How Should Players React to BioWare Selling a Star Wars: The Old Republic Platinum Lightsaber?
In this day and age of mmorpg games, companies are looking to enhance their revenue streams in any way that they can. The old days of a game existing solely upon subscription fees is long past, and now every online game essentially has a cash shop. Almost every gamer is perfectly fine with an mmo cash shop, but the major bone of contention that can arise is over the question of what items are actually being sold in said cash shops. BioWare recently got players jawing over the news that the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber, a platinum item, was being sold for 7600 Cartel Coins, which equates to around $60. How should players react to BioWare selling a Star Wars: The Old Republic platinum lightsaber?
Selling items in a mmo cash shop is nothing new, but news of a SWTOR platinum lightsaber going on the auction block for $60 did stir up quite a bit of debate. One major point of contention is that the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber is an extremely rare item. A consensus is that the drop rate for the lightsaber from the random packs players can buy from the game is less than one percent. When an online game sells items, they usually sell pretty common cosmetic items and consumables. An extremely rare item, albeit a cosmetic item, being sold for cold, hard cash (or Cartel Coins) is a major step for BioWare. They acknowledge this by stating, "Since the introduction of Cartel Market packs we have had requests to allow more items, especially our rarest items, to be bought directly with Cartel Coins. The desire is to pay for the item and avoid the random nature of Cartel packs. For some time now, we have been direct selling more Cartel pack items and our data shows it’s a popular method of acquiring specific items from the Cartel Market. Yet, we have been cautious of doing this with Platinum items, as these items are intended to be exceptionally rare and we need to ensure we do not cause them to be undervalued, especially for players who got them from packs."
So, how should players react to BioWare selling a Star Wars: The Old Republic platinum lightsaber for $60? To be honest, there are some definite pros and cons to this decision. The first consideration is the price. $60 is a pretty steep price to pay for the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber, a cosmetic item. However, online games have proven that players are willing to shell out some serious coin for in-game items, whether useful or not. Players once scoffed at World of Warcraft selling mounts for $25 when they were already paying a subscription fee, but quite a few players were willing to buy such mounts. I won't even get into the serious coin being dropped for ships in Star Citizen. Needless to say, $60 is quite a bit for a SWTOR platinum lightsaber and is the equivalent of four months of subscription time. Still, players will likely be willing to pay such a price. One other consideration concerning price is that quite a few players have stated that $60 for the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber is actually cheaper than buying a bunch of packs. I've even read of instances where SWTOR (which you can play for free here) players bought hundreds of packs and did not get the item. In this case, you know exactly what you're buying and how much it'll cost. For players like me who have terrible luck opening packs or lockboxes, it can be a lot cheaper to buy an item outright.
Some players have expressed the opinion that buying a Star Wars: The Old Republic platinum lightsaber outright harms the integrity of the game. They talk about how many hours they spend grinding to get specific items, and they're not happy that a player can instantly buy the exact same item just by opening their real world wallet. Personally, I have no issue with players being able to buy most items from a game's cash shop. As I get older, the amount of time I can spend gaming decreases due to family and work obligations. My time becomes increasingly valuable, so it is far better for me to spend the equivalent of a couple of hours' pay to get an item I want instead of spending weeks grinding for it in-game. The only exception I have to this rule is if the item in question is used for PvP purposes. In that case, I do agree that it shouldn't be sold as it does constitute one player automatically gaining an advantage over another if they fight each other. As that the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber has no bearing upon PvP, then I don't see a problem.
Overall, I think players should react with a collective shrug concerning the ability to buy a Star Wars: The Old Republic platinum lightsaber. It can be cheaper to buy an item like the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber outright instead of hoping that you'll get that less than one percent chance every time you open up a pack. The item is purely cosmetic, so it has no real effect upon the player's performance in the online rpg. Plus, it does provide the game company, BioWare, with additional revenue, which can be used to add more content to the game. A final consideration about the SWTOR platinum lightsaber is that quite a few subscribers have said that they like being able to buy it because they have accumulated a huge amount of Cartel Coins, which they get every month for being a subscriber. In the end, the selling of a platinum item is not the end of the galaxy as the final decision on whether to buy it or not is strictly up to the players and it has no real impact within the game.