[Editor's note: I'd like to welcome a new writer, Grav (a.k.a. Ryan) to the OotiniCast team. We hope you enjoy his first article! -Teo]
Ever since Star Wars: The Old Republic released Game Update 1.5: HK-51 Activated, a familiar sound can be heard around your faction’s fleet, typically soon after a new Cartel Pack has been added to the Cartel Market. These packs contain some rare in-game items such as new weapon skins, adaptive armor, or unique mounts and pets. All for the seemingly reasonable price of 360 Cartel Coins, SW:TOR’s new currency introduced for Cartel Market transactions. In my head I describe the sound as the unearthing of a tomb full of dazzling rhinestones. With a few clicks, your character begins an enthusiastic animation and the Cartel Pack will appear at your digital feet. Hopefully the pack is full of rare goodies that will make even the most dedicated “Cartel Collector” covet your precious loot. Unfortunately, your chances of getting that rare item that everyone wants are typically pretty slim. Because really, if it were easy, people wouldn’t spend obscene amounts of real money on trying to get these items from Cartel Packs. I speak from first-hand experience.
My name is Ryan, and I have a Cartel Market problem.
Like most addictions it starts harmlessly. Your friends are all doing it. Your guildies are all doing it.
“Man, genericcharactername looks awesome with that new sniper rifle skin… I want to look cool like him!”
You buy a pack here and there. Nothing. Then, zing! You land yourself one of the aforementioned rare items. Click. Click. Click click click. Before you know it you’ve blown all those Cartel Coins you managed to save through your months of faithful subscription. Like all addicts, you begin to justify your addiction by using sound “logic”.
“Well I love this game, and I want it to succeed. Here you go, BioWare, have $40.”
It’s only a matter of time before you find yourself with the other addicts in the cargo hold, feverishly clicking the “Add Coins” button.
“WTB Tythonian Master’s lightsaber”
Wondering “where did I go wrong?” Forever chasing the elusive Cartel Market dragon.
In order to understand the Cartel Market addict, one must first think like the Cartel Market addict.
It will sound laughable to many people, but I have spent near $300 of my hard earned wage on Cartel Coins. As a subscriber I don’t have to worry about conserving my Coins to buy items I need to play the game. To others it will sound like the norm, and maybe they’ll find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. To the haters, I’ll sound like a complete joke. But really, anyone with ear drums can tell the Cartel Market is making money hand over fist. It is not exclusive to Cartel Packs. A friend who wishes to remain nameless estimates he’s spent $500.
There’s a wide array of things that seem completely necessary when you’re sitting there staring at your legacy tab. Can you remember ever levelling an alternate character without Rocket Boost? How did you ever run dailies without a Priority Transport: The Black Hole unlock? Why DOESN’T my ship need a mailbox, a GTN, and multiple target dummies to practice rotations?
Let’s not forget to mention that it’s an easy way to turn real money into fake video game money. Not that I am an advocate of this process, because with the availability of best-in-slot items from purchasable from crafters, it can (in theory) be interpreted as pay to win. Sometimes, though, you just need fast credits. Buy three Cartel Packs, sell them at 250K credits on the GTN, and within a day your digital payroll will be back up to 750K. No dailies, no grind. Quick and easy credits. To me, adding Cartel Coins is similar to getting your first credit card when you’re a teenager. Maybe it’s supposed to be used for emergency purposes only, but hell, that’s free money, right? It’s a magical plastic card that gets me things, and I like things. But ten years later, I needed a co-signer when I bought my first car.
At this stage I really have it all. I have field re-spec on all 12 characters, all Legacy unlocks, and every quality of life perk. Yet I am still buying at least $40 worth of coins every month. Sometimes twice a month. It just seems to disappear. New armor skins gives me the motivation to level alts. “I had no interest in this operative a few months ago, but now in his snazzy Clandestine Officer’s uniform I have no choice.”
When I sit here and think about it, when I think about it really hard, I can’t really give you any reason other than “I want”. Of course, they know “I want”. They know “you want”. That’s the whole purpose of the Cartel Market. It’s to take as much of your money as it can. You may be sitting there calling me an “irresponsible” person for spending money so frivolously on pointless items, but I guarantee they have you in mind as well. There are a plethora of things I can think of that no SW:TOR subscriber could pass up. I feel those are the “big guns”, and we’ll wind up seeing them sooner rather than later.
There is more to this than just the gambling aspect. In an MMO, a large part of your time is always spent trying to make your character look cool. As silly as it sounds, it’s a part of the game. With the addition of the match color to chestpiece and hide head slot options, and the Cartel Market adaptable armor, SW:TOR players are finally getting something they’ve always wanted: individuality. Yes, we run the operations because they are fun and challenging. We run them to loot more powerful items and upgrade our stats until we become the most awesome force to be encountered in the galaxy (or at least on our server). However, if I looted an item that gave me 40,000 Willpower but made me look like an idiot, I’d be disappointed. The time has passed when 12 other juggernauts standing around the PvE supplies vendor all look the same. Now some of them are shirtless, some are dressed like Revan, and some of the females are in their underwear. Regardless of your SW:TOR fashion choices, at least we are all given the option to experiment with interesting slot choices to achieve our character’s “look”.
The Packs, the perks, the crystals, the credits to be made, the pixelated individuality to be expressed; all of it keeps me going to the feeding tube for just one more pellet. Or 5,500 of them. It is a very exciting time to be a part of this game. I will continually and willingly give my money to BioWare for as long as they continue to up the Nicotine in the Cartel Packs. Though I admit I have a problem, the Cartel Packs are not an automatic purchase. The “Skip Tracer’s” Cartel Pack disappointed me. I didn’t buy one… until I saw a Republic Sage demonstrating their new backflip emote while waiting to enter the Aurora Canon. A few Cartel Packs later, we were backflipping together.