Snail Games caused a bit of a stir when it announced the payment model for Black Gold Online – a monetization plan which may well be one of the most confusing and convoluted I’ve ever heard. According to Snail Games’ initial announcement, the model – which has already seen use in China – would use something known as “Black Gold Time. This mechanic, explained the developer, would record a player’s “playtime data,” making note of all the materials and loot gathered in that timeframe. While basic stuff could be looted right away, everything else would go into the save.
Said player would be able to select a time-fame of one, two, four, or six hours for the game to create that save, or they could choose to end it early. These saves, Snail explained, would be purchasable with in-game credits (bought with real money). Players could also gamble to have a chance of receiving the credits required or obtain the loot without having to pay.
Naturally, virtually no one was happy about this state of affairs. Snail was effectively taking one of the core mechanics of the MMORPG – loot progression – and locking it smugly behind a paywall, while crooning that this way they wouldn’t need “subscription fees” or “cash shops.” Snail, apparently taking note of the backlash, immediately started to backpedal, scrambling to change their business model and announcing that the previous model was “China-only.”
They quickly made a new announcement, which emphasized that it was completely optional and meant to supplement normal game progression. Under this new model (which isn’t explained much better than the original), a player’s loot index is saved once every hour. The value of that index is based on their actions during that time – killing opponents in PvP, looting or defeating bosses, completing quests, et-cetera. That loot index can be claimed at any point during the day, though players can only do so for free twice a day – every other time, they’ll have to pay. According to Snail, all in-game equipment can be acquired via “in-game questing, battlegrounds, auction, and world drops.”
Curiously enough, items acquired from Vials can be auctioned. See where I’m going with this?
The fact is, this monetization model still completely misses the mark. I foresee this game turning into a pay-to-win title in the worst possible way; paying players will inevitably have access to more gear (and probably higher-quality gear, as well). They will end up having a marked advantage over the non-paying players, regardless of how long they actually spend in-game. A Paywall is a Paywall, even if you install a door.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be skipping out on Black Gold Online. I have better things to spend my time – and money – on.