When you read the title of this post, the first thought would be something along the lines of ” Must be a joke, right?” however, that is not the case. Sadly, this is a true story that speaks volumes about customer service and the price we pay to play.
You see, during the last few years, there have been some changes in the MMO industry. There has been a shift in the payment methods of these MMORPGS(massive multiplayer online roleplaying game). The move has been away from the subscription model and into the “free” with cash shop, model of payment. One of the companies partly responsible for this shift in payment models is a little-known company called Frogster(who shall be referred to as Fraudster from here on out). mainly due to the success of their mmorpg called Runes of Magic.
The main attraction of the game was that, is was supposed to be a free to play(f2p) game, and that idea, combined with a decent game seemed to produce success. However, as time went along, many of the things that drew people into the game began to disappear. “But how does this equal being banned for reporting harassment? “, you might ask. I am getting there, just wanted to put in a little ground work first.
Fraudster and Runes of magic(rom) may just be one game, in what now looks like a galaxy of f2p mmorpgs, but it was one of the 1st successful ones and most certainly can point the direction in which all f2p games could and may end up heading.
All f2p games have one thing in common, they have a cash shop. The cash shop is how they support the game. It is important to them to get people into the cash shop for them to make money. In order to do so they develope strategies that will insure that if you want to keep playing, you will have to keep paying. However, if the game is touted as f2p, they have to be less obvious about it and provide a way in which you can get needed items for free.
But when money is involved, then often as not, so is greed and with f2p payment model the oppertunities for people to satisfy their greed are much more easily obtained. With a subscription based payment system, the ability to fulfill your greed is much more limited. You can raise subscription prices or stop making improvements to the game and both are very obvious to the players. It is the fact that these are so obvious to players, that keeps greed in check. Players tend to leave when they see these things and that means less money, not more. The f2p game, on the other hand, has many more ways for the game developers to fill, their need for greed. When this happens, which is likely to happen in any given f2p game, the customers ultimately end up paying the price, not just in money either.
So let’s look at how this ended up happening to ROM and how it leads to people being banned for litterly no reason, shall we?
In the beginning, it seemed like fraudster and Rom were going to live up to the promise of f2p. They had a cash shop where you could buy items but they also had a means where the person without a alot of money could play for free and still be able to play. They had tokens in-game that players earned by doing daily quests and with those could purchase “select” items from the cash shop and there was a means to buy diamonds( diamonds are used in-game to by ANY item from the cash shop) from the auction house with in-game gold. With these 2 things in place you could buy litterly anything needed to play the game. However, those things changed!!!
As Rom grew up, they put out new content and features but none of them seemed to work properly. Everything was bugged and if they “tried” to fix it, it ended up worse than when it was first released. The extra xp and tp gained from furniture stopped working many months ago and has yet to be fixed. The new housemaids did not work upon release and guild seige also has not worked since release. All new content is bugged and often has major flaws in coding, yet most of it has not been fixed.
They also removed the diamonds from the auction house, claiming it was a temporary measure to deal with gold spammers.That was over 2 months ago. Not that Fraudster has the means to even deal with gold spammers. If WOW(world of warcraft) does not, how are we supposed to believe they do?( Side note: Someone posted in the game forums the calculations for how long it would take to get enough tokens to make end-game gear.The total was over 6 years!! That was before the last content updates. This game is not even close to being “free” anymore)
It was merely an excuse to cover up what their real intentions are. To milk the game and it’s remaining players. That is the place to which their greed has taken them and ROM. They are in the milking stage of the game now. There is alot of evidence and signs of this. Every piece of new content and every new feature, is flawed/bugged. This is because they do not have their best developers working on the game anymore. Therefore, everything is broken on release and almost nothing is ever fixed.
Diamonds were removed from the auction house to make the f2p players leave, costing them less bandwidth and server stress. Of course, with greed in play, there was also the hope that some players would convert to p2p(pay to play) and buy more diamonds, since auction house access was no more. They even went so far as to make the items you buy with in-game tokens less successful than their diamond counterparts. If you use token bought gems, to improve your equipment, you are faced with greater chance of it failing and lowering your equipment, than if you bought those same gems with diamonds. ( As a side not, isn’t this a bit like saying we don’t care how much time you spend here playing and supporting the game, we just want your money.)
They create new content to make players have to buy diamonds to upgrade their new equipment. All new content is broken or bugged and never fixed to keep development costs down. Diamonds are removed from the auction house to make f2p players leave and hopefully boost diamond sales, thus lowering maintenance fees and hopefully boosting sales. Reducing effectiveness of token bought items to force players into spending diamonds rather than time. Heck, they even openly spam every player in the game with the message” If you buy tiered stones from gold spammers, your account will be permanently banned”. Thus saying to every player, either we get all your money or we will ban you.
All these add up to clear signs of a company just milking their product.
Once a company has entered this milking stage, customer service is one of those other things, that gets reduced. At this point in the game, they are looking to make more money and put out less money. With this in mind, it is obvious how customer service is going to go downhill. Customer service requires employees and that means saleries. In the milking stage, less saleries is better. That is why when you call fraudster, the Customer Service Manager for ALL of North America answers the phone. Since when does a customer service manager ever answer the phone…unless there are no other customer service employes? I got the phone number, wanna call and see?(If you are really interested, use my contact page)
When customer service has been reduced, that means they only deal with whatever issues they absolutely have to. It means if you are going to cause them too much work, you will ignored and if you will not go away by being ignored, you will be banned. It means whoever is spending the most money, is likely to get any kind of customer service at all, even if they are harassing other players. It means customer service comes down to favoritism.
And… it is how one ends up being banned for reporting harassment, like I was.
When a company is knowingly milking it’s customers, taking their money and not intending to provide any kind of product or service for it, that is fraud. It is exactly what Fraudster is doing through the game of ROM. They know that they are just milking the game now. They know that everything they release now is going to be bugged or broken and will not be fixed. They know they will not provide customer support and that any customer provided, will be on a basis of who pays the most. They know all of these things. And yet, they still take your money.
Accepting someone’s money is entering into a contract. A contract in which they accept your money and they are supposed to uphold their own TOS, their side of the agreement. If they are taking your money and intentionally not fulfilling their side of the contract, they are comitting fraud. There is simply no way around this.
I believe now, it should be clear to any that have read this far, that not only ROM and fraudster should be avoided, but that every f2p game in the marketplace should be avoided like the plague. For this is the direction, most are heading. When greed and oppertunity combine, there are going to be those companies that prey upon the hard working people.
I cannot calculate how many people I helped in-game, how many hours I lost, and how much money I spent and lost, due to this greedy company. To be banned for complaining about another player harassing me, is not only wrong and undeserved, it is fraudster openingly allowing players to violate the TOS and commiting fraud.
It should be noted, that I used ROM as a example not only because I got banned(although that would have been good enough reason alone for most people) but also because they were one of the first companies to employ the f2p payment structure and have success in doing so. I have played many f2p games and they all seem to be heading in the direction that ROM has.
I can only hope that other people learn from my mistakes and do not fall into the money trap that is the f2p mmorpg. Thx for reading and feel free to leave any comments you might have.
Just in case anyone wants to view documents and pictures of emails exchanged and such, here are the links-