The other side of the free-to-play business model is getting players to pay in some fashion, whether its simply by watching ads or directly buying small bits of the game. In a post on the Everquest Next Landmark alpha forums, director of development David Georgeson detailed how the game would make money as it heads out of alpha. According to Georgeson, the game's paid side will be rolled out in phases.
Phase 1 is the current closed alpha stage, where the players who've bought Founder's Packs get to play the game. Phase 2 will begin in the later stages of Alpha, when SOE will begin selling new outfits and resources. Currently, the alpha's progression is based solely on resources: you need resources to build better pickaxes and axes to collect better resources to build better pickaxes and axes. Georgeson said this will be changing, with later tools and items being gated by activities and achievements. Players will still be able to gather their own resources and trade them with other players; the purchase model is just a shortcut.
Phase 3 will add more "time shortcut methods" to the list of items that can be purchased.
"What is a time shortcut? Here's a theoretical example: Let's say you have to craft a recipe in order to make a 'power up my pick' potion so you can gather resources more quickly," Georgeson wrote. "The time shortcut option would be available as a button on your Collections sheet, so you could just buy that potion effect immediately instead of needing to craft it first. We're going to create these 'point of need' interfaces for things like paying for upkeep, renting market stalls, and a short list of other convenience items. These shortcuts will not be allowed to affect game balance and can be avoided completely through in-game effort, if desired."
Phase 4 and 5 are slated to happen during Closed Beta. Phase 4 will launch the Player Studio part of the game, where players can sell their templates and other creations on SOE's auction service. Phase 5 will add other items like pets, sound and music packs for claims, character changes, and extra claim flags.
This is just SOE's current plan for the game, but Landmark is still in alpha and the team is listening to feedback from players in the forums. That means this could change at any time. Georgeson also briefly explained why the game needs to charge players at all and attempted to alleviate some fears about how this will affect aspiring resource merchants.
"First of all, we are free-to-play. That means we have to entertain you before you decide whether to pay us or not. We like that burden of responsibility. We think it's cool and the right thing to do," he wrote.
"Keep in mind that the majority of players in a free-to-play game don't buy much. So, if you're worried that the ability to buy certain items will invalidate a thriving player economy, then let me be reassuring: that has never happened. There are many people that won't pay, and they desire/need an in-game economy. There's always a market for people that want to craft and sell items for virtual coin."
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