Microtransactions; The Correct Way.
If you’ve listened to the podcast even a few times then you should know by now that I’m a Warframe player and I play a lot of it. I feel comfortable saying, that after 300+ hours, it is one of my all time favorite games. There are a lot of things Digital Extreme does right and, of course, things I don’t really like but one thing I think they’ve done amazingly well… is Micro-transactions.
Allow me to explain a little bit about the Warframe economy before we talk about how it’s done so well. This game has a premium currency called Platinum and it can be used to buy just about everything in the game. Need more weapon slots so you can have more weapons? Platinum. Need more space for another pet? Platinum. Want more space for new Warframes? Platinum. Color choices? Platinum.
I think you get the point.
Now, notice, I said it can be used to buy all these things which means it doesn’t have to be (with a few exceptions). Many things can be farmed within the game but having platinum makes life much easier in a lot of ways and allows you to access certain things that are basically locked behind a platinum wall, such as weapon slots or warframe slots. There are a few ways you can get more of these but I believe just about everyone spends platinum on the slots that they need.
Like you’d except Platinum is purchased with real life money but there is another way…
Okay - so you now know there is (no surprise) a premium currency in the game that you can spend real life money on to acquire. Can you farm for the Platinum? Well… in a way, yes.
What you can do is farm for gear and hopes to get rare gear that is in demand by the overall community of the game because what makes the micro-transactions unique… is that the premium currency is tradable.
Let’s say you need 12p (Platinum) to get 2 new weapon slots so you can finally enjoy the weapons you just finished crafting. You’ve currently got no Platinum at all though - what can you do?
You can farm. There are various things in the game that you can farm for and then you can put those items up for sell within the community and players will give you platinum in return for those items. After a short time, you’ve got your 12p and you’ve got your weapon slots! It’s a wonderful system.
This system encourages farming, encourages you to put more and more time into the game to trade items and gain more platinum… so you can get more things which you’ve also farmed for. This is a very farm heavy game, in fact, that’s basically the end game; farming.
How Is it Free?
If platinum is easily acquired in the game through effort and gets you basically anything in the game you’d want then how does Digital Extreme make money to keep the game free?
Farming. That’s how.
With the nature of farming comes drop rates and RNG. There are obviously going to be items that are more desirable than others and people are often willing to purchase platinum to get some more of those expensive items if they don’t want to grind heavily for it.
Additionally there are tons of systems in place within the game to keep you using you platinum on a constant basis so you gradually run out and eventually you’ll hit a point where you want something now instead of farming back up your platinum so you’ll spend $5-10 to purchase just enough platinum to get what you need.
DE also provides you with daily login rewards and sometimes you’ll get a 25-75% off platinum discount code, talk about an incentive to purchase especially if you’ve been grinding long and hard to get something over the past couple days or weeks. This is a brilliant idea from them because can you guess how much Platinum costs Digital Extreme to produce? Exactly $0. Since it’s a virtual currency for virtual items, it costs them nothing to produce the currency. So offering you a 25% off coupon which makes you more inclined to purchase a $50 bundle of Platinum is a good deal for them. I’ve heard of several people getting the 75% off coupon and buying the $200 platinum bundle which brought it down to $50 and honestly, I would do the same if I landed one of those coupons.
DE will bundle together a lot of items for a flat Platinum price that would take you quite a lot of work to get on your own which makes these bundles pretty appealing, especially when they include a really annoying to farm Warframe. The platinum is at a much higher cost than what you’d normally spend on everyday items though, like 500-1000. That’s a lot of farming, or one transaction with your credit card.
Along with bundles DE will sell “Prime Access Packs” which include quite a bit of stuff that can be farmed for but you could just spend real life money and have it today! You cannot purchase it with Platinum though.
You get it
Being able to farm 99% of the items in the game and offering up the Platinum as a tradable currency is what makes their microtransaction system so incredible. Those that want to support DE (which is a lot of us) will buy platinum to do so and the rest of us that want to stay F2P have that option. While it make take us longer to get certain things it by no means ruins the experience of the game and for those that love farming, only enhances the enjoyment of it once you get something you’ve really been working hard for.
There is, however, one key component that makes this system work so well for Warframe and that’s the lack of competitiveness. There is a PVP section in the game but I don’t play it and honestly don’t know many people that do. It’s not the main draw as this is a PVE style game with a heavy focus on teamwork. Because of that there is no P2W (Pay to Win) aspect of this game because nothing makes you directly better than anyone else around you. Certain items or Warframes may give you more options or better opportunities to do harder content but it wont prevent you from ever getting to that stage entirely.
TLDR: Platinum currency is tradable and can be earned through farming. There is no P2W aspect so you can stay F2P with patience and effort, allowing you to hit the same milestones as everyone else within the game.
Honestly, I could talk much more on Warframe… like how wonderful Digital Extreme is and how incredible the overall community of Warframe is. There seriously is a lot to love about this game once you get over that initial hump.