Free Realms Microtransactions: What does SOE offer? Are the items worth the price?
Free Realms is a free to play MMORPG, with optional microtransactions. Here we take a look at the various microtransaction options offered by Sony Online Entertainment, and see if they're worth the price.
What are Free Realms microtransactions?
Microtransactions, also known as micro-payments, are optional items available for purchase in an MMO's item mall. These can range from items that are purely cosmetic, to items that provide buffs, to the ability to unlock areas and classes.
Free Realms, a free-to-play MMO by Sony Online Entertainment, has its own item mall full of microtransactions for players. Items categories include:
Clothes and Armor
- Free Realms Trading Card Game
- Accessories and Shards
- Weapons and Tools
These options are all in addition to an optional $4.99 monthly membership, which grants access to additional classes and special members-only quests and equipment.
The Free Realms Store - called the Marketplace - can be accessed in-game by pressing the "SC" button along the bottom of the screen. "SC" is short for Station Cash, Sony Online Entertainment's form of currency for all its games' item malls. SC is purchased at the rate of 1 SC per penny ($5.00 = 500 SC.)
Clothes and Armor
The Clothes and Armor section of the Marketplace offers equippable clothing (for the Adventurer job) and armor and equipment (for all other jobs). It also offers special outfits (complete equippable packages).
Outfits: Outfits include Astronaut suits, Vintage Diving Suits, Vintage Swimsuits, Hula Suits, and the infamous Hot Dog Suit. Outfits run from $3.50 to $7.50 a piece, but really make you stand out in a crowd - so are worth the cash if you like wearing that awesome suit few people have.
Hats: Hats are hard to find outside of the store. Each Free Realms hat in the store runs from $0.50 for simple hats and monocles, to $3.50 for full head masks like the Dragon Mask or Panda Mask. Once again, these can be well worth your money if you like having outfits that stand out in a crowd.
Pants, Shirts, and Shoes: These clothing items run on a low end ($0.50 to $1.50) for cosmetic pieces designed for the Adventurer class. For items that are designed for crafting or combat jobs, they run from $2.00 to $4.00. Armor pieces are better than any found in-game, and can be used starting at level one - giving you a great advantage if you're leveling. However, these pieces generally won't help you level much faster than the standard rate, and remain mostly cosmetic.
Miscellaneous: This category covers shoulder items for combat jobs (running $3.00 or $3.50), to a few cosmetic items for the adventurer class, which run around $1.00. Like other armor pieces, the shoulders don't really make themselves worth the cash paid except for their unique look; however, the cosmetic items are a great, cheap option to use up extra SC and put a little flare on your character.
All pets in Free Realms cost SC and must be purchased through the Marketplace, so if you're looking to be a top-notch Pet Trainer, you're going to have to pay some cash.
For the companionship offered, any pet lover will find the cost of pets - anywhere from $2.50 to $4.00 - rather reasonable. There are dozens of dogs and cats available, each with a different look and one of three personalities (friendly, nervous, and lazy.) Each character can have up to 3 pets as well, allowing you an easy way to pick your favorites.
The Marketplace also offers a great assortment of outfits for your dog or cat, and most come in two color options. Your pets can dress up as lobsters, robots, bees, astronauts, dragons, pandas, lions, jesters, and even vikings! Full outfits run $3.00 to $5.00, and can also be purchased in individual pieces for those on a tighter budget or who want to mix and match.
Of all the microtransactions available, pets are the most valuable, right next to a paid membership.
Free Realms Trading Cards
The Marketplace offers a few options for players who love the Trading Card Game.
Digital Booster Pack: For $4.00, players can purchase the booster pack, which comes with 10 random cards and 1 virtual reward card, which is redeemable for an exclusive in-game item (from fun little consumables all the way to a unique pet, depending on your luck.) Note: Members receive a free booster pack each month.
Shattered Past Decks: For $8.00, you can get a themed starter deck of the type/element of your choosing. These decks come with 40 cards, including one exclusive card. These are a much cheaper option of building your deck than purchasing either the booster pack or cards from a real world store (which run $3.99 a deck, or $11.99 for the starter deck), but do not include a chance for virtual items and are fixed - which means you don't have a chance at rare cards, either. Since the game gives you a starting deck of your own, along with cards as you level the Card Duelist job, you're better off not buying these decks.
Print Voucher: This unique item provides a real-world bonus! For $12.00, you can have ten copies of your own character as a Free Realms hero card. You'll take a picture of your character in whatever outfit you choose, get a fun description, and 10 physical Free Realms Trading Cards will be mailed to you. Each card includes a code for a digital copy - so you can trade cards with your friends and use those cards in game! This is a great gift option for kids who have friends that play Free Realms, and comes at a very reasonable price.
