The Treadmill Metaphor

There has been a lot of talk on Central, on the official forums, and on Twitter these past few days over the new subscriber perks being offered in the Wizard101 Test Realm. If you’re a subscriber, chances are you’re pretty psyched. If not, maybe you feel a little slighted. I’d like to talk about that…

First off, I want to start by saying opinions, when stated calmly and intelligently, have value. Civil discourse is good; it encourages looking at things from different sides, reflecting on your own world view, and giving new ideas a chance to be heard. So if you’re not pleased with what I write here, take a deep breath and maybe have a glass of water before responding with all the fire and brimstone you can muster. 😉

The subscriber/crowns player concept can be likened (albeit in a simplified manner) to purchasing a treadmill. I could go to the sporting goods store, buy the treadmill, take it home, and exercise on it forever (or until it stops working from wear). It’s my possession. The folks who built it set up a one-time transaction with me in which I exchanged currency for a good and now I’m walking myself to fitness. Maybe I’ll have other transactions with this manufacturer in the future – maybe I’ll pick up a weight bench or an exercise bike. For now, however, I’ve spent my money and I have a treadmill for life to use as much as I want.

Or, I could go to a gym. The gym has a treadmill, a weight bench, and an exercise bike, but for the privilege of using them, I have to pay a monthly fee. As long as I’m paying that monthly fee, I can use that equipment as much as I want, but the second I stop, I’ve gotta get my exercise on by walking around in the cold like a schmo.

Here’s the thing about gyms: any place can have a treadmill, a weight bench, and an exercise bike. If a gym doesn’t have other perks to attract members, they won’t keep them. The gym needs personal trainers and pilates classes and a lap pool or they might not be giving members sufficient incentive to stay around. Those members are a stream of dependable, constant income, and they are absolutely vital to the business. The gym wants to keep the ones they have, attract new ones, and maybe get some of those folks who bought a treadmill to come check out a yoga class.

This isn’t a perfect metaphor, but I hope you see where I’m going. I think some crowns players see themselves as being marginalized in favor of subscribers, but I wonder if they realize what they have. For a really reasonable amount a crowns player has purchased access to a Wizard101 game world for the entire life of the game, for every character they make on that account. A subscriber owns nothing; the second they stop paying that recurring fee they’re stuck in Wizard City. Subscribers are also a constant, dependable source of income, and it makes sense for KI to want to keep them around. The perks are a nice way to encourage subscribers to stay and to encourage others to try a subscription.

As a compromise, I propose offering those perks in the Crowns shop. For, say, 5,000 Crowns a player could buy an extra x backpack spaces for that character, forever. For the same amount that player could purchase an extra y friends list slots. What do you think?

16 thoughts on “The Treadmill Metaphor

  1. I like the compromise. I think Crowns players should have some of the access sub players have too, just a bit more expensive, like choosing NOT to buy in bulk, you still get the goods, just not as cheaply.
    I also wish there was a way for a subscriber to buy areas as they had an influx of crowns or there was a sale going on, so that a plan B could be set in place for those times when a sub isn’t feasible. Like buying a silent partnership in the gym 😀

    Love the metaphor though. It really fits, in my humble opinion. 😀

    Well done as usual. You do well on a soapbox and I would NEVER equate your opinion to a big mouth. *Chrissy Hugs*

  2. I think its a good metaphor too, and I agree with Chrissy, that they should have some access as well, just not as cheap. Also we would not ever consider you to have a big mouth (at least I wouldn’t anyway). Your opinion means to much to me, so just keep on doing what you have always done. 🙂

  3. Crown players are simply not a reliable source of income, period!! I write this response strictly from the viewpoint of a Game Developer and Game Company Owner. A game such as Wizard101 costs in the MILLIONS of dollars to develop, maintain, and provide payroll for. People assume that FREE players contribute to the game in some way, but that contribution is only about 3-5% in reality. Yes, sometimes they do buy crowns and buy locked areas to play in. Sometimes their parents do give them money to buy an item or 2 from the crown shop, but this is very limited.

    I have been playing the game steadily 8 hours a day for the past 6 months. Many times I stand around the commons near the typical gathering places and I hear free players complain constantly. They beg for crown items from anyone passing by that is wearing crown gear or outfits or has a crown mount. They talk about playing trivia everyday and trying to get free crowns to open more areas. They talk about hoping to get a wizard gift card from their mom & dad or grandparents for their birthday.
    I feel sorry for them, but they are not paying anyones salary at KI and certainly not contributing to the game enough to keep exciting updates flowing.

    On the other hand you have subscription holders like myself who contribute greatly to the game. I not only maintain a monthly sub, but I also buy crowns in droves. I buy at least $50 dollars worth a month to be honest and so do a lot of subscription players. The fact that subscription players with unfiltered chat accounts have credit cards on file, let’s you know that they have the capital/money to spend.

