Steam Summer Sale Speculation (and Trading Cards)

It’s almost here! It’s almost here!

No one outside of Valve knows exactly when the lauded Steam Summer Sale will start, but there are signs that it’s soon. Mysterious Summer Claim Checks started dropping in Team Fortress 2 last week, and historically the sale starts on a Thursday in the first half of July. It seems fairly unlikely that Valve will start things up on a US holiday, so the smart money is on July 11th.

That means I’ll be out of town for most if not all of the sale but I have prepared by filling my Steam Wallet with the proceeds from trading card sales over the past few weeks. I’ve had good luck running the participating games for 30 minutes or so and just selling off all accumulated cards at a price designed to move. Regular cards were selling for an average price of .45, while foil cards sold for closer to $5 depending on the game. Overall I’ve made about $30 for the Steam sale, which isn’t a bad deal by any measurement.

(Note that I haven’t looked at the market since the trading card program left beta — prices are probably a lot lower now with the increased availability.)

There were no new cards released this week, and Steam observers seem to think this means we’ll see a trading card mini-game with the Summer Sale, much like last year’s “Summer Camp Tickets”. I’ll miss all of that, but thanks to technology and good friends there are four potential sale titles that I’m definitely not going to miss out on if the price is right.

FEZ
Yes, creator Phil Fish is kind of an idiot and definitely a troll, but I am still going to play FEZ. I like the idea of the game’s visual puzzles, and I want to know what all the fuss is about. FEZ is $9.99 on Steam at full price, but I’ll pay $4.99 for it.

Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
Monaco has a single player mode, but it’s the co-op that interests me the most. Up to 4 players pick a crime archetype like the Lookout or the Pickpocket, and work together to pull off the perfect heist. A 4-pack of Monaco is $11.25 per person at full price, but I’ll pull the trigger on the pack at $6.99 per person.

Kerbal Space Program
KSP looks super finicky and super nerdy, the kind of game where math or at least an understanding of real life physics wouldn’t hurt. Also, Kerbals are adorable! I am going to blow them up! I’m more curious than excited about this game, so it will have to see a pretty deep discount from the regular price of $22.99 for me to get it. Maybe $5.99 or so?

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Last year’s AAA hit becomes this year’s discounted sale title. There are aliens, Canadians, and turn-based fights — what’s not to love? The regular Steam price is $39.99, but I will pay a robust $9.99.

Liore Video: a short tour of RIFT’s F2P store

I’ve been unable to get out and about as easily as usual this week due to a damaged toe, but it’s apparently done wonders for my creative productivity.

Behold! A short video tour of the new RIFT store! Happy Friday everyone!

F2P: game-saver or money-maker?

On the most recent episode of the podcast Ellydrial and I had a fun talk with Syl about free-to-play, with me being the grump as usual and Syl being much more open to the idea. Our conversation inspired an interesting post by Belghast about his own slowly warming feelings towards F2P.

There was one point in all this that both mentioned: free-to-play is saving games. It seemed an interesting topic for a post about because I think it gets to the heart of why my first reaction is to dislike the model. I don’t know if I believe that free-to-play saves games. In fact, I’m not sure the games needed saving at all.

I’m sure some did, of course! It’s unfortunate that MMO companies in particular are so cagey about subscriber numbers and hard data is tough to find, but I’m certain that some games were in a do-or-die financial situation. I’m just not sure that it had to be the case. Plenty of companies are making the switch to F2P not so they can go from no money to profitable, but so they can go from profitable to very profitable. That is what companies are designed to do.

And where does this extra profit come from? Not from me! I’ve bought a minuscule amount of stuff from in-game cash shops. And perhaps not from most of my friends, who at least profess to spend very little money on virtual frills. But still SWTOR’s monthly revenue has doubled since going F2P even though the number of subscriptions has held firm. Clearly someone is buying all that cash store stuff.

Perhaps this person is a well-adjusted individual with a great job who refuses to spend a moment leveling without XP buffs. Or, historically more likely, they’re someone understandably tempted by the millions of dollars and hundreds of brilliant minds put to work to lure us into microtransactions.

They like the gambling element of in-game raffle tickets or they’re swayed by all the “buy credits and be awesome” advertising or they see “so-and-so found treasure in a lockbox” announcements every 5 minutes. Or they get frustrated by the super-slow leveling speed or being behind in power-ups. The game publisher NEEDS to keep the pressure on because the whole model depends on Player Over There paying for the rest of us.

It is entirely possible to run a non-exploitative F2P model, or at least minimally exploitative. I’m sure some games are doing it right now. But it’s certainly not in the company’s best interest to do so and it’s my fundamental nature to expect the worst when profit is on the line. I may not be funding my F2P game experience through the cash shop, but I know that someone else most certainly is.

