Several of the articles we read recently dealt with the state of work in gaming. One of the ideas introduced in those the online store in as much depth as in other games, but it seems to be similar was that of “grinding,” or “farming;” that is, spending a lot of time killing the same monsters over and over in order to capture experience or materials. One thing I haven’t noticed so far in my Lord of the Rings Online adventure has been the necessity to grind for materials or experience. However, when all of the missions seem the same, the game itself can feel like a grind. One of the solutions that LotRO seems to offer for this self-made problem is to play new levels and adventures. Of course, these adventures are not free; rather, you need to buy them in the LotRO store.
The store is ever-present as the largest icon on your toolbar, represented (ironically?) by the One Ring, Sauron’s source of power. I haven’t explored the store in as much depth as other games, but it seems to follow the same rules. The types of things you can buy from LotRO stores include other missions, customized clothes, etc. One element that seems to be present, though, is the presence of pay-to-win, or P2W. You can buy “legacy slots” and “legacy weapons” that are more powerful, thus making your character more powerful.
Online communities often have fairly high standards when it comes to what characters should be allowed to buy. Interestingly enough, this is tied to “grinding,” as well. The general consensus is that if something can be acquired in a game by grinding or farming for it, it is acceptable to spend real money on that item instead. The advocates of the online shop will tell you it’s just part of the same equation: rather than spending my time working IN the game, I go to my real job, make money, and spend it instead. In this way, players who don’t have time to grind and farm can still have the same stuff. This works out well, in my opinion. However, when you start having things that can ONLY be accessed with real money in the store, then a game no longer deserves its “Free-to-play” title.