Most MMOs fall into one of two camps: subscriptions or free-to-play. But NCsoft's upcoming WildStar is attempting something a little different.
The game comes with 30 days of game time. After that, players will have the option of paying for a monthly subscription or purchasing game time to top up.
Alternatively, they can also fund their time in WildStar by progressing through the game and using the new C.R.E.D.D. system, which uses in-game gold to buy game time. Here's how it works…
What is C.R.E.D.D.?
C.R.E.D.D. (which stands for Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction and Development, in case you were wondering) is an in-game item that can be purchased from developer Carbine Studios with real money.
It can be converted into one month of game time, or sold on the Commodities Exchange – WildStar's auction house – to other players in exchange for in-game gold.
So players who don't want to pay for a monthly subscription can buy C.R.E.D.D. from the Exchange using the money they earn from quests and looting, and use that to add another month to their game time.
Carbine's executive producer Jeremy Gaffney says C.R.E.D.D. will benefit two different kinds of players.
"If you have a high amount of time to play but don't have a lot of money, or don't want to spend it, you can trade in-game gold on the Commodities Exchange and get your game time that way,” he says.
But if you don't have a lot of time to play, but you have money, you can buy a C.R.E.D.D. and sell it for more in-game gold without being hacked or scammed [by gold farmers].”
Can you just buy C.R.E.D.D. directly instead of paying a subscription?
Yes, although C.R.E.D.D. is not intended as a direct replacement for subscriptions. It has been designed as a commodity to fuel the in-game economy for players who need extra gold or time.
In fact, buying C.R.E.D.D. every month will cost slightly more than signing up for a monthly subscription.
We don't expect players to buy a C.R.E.D.D. and then immediately convert it,” Gaffney explained. If you want to do that, buy a monthly subscription – that's what it's there for. Or get a game time card.”
How much will C.R.E.D.D cost if you buy it from the Commodities Exchange?
The price will vary depending on supply and demand from other players. Carbine is also determined to take a back seat so that it doesn't disrupt the in-game economy.
Said Gaffney: Our influence on the market is to make sure there are lots of good ways to spend gold in the game and make sure gold enters the game on a regular basis. That's our real participation with the system – otherwise it's up to the players.
If not a lot of players don't want to get extra gold and so don't buy a lot C.R.E.D.D, the price will go up. If it becomes very common that people purchase C.R.E.D.D and sell it on the Commodities Exchange, it will drive the prices down.
How that works out over time will be very interesting.”
Rather than trading C.R.E.D.D., can players not just buy gold directly from Carbine?
No, Carbine will only sell C.R.E.D.D. The developer is keen to encourage interaction and exchanges between the players.
That's a purer transaction in many ways that us trying to gouge extra money out of everybody, and it's a lot purer than having to go onto the black market of gold farmers,” said Gaffney.
In life there are no perfect solutions. But we're stoked to find something that makes different classes of players happy. It makes us happy, because it's revenue that pays for our servers. And it makes gold farmers unhappy. That's exactly how I like to operate in the world.”
So how does this stop gold farmers?
The theory is that because C.R.E.D.D can only be purchased from Carbine or in-game, and because it only traded for game time or in-game currency, there's no monetary benefit for gold farmers. Why would players hand their credit card details to gold farmers when they can pick up C.R.E.D.D. in the Exchange?
Of course, there's no guarantee the Internet won't find an exploit in time.
Why is this any different to games like EVE Online where users can already use in-game credit to buy game time?
Because Carbine claims it has been integrated into the game's development since the beginning. While EVE added the option later in its life, the economy of WildStar is built around players that trade C.R.E.D.D. for gold and vice versa.
I think our free market concept is a really strong one” Gaffney added.
Being able to play just by earning in-game gold, playing to pay as it were – I think a lot of people will adopt that as a model. But we really need gamers to get in there and test it out.
It will be interesting to see how it develops.”