I can tell from the whopping two comments on my Astellia Online impressions post that interest in this new MMORPG is simply through the roof. (Actually most people probably still haven’t even heard of it, and I wouldn’t have either if it weren’t for a random MassivelyOP article here or there.) The theme of those two comments was something like, “They’ve got to be crazy if they think anyone is going to pay $30 for an unknown Eastern game.” So I thought I’d write a few thoughts on the price point.
I’ll admit I gambled a bit on this one, but I can report after three days of playing that I still don’t regret paying $30 for it. I feel like I’ve gotten a game that works exactly as advertised, is perfectly stable, and has no major bugs or problems. (Not counting translation issues, which I’m actually finding pretty amusing.) That right there is almost unheard of in a game launch in this day and age, so they should be applauded for that. Also I don’t think I highlighted this enough in my first post, but this is a very traditional tab-targeting MMORPG, the kind of game that nobody makes anymore. It’s definitely not a looter shooter or a battle royale or an isometric ARPG.
But more generally, to me, a $30 one-time payment for an MMORPG at launch is pretty cheap. It would be great if it was free-to-play, but we know there would be a terrible trade-off for that: Being hassled by a cash shop every time you log in.
I forgot to mention in my first post-because it seemed so “normal” to me that I didn’t even notice it-is that there is no such hassling in Astellia Online. You log in and you play the game without any GeoCities-style blinking advertisements in your face the entire time, which is what I would normally expect from an Eastern import game. There is a cash shop, but it’s hidden somewhere among the menu icons down in the corner of the screen, completely invisible.
It’s far less obnoxious than some top-tier popular Western MMORPGs, like Elder Scrolls Online, which plasters a huge window in front of you on every login to remind you to buy something, even after you’ve paid the $60 launch box price and maintained the $15-a-month subscription and bought hundreds of dollars of stuff in the shop. I seem to recall that EverQuest II also reminds you to buy stuff with a popup on every login, and if I’m not mistaken, I think they even open a web page after you exit the game.
Most games today have a button somewhere on every screen to remind you, “Hey, if you pay us some money here, we’ll give you a shortcut to avoid this annoying mechanic we put in to annoy you.” I’m thinking of Lord of the Rings Online’s Mithril Coins here. The only games that don’t do that are the subscription-only games Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft. (And EVE. I keep forgetting to include EVE in that list.)
And … Astellia Online. Those annoying cash grab buttons don’t exist in Astellia Online right now. I actually died once (I wasn’t paying attention) and normally you would expect to see a button there that says, “Hey pay us some money and we’ll make it super easy to resurrect right here and now!” There was no such button.
Admittedly I’m still in the very early stages of gameplay, so I don’t know what’s going to happen when my inventory fills up, for example, or when I get to endgame. And we don’t know what’s going to happen six or three or two months from now when they find out nobody in the Western world will pay even a one-time $30 fee for a service game anymore.
But for now, it’s pretty cool to have this little pocket of immersive gameplay away from high-pressure games industry salespeople. I should have highlighted that more in my first impressions post. It’s a throwback to the days when people made games because they liked to make games that are fun to play, and not just because some corporate board of directors wanted to expand their revenue portfolio and collect emails and credit card numbers to give to hackers.
As I think it was Bree said on a MassivelyOP podcast, it’s exactly what we Westerners keep saying we want from Eastern import games, and here it is right in front of us. But, alas, what we say and what we do are always two entirely different things, as the lootbox and cash shop developers well know, and that’s why we can’t ever have nice things anymore.