Welcome back to the In-App Purchase Inspector - our regular look at free-to-play games from the consumer's perspective.
In each instalment, we consider the incentives or pressure applied to make in-app purchases, their perceived value, the expansion offered by IAPs and the overall value of the experience.
The end goal is to see whether the game makes a good enough case for us to part with our cash, or whether players are content – or engaged enough – to 'freeload'.
This time we're taking a look at Netmarble's MMO Lineage 2: Revolution, which has recently launched in Europe and the US after its phenomenal success in its native South Korea.
Netmarble was named sixth in PocketGamer.biz's list of Top 50 Mobile Game Developers for 2017.
Raising the bar
Through a Western lens, the ultimate example of a breakout mobile game hit would be Nintendo and Niantic's Pokemon GO.
That the location-based phenomenon took longer to hit $100 million in worldwide revenues than it took Lineage 2: Revolution to hit the same milestone in South Korea alone shows the scale of the MMORPG's success.
Netmarble's aim was to create an MMORPG that anyone can play.
This shines through in the implementation of mobile-friendly features such as auto-play and auto-equip functions.
But at the same time, as one glance at one of its screens busy with in-game text chat and menu buttons will attest, the game remains every inch the fully-fledged MMO – and is very impressive visually to boot.
A familiar revolution
In terms of monetisation, there's plenty here that should feel familiar to your average mobile gamer.
For one, there are the currencies. Adena is the game's equivalent to Gold, the soft currency that's earned through play and used for everything from forging weapons to levelling up skills.
Blue Diamonds are the hard currency, which can be bought in bundles ranging from $4.99 for 160 to $99.99 for 4,000. So far, so familiar.
But then, presumably in a concession to the fact that pay-to-win is traditionally a frowned-upon concept in the MMO world, there is another currency of equal value that can be earned just by playing.
Free Red Diamonds play a very similar role to hard currency Blue Diamonds.
Still quite hard to come by, this currency is called Red Diamonds and plays a very similar role to its paid-for counterpart; both can be used to buy high-grade equipment Summon Boxes for 120 apiece, or 1,200 for 10.
Though occasionally there will be limited-time offers priced exclusively in Blue Diamonds, to give the paid currency a little extra prestige.
Far from casual
Other aspects of the game's monetisation and rewards systems that are tweaked for the MMO format include the shrewd substitution of the traditional daily rewards for a more granular alternative.
Indeed, while a more casual game may be content for players to log in just once a day, Lineage 2: Revolution demands more of its players. As such, rewards are offered at 10, 20, 40 and 60 minutes of daily play.
Furthermore, the game also takes a longer-term view with weekly and monthly login rewards for new players in an effort to encourage returning players.
There is an extension of this in the game's retailing of IAP packs, with an entire tab of the store page dedicated to 'Daily Benefits': single purchases that distribute rewards every day over a set period of time.
An entire tab of the store page is dedicated to annuities.
These are known in the industry as annuities, and are designed to encourage value-conscious players to spend in-game – often for the first time, which is the biggest psychological barrier.
With the cheapest of these bundles costing a mere $2.99 and offering an immediate injection of 50,000 Adena, 10,000 Adena every day for 28 days and 40 Red Diamonds once every eight days, it's a compelling offer.
Bundles of choice
The annuities represent but a sliver of Lineage 2's numerous IAP bundles, however. There is a pack for everything you could possibly want.
At the time of writing there are a number of Black Friday specials live, including 20% discounts on Blue Diamonds.
Then there's the Luxury Starter Bundle, which offers 600 Blue Diamonds, 1,000 HP potions, 1,000 MP potions, 5,000 Soulshots (consumable, temporary attack upgrades) and 120 extra inventory slots for $29.99.
Others include those specifically geared towards levelling up skills and gear.
But Netmarble's first priority is simply for you to play, regularly and often, as any MMO requires. The hope, then, is that spending naturally follows.
The result is a surprisingly welcoming MMORPG.