Entertainment is no longer a guaranteed investment. Of course you might buy a movie ticket for a flop, or swipe your card for a round of golf mere seconds before the thunderstorm starts, but those have always been risks inherent in purchasing anything. People nowadays (specifically online gamers) are shelling out hard earned money to purchase things which will certainly increase the likelihood of having a good time, but which still ultimately depend on the skill of the purchaser.
The free MMORPG “Hero Online” is a prime example. As with any MMORPG, you design your character and choose your skill sets and weapons. And as with any MMORPG, you can increase the potency of those skills and weapons through interaction with other players and the environment, whether through cooperation, combat, or the simple act of not getting virtually killed for a certain period of time. Within the game there exists a currency, and that currency is Hero Online gold. You can collect gold through various means and by completing certain tasks, and then you can use Hero Online gold to buy upgrades to skills and weapons, and eventually even more in depth customization of your character.
But you have the option to purchase gold from outside the game as well. Actually purchase it, as in, you give them your real credit card number and they give you virtual gold online. This gold is not something you can use anywhere other than in the game. You cannot buy groceries with it. You cannot fix your car with it. You cannot put it under your mattress for a rainy day. You can only use this gold online, to upgrade your character.
Which means that, unless you know how best to use your Hero Gold online, there is no guarantee that the money you spent will in any way translate to actual entertainment. It is a lottery ticket of sorts, where you spend money in the hopes that your situation will improve. Or perhaps a better analogy is a college degree, where your money helps to give you an advantage, but your success still depends on how you use that advantage.
The old saying of, “You pays your money and you takes your chances” has never applied more fully than to MMORPGs where you can pay to enhance your characters. At least in Portal 2 you can definitely buy a funny hat for your robot. That, my friend, is what I call a good ROI.