Let me begin my post by declaring my side on this; currently I would not consider Black Desert Online to be a pay to win game. You can definitely pay for convenience but in no way are you required to purchase things from the in game Pearl Shop in order to have a rich and successful BDO experience.
It’s very rare these days to come across a MMORPG that doesn’t have some kind of cash shop set up. Elderscrolls, Rift, SWTOR and even World of Warcraft, which has that $20/month subscription fee on top of it’s cash shop items, has become far more “pay to win” than Black Desert Online is in my opinion. In WoW you can now purchase those game time tokens from their shop and then sell them for a good chunk of gold in game. That’s a pretty straight forward way to buy gold with real money through Blizzard and obviously the more gold you have, the better items you can buy. In WoW you can also buy level 100 character boosts, which I think is a very pay to win feature that BDO does not have.
In Black Desert Online there is no monthly subscription fee. You can purchase Value Packs from the Pearl Shop which are what I’d consider to be the equivalent of most game’s subscription bonuses. With the Value Pack you get more money from Auctions House sales, you can change your appearance as much as you want and you get more inventory/bank space. These aren’t necessary to enjoy the game, but they certainly help. The nice part about the Value Packs is that instead of spending $15USD on this item every 30 days, you can just buy it from the in game auction house for the reasonable price of 9 million silver (and I effortlessly make that amount every 2 days just going about my BDO business). You have to be quick if you’re buying the Value Packs in game since people do buy them up fast, but hundreds of them are posted every month so your chances of getting one are good if you keep an eye out. You can always stock up and keep the extras in your inventory until you need them too.
It’s like that for pets and outfits as well in Black Desert Online. You could spend $21USD on a cool armor set or you can just buy it in game for about 20 million silver. The only things you really have to pay real money for are the costumes, which are simply convenience items that make you cook faster, train horses faster, hides your name during PvP, increases your swimming and fishing speeds, etc. You can also buy items that make it easier to enhance your weapons, but you can just buy already enhanced weapons from the Auction House, so again, it’s not something that is a necessity. I feel the people behind Black Desert Online (the NA version anyway) have done a great job making sure that anything you really need to play the game effectively, is available to you for in game silver.
I’m not a premium player by any means. If you wanted, you could invest $10,000 into the game, sell a bunch of costumes on the Auction House and then buy yourself the best weapons and armor, but I believe that’d be a waste of your money and you’d still have to level your character yourself. Making silver is pretty easy and there are so many different ways to do so. You can basically just leave your character AFK fishing while you sleep at night and bring in a few million while you’re not even playing. As I mentioned in my first post about BDO I’m only a little over a month into the game and still reasonably noobish but I already have 225,000,000 silver. I don’t buy anything with real money to sell for in game silver, I just found myself a nice little niche market and a few good grinding spots and I’m already in the top ranking (A) for wealth on my server.
Since there are no subscription fees, I just allow myself to spend a subscription fee equivalent ($20USD) every month on Pearl Shop items. I really liked a pet that was on sale and I hadn’t been able to get it on the Auction House, so I bought it (but I do have 3 others that I just bought with silver). Also I have decided that horse breeding and training is my “thing” so I just invested in a costume that will let me train horses 20% faster. But that’s all I’ve felt the urge to buy and neither of those things were needed for me to be good at the game.
You get something called loyalty points for logging in every day (and lots of bonus loyalty points from other things as well). A lot of the convenience items like carrying weight increases and value pack bonuses can be purchased with those points instead of spending real money too.
The Pearl to USD exchange rate is roughly $20 = 20,000,000 silver. Making money has not been my focus in BDO yet at all, I’ve just been leveling and learning and have only started making a conscious effort to increase my in game wealth this week because I want to save up for the best Awakening weapon that I can get. I already have 225,000,000 silver though as I mentioned, which if you wanted to buy that amount of silver with real money, would be the equivalent of spending $225 USD. Since it’s that easy to make silver in game, but that expensive to buy with real money, I really don’t think paying that much would be worth it! I feel like the people who are the “Premium Players” either just have way more expendable income than me and are totally okay with dropping $1000 on an in-game weapon, or they really haven’t taken the time to work out the details!
If you wanted to purchase a copy of Black Desert Online and then never invest another dollar into it, that would be entirely possible and I don’t believe it’d put you at any disadvantage either! On the other hand, if someone wanted a pay to win game, they’d need to invest a huge amount in order to make BDO actually feel that way, and I’m talking thousands! So that’s why after 35 days, even though I have nothing against pay to win games, I don’t feel like BDO is pay to win. Even as a pretty-much-broke-starving-artist-gamer, I’m still able to enjoy my Black Desert Online experience fully!