SWTOR Cartel Market: Why Can’t I Buy What I Want?
This past Tuesday, players of Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) received another game update. Like most game updates since November of 2012 the majority of the patch notes centered around changes to the SWTOR Cartel Market. There are new packs to throw your out-of-game money at and discounts to items that have been around a while.
SWTOR Cartel Market is just packs, packs, and more packs
Not surprisingly the two new packs, Regulator’s Contraband Pack and Enforcer’s Contraband Pack, contain an abundance of “must have” items. This is not the first time they do this either. Remember patch 1.6 that contained the Revan outfit, Diplomat’s Meditation Hoverchair, and Dominator’s Command Throne? They’ve done more of the same almost every game update since.
In the latest game update, Bioware has released some of the best gear creation the team has done to date and of course it’s only available for purchase outside of the game. Check out the full list here at dulfy.net. Not surprisingly, they are only available via Cartel Packs, which is nothing short of playing slot machines at your local casino. Put your money in and you might get lucky and get something that you want or that someone else might want. Most of the time you don’t get either and feel like you’ve just wasted your money.
The only other way to get those items is to hope someone lists them on the Galactic Trade Network (GTN) and buy them with in-game currency. Of course, due to item rarity or popularity those prices quickly go through the roof if they’re available at all. Therefore, unless you’re spending your time not playing the game by grinding daily missions for credits on a daily basis, you are out of luck. Also, if you want a piece of gear that is in an older Cartel Pack it may be very hard to find it on the GTN even if you have the means of purchasing it. Since there is no option to buy it directly from the Cartel Market you’re stuck gambling with Cartel Pack purchases.
Where is the value to the customer?
I don’t want to hate the Cartel Market. I’ve been a subscriber of the game since early access and I understand why they went the free-to-play route and why they built the Cartel Market. What I really want to do is support the Cartel Market with my money, but Bioware won’t let me. I don’t have money pouring out of my pockets but when I find value in something I don’t hesitate to jump on it. I find no value in the Cartel Market.
Everything I want from the Cartel Market is only available in Cartel Packs. As I mentioned, that is a big gamble, one I find no value in. Early in this post I provided a link to the items in the new packs. Here it is again. There are 50 items in there. Note that you get only two rare bonus items with a chance at a super rare. Those are not good odds in getting what you want when you consider the amount of items available. Again, not good value for the customer.
On the other hand, this is great value for Bioware. They recently admitted that Cartel Packs are the best-selling item on the Cartel Market. Should anyone be surprised at this? Compare the items available in the packs to the items available for direct purchase. There is really no comparison in terms of popularity. At SXSW, Bioware stated that the items based on the Knights of the Old Republic series have been the most popular. My apologies for being frank, but no shit. This game is based on that series and timeline. Many fans of that series waited years for this game to launch. Of course players want to dress up as Revan, Carth, Malak, and other iconic characters from that timeline!
Bioware has also done a good job in brain-washing some of the SWTOR players. By placing items in these packs only, they are giving the illusion that the item is rare and has enormous value in-game. As such they are creating false economies around these desired items. Some players on the swtor.com forums do not want this system to change because otherwise items would not be rare if available for direct purchase. However, the easy counter to this argument is that if the same items were available for direct purchase at a high cost they would still be rare. Only, the customer would have gotten exactly what they wanted and would be much happier.
Be good to your customers!
I have gone over my reasons for why the current purchasing system is not a good value to customers. There is a very easy way to bring value to the customer and that is by making everything purchasable directly in the Cartel Market. These items can fluctuate in price but would all be fairly high compared to the items now available for direct purchase.
Bioware could even use the data gathered by direct purchases to discount items that aren’t selling well or bundle them with items that are selling well at a slightly higher price. There are many ways to move a product if desired. EA, Bioware’s parent company, has been doing this for years with mobile. This system would make more sense than the current model does, which is to see what players are putting on the GTN, for what amounts, and what people are buying.
Overall, this would be a good change to the game and the Cartel Market. Bioware may even see more people using the market overall, which would be healthy for the development of the game. It would also cut the countless posts on their forum about a player not receiving anything they wanted after spending hundreds of dollars on Cartel Coins. That is not good publicity and damages the perception of the game.
What do you think about the Cartel Market structure? Do you support the current system as-is? How would you change it?