Turbine recently migrated servers for the games Asheron's Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online to new locations, resulting in a significant amount of downtime. As is standard with subscription-based games experiencing downtime, Turbine extended all subscriptions for those games (by one day) to compensate. Most companies stop there, but Turbine didn't. Turbine also decided to compensate players for the downtime with an offering of virtual goods.
This weekend, all players of Asheron's Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online will enjoy +25% XP gains and an increase in the drop rate of rare in-game virtual items. In addition, all users of Dungeons & Dragons Online with accounts active during the downtime will receive a free, "special" in-game item from Turbine when the next major patch for the game, Mod 9, goes live later this summer. It not known exactly what the Mod 9 item will be.
That Turbine is doing this is more than just a nice gesture to the players: it's a tacit admission that the in-game goods players can acquire in Asheron's Call and especially Dungeons & Dragons Online have sufficient monetary value to help compensate for an outage in paid service subscription. In fact, the weekend period of increased XP gain and rare item drops this weekend parallels a virtual item that severeal free-to-play games like Maple Story sell for real money (though usually it's a larger bonus granted over a briefer period of time, something like four hours).
Turbine has already proven that, as a company, it appreciates the value of virtual goods. In January it announced it would be hiring a Microtransactions/eCommerce manager responsible for running an in-game item store selling virtual goods for real money. The store was not to be integrated into any existing Turbine property but would be incorporated into an upcoming game project.
Still, we've seen before how dabbling in RMT for one project ultimately lead to changes in corporate MMORPG culture regarding virtual goods with SOE, which began selling virtual CCG cards in Legends of Norrath and eventually moved to selling wider varieties of virtual goods in its two EverQuest titles. It will be interesting to see if Turbine's attitude toward virtual goods experiences similar changes in the future, too.
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