DarkOrbit Made €2 Million From One Item

By Jim Rossignol on November 23rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm.


If you want a single reason why the free-to-play market seems to so attractive to the people interested in making money from games, then take a look at this craziness: Gamesbrief have run a story claiming that Bigpoint’s DarkOrbit game has sold two thousand €1,000 “drones”, which are virtual items that help players in combat. The article explains: “There are different levels of drone ranking up to the 10th Drone. The 10th Drone – also called the Zeus Drone – is very rare – you need to have all 9 previous drones and collect blueprints to make it in the game. Earlier this month, on a total of four separate days, Bigpoint made it possible to buy a 10th Drone for €1,000.” And such is the popularity of the game, that quite a large number of people were willing to buy it. Or at least that’s what publishers Bigpoint claim. Are you one of those people who spent that much? Speak up! And also lend us a fiver.

(Unrelated, does anyone want to buy our mysterious The Tenth Blog Post? We’ll make it available next week for £79,000? Anyone? You won’t even have had to read previous RPS posts!)

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76 Comments »

  1. sneetch says:

    Holy flurking schnitt!

  2. lunarplasma says:

    That’s insane. Imagine if Valve did this too!

    • Sweedums says:

      Thats a good point. I wonder how many people would be stupid/pathetic enough to buy a TF2 hat for £1000.

      Probably a lot.

      EDIT: After further thought, while the amount clearly is excessive, since it is something that improves your ship or whatever in game, i guess its not so different from someone spending lots of money on say… a spiffy pair of football boots… if they think it will improve their game.

      Whereas a TF2 hat is purely cosmetic.

    • Gnoupi says:

      It’s not entirely cosmetic, though. There are sets which are giving you some particular effect, and usually the hat is the hard part to drop.

      Not saying that they are overpowered, or unbalancing the game, but they still have an effect, other than cosmetic.

    • Sweedums says:

      Huh I didn’t know that. It’s been so long since I’ve played TF2 (before all of this hat nonsense i think) that I’m a little out of touch with how all this crafting stuff works.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malcolm says:

      They really should just do a ridiculously expensive Money Hat for a laugh. Who knows, they might make a fortune.

    • Smarag says:

      There is only one effect set for each class (and they aren’t that uncommon) and most of the sets aren’t used since they aren’t really good.

      Also FYI guys there are/were already hats sold for $1000 and more. Price range for Unusual hats (the ones you have a 1% chance of getting if you open crates) starts at $30-60 (crap effects) and ends at $1000-$2000 (Most expensive hat ever sold is the first uncrated Burning Team Captain, link to original thread: http://sourceop.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=53688&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 ) There are also special promo items (Mac Ear buds = currently worth $26-29 and rising, Bills hat = $11-13) or event ones (Hat of Undeniable Wealth And Respect, last steam treasure hunt hat = $350-400).

  3. Icarus says:

    What the f-

  4. HexagonalBolts says:

    Wh-… is that 2D game pictured the game in which someone spent 1000 euros on a drone to help them fight? It looks like Asteroids…

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, from what I’ve seen Dark Orbit is not particularly stand-out as an MMO, or even as a game in general.

    • The Ninja Foodstuff formerly known as ASBO says:

      Who the hell are these people, paying thousands of euros to play a game no-one has ever heard of?

    • Premium User Badge

      Sagan says:

      Dark Orbit is big enough that they used to run television ads for the game in Germany. Which many “bigger” titles can’t claim to have done.

  5. mondomau says:

    Huuuuge pinch of salt with this one. But amazing if true.

  6. Kynrael says:

    Talk about micro-transactions !

  7. Jabberwocky says:

    All purchased with stolen credit cards?

  8. Jarenth says:

    I call shenanigans. People with that level of disposable income don’t have to play video games, they can just set fire to large stacks of money when bored.

  9. Antares says:

    A tenth blog post you say? I’ll give you 2 dollars for i-
    Wait a minute, I already do! AND EVERY MONTH, TOO! Get to work, Jim! *cracks whip*

    • Premium User Badge

      c-Row says:

      *whips crack*

    • caddyB says:

      now whip it
      into shape
      shape it up
      get straight
      go forward
      move ahead
      try to detect it
      it’s not too late
      to whip it
      whip it good

    • theblazeuk says:

      We do get all that promised exclusive subscriber content and the early access to beta ke——–

      WAIT A MINUTE

  10. Delusibeta says:

    Fools and their money etc.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    What the fuck am I reading?

  12. amorpheous says:

    “…lend us a fiver.”

    Or rather pay off my student loan, please.

  13. Hoaxfish says:

    How popular is Dark Orbit amongst Greek politicians?

  14. Cooper says:

    I would hazard that this is far from rare for the smaller free-to-play games.

    Even the big MMOs that are free, when (if) they release their figures show a tiny (often less than two digit) percentage of people spend anything on the game. All you need are a small core of high-sum spenders.

    I remember a story about some Russian game which thrived almost enitrely upon one or two players spending an incredible amount of money on vanity items. Can’t remember what game it was though.