    A lot of kids play the game that cannot afford the extras, I get that. A lot of adults also play the game that have jobs and can afford to buy those perks and extras. Is it an unfair advantage? Yes, sure, absolutely!! That my friends is how the world works and it’s better to learn it at a young age then have to realize it when you get older and move out of mom and dads place. People like me, pay for the extra content you get, the salaries of the employees, and more. If no one paid and the game was just free, it would DIE quickly.

    If they made it so that free players or occasional crown buyers got the same perks as me, then why would I pay?? What keeps me buying crowns and keeps me with a sub, is that I like having the EXTRAS that come along with it. if I could just buy it for 5000 crowns and own it forever, then I’d stop my sub immediately.

    It’s already very easy to get 25,000+ crowns worth of items per week free. Just play Grub Guardian 25 times a day. I get more vengeful elixirs, energy elixirs, and major xp boost elixirs than I can use. I also get Wyvern Hoard packs, Dragon Hoard packs, Marvelous Minion packs, and more. Some of those elixirs cost 900 crowns each and I get multiples a day. I also get tons of gold which I use to buy rare ingredients from the bazaar.

    Everyone wants more content but find out what it costs to pay a graphic artist, a game designer, etc per year and somehow they have to fund all of that.

    • Very well said. *Bows to with a flourish of my piratical plumed hat and sprinkles health on you with my awesome wand/staff* 😀

  4. I think this is definitely a good metaphor. If you do the math, after a few years, subscribers end up paying more – and they often want their own weight benches and exercise bikes, so you’ll see them spend additional money for crowns. The fact that they ultimately end up spending more, and essentially sign these one-month or one-year contracts to pay for KingsIsle games, really does qualify them for more perks.

    Some of the things really do make a huge difference in how you play your game. Backpack space is a big one. I like your compromise idea, as that would allow an expansion of backpack space that could potentially benefit both crowns players and members who are willing to spend the extra crowns. With things like dances, which are awesome, they can remain members-only, as there must be some incentive that cannot simply be bought out with crowns, and that’s where you might have to start drawing fine lines.

    Here’s where I think we have to be careful, though. Double the experience from pet snacks is a very significant benefit (though should not be available to all for that reason alone). It means not just quicker pet training, but, in the long run, more efficient and effective pet training, because it moves you through a process you might never have happened upon before because of this great increase. If it can be said that pets significantly shift the ability of players to compete in PvP and do well in PvE (and I believe it can), we have to ask ourselves, is giving an overall boost in gameplay really fair?

    Let’s say this: members will have all enemy health, in both PvE and PvP, reduced by 15%. It sounds reasonable enough. It’s not necessarily fair that subscribers are really playing an easier version of the game crowns players are playing, but gaming payment plans don’t necessarily need to be fair, right?

    Let’s throw another curve-ball. Members are rewarded for loyalty and because they provide a definite income for KingsIsle, yet a one-month member who has paid $10 in his or her KingsIsle lifespan received the benefits, while a crowns player who has paid $300 in his or her KingsIsle lifespan does not. That’s not quite right, and that’s where a few people get hung up. Consider this: If the same owner rents a house to one family for one month, but sells a house to another for three, which might he be willing to make a deal with in the future? Many crowns players argue that they are actually a BETTER source of income than many members, and this is true, yet receive none of these benefits.

    I’m not sure where I stand, but I do see some potential compromises. Johnny introduced a tiered spending idea, with which crowns players can redeem items each month based on what they spent in crowns that month. Another thing a lot of games do is create a loyalty system. This might extend to both crowns and members. If you spend “x” dollars yearly or monthly, you receive so many points which can be redeemed for dances, backpack space, and so on. Finally, you could simply have them in the crown shop. I think that’s a good choice for a lot of the big game-changers, but emotes and such can remain a members-only feature.

    It’s very easy to upset either side, and there’s definitely a very large income provided by both sides, so whatever the case may be, I do hope there’s some sort of compromise. I do think that crowns players, though (myself included), should realize that they have a special ability or two as well. If you take the course of the game so far (about 6 years), that’d be (sales for both sides included) 136, 380 crowns, or $136.38. However, six years of subscription costs $360.00. That leaves $223.62 or 223,620 additional crowns that crowns players get in perks. Now THERE’S a benefit for you.

