This is another rant on item malls in case you are wondering. I have done this for a while and I will continue to do so as long as I feel unsatisfied with the existing model. The microtransaction model that is used by free to games perpetuates a system where you essentially have to bribe your way to victory once you cross a certain point of the game. At this point of the game, equipment gives diminishing returns where something from the item mall will cover for that gap in order to reasonably grind. Many MMOs have a special package that will boost your stats ever so slightly with attractive messages like 10% more damage or defense and that is what covers the gap in equipment stats. At this point, they start selling power and begin to act on the assumption that everyone should have it rather than thinking about how players would do without it.
If you are going to criticize my article, at least learn to do it right. I highly recommend you take a look at how the guy at "The Oatmeal" does it. This is proper criticism and it helps your argument if you learn to do it right.
While bribing your way to victory is the purpose of the item mall and microtransactions, it should not be what the game is based on. Time and time again I have said that far too many free to play games have unbalanced games where sooner or later you are forced to buy an item mall item in order to continue to grind fairly well without having to chug gallons of potions with 60 second cooldowns each or sitting on the sidelines to heal every 5 seconds. The item mall is not being designed around the content available, but rather the game is designed to make the item mall essential.
No matter how much they try to avoid it, the companies eventually find a way to sell equipment whether it be directly or indirectly. Directly selling equipment would be a game like Atlantica Online where some items are only accessible from the item mall and are insanely powerful. For example, the newest decorative wings basically add 1500 damage and that makes it similar to almost equipping another weapon on your character to double their damage. Throw in a mount and your power is even greater. They are directly selling equipment to you in the item mall.
The other method is by indirectly selling you the items. They will not sell it directly to you, but they are essentially doing the same thing. A good example of this is games where they sell you items that guarantee success rates on refining equipment. They will never sell you the actual piece of equipment, but they provide you with the means to maximize the damage output of your equipment by preventing failures with safety nets or guaranteeing successful refinement/enhancement/enchantment up to a certain point. All you need to do is obtain the item once by yourself. Other things might be like potions with little to no cooldown that instantly heal you up or just flat out selling power ups like 30 day subscription packages that boost your stats.
The only way to avoid this is to sell purely decorative items and items of convenience. A decorative items is like wings, clothing, and other things you would classify as vanity items. The thing is to remember that it must not provide any stats at all. The moment it starts even providing a little bit of stats, it is no longer decorative and becomes powerful equipment instead. Items of convenience would be things that allow you to save time on the game such as exp boosts, teleports, and things like that. Convenience items are usually the excuse made by companies to provide items with stats, but the moment they start boosting stats, it is no longer for just convenience and they start going into the "selling power" territory.
However, this does not stop games from designing the game so that they encourage you to consume your items of convenience. Limiting your chat abilities to only your surrounding area, guild, and party might encourage you to buy a speaker item to announce something to the world. Putting towns and mobs far apart might make you buy teleport items or a mount to get around faster. Some enemies might start getting one hit kills to get you to consume your revival items. Things like this also makes your game feel like you are trying to get people to bribe their way to victory.
Below is a list are some of the things that I think fit the "Bribing Your Way To Victory"
Atlantica Online - Blessing License (50% damage, 10% defense, 50% more exp)
I dare you to play the game without it at level 100+. The higher you go, the more impossible it is, even with upgraded items. Unless you have something like an entire set of +5 or more equipment, you will probably be able to survive in the high level areas. 140+ makes this even more true since those areas are skirmish types so you will almost always get attacked by 3 sets of mobs that are impossible to solo without a Blessing License. Without a Blessing License, my level 140+ main character can barely handle the level 121 skirmish area. That is how big of a difference that makes.
Atlantica Online - Item Mall Equipment
I decided to lump all of these together because it is easier that way. Item mall equipment includes clothes, wings, mount, and a couple of accessories. Wings basically add 1000 more damage (5% or so overall). A mount is basically another piece of armor (10k defense and around another 1000 damage). Clothes add another 1500 defense and a minor boost to other stats. Accessories make a huge difference adding around 400-500 damage, 3000 defense, and a little more here and there depending on their class. These add up and make a huge difference. Atlas Ores are practically the only way to safely upgrade equipment as well as the refinement NPC has an extremely low success rate.
Lunia Online - 1 Hit Kills
A lot of enemies late game have OHKO (One Hit Knock Out) attacks. Normally, your character falls down and a healer can save you as long as you are within range of their heal spell. Your character will not "die" until they get up after their HP falls to 0. However, enemies beyond a certain point stun your characters with their attacks forcing them to automatically get up resulting in a OHKO attack. Attacks by enemies and your max health reaches the point where healers become useless. The only way around this is to either buy Endurance Potions that spam you with like 1 HP every half a second and even poor timing can result in an instant kill still. The other option is to buy extra lives. Sadly, when everything starts spamming it and party members are randomly dropped in different sections of the stage, it becomes more and annoying to deal with.