Will Free to Play be the New Standard?
Written by Sean “Blazek” Emes, Edited by Jordan “Doomhammer” Kahn
Since the dawn of MMO games we have been accustomed to the “Pay to Play” model that comes with the entertainment. Most gamers of the genre understand that servers take money to maintain and a good developer will put the money back into their game via patches and expansions. But in the last several years, many of these games have been highly disappointing. The games are far too easy or simplistic, they lack content, or they simply use poor mechanics that drive away the players within the first several months. Many gamers just don’t feel it is worth paying every month to keep playing a game in, so some game developers have decided that the only way to stay alive is by switching to a Free to Play model.
This was actually a quality game a decade ago
While quite a few games had already entered the market as free to play titles, the idea to transition from a monthly fee into a free game gained popularity in 2009 with Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online. While the game was somewhat successful at launch, going free to play opened the floodgates and revived a game that was literally on its last leg. In fact, the switch actually generated more revenue than the game was making even in its best months with a monthly fee!
So you may be wondering how the hell a free game can generate more revenue than monthly fees. It’s made possible by micro transactions available within the game. While a game can be completely free to obtain and play, players are able to pay a few bucks for some additional content, quicker leveling, or perhaps some cool looking items. While it usually doesn’t cost much to the individual player, the much larger player base that comes with the free to play model makes a lot of little bits add up.
Dungeons and Dragons isn’t the only game that has been revived by the switch. Recently Lineage 2, a game that was highly regarded as one of the best PvP experiences around, was nearing its demise. Developer NCsoft decided to make the switch when they released their most recent expansion and the move was so popular it forced NCsoft to open 2 extra servers beyond what they had already planned to sustain the massive influx of players.
NCSoft’s other major title: Aion is also considering the switch to Free to Play
And it doesn’t stop there, game developers are starting to look at launching titles as free to play from day one, including larger IPs with much larger budgets and backing. Games such as Vindictus and Aika Online have already taken this path, giving many gamers the opportunity for a quality gaming experience without paying a dime.
With the growing success that Free to Play offers to developers it begs the question: Will it become the new standard for MMO games? So far it’s proven a very successful move and in many cases has shown increased profit to developers. It will be a continuous change as this plays out, but the quality between F2P and P2P is starting to become blurred. If any developers intend to continue to use the Pay to Play model they will need to go above and beyond to keep their customers from leaving within the first month.