I'm kind of on the fence about this. I intensely dislike how content that should be available to all players is now sold$. The fact that if you want a decent looking weapon (and now armor) you have to pay will always baffle me. I can spend weeks working to collect items in WoW for appearance sake alone without paying a penny over my sub cost. This to me is how a game should work.
Samatman, I don't mean this in a rude way at all but just a word of friendly advice.
Don't ever compare any MMO in existence to WoW. This is especially true with regard to revenue models. Eleventy billion players' sub fees can cover up a lot of ills. WoW has lost over a million subscribers this year
....and they don't care
. You can have that attitude when you're dealing from a deck of eleven million. If you hearken back to EQ's heyday, do you remember how things went? Every new feature was tied to an expansion. Bank slots and frogs? Legacy of Ykesha. Fast travel (Nexus spires), Vah Shir, Beastlords, and the AA system? Shadows of Luclin. Even faster travel? Planes of Power. Leadership AAs and Berserkers? Gates of Discord. Guild Hall? Dragons of Norrath. Yes, these features were eventually opened up to all but back then, people complained about having to pay for an expansion they didn't want, in order to get features they did want. I said back then, and I still believe (and love) it today: sell those features a la carte. I paid for LoY specifically for the bank slots. I had no interest in the zones and I sure as hell didn't want to roll a frog.
Microsoft sold the first XBox at a loss. Does that mean every console should be sold that way? If everyone had to live by the standards set by WoW, regardless of individual company circumstances, you wouldn't have a quarter of the MMOs you have right now. If you poke around Google a bit, you can find info on team sizes. WoW's art team is (or was) about five times the size of the entire EQ Live team (during the SoF period, which is the last time I checked). Just the art department! Since then, EQ's team has gotten smaller. Do you think WoW's team has shrunk? Basically, the Marketplace is EQ's (and EQ2's and now Vanguard's) saving grace. The ability to immediately recoup the cost of developing new items, new systems, new features, is a major reason "freemium" (I'm not calling it 'free to play' because that's not accurate by standard industry parlance) games have been so successful of late. It also allows you, on an accounting level, to largely ignore subscriber churn because of the revenue being produced from the marketplace.
I guess this is what still irks me. I am on a recurring subscription. I mean it isn't about the money to me, it's about the principle. From the start we payed for these games every month and got the full benefit of the features of the game world. Expansions were content, and paying a one off fee to ante up made sense. Now if they were going to divy up all content, game features, added zones, etc into small discrete SC packages - wel fine. But they are still charging $ for expansion zones and have long ago crossed the line in adding essential game features locked behind expansion purchases.
I know I'm a dinosaur in the room at this point, but it was all so much simpler before LoY lumped the shared bank into the purchase. I do realize I am unmotivated to just see the dollars I pay for an expansion as the same as (equivalent) SC I would pay for other content. But my lack of motivation is directly rooted in my extreme dislike of the addition of SC in the first place. And to make it all worse, they know this. It's why they are handing it to recurring subs for free. They know that eventually, as our SC money bag grows we'll cave in and use it. And once you do, your next purchase of SC gets oh so much easier.
Actually, it began before LoY. If you wanted to play an Iksar (or advance to level 60), what did you have to do? You couldn't pay to unlock Iksar or raise your level cap....unless you bought the entire expansion. And you didn't really need it either. The first people to hit 60 in EQ (Elduran, the FoH ranger followed shortly thereafter by Furor and Thott and then Nevyn) did so killing dwarves in Butcherblock (Den & friends) and they did it within a week of the expansion's release. So buying the unlock wouldn't have required buying the expansion's content.
But you're right. All of these 'free currency for subscribers' deals are Skinner's boxes. I don't have a problem with it because it nets me a lower subscription price (500 SC is equivalent to $5 so my net is $10 a month if I ever use my SC), at least on paper. But of course, in order to realize that savings, I have to find something of value to me to purchase with the SC. Have I purchased SC otherwise? Hell yes. In MMO parlance, I'm a whale and proud of it. I support the games I like, as much as I can, because the alternative is 'sunset'. WoW hasn't gone this route, because they don't need to. Neither has EVE or RIFT, for the same reason. But seemingly every other mainstream game (I don't count Warhammer and its 58 players 'mainstream') has found better profitability with the a la carte/freemium route. I don't like it (as I said, it's like watching a friend who used to be on top of the world, now working a corner) but that's the way it is. I have my own theories on how 'accessibility' has led to transient communities which negate a game's 'stickiness'. Basically, remember way back when, people would continue playing a game (whether it was EQ or AC or DAoC or AO) after the fun wore off, simply because of their guild or their friends ingame or something else community based. Now, it's easy to quit a game because most communities are toxic or suck in some way so there's no real attachment to the games. As a result of this, the developers had to find a way to continue to profit with people jumping from game to game. In 2000, people tried to keep their reputations clean because to get a bad rep would mean having to reroll to escape it. And rerolling could mean months just trying to get back to where your old character was. Now? Who cares? If you reroll, you can be back to where you were inside of a month (if that!). I think there are a lot of things that have led us to where we are now and this is just one example.
But given EQ's sharply depleted (from its peak) numbers, the marketplace is essentially what's keeping the game alive and receiving updates between expansions.