Accessories and Shards
The Accessories and Shards section of the Marketplace offers rings, necklaces, and all four types of shards for all types of classes.
Rings and Necklaces: The rings and necklaces offered run $2.50 to $3.50 a piece, and are generally specific to either crafting or combat jobs. These rings have excellent stats and are usable at level 1, making them valuable upgrades to help level a character. These rings generally will be out-levelled past level 15 for any job, however, unless the player does not have a membership - making them of mixed benefit.
Circle Shards: The circle shards - available only through the Marketplace - cost $11.00. All of them are job specific (ie, can only be used by one job), and all of them increase the experience (Stardust) gained while leveling. While any experience gain is great, to pay $11.00 for a single item to get a class to 20 - which normally takes anywhere from 5 to 20 hours, depending on the class and equipment - is a real waste of money, especially as they are not transferable to new characters or jobs.
Triangle and Square Shards: Also obtainable in game, these two shards increase your job's specific stats. Some can be outclassed or matched in a job's higher levels, but others are top-notch. For $6.00, these may be well worth your money if you play a specific job a lot. Like other equipment, they can be used at level 1.
Diamond Shards: Diamond Shards, like circle shards, cost $11.00 a piece. They can be used by any class, and provide a special effect - such as glows, sparkles, and fire - on your weapon. That's a huge price to pay for a piece of flare, especially considering that all top end weapons have their own effects, which will be covered by a diamond shard's effect. There are also diamond shards earnable within the game itself, so everyone has a free chance at "glowy" weapons - making diamond shards a very inflated piece of equipment.
Weapons & Tools
There are two kinds of weapons and tools available in the Marketplace: job based and star- or coin-boosting.
Job based weapons have stats that will carry you well into level 20 on any specific job (and possibly carry you at level 20 as well.) These job based weapons also have a very unique look, usually with a glow or special effect. Job based weapons run $2.50 to $5.00, and can be used at level 1, making them a great investment for your SC.
Star and coin boosting weapons and tools cost $8.50, and come with both stats and an increase in either stardust (experience) or coin gain. These are not that ideal for leveling compared to the job based weapons. However, players who are gathering coins for high priced in-game items may want to invest in a coin-boosting weapon to increase their money earned while they farm for coin.
This category also includes extras, items equippable in the hand slot as Adventurer. These items run $1.00 to $2.50, and are nice little investments for spare SC, as hand held items are rare to find for the Adventurer.
Karts are the driving mechanisms for the Demo Derby and Kart Races, and both types of race use different karts. While both racing jobs are free to play, and grant a default kart to use, players will soon find that even competing against NPCs in the races will require a more powerful kart.
Karts run from $4.00 for basic karts to $7.00 for supreme karts. For those who love the kart races - just like those who love having pets - the $7.00 karts are a great investment. If racing isn't your thing, these karts won't appeal to you.
Also in the Kart section are Kart Parts. These are upgrades to your Kart, and boost things such as jumping power, durability, and speed (upgrades run from $1.00 to $3.00). Decals are also available to decorate your kart, and cost $0.50 each.
Overall, a top-notch kart may cost you $10-$15 - but is well worth it if you love the races.
The Supplies section of the Marketplace offers three types of items: scrolls and trinkets, potions, and food and drink.
Scrolls and Trinkets: Offered here are a star boost and experience boost scroll, each $2.00 each. These increase stardust or coins earned by 50% for one hour - which make the coin boosting weapons an immediately better investment. Also found here are the Boombox (which is placed on the ground and makes people around dance), the sand castle, and the bucket of bait.
Potions: There are two types of potions offered here. The first is shared, which, when used, gives a health or energy boost to your entire group. These cost $2.00 for 5 - a pretty pricey option, but useful for difficult dungeon farming with friends. The second type of potion is the Humongous Potions, which cost $0.50 for five. These potions heal for a percentage of your health instead of a flat amount like the in-game purchasable vials and potions do - 15% more, on average, than a members only potion does. While they are a great deal better than the potions in game, potions are generally cheap enough with game coin to not need to spend real world money on them.
Food and Drink: These are special consumables that also come in two types. $0.50 will buy you three of a stat boosting consumable for jobs (both combat and crafting.) $1.00 will buy you three of an item that will change your appearance, similar to some of the cheat code consumables that can be obtained (but different). While the appearance changing items are a bit of a waste, the stat boosting consumables are great, cheap option to spend when leveling a job.