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Are Free To Play Business Models A Blessing Or A Curse?




For the longest time, MMORPG’s, MOBA’s, and other online games of the sort have use the business model of Pay to Play where users had to either pay monthly subscriptions, initially buy the game and the expansions, or a combination of both for their games as a way of insuring revenue to pay their employees and maintain the servers. In the last few years a lot of companies have been switching things up to the Free to Play business model where the game is a 100% free to download and to play but many users must rely on what are called “Cash Shops” in order to advance in the game after a certain point. While this secures revenue for the company, it also has many players taken a back from joining in the first place without some big incentives like Double XP weekends, “Cash Shop” credit with friend referrals, etc.

The Cash Shops are usually an in-game service where members of the community can use cold hard cash in order to purchase things in order to enhance their gaming experience. In some games, the Cash Shops just supplies simple things like new champions, skins for the champions, or experience boosts for their account. In other games, the Cash Shops allows players to buy gears or consumable items that provides buffs to the player for extra experience, stats, and even increases the drop rate of monster drops.

The internet seems to be a bit of mixed emotions regarding this. Some feel that this enhances the gaming experience by making it easier to game and makes the grind for epic gear less stressful, while other feels that this gives a bit of unfair advantage to the players that can’t necessarily afford to fork out the money needed to have an easier and quicker game play experience. This outcry is especially seen in gaming communities where the game was originally P2P but switched over to F2P after a period of time. What once took players months of grinding, only took days for other players due to having boosts from a game’s Cash Shop. The outrage of knowing that you went tooth and nail fighting and grinding to get to your end-game gear as well as to get to that max level, but then seeing Joey Newplayer have both in a few short days because he had the money to afford these advantages. That’s not to say that older members of the community haven’t enjoyed the benefits of having a Cash Shop added to a game.

Personally, we all have witnessed that grind and hassle of leveling a new character, especially after getting several of them to max level already and then choosing to level a new class. But I have to admit, the boosts/buffs from an in-game Cash Shop have made it very easy to grind out low-leveled characters, and skip most of that early game grind. This has made me more willing to try other MMO’s out there and even make some joke builds in game because I no longer have to worry about months and months of hard work that may never pay off -because I can just pay a couple bucks and hit the higher levels in a few short days.

The F2P business model also allows for growth of the community. Players that might have not been able to afford the monthly subscriptions or want to waste money to try out a game that they might not even like can now give the game a try. Some F2P games even offer trial periods to new members that give the player free “Cash Shop” items for the first few days or so.

Free to Play LOL Store

And some of the games that were once P2P but started to suffer from dwindling community sizes have changed to F2P in order to bring in new players and breathe life into the game once again. One of my personal favorite MMO’s, Ragnarok Online, is still alive because they went to F2P once their community numbers dropped. Once again, this is a bit of a mixed blessing because quantity doesn’t always mean quality. In games like League of Legends or Dota 2 where there is a large quantity of players online everyday (21,075 league players to 2,230 dota player ratio according to DFC intelligence in 2013) -it doesn’t necessarily mean that all those players are good or even just decent people.. Even with such impressive numbers. I think everyone can agree that they’ve ran into their fair share of rage quitters, trolls, insta-lockers, jerks, egotistical asshats, verbally abusive players, trash talkers, horrible players, AFK’ers, people that get on the microphone with their VOLUME CRANKED TO TEN (looking at your COD/Halo players), or just people with just shitty internet connections that make them DC every couple minutes. That low quality of gamers makes the high quantity of players almost unbearable and can drive almost any player to quit the game, no matter how fun it is. This is especially seen during Winter, Spring, and Summer break when people are away from school and using their spare time to get some much needed game time. So what better way to do it then a F2P game that if you were banned, you can just make another account and not worry about it because the account didn’t cost you anything in the first place.

In P2P games, there is a certain level of quality players because players are more fearful that their negative actions can cost them temporary bans and even permanent ones – losing all their hard work and sometimes years of /played time across all the toons on their account. Sure, there are still the bad players, especially with most P2P monthly subscriptions starting at $15 a month.. But with players having to pay for the software and the monthly subscription fee up front, it is seems to happen less often.

Of course, in F2P you do get a lot of great players, and with the right attitude that can make the gaming experience fun and amazing. There are even people that are making careers out of being really good at F2P games. Another perk of F2P is if the game does get to be too much to handle because of a bad community, you can quit without having to consider how much money you have wasted on a monthly subscription over the last 2 years or so of your life like some P2P players have done. With F2P there is a lot less pressure to play because since it’s free, you don’t have to worry that you’re wasting your money by not playing the game as much you can during your monthly subscription time.

So while all of us at Keep It Nerdy side with Free To Play being a blessing in disguise, what do you think? Is it a great thing to have options to test out new gaming experiences for free when it comes down to it, or would you rather pay monthly for the security of maybe a better community and additionally easier leveling? Let us know what you think in the comments below!