Gaming, LOTRO, Mithril Coins — January 30, 2013 at 20:32

Mithril Coins – Why?

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Mithril Coin Announcement

One question immediately springs to mind with regard to Turbine’s announcement yesterday that they would be adding a second in-game currency, Mithril Coins, to LOTRO.

Why?

Well the official answer is to “streamline” services and to improve the game “experience”. Mithril Coins will be available for purchase in the LOTRO store with Turbine Points and can be used for a variety of services including Stablemasters, Fast Travel to NPCs in quests, Reviving, Mannequins, and Daily Quest resets. At present those are separate items or services. Therefore the idea of a single item, in this case a currency, that can be used for multiple purposes seems to be a valid example of “streamlining”.

Why not just use Turbine Points instead of creating a new currency? Well simply deducting the cost of a revival tome from your existing balance of Turbine Points, may strike some customers as immersion breaking. Turning Turbine Points into Mithril Coins, could be argued as being less intrusive. Thus we now have an example of Turbine improving the “experience”.

Mithril Coins for Turbine Points

Now, let us set aside the “minor” lore quibble that Mithril is supposed to be extremely rare, so to have it as a common currency within Middle-Earth is highly unlikely and focus on the game mechanics of the new currency. Will the exchange rate reflect the current prices of the items and services that Mithril Coins will be replacing? Well at present Update 10 is live on the Bullroarer test server, so I logged in today to check for myself. Here is what I found.

Ceremonial Arrow of the West SetI went to the cosmetic vendor in West Bree and checked the Mannequins. The Ceremonial Arrow of the West cosmetic outfit Set costs 75 Mithril Coins. At present it cost 775 Turbine Points on a live server. Are these equivalent costs? Back on Bullrorarer if you want to buy Mithril coins they cost 60 Turbine Points for 5. The more you buy the cheaper they get. 250 of the coins are available at 2000 Turbine Points.

So if you do the appropriate mental arithmetic, for the present the prices between the two currencies seem to be broadly equal. Of course there are those who will argue that Turbine Points have no real world value, so therefore neither will Mithril Coins (Did you miss that debate? Details can be found here).  I do not hold with such idealistic notions. Turbine Points cost money, therefore they have a monetary value. The point of virtual currencies is to disassociate the player from this fact. Adding a second tier to this process potentially increases this effect.

It should also be noted that the particular cosmetic set I used as an example, only appears to be available for purchase (on Bullroarer) via the Mannequins for Mithril Coins. I did not find the same set when searching the store directly. This further demonstrates Turbines “Streamlining”.

Mannequin for Mithril Coins

At present Mithril Coins are can be purchased on the test server and Turbine is actively seeking player feedback. As ever with anything aspect of beta testing, there is scope for change or alteration. I am very interested as to what the new currency may be used for in the future, because if Turbine has gone to all this trouble then they obviously have a long term plan. They have said as much themselves.

“We certainly have some ideas for Mithril Coins and how they can be integrated into other areas of the game and those ideas will evolve based on player feedback.” Update 10 Mithril Coin Q&A

It is at this point in the proceedings, player have three choices as to what mindset to adopt regarding the introduction of a second in-game currency. To expect the worse, expect the best or remain ambivalent until further data becomes available. Although I would advocate the last of those options, I would strongly advise tempering it from a historical perspective. Consider how Turbine have handled and implemented such changes in the past. For those familiar with British colloquialisms, I would ask the question “does Turbine have form?”

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3 Comments

  1. I see this primarily as a way to disguise the cost of these “point of need” transactions. By the time you’re done converting real money into Turbine points at one non-round-number exchange rate and converting Turbine points into coins at a second non-round number exchange rate, even the more math-attentive consumer is going to have a hard time figuring out what things cost. I’m especially un-amused if, as you report, this adds a second layer of “your microtransactions must be in double digit dollar amounts or they will cost you twice as much” to the existing Turbine point exchange rate scheme.

    I guess the only silver lining for consumers is that at least the new currency is versatile. Previously, if you’d bought a revive thing and then found yourself in a hurry to get somewhere, there was no option to trade it in and get some travel writs. Now you can in principle decide how much real money you’re willing to spend, turn that into coins, and know that whatever is in your coin wallet is your convenience budget – separated from the rest of your TP – without having to decide exactly how you plan to allocate it in advance.

  2. It makes it much easier to spend to… when that little box comes up with ‘use XX to revive’ all you need to do is click, not store purchaing, check out, no cooling down period, just one click.

    I never use revive, or travell mount passage tokens, because I think about having to buy them, then that I’m using real money, so I tend to stop before I get them.

    But I do use the ones that instantly take you to an npc (travellers writs; which this tech is based on) and man those are so easy to use, low cost and all, a quick click and your done. Now when I do get defeated, I’ll have the option here to use this self same currency, no store faffing, just click and your playing again…

    I’ll say this, yes its much easier for us as customers only having to buy one thing for in game perk use, no more which tome do I need crap, but thats going to have the side effect for Turbine of it being so much easier and more tempting to just click and spend this currency. A smart move by them, if they haven’t pissed too many folks off.

  3. Huh?!
    The only way this makes sense is because they effed up the integration of Turbine Points directly into the core game database.
    They had to create a proper in-game currency to finally monetize direct in-game actions.

    I got a bad feeling about this. :(

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