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Free-To-Play MMO Makes $2.6 Million Selling One Kind of Item

There are a lot of free-to-play MMOs out there, and as time goes on, there are only going to be more. That being the case, you may not have ever heard of DarkOrbit. That’s what makes it all the more impressive that they managed to rake in $2.6 million (€2 million) through the sale of just one kind of item. That’s a lot of money, so how did they pull it off? After all, they must have sold a lot of that item, or it must have been really expensive. It was both, really.

You do a bunch of space combat in DarkOrbit and, just like convential warfare, unmanned drones are a big advantage to those that have them. DarkOrbit has 10 levels of drones, the last of which — the Zeus Drone — is extremely difficult to get. Not only do you have to have gotten the previous 9 drones, but you also have to go around collecting blueprints and then actually construct the thing: It takes some serious work.

Like any players who want to keep up with the Joneses, DarkOrbit players were chomping at the bit to get their hands on this drone, so when DarkOrbit decided to sell it for a mere $1,334 (€1,000) for four days, many players took them up on the offer. According to GamesbriefSimon Davis, the game’s producer, confirmed that 2,000 of the items were sold. If you look at the numbers, you’ll find that DarkOrbit has 65 million registered accounts. And if you assume that all 2,000 drones were sold to different individuals (and that none of the registered accounts are alts) that comes out to 0.0003% of the audience who paid for this upgrade, but still, they managed to earn DarkOrbit north of 2 million dollars in sales for an item that doesn’t actually exist on the physical plane.

This just illustrates the different ways one can go about making money in the free-to-play market. On the one hand, you can try to get everyone to buy little, cheap things. But if you can build up a large enough fanbase and court some rabidly devoted players, you can sell just a few freakishly expensive things and make the same profit. I’ll admit I had my doubts about free-to-play, and although I’m not sure they’re totally gone, they’ve certainly been shaken up a little.

(via Rock, Paper, Shotgun)

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