I don’t trust EA or Activision or even NCSoft, and I don’t like giving them any additional power to muck up my game experience with micro-transactions. I much prefer the straight-forward, non-tricksy contract of “I give you $15, you give me 1 month of game”.

However, this seems like a pretty personal small-p-political stance. Although I might worry about Syl and Belghast’s relative good faith in the intentions of MMO publishers, it’s just a small difference in philosophy and at the end of the day all three are united in the same goal of happy games with happy communities.

Cat Context 28: E3 Postmortem, Console Premortem, and Free-to-Play with Syl

This week on Cat Context, we declare that consoles are dead! No wait, that’s just what crazy Liore says. They’re probably not dead at all.

E3 was last week and we talk about our favorite moments, favorite consoles, and what games caught our eye, including The Division, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, and of course Final Fantasy XV. Elly tries to explain why someone would still buy an Xbox right now, but Aro is not buying it.

And later, Ellyndrial and Liore sit down with Syl from MMO Gypsy to talk about free-to-play and why it might not be so bad. Do game companies have an obligation to protect players from their own worst instincts? Does the free-to-play model encourage migratory player populations?

Also, a defense of Sega Dreamcast! Debating which console controller is the best! Talking plush Angry Birds!

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial.

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Liore’s E3 rundown
* Syl’s site at MMOGypsy.com
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

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(Don’t forget to leave 5 stars!)

RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)
Jun18

RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

I had kind of fallen into one of my “off again” phases with RIFT shortly before the free-to-play announcement, and of course being a grump I certainly wasn’t going to log on again after. In fact, I wasn’t planning on logging into RIFT at all, but as is so often the case my friends are terrible enablers.

One of them IMed me late last night and said simply, “Hey, did you know you can buy the space horse with F2P credits?”. For over a year the space horse, a.k.a Nebula, was the thing I coveted most  in RIFT. Was it worth relenting on my grump stance and checking out the game’s changes? For a horse that looks like it’s made of space? Um, duh.

The first thing I noticed — thanks to the big pop-up and tickertape rain — was the new loyalty system. What was previously sold as veteran rewards on a special vendor is now available through loyalty tiers. Loyalty was granted to subscribers based on their activity, and can be earned in the future by buying and using cash shop currency. To be fair you get perks sprinkled throughout a loyalty level and a bunch of stuff at the end, and the gifts seem to be everything that was on the old veteran reward vendor plus funky new things like a pet gift box and hats. Apparently I’m already halfway through the “epic” loyalty tier.

2013 06 17 23 14 12 RIFT 500x289 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

Speaking of the cash shop, I have to admit that I’m pleased with the amount of credits I received in the F2P switch as permanent subscriber and one of the suckers who got the Storm Legion 12-month package. I had almost 12,000 green diamond thingies, worth about $60 on the store, and mounts ranged from 200-1200 in price. The selection of items in the shop is pretty much the usual — mounts, pets, costumes, dimension stuff, cosmetic changes, and so on.

A new set of gear is available for players every 10 levels, going up to a tier below whatever is current. Someone on the official forums worked out that it would be roughly $50 to buy gear from level 10-59, although why someone would spend money on level 20 pants totally escapes me.

2013 06 17 23 29 45 RIFT 500x271 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

The new cash shop also seems to have replaced the lingering post-event vendors. Applicable items can be bought with the pre-requisite event currency (for those who participated but forgot to buy things) or green diamond thingies. This new system enabled me to buy my pretty space horse, so I recognize the hypocrisy in what I’m about to say, but I hope event items aren’t available for cash until after the event is over.

I like spending a week or whatever collecting special currency for event items, and it will honestly degrade the value of said items to me if someone can come along at the same time and plop down $5 for an instant horse. Honestly, I feel sort of bad for people who went through the huge grind during Summerfest to get Nebula, particularly as it was a grind I opted to skip at the time because it seemed so heinous.

2013 06 17 23 43 43 RIFT RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

Akylios balloon pet

But now is not the time for sombre reflection — now is the time for ponies. I spent just over 800 green diamond thingies for the space pony, and then picked up an Akylios balloon for another 200. Judging by the prices that’s roughly $6 for the mount and $1 for the pet, although thinking about it that way makes me feel awkward. The remaining 11,000 or so credits are unspent. I’m not sure if I’ll get anything else, or at least not for a while.

2013 06 17 23 40 03 RIFT 487x500 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

the pony in question

So, in conclusion, ponies are nice and the RIFT F2P conversion seems to be pretty generous for long time subscribers. Meridian and Port Scion looked quite busy, although the quality of General Chat was much, much worse.

Logging on again did remind me of one thing — I truly have loved RIFT, in a way that was previously reserved only for World of Warcraft. It’s a great game, run by what I think is still a great company. I’m sorry to see that they had to resort to free-to-play, but on behalf of me and my spacepony I wish them nothing but the best.

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