The free-to-play model, while disparaged by some developers as exploitative of players, has certainly proved itself over and over to be financially sustainable if done right. And although I myself have paid a buck or two for extra in-game content myself, I have always found it hard to believe that there are people out there who will sink scores, hundreds, or thousands of dollars into their online personae.
No better proof of this than the news that’s propagating today: German gaming company Bigpoint, which operates a few free-to-play games, has sold 2000 (and counting) items just in the last few days – for the whopping price of €1000 each. Where is your horse armor now?
In Bigpoint’s free-to-play game Dark Orbit, you can find little drones that help your ship in combat. Up to ten of them, in fact, but the last one is extremely hard to find. Lots of searching around, collecting blueprints, end-game busywork. So, perhaps seeing that people were frustrated with the mechanics they’d put in place, and perhaps smelling a business opportunity (or likely both), they decided to offer the last drone for sale in the in-game marketplace. For the (one would think) absurd price of €1000.
It’s one of those things that you hear about and you’re not surprised later when it turns out that a dozen people went in for it. But to Bigpoint’s delight, more than 2000 players have shelled out for this little drone as of a few days ago, producing a total of at least €2,000,000 after less than a week on the market (that’s about 2.6 million of your American dollars).
This isn’t the first time extravagant items have been offered in games or app stores, and certainly not the most money that has ever changed hands in a virtual market (that honor probably belongs to WoW), but it’s a surprising event nonetheless. Who would have expected such widespread and lavish spending in a game like this? Apparently Bigpoint did, and they’re reaping the rewards.
Underestimate the “casual” games space, in which hundreds of millions of people play every day, at your peril. With so many involved, there are bound to be, as others have put it, some whales. I look forward to the next ludicrous milestone.