need the ressources from the world. Or, in order to progress in general, you will still need to collect fame&experience via the destiny board, which you cannot buy with gold.
3. The "Full Loot argument" argument (Contra P2W)
The argument highlights that given that PvP is full loot, if a player with lower skill try to PvP in high end gear, he will simply get killed and looted by more skilled players, so it might as well be called "others pay for you to win" if you are a skilled player.
The counter argument states that while this is true, there could also be skilled players who try and get an advantage via the gold system. The reply to this is that - based on testing so far - high end players usually have no problems in obtaining silver, it is rather ressources that become rare. (as intended by the game's design)
4. The "Shared Benefits" Argument (Contra Pw2)
The argument states that as silver yields in Albion Online are essentially capped, everytime that somebody pays for an expense such as crafting or upkeep with Gold instead of Silver, reducing his need to farm, it means that it becomes easier for everybody else to farm silver. The counter argument states that while this is nice, it does not change their arguments above.
5. The "Gold for Free" Argument (Contra P2W)
The argument states that as gold can be freely traded between players, it is quite easy for you to obtain gold without spending any real money. Either because you play more and trade away your extra gains, or because you have a special skill or control a certain territory which means you can obtain a lot of gold from other players via trade. This will then allow you to obtain the premium status or all vanity items without investing real money. The counter argument states that while this is nice, it does not change their main arguments above
6. Shared Benefits of Swap transactions (Contra P2W)
The argument says that if there is too much gold being offered in the player driven gold/silver market, the game is going to give a discount on silver prices for certain activities such as repairing items. In this way, if a lot of people buy gold for real money in order to trade it away for silver with others players such that the gold/silver rate drops below the reference rate of 100, everybody benefits.
We hope that the above gives you a good summary of how Albion Online works and the associated pay to win debate.
We realize that different people have different understandings what the term "pay to win" actually means, and as it eventually comes down to definitions of that meaning, there is probably no absolute "rights" or "wrongs" in the debate - it is ultimately a question of taste.
It is however our view and clear intention - and we believe that the past tests are showing this arlready - that the game is not and will not turn into a pay to win game.
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