The new shop in game has stirred a myriad of emotions and opinions among people in the game. If it is good or bad, if it is pay to win, if resources are being diverted from content to paid items for sale, etc. Each could be a topic of its own but the aspect I wish to ponder on today is the pay to win part.
What exactly is pay to win and when does the shop cross that line?
Some people are saying it already has, or will, if they added the experience buff to the shop. I personally do not agree. That is a convenience. All it does it get you to a higher level faster. It does not give you more power, it does not make you "special", it just makes something that has become trivial and useless in game a little less trivial and useless by making it pass by faster and that is leveling.
So when do I believe it has crossed the line to pay to win?
Well, I believe I have a fair deal of experience in this matter because of my gaming history. I look for a lot of things to do while at work to pass the time and as such I have played a great deal of browser based games and I have seen so many membership packages or VIP packages I believe I can tell the difference between what is pay to win and what is convince, even if that too is just my opinion.
To start, we all pay for a VIP Package already with WoW even if you do not notice it. It is what allows us to play, that monthly fee. Without it you can play but you have limited access. That is the basic concept of most of the browser based games. They give more access without a monthly fee than WoW does, but they give a lot more access without it usually. That is not pay to win, that is pay to play. Having a package that lets you have access to everything is a standard thing and there is nothing wrong with that.
Where the line gets drawn is between convenience and advantage.
For example a lot of these browser based games have a duel system where you can challenge other players and how it is handled is differently if you are a member or not. Some games are set up that you can battle 20 duels per day and each battle there is a 10 minute cooldown before you can battle again.
The "bonus" you get for being a member determines if it is pay to win or pay for convenience. One game I played reduced the cooldown to 5 minutes for members. This is convenience, at least as I see it, because I get to get all 20 battles done sooner and do not need to be online as long to get them all done. It is a very welcome convenience at that but gives absolutely no advantage other than time. Other games give you increased rewards for members or additional battles for members, now those ones are pay to win. If you get increased rewards you are getting an actual advantage in something more than just time.
Another fair example that does fit when speaking of the shop in WoW is cosmetic clothing. In some of these games they sell clothing, lots of it, but all it does it change the look of your character.
One game I played which is now gone, called glitch, was like that. The clothing did not cost much, 50 cents or a dollar, but there were so many options that if you were willing to spend you could wear something different every day for a year or more. It made for an interesting environment where most people looked different but it offered nothing more than looking different. Then there are games out there, like wartune, where you can buy clothing, at greatly increased prices compared to glitch, and that clothing gave you an advantage. And you could keep upgrading the clothing by buying more clothing and melding them together and the clothing which is not cheap and the more clothing you have and the higher level it is from melding it the more of a bonus you get from it. It all gives you rage and if you want to think of it in terms of WoW, could you imagine running into a warrior out in the world and the battle starts and he always has 100 rage? It would not be pretty for you would it? Yeah, that is a obvious advantage for the person that pays.
So what it comes down to as I see it, is what the practical impact on game play really is. If it saves time, or is just for looks, then it is not pay to win, but if it gives you a practical advantage it is pay to win.
If the extra experience for faster leveling is added to the US shops I would not call it pay to win. It is just paying to pass what many people feel is the most boring part of the game. However, if they added a +10% to all stats while on the potion, then it would be pay to win.
But that does bring up interesting questions from things we have seen pop up already. Where does "convenience" become "advantage"?
Is buying 50 lesser coins for some nominal fee a convenience of not having to farm them or an advantage because you do not have to?
Or how is this for an interesting question, would them selling a bigger starting bag be a convenience or would it be an advantage? I am not sure about you, but with all these games I have played online over the years that offered "paid" services the first thing, and usually the only thing, I purchased was more bag space. Is that pay to win or pay for convenience? I guess an argument can be made either way.
In the end, that is when the shop becomes a P2W, when we start to look at it as an advantage.