When 'Free-to-Play' Becomes a Money Game

Discussion in 'Reviews and Articles (Archived)' started by Rob Williams, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    The term "free-to-play" has become hugely popular in recent years, and Steam even has an entire category dedicated to it. But while the term itself seems self-explanatory, there are some games that prove that not all F2P titles are alike. In the worst cases, such as with one of Rob's favorite MMOs, the games can actually become "pay-to-win".

    Read through Rob's editorial (it's free, really) and then discuss it here!
  2. marfig

    marfig No ROM battery

    May 15, 2011
    It seems like the end of a game...

    Or the beginning of a new one where all that lead people to play it is removed under their feet and they eventually move away, leaving only those who don't care about spending hard cash on game items to play a game that is invariably more expensive today than it was in the past.

    To me, the thought goes for yet another moniker I see destroyed and going down in infamy. F2P, Free-to-Play, is an interesting concept. But what was done of it is not. It already carries with it a strongly bad connotation, most consumers have become highly suspicious of it and many companies will soon realize it's not a good slogan for their business anymore.

    Trouble is the web massification leveled out the playing field for business strategies. The market is so huge that invariably bad business strategies that would be considered scams and would be shunned on our cities, can carry on with their dubious money making policies in the web because there will always be a few many who just don't care about spending their money on ways that aren't efficient. Or spending their time on places that aren't agreeable to their most basic consumer rights.

    So it's not that one can say "it's the end of a game". It's instead the corruption of one. Of course these games will never be cash cows. The unfair treatment of players simply ensures the company an income and eventually one or two disastrous events may put the company out of business. They do walk on a thin rope. Highly successful cash cows are never, ever, products that give the general idea to players that they are unfairly robbing them of their money.

    Companies like NCSoft just chose to move to the other side, where players feel rightly justified to question the company more than they question its products. It's just cheaper to secure a type of player that doesn't care how they spend their money (or is highly irresponsible on how they do it) than it is to secure players who care.

    The world of online gaming has changed dramatically as the years moved on into a commodification of its offerings. It's the nature of the internet to present business opportunities and some choose to offer products that can appeal to vast masses, while others chose to milk their consumers through strategies that can only be considered scams. It's up to us individually to define where we want to position ourselves in this market as consumers of their products, and how willing we are to let go of apparent feelings of loyalty and history towards faceless corporations so we can navigate through the web of product offerings in the most flexible way possible that can ensure a good and fair use of our money and the defense of our rights as consumers.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  3. TheFocusElf

    TheFocusElf Obliviot

    Mar 1, 2005
    Saw the Rackanfrazts link on Facebook and jammed over here 'fast as I could. Wow, NCSoft sticks it to the peoples again? Couldn't possible be the same company I lost my IGN gig over for telling Dhevrin to go eff himself.

    Well written Rob, and well played.
  4. Brett Thomas

    Brett Thomas Senior Editor

    Apr 10, 2009
    I wish I could say I'm as bitter at this, but to me it sums up the entire problem with an MMO - people expect indefinite life because they've paid for the game. And in effect, they're right.

    Rob, you should get to play the game you've spent all those years and subscription fees on, without this crap. However, NCSoft should also get the right to sell or modify a new world to attract these people who want the pay-to-win (Let's say they don't have the time to go slaughter so many things for those uber-rare drops). And NCSoft REALLY should not be expected to continue dragging on an 8-year-old game for a handful of loyal subscribers.

    The problem we run up against is the business model of MMOs and the 'instant gratification' of players. It's where Software-As-A-Service starts to fail. On one hand, you should be thankful - what other game, aside from another MMO, receives regular updates and maintenance a full 8 years after release? On the other side, you've paid more in subscription fees than any blockbuster title would cost, and yet you could wake up tomorrow to yet another totally different change and worse game. I can still play HalfLife 2 or Baldur's Gate 2 and enjoy my experience - you cannot, your game is now ruined.

    This is why I dislike MMOs in general - you can't control other players, and you are subject to a business model that is designed to court potential new players (meaning a different audience than is already playing the game). On one side, your argument totally makes sense - it sucks to have paid for something for EIGHT YEARS and have it suddenly put a dollar value on everything you have accomplished in that time. But on the other paw, you have to keep in mind that NCSoft is trying to run a business - floating an 8-year-old title along and still attracting an audience is difficult, and the only business solution to it is "stop developing/serving it." I give them props for keeping it "the same game" this long.

