Some things Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson said in one of his early interviews after joining the EQ2 team expressed a truth of in-game stores in general that I think is often overlooked. In this interview with Zam, he said:
"I'm a big fan of microtransactions. As a player, I'm a fan of them. And the reason I'm a fan of them is if the content isn't good, then the developer doesn't make any money."and,
"It's just basically choosing how you spend your money, whether or not it's entertainment that's of value to you. 'Cause it's completely optional; none of this stuff is required, if you don't want to pay for it you don't have to."
Now, it's true that there are some games where the purchased items grant actual in-game power so could be considered essential, but for many games that's not the case. For many games, including the one I work on, it's entirely possible to never buy a single item from the in-game store and be at no disadvantage whatsoever within the game. It's totally optional. And yet, here are two things I frequently see people say about these kinds of items in these kinds of games:
1. They proclaim that the existence of an in-game store is horrible and, they will never use it; and they ask, often in the same sentence, why all the items in it suck so much, saying they're so terrible, they don't want any of them, why can't the designers do better.
2. Sometimes, if a new item comes out in a game I play that I think is pretty neat, I will link it on Facebook or on twitter. And often, a bitter sounding person will reply along these lines: "well *I* sure won't be buying it, because it doesn't have (X) / isn't (Y)".
These both confuse me.
In #1, the person seems to be confused about what they actually want. If they really dislike in-game stores in general and don't want them to exist, then they should be rejoicing if the items in them are completely undesirable, because then nobody will buy them and the store may be abandoned. And if they really don't ever want to use an in-game store then it seems rather masochistic to be complaining the items aren't something they would want to buy. It sounds as if the #1 type of person actually does want to buy things, and dislikes the store primarily because it's not selling the items that person wants to purchase.
In #2, while this might be a true statement, I'm always puzzled why someone would even bother to post it. The implication seems to be that the game designers were expecting every single person to love and buy it, that the company thinks they should want to buy it. Well no, not if you don't like it. That's like if I linked a photo of a pizza and said it is now available if anybody wants some, and someone replied that they only like hamburgers so they won't be eating my pizza, which would be much better if it were a hamburger instead and clearly the cooks must be stupid to make pizza. Well, yes, if you don't like pizza then don't eat it. This seems pretty obvious, good plan. Well done for figuring that out, but why even bother posting bitterly back about it? And why does everything have to be hamburgers, when there may well be people out there who do like pizza?
That's the beauty of completely optional and nonessential content, isn't it? If you don't like it, don't buy it. If I walk into a clothing store I certainly don't buy every item in it; I usually don't even like most of them. That doesn't mean I'm going to run up to the sales clerk and hold up a pair of jeans, bitterly shouting that I would have bought them if they'd also had 4 additional pockets but they don't so I'm not going to. Stores offer a wide selection of items that will appeal to a wide variety of people. Very few people will like everything, and it's probably better that way too or we'd all end up looking identical if we all had exactly the same tastes! I think pretty much everyone understands this when they walk into a clothing store, so it remains a bit of a mystery to me why some people seem to get so bitter when not every single item in a game's in-game store appeals to them personally.
Anyway, no real deep & meaningful conclusion here or anything, just an interesting thing I've noticed when I watch people talking about in-game shops in computer games. I am slowly developing a few theories as I watch. Anybody else care to speculate on why folks don't have the same expectations of the in-game stores as they do of real world ones?