*** UPDATE (08/08/2015) *** The Vip program has finally been announced after we originally reported the findings by reddit user neverleaks over a months ago.
We reported the leaked hints of a subscription option a few days ago. Although the information has not been officially confirmed and you have to be cautious, I’m inclined to believe this or a related feature might actually make it to the game. Contrary to the suggestion of others that the “VIP” system is a leftover of a discarded feature, the listed benefits seem pretty up-to-date and the game files feature a full set of VIP related tooltips, objects and icons.
No matter whether this is legit or not, it’s worth talking about. Reactions of the playerbase were expectedly negative, because folks sense a new money grab or pay-to-win threat on the horizon, but I’d actually welcome such an addition to the game at the right price.
Let’s be honest here: Most of the stuff isn’t major in terms of gameplay. You safe or gain minor ADs here and there, XP for professions, companions etc. It’s pretty common Neverwinter pay-to-advance-a-little-faster. Please also note that AH posting fees do not include the AH cut for selling an item. In my understanding VIPs would just be able to repost items for free. Then we have a full bunch of quality-of-life improvements in those instant salvage, mail, travel, invoke, bank stuff and no injuries. I think this package is already a really nice convenience upgrade players would be willing to pay for.
Two items stand out though and that’s the Wondrous Bazaar 25% cost reduction and the “The Power of VIP” gameplay buff that adds 2k HP (or the equivalent of a Rank 10 Radiant Enchantment) to the party. Those two probably will create quite some controversy. The other AD boosts are minor, but the Wondrous Bazaar discount most certainly is not. Among other things Mark of Potencys, one of the major unavoidable progression paywalls, are affected. You need them left and right, so that’s kind of big. VIPs also could potentially sell stuff from the Bazaar for profit to non-VIPs. Ideally, the 25% reduction transfers to the AH due to market competition and becomes a bonus to everyone, but VIPs would be wise to keep prices on a level that’s a bargain to non-VIPs and still nets them profit. Setting the discount at 10% would avoid such implications, but keep an overall usefulness.
Whenever a pay-to-win-argument is made surrounding the package, the “The Power of VIP” buff will probably come up first. 2k HP is nothing major, but also not nothing. In a close PVP match, it can be decisive. It they somehow allowed it to stack, you’d definitely see full VIP run requests in /lfg, which would further separate the playerbase and move the VIP package closer to a true requirement. That’s an issue.
To fully evaluate such a package we need to look at the big picture though. Neverwinter might have made MassivelyOP’s list of healthiest live MMOs, but other than its Xbox version, the PC is bleeding players. PWE fired 18 devs at Cryptic in March because the western market was already underperforming and Steam numbers indicate Module 6: Elemental Evil, which they admitted was a problematic release, has led to another population loss of roughly 30%. What that means is that the devs are forced to explore other ways to get money in and those complaining might have to ask themselves whether they want a game with a VIP package or no game at all.
I don’t want to sound to apocalyptic, but there surely is a reasoning behind choosing a subscription model rather than making the benefits a one-time unlock in the ZEN store like the other class and real-money packages. Maybe they feel they have a dedicated core of players that would be willing to spend a small amount per month? What’s definitely true is that the game needs a bit more incentive to regularly spend down the road, especially for high-end accounts. They have promotions and sales, but really new items only come up once in a while. This package would do the trick.
Which brings us back to the Wondrous Bazaar discount and the gameplay buff. People want equivalent value for their investment. And the most obvious is straight AD savings from the pack. The small savings from professions, dailies and stuff is nice, but hardly measurable and some might not even farm daily tasks because they are capped out on rough ADs or make enough from Leadership. To make the package “worth it”, the Bazaar discount is necessary.
The gameplay buff surely is another animal for the reasons stated above, but might fall into the same category. If people evaluate the pack, this will be a big selling point especially if they don’t feel they are getting the full value of AD back (which is very likely).
Considering this, the package itself and the controversial ingredients could be a necessary evil and the fact that I would pay for it tells me others might as well. I hope though that PWE will finally learn from past mistakes and make the package affordable for the majority. This could be a good injection, but not if only the already superior upper class can further add to their dominance.
The next weeks will tell how substantial the leaked information is, but I’d welcome a VIP package to the game.