There are players out there right now who would happily spend money on WildStar but don't know how or when. Obviously you can't spend money on WildStar right now; the game isn't out yet and won't be until spring 2014, we've just learned, so there's nothing to spend money on yet. But even when it does get released, how will anyone be able to tell the people at Carbine Studios to shut up and take our money?
Wonder no longer because the game's business model has finally been revealed to the world. No more lying awake wondering how you'll be able to pay for the game (something you really shouldn't be lying awake wondering about anyhow). So is it buy-to-play? Free-to-play? Subscription-based? Yes. It's all three at the same time, if you look at it from the right angles.
How does it manage that? Well, you have to understand how C.R.E.D.D. works -- starting with what in the world it is.
C.R.E.D.D. is an acronym for "Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development," which nicely summarizes the game's four paths. It will also be available for purchase for $19.99 when the game launches and can be redeemed for a month's worth of subscription time. That might seem like a bit of a ripoff when you consider that a monthly subscription is $14.99 (with discounts available for longer purchases, as with most games), until you realize that you don't have to use C.R.E.D.D. yourself.
At launch, WildStar will feature an exchange similar to the Gem Exchange in Guild Wars 2, allowing players to sell C.R.E.D.D. for in-game money. While the game does require a monthly subscription, it's entirely valid for players to earn a lot of money in the game, buy CREDD, and then continue playing without a single further expense. This makes it more like a buy-to-play game than a normal subscription model, even though you do need a subscription.
If you'd prefer to go with more traditional approaches, you can also just subscribe to the game or purchase time cards, which is good if you're a bit low on funds in the game or just prefer doing things the old-fashioned way.
We spoke with producer Jeremy Gaffney regarding the model; he stressed that it was designed with the expectation that players are willing to buy a new game but often don't want to subscribe over the longer term. As he sees it, this grants people who want to pay for the game a chance to get more in-game money, people who want to just play the game a chance to do so without having to subscribe, and people who want to outright buy money a legal means to do so.
But what will happen as players acquire greater and greater fortunes, causing the usual MMO inflation? It's a problem that Gaffney hopes to overcome by making sure that there are always more things for players to sink money into, bigger projects and more bells and whistles tugging at that wallet. If player money doesn't get out of hand, the exchange prices will remain reasonable as well, even for newer players coming into the game.
And new players are still on the minds of Carbine, which is why every boxed copy of WildStar will also come with three free week-long trial passes. The game won't have a free trial available at launch, but the hope is that players will network and entice their friends into playing the game.
Finally, Gaffney told us that Carbine is now hoping for a release in spring of 2014, a delay from the originally announced "end of 2013 if all goes well" launch target, which means there's still a bit more time to iron out any kinks in the business model before release. But if you've ever had a light bank account and a pile of in-game money before, you'll probably be at least somewhat intrigued by the model as it stands.