First, if you do not know what RO is, you can read this post.
kRO Sakray is the most up-to-date RO server worldwide, maybe because Gravity is a Korean corporation (and because Sakray is the usual test server). For instance, one of the latest major updates of the game is called Renewal. This update occured in July 2008 on kRO Sakray and in June 2009 on all kRO servers but has not yet been implemented on iRO servers (no update has "Renewal" in its title, or on the official server features kRO is the most up-to-date server). I would have liked to write about kRO because :
- kRO is the most up-to-date set of servers (containing kRO Sakray, the most up-to-date RO test server worldwide)
- kRO contains Asian players, and as I wrote before, RO is mostly played by Asian people
- Asia MMO Gaming is not really known from Western countries. Also the by-products in Asia may be more widespread than in Europe and America, the game habits might be really different, etc.
But I can not read/understand Korean, so what follows are considerations based on iRO, the RO international server that I find most representative as a non-Asian (and understandable) server. iRO opened in June 2003 and is only a year younger than kRO, so there should not be any differences because of the age of the servers.
Concerning the administration of the servers, kRO is administrated by Gravity Corp. and iRO by Gravity Interactive (cf the server list). I do not know the relationship between these 2 firms, but each time in this post I may write the name «Gravity», it will stand for the iRO administration.
Talking about money, the RO IG currency is called zeny (z). The only origins I could find for this name are noble in Russian and a slavic word for woman (looking for zeny on google image leads to funny results ...).
Value-Added Service and Kafra Shop
As I already wrote, subscribtions are roughly $10 per month. But giving players the possibility to buy IG items or services related to their avatars with real money could bring some more money to Gravity.
First, users can use Gravity's Value Added Service for character renaming, moving (to another server), gender changing and status points reallocation. I think this service may exist since the creation of the servers because it consists only in database management.
Second, in December 2004, a survey on iRO website reported that 55% of the 1001 participants would
ever pay real-world money for in-game currency or items, while 45% said they would not.
Apparently real currencies against z has not been set up by Gravity yet (and I do not think it will ever be set up),
but some websites suggest 6€/$8 for 20Mz.
Anyway, in June 2007 the iRO Kafra Shop opened (maybe this type of online shop already existed for a long time on kRO). Kafras are NPC located in any town or at the entrance of any dungeon to provide VERY USEFUL services such as :
- Saving the player's position so that when your avatar dies in a dungeon, he/she returns to the dungeon entrance
- Opening the player's storage so that an avatar can store drops and equipements
- Teleporting the avatar from a place to another
So the name for this on-line item mall was really well-found to focus the player's mind on usefulness. The content of the item mall consists of any kind of equipements or consumable items. And indeed some of these items are really useful. For instance, the Giant Flywing is the only item in the game that gives a group leader the possibility to teleport his group where he is. The user can buy Kafra Points with USD, on a $75 for 10k points basis.
Micropayments are sometimes used for items contained in boxes (500 Giant Flywing in a 500 Kafra Points box, which means 0.75c/Flywing). As explained on wikipedia the use of a custom token like the Kafra Point is very common in MMORPG.
When the Kafra Shop was introduced, all RO servers were P2P. It is only with the introduction of F2P servers in RO that things changed a little bit.