  15. Network Crayon says:

    Hope it was worth it.

  16. Squirrelfanatic says:

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do I regularly see ads for this game (or other F2P MMOs). I nearly would be willing to pay them money to stop this rubbish from appearing on my screen.

    • Davee says:

      Dark Orbit is the only F2P game I can remember seeing TV commercial for here in Sweden. Which must mean it’s big.

  17. jonfitt says:

    I call bovine droppings. They also claim 65 million registered accounts, which is either a huge number of smurf accounts or as the article says 1% of the planet is signed up!
    Is the drone €1,000 cash only, or is there a way to purchase with in game currency which could be farmed?

  18. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Jim, we’ll see your 10th blog post and raise you the RPS commenting community’s tenth comment. Cash or cheque accepted.

  19. LGM says:

    These idiots are as bad as the people who buy all the player cards in Madden games, which ends up costing like 1000 dollars. Some of them don’t even play the game, they just buy the cards.

    Apparently, rich people are stupid.

    • Malarious says:

      I have literally never heard of this game before now. I am the 99%.

  20. Davee says:

    And this is why I hate the Pay2Win MMOs.
    Really, this is insane if it’s anywhere near true. But I think it might be. I read an article somewhere a while ago about some F2P game developers partially relying on the spending “whales” – a very small minority of players that will spend ludicrous amounts of money for in-game virtual items. Hook a few of those people on the game and you only need a few hundred players to fund everything…

  21. westyfield says:

    It was Keith Vaz, doing research for his latest campaign.

    He expensed it.

  22. Maldomel says:

    I call fake, because it seems really too much to spend on an mmo. Plus, it is not a particulary big one (I think), so I don’t see why people would be hooked up to that point.

    Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna create a game with high price items inside. I’ll be back when I’ve made millions.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    This is the first time I hear about this game. Crazy how big gaming is these days.

  24. Xan says:

    Yeah I really can’t belive that this is true.

    Hell I think spending 200$ on a life-subscription to an MMO is a lot of money but worth it’s price, but spending 1000$ outright on ONE item? That’s just insane.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I can’t lend you a fiver. I’ve spent all my money on this drone…

  26. Derpentine says:

    I have my doubts

  27. Polluxor says:

    Can drones be destroyed during a combat?

  28. Teronfel says:

  29. mmalove says:

    And this: this is why I refuse to play pay-to-win style MMOs with PVP. I’m OCD about my PVP. I get butthurt that white goes first in chess all the time. I absolutely could not enjoy a game where maxing your character was a choice between dropping 1000 real life dollars, or some infinitesimally small random drop chances that meant farming for the rest of eternity. I’ll settle for chess. Or LOL.

  30. Rudel says:

    They are popping TV advertising nearly every night between The Simpsons on German TV… seems this game is a real gold mine

  31. Greg Wild says:

    Now I’m just curious what RPS needs £79,000 for.

  32. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    This does not make any sort of sense whatsoever

  33. Loque says:

    > Are you one of those people who spent that much?
    > Speak up! And also lend us a fiver.

    Question: is it worst spending 1000$ for a virtual item or much more for cigarettes and/or, alcoholics? I am not referring to pathological situations, just daily smokers/drinkers. Think about it. Yes, a virtual item for real money looks stupid. But -at least for me- slowly killing yourself on a daily basis is worst.

    The fun part is…no one complains if you spend money to shorten your life. Instead, you look “stupid” if you spend money for pixels.

    • mmalove says:

      Hey at least by shortening your life you’re reducing your carbon footprint. The thousand dollars on pixels guy can’t make that claim…

    • Eukatheude says:

      That’s why i always steal my booze.

    • svge says:

      Drinking leads to good times!

    • KingCathcart says:

      The years of fags and booze may have shortened my life but the the perks grossly outweigh that of a silly pixel ship. I shall list them to strengthen my argument:

      Fags make me look cool.
      Booze makes me sexier.
      I have made lots of new friends, particularly down the kebab shop and the police station.
      I have discovered the joys of urinating in public without shame.
      Actually I have discovered the joys of pretty much doing anything without shame.
      Talking to girls has never been easier.
      Getting rejected by girls have never been easier.
      I have the contented feeling of contributing extra cash to HMRC – I’m doing my bit for our cash strapped country.
      As both a drinker and a smoker I get to socialise and get plenty of fresh air.
      And some other thing that I can’t think of right because I’m drunk.
      Oh yeah! Board games.

    • ix says:

      Actually, people tell drinkers and smokers they’re throwing away their life all the time. Depends on where you live though (I hear smoking is second nature in Greece, for instance).

  34. Heisenberg says:

    i completely believe this.
    For example, there is plenty of young, rich and egotistical investment bankers out there, and this is exactly the sort of thing they would do.
    1K wouldnt be a big deal to some ppl.

  35. squareking says:

    If only this was the pseudo-sequel to Space Rangers 2. Oh well.

  36. His Dudeness says:

    Were any of the purchasers wearing monocles?

  37. DickSocrates says:

    The global downturn doesn’t affect stupid people.