    However you provide it - subscription or F2P - MMOs are probably the worst gaming experience possible to me. They are the perfect example of games moving to SaaS. I'd rather pay for 10 DLC packs than one subscription fee based on this concept alone.
  5. I'm addicted to Team Fortress 2 right now. The only negative part of free 2 play is that you have a limited backpack for weapons but that isn't a big deal.
  6. Kougar

    Kougar Techgage Staff Staff Member

    Mar 6, 2008
    Brett, that's just it though. I completely agree they have a right to sell stuff to make a profit off the game they created, and also sell more stuff to pay for the upkeep and maintenance. But game studios have two ways to go about selling stuff... they can sell stuff that gives players an inherent advantage, or they can sell aesthetic/cosmetic stuff that doesn't give advantages. Obviously the latter is better for the game, but harder to pull off because less people will fork out for cosmetic items.

    That said, games like TF2 and Spiral Knights have done the latter and done it extremely well... paying real money doesn't give any inherent advantage to players other than perhaps the sake of convenience. And selling "convenience" is better than the alternatives. People can play either game as much as they want and never have to pay a dime to do so, it won't detract from the actual gameplay.

    Well, one option is to put $5 in your steam wallet and then buy a $0.50 cent item in the Mann Co store, and you will have a fully unlocked account! it doesn't matter what, anything sold in the store immediately gets you a premium TF2 account. The only "catch" is that $5 is the minimum deposit into the steam wallet... but lots of other games (and steam itself) will use those funds regardless.
  7. Darkaurora

    Darkaurora Guest

    Free to be murdered pay to have a fighting chance.

    Love the rant. I had a similar experience in Eudemons Online. you buy EP, use them on items to increase the level, bonus, and grade of your weapons or armor, then get all super +12 gear and run around intimidating people. I used to farm bosses, and some douche would run over and say "get out" then I get one shotted. Although free to play games still cost money to maintain and need some sort of income to keep running, I believe it should be only for cosmetics. If a game is fun, people get more involved and are more likely to pay money to look cool in their fantasy realm. Games tend to go downhill as soon as there is an unfair advantage.
    What will happen when all the one shottable players quit, and only elitists remain? They'll dump more money into it to be competitive.
    All in all the elitists are the suckers and the company is making a killing playing on people's stubborness until they inevitably go out of business.

    I think most people who play those "free to get murdered, or pay to have a fighting chance" games are below the ages of 12. The same kids that complain that games are too hard, and they can't press
    up up down down left right left right B A start, so they swipe their daddy's credit card and BAM! It's like entering a cheat code.
    That's my theory anyway. Even in P2P games, the same people complain, and instead of cash shop items, they just lower the difficulty and make everything easier to get so a drunken monkey doesn't have a challenge.
    and you're doing the same monotonous B.S. over, and over again for hours.
    What happened to working for things? What happened to a sense of accomplishment?

    Well anyways. That's my rant. Glad I'm not alone.
  8. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    Thanks a lot for the nice comments, Darkaurora!

    In a perfect world, that's just how it'd be. Valve has proven that that sort of F2P mechanic works... so much so that it's even going to be making Dota 2, a brand-new game, follow the same mechanic.

    This is what I'm wondering, and I guess the answer is... shut down the servers. To succeed in many games, you either need to spend tons of cash on things to uberfy your character... or cheat (botting, or what-have-you). It totally boots the honest players who don't want to spend their paycheck on the game out, and I believe harms more games than helps.

    With L2, NCsoft did lower the grind quite significantly, but only really to a certain point. The game's grind has gotten easier over the years, where 1-75 would take 1 year for a regular player, and then 6 months for a regular player, and today, you can hit 75 in a single day if you are really hardcore about it. But once you hit 90, the grind becomes truly ridiculous, and of course, there are things in the store available for dollars a piece that can help with that. I'm slowing down on playing the game at the moment because of this... there's a point when the grind is too ridiculous, and the blatant money-grubbing.

    Thanks for the comments and apologies for the slow response.
  9. Glider

    Glider Coastermaker

    May 4, 2009
    This reminds me of a MUD I used to play... It was a very balanced game, untill the server admin coded a way of donating money for in game overpowered items... And to make things worse, the items become even more unbalenced as more cash was dropped in... And so it became a fact that a level 1 player could kill the monsters that a party of the top 10 players didn't even dare to approach...

    The MUD is next to dead nowadays, go figure...
  10. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    How long ago was this? It sounds like it was a precursor to the explosion of F2P games.

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