Pathfinder Online player recruitment right or wrong?
Pathfinder Online is one of the more intriguing mmo games currently in development. Its mixture of sandbox and theme park mmo features should make for some fascinating gameplay, and I have an interest in the game as that I’m familiar with the pen-and-paper roleplaying game that the online rpg is based upon. The success of the Pathfinder tabletop rpg has been miraculous as it has outsold Dungeons and Dragons in recent years, an amazing feat in of itself. While the game is still in its early testing stages, a cry was sent out by Ryan Dancey, the CEO of Goblinworks, for current players to actively go out and recruit additional players on top of the financial backing that they’re already providing. Was Pathfinder Online right to ask backers to recruit more players?
This call to increase current Pathfinder Online recruitment went out a few weeks ago. Ryan Dancey asked players to go to various gaming websites, some sub-reddits, and the EVE Online community to find and recruit more players to join the game. The specific reason was that settlement recruiting activities was essentially non-existent. The player-created settlements are one of the core features of the game as they can expand over time depending upon how active its members are and how many are involved.
Pathfinder Online character
The result from the current Pathfinder Online players was mixed. Some were quite happy to extol the virtues of the game, and they want to bring in other players to help create something new. Other players were more reticent, feeling that the time was not yet right as the game is still early on in development. One poster said, “Ryan, I think that most of us are just barely reaching the stage where we are willing to try to bring anyone into this game who isn’t already interested. I love that you are so directly engaged with us, and open to what we have to say, and Pathfinder Online is improving at a phenomenal rate, but there have been a lot of things that were embarrassing, and for many it still isn’t mvp (minimally viable product).” So which side is right?
On one hand, I see nothing wrong with players asked to go out and find others to join them. Every great mmorpg is built upon a strong community, and the sandbox elements of Pathfinder Online should ensure that committed players will be attracted to the game. While some may argue that Goblinworks is asking players to mount a marketing campaign of their own (something that those players feel that Goblinworks should be doing instead), I would counter that there is no greater ambassador for an online game than an enthusiastic player. With YouTube videos and Twitch livestreams, gamers today have far more ability to go out and reach other players and entice them into playing their chosen game. Another consideration is that if Pathfinder Online recruitment is taken over by the players, that frees the company up to devote its resources to making the game even better.
However, there are some powerful arguments against the mmo asking players to go out and beef up the Pathfinder Online player numbers. The first is that of cost. If the game was free-to-play, then luring additional players would be no hassle at all. The rub is that the game currently charges a $15 a month subscription fee to play. This is a pretty big pill for most gamers to swallow in this day and age. Most mmo games are f2p nowadays, with only a few charging a subscription fee. Few are the gamers that would be willing to pony up fifteen bucks a month to play a game that’s still being developed.
Another anti-Pathfinder Online recruitment drive argument is that Goblinworks does not have a firm grip on the numbers. One poster asked about how many buddy keys had been handed out, and whether those keys have led to a purchase or subscription, as well as if the number of new subscriptions is more or less than the number of prepaid accounts that are expiring. The reply from Ryan Dancey was, ” I am somewhat chagrined to say that I don’t have those numbers. They are all being tracked but we have not written an analysis tool to review them yet. This is actually a pretty large issue – there are a lot of analytics that we should have but don’t have because I would rather invest team resources in features and polish than in analysis. Realistically, nothing that analysis would tell us would really impact any decisions anyway. We would be doing the Buddy Trial system even if zero percent of the trials converted.”
Pathfinder Online combat
To me, going out and recruiting more players is of little value if their analytics are not going to be compiled and studied. One may get the impression that the mmo is just looking for more paying customers to help fund their continued development. Please note that I’m not saying that this is the case. However, if the company does need additional funds to keep development going, then they should freely communicate that to their backers. Quite a few players have dropped a lot of money on the game already, and the mmo does have a $1000 platinum account option available for purchase in their cash shop, not to mention their $5000 tavern owner option.
In the end, my gut feeling of asking for current players to go out and actively recruit more players is not the best idea at the current time. The game has a lot to offer and some great features, but I just can’t get past the fact that one has to pay a subscription fee for an unfinished game. When you add in the fact that they’re not even analyzing the data that they’re gathering, then it seems to be premature to go out and attempt to wrestle up a bunch of new players. Perhaps if the mmo offered a free month of two of playing time as a lure to grab more players (and I would accept that those new players would have to get a buddy key from a current backer of the game) and allow them to see what the game has to offer, then I would be more amenable to a Pathfinder Online recruitment drive. For the current time, I would have to vote against it though.