    Interesting strategy though, make a super rare item and then put it on sale for a ridiculous price. To make the item cost nothing (in the grand scheme of the development budget) and if even one idiot buys it, you’ve made a giant profit. If you’re lucky, your game is being played by a lot of idiots and you hit a gold mine.

    SEGA shold have charged for rare drops in PSO, they would have made billions. (That was the last MMO type game I ever played, hence the seemingly random and ancient nature of the reference.)

  38. SquidgyB says:

    I have a friend *ahem* who sold their Eve character a long time ago for £640… it’s not surprising to find people willing to pay as much for items in game, but a single drone?

    What the buggery is so good about that drone? Does it have a monocle or something?

  39. vecordae says:

    I have, in the past, offered thousands of moneydollar europounds for purely cosmetic things in my video games, but no one seems interested.

    Seriously, CCP: Give me the ability to make my engine contrails look like a stream of incandescent orphans that were forcibly ejected from my ship as a form of thrust!

    Kerberos: I want a gun that shoots rainbows and has a pleasing, tinkly sound effect. I want this gun to chew through man and steel a like.

    Bioware: A fine chapeau, the ability to doff it. A monicle and the ability to adjust it while making snooty noises. I want these.

    Bethesda: Dinosaurs somehow!

    I don’t want much and I am willing to pay in currency that I or may not have manufactured in my basement.

    • oldfart says:

      Kerberos: I want a gun that shoots rainbows and has a pleasing, tinkly sound effect. I want this gun to chew through man and steel a like

      You want a Nyan Cat Cannon!

  40. clukker says:

    Sound like a nice way to launder money

  41. edit says:

    Free-to-play is looking more and more negative to me as time goes on. We have enough class distinctions in the physical world. Do we really need to bring them into the virtual? I’ll stick to games with one price and a level playing field. When gamer X has a distinct advantage in-game because he or she has some nice cash flow, the relative-have-nots of the gaming world will be putting up with a virtual representation of the kind of experience the have-nots of the real world are putting up with – being dominated by those with more money. Real-world money. Kills the escapism a bit, don’t you think?

    Money pretty much ruins everything, it seems.

  42. edit says:

    []

  43. Nallen says:

    Makes the whole MONOCLES thing seem a little overblown.

  44. codename_bloodfist says:

    Not surprised at all. I used to play a MUD some years back that had the most extreme pay-to-win system I’ve ever seen. Pay for skills, crafting professions, gear that has both better stats and doesn’t expire, player housing, gold, political favours, etc. We had a guy in our guild who spent ~15k USD and several players who spent several thousands. Your average paying player would spend somewhere around 250-500 USD to become modestly competitive. Needless to say, these weren’t some kind of numbers from a press release, but simply common knowledge. Having played for two years, I quit after being defeated by a guy who played over the weekend and was more willing to pay than yours truly.

  45. Atic Atac says:

    Wow this is ugly…it borders on abuse.

    Remind me to not come close to that game nor the company producing it.

  46. Melf_Himself says:

    Pretty sure nobody would pay that much money to get ahead in a decent game, let alone some random game that nobody seems to have heard of. Blatant PR stunt.

  47. Premium User Badge

    Ingix says:

    Gamesbrief corrected their first story:

    http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/11/bigpoint-does-sell-the-tenth-drone-for-1000-eur-but-may-not-have-made-eur-2-million-from-it/

    In a nutshell, 2000 drones were acquired by players, but it is totally unclear how much cash was payed for them.

  48. waldo1984 says:

    For the unbelievers, I’m here to tell you that while the amount might seem a bit much, this kind of behavior is not terribly unusual in the browser-based “free to play” MMO market. I’ve played a few dozen of these types of games and was a supermoderator for one, where I was able to look at the “ticket” purchases of the players. There were several folks who routinely spent thousands of dollars a month just to gain a competitive advantage over their fellow players, and while the rest of us were often quite disgusted with this behavior, it was common knowledge that the “tixxers” were the ones who dominated battles, while the rest of us were simply window dressing. On some servers (such as the one I was primarily on), peer pressure kept “tixxing” down to a minimum, but there were other servers where players spent so much money that it would boggle your mind. It was estimated that one player spent over $10,000 on his game (where premium membership cost roughly $6/month) in a 2-3 month period (and spent a significant amount beyond that, overall), and given the stats on his character, this was entirely believable.

    I’d also point out, from the other side of the issue, that it is extremely easy to spend money in these games; whether it’s spending 99 cents to finish building a farm 15 minutes early, $5 to get a few hundred more gold coins so you can get a few more missions, or $20 so you can build three fleets at once for a month, instead of two, the temptation to spend money is very real, and for those players who either are over-endowed with money, under-endowed with self esteem, or both, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think there are 2000 players in this game that would be willing to fork over that much money.

    And I wouldn’t be even remotely surprised if there were a few of those folks who a.) still live in their parents’ basements, b.) have no life whatsoever, and/or c.) went hungry for a few days, paid the rent late, maxed out a credit card or two, or made various other sacrifices in order to afford it.