  5. Well, the thing is, the treadmill owners are not asking to use the added gym benefits for nothing. They are saying that IF we are still currently paying this gym owner just as much yearly as what the gym members pay, then we should be allowed to have the same gym benefits. No one is wanting use of the pool or pilates classes for free. We also knew when we purchased our treadmill that we could use it but we would have limits on the weight bench, and exercise bike(timers & space limits). Now the gym is expanding to a pool, pilates classes & personal trainers, yet our money doesn’t seem good enough to get these same benefits. It isn’t that we stopped paying the owner, yet still want the benefits. We want benefits to go to everyone that currently pays the owner an amount equal to that of a yearly sub or something along those lines.
    The elixirs would be something, but we are used to those things anyway. What I am worried about is that once this starts, we have no idea what kind of a disadvantage crowns members will be placed in. Once we start letting KI put us at a disadvantage, then we will never again have a say as to how far that line gets drawn between members and the 2nd class citizens(aka crowns players). Their decision will let me know if I keep putting hundreds of dollars a year into their games or whether I decide to just stay at home and enjoy my treadmill. My money is worth just as much as yours.
    One last thing to consider, there are “members” that have never spent a dime of their own money on this game, yet they will get the benefits that I don’t get for my hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket. Yes, people do surveys, have the money put into paypal and then use that for their monthly dues.

    • I love that you responded by carrying on the metaphor – great job! I don’t quite understand your last paragraph about members who have never spent a dime of their own money on the game – a subscriber/member pays a monthly fee; doesn’t that constitute spending money on the game?

      Thank you for your response!

  6. Maybe so. I guess that I would just equate using survey sites to people earning crowns from trivia. Either way, they seem to be valued more than Crowns players by KI. We have become the peons of the game and are treated like we never spend any money, which is far from the truth for a lot of us.

  7. if KI offers a compromise to crowns players, what is the point in encouraging those players to sub with member perks? The increased space, double pet XO and potential other perks are not a reward to members. They’re a perk designed to get crowns players to sub. Crowns players but once whereas members buy repeatedly. We also tend to pay for crowns above that. A sub plus crowns equals more money for them. Whether you agree with the scheme or not, this is one of the means they’re looking at to make money. It isn’t personal. It’s not a way to reward people based on how much or little they spent. It only exists to give KI a revenue source.

  8. I am a crowns player who has purchased every area in the game. I chose the crowns option because I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend a great deal of time playing and that I would be moving at a painfully slow pace even though I felt sure I would eventually finish. I did end up finishing through KH and it took about 2 1/.2 years to do that. For players who know they aren’t going to be able to quickly move through the game, the crowns option is the only one that makes sense. It isn’t ‘should I do crowns or sub’, it is ‘should I play w101 with crowns or go with a different game’.

    It might of taken me 2 1/2 years, but along the way I helped a great many other players through hard dungeons. This took time away from my own game, time that I already said I didn’t have much to spare. I also did quite well with pets and hatched my own group of pretty much perfect polar cats with a great many other gamers. People I didn’t know or would ever meet, just to feel good about being helpful.

    And now KI is treating long term casual players such as myself as puppy food. Buying a sub just doesn’t make sense for someone like myself. KI is sending a message that if you can’t spend a huge number or hours in the game, you are not an important part of our community. This doesn’t sit well with someone who has worked very hard to help out the community.

    The backpack increase was a hard slap in the face. Because seeds don’t stack, it is very hard to make do with the current limitations. I am actually amazed at this attitude. I buy my crowns in bulk and could easily spend a lot to acquire extra goodies, but because of the backpack problems, I never buy packs at all. I would pay crowns for a backpack space increase, but, 5,000 is a lot for a single wizard. I think it should be on the entire account. Meanwhile, I no longer am hatching pets to the community or helping others through dungeons. I am spending that time earning crowns with videos to keep future costs manageable. I don’t really have time for both.

  9. I like your compromise Steve, I really wish KI would offer some of the Sub perks in the crowns store. Main reason being I’m not playing wiz101 even on a weekly basis right now, there are other games that have my attention. Maybe KI could offer these perks to crowns players who spend an equal amount of money (ie. 60,000 crowns vs. 1 year sub) and have a credit card on file.

  10. I am a crowns player and I have also purchased all the areas. I love that they are giving extra benefits to the members but I feel a little left out.

    I am not one of the kids begging in the commons for free stuff. I also don’t consider myself a “free-to-play” player. I spent actual money to own areas because once I did the cost analysis, it was a better option for the way I play. I already spent $300 in this game, between the areas I’ve purchased and the random other items such as mounts, gift cards, etc. My journey throughout the spiral is not “free”.

    Someone suggested on another forum that there be an option for crowns players where they can buy a “subscription” for a specified length of time to gain the additional perks (like faster energy, bigger backpack) without having to pay for the access to “all areas” since we already own them. The guy on the other fansite suggested the cost of these additional benefits would be around $40 per year.

    If you take it a step further, why not offer the additional benefits “a la carte”? Crowns players can subscribe for a year to those additional benefits that suit their playing style. So if I am a gardener and a pet hatcher but I don’t pvp, maybe I want extra backpack space for my account or faster energy regeneration without the need to buy access to the arena. By cheaply purchasing a subscription for exactly what I want, I can also be rewarded by the occasional “extra member benefit” such as double gardening xp or double pet xp.

    For me, “a la carte subscriptions” are a great compromise that sets my style of gaming apart from the free-to-play and yearly membership players.

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