Low cost airlines appeared in the skies of Europe around 1998 and they quickly blew apart the established status quo. Headed by companies such as Ryanair and Easyjet, they caused air fares to plummet while opening up air routes to distant corners of Europe. They promised a new golden age of air travel. They reality 10 years later, is a little different. For starters, often now you have no choice but to fly with low cost companies, as the regular companies have been driven out of the market. The great lowering of fares coincided with a great lowering of standards and behaviour on flights. Flying used to be somewhat of a pleasant experience. Now you are more than likely to share your 4 hours in an aluminium tube seated next to a rowdy yob throwing pretzels at his mate two rows behind you. Seat allocation is non existant – so elbow your way up those stairs otherwise you won’t be left with any space to store your little bag that you are allowed to bring on.

But more to the point, the flights aren’t that cheap anymore. These companies make billions of euros every year in micro-transactions. What started out as a side line has grown to the extent that the owner of Ryanair recently joked that if they could charge for the use of the toilet, they would. Every little extra is charged for. Just the act of checking in now costs you something like €40. And once you’re in, if you need any type of service, you’re stuck. You have to pay. The ultimate joke charge is the ‘priority boarding’ fee. You pay something like €20, (I’m not sure of the exact fee), and you get to que in a priority line which will be the first to board the plane. Well, now what’s starting to happen is that almost everyone is using the priority boarding service. So in effect, there is no priority. But everyone is paying for it. Ryan Air effectively added an extra €20 or so to every ticket and at the same time eliminated 99% of their check-in desks and their subsequent costs. And the thing that really sucks? As I said before, you are now almost forced to fly with these companies as they are the only ones plying the skies.

I prefer the regular airlines. Sure, the tickets cost more up front. But there is no stress, no hassle, I am not surrounded by yobs, and if I want a drink on the flight I will damn well have it. And more importantly, if for some reason I miss a connecting flight then the airline will take care of me, whether by arranging another flight for me or putting me up at a hotel until one is available. Low-cost companies won’t do that for you – you’re on your own.

With MMO’s, there are regular subscription games and then the free ones. The subscription games cost you say €13 a month, but you get everything. The world is there for you to enjoy. Free games are just that – free, but you have to pay for any little extras that you want. These payments can quickly add up. €13 a month for a full service game quickly adds up. That’s €156 a year for a game. If I’m paying that sort of money then I want to get my monies worth, and I sure don’t want to be having to fork out extra money for in-game products.

I’ve spoken before about my complete hate for the paid for in game vanity pet service offered by WoW. But it has taken me a little while to completely understand why I think that it is so devious. It’s the fact that a fully-paid for game service is now expecting you to pay extra to have something more inside the game. It’s as if British Airways suddenly decided to start charging me €40 because I wanted to check-in in person and not online, after having paid for a full service ticket.

In game services such as faction changes and realm swaps are something different. We fly Spitfires spoke about this the other day. I don’t have a problem with Blizzard charging us for these services for two reasons:

It will encourage people to make decisions that it is better to stick with, and will discourage ninjas and other undersirables from jumping between realms on a continual basis,

It doesn’t cost them any time. A service member just needs to click a button. Big deal.

But things like in-game vanity pets are another matter. Developers had to work on those, dedicate time and effort to make them as good as possible. Well, that is their time and effort that I am allready paying for by the act of subscribing to the game. So they are taking that time paid for by me, and using it to work on something that I then have to pay for once again if I want to have it. Which is a load of bollocks.

I think that the paid for vanity pet service was a big experiment on Blizzards part. They wanted to see if they could charge full airline prices and then charge again for the little services the low-cost carriers can get away with. And they got away with it. So expect more in the future. And expect the nature of games to change, just as flying has done. And it won’t change for the better.