Free-2-Misnomer

Misnomer: (noun) – 2 a : a use of a wrong or inappropriate name b : a wrong name or inappropriate designation.
Is Lord of the Rings Online going Free-to-Play (F2P)?  I’ve seen a lot of debate around the ‘sphere and re-amplified by the latest Spouse Aggro podcast on how to define F2P MMOs.  Those that prefer the narrow definition seem to say that F2P games will not bar content by requiring purchase, and the business model works because players buy extras in the cash shops.  A slightly broader definition lumps games that sell content into F2P.  However, then it becomes a question of degree. 
Dungeons and Dragons Online sells dungeon packs for buyable cash shop points, and players can also grind out the cash shop points in game to get most of the content.  Wizard 101, on the other hand, sells content zones, but there is no way to play those zones unless the player subscribes or buys the zone.  Instead of F2P, Wizard 101 could be considered to have a endless demo like the subscription MMO Warhammer Online.
Finally, the broadest definition of F2P is an MMO where a time-based subscription is not required to play.  This is how I mostly define F2P games.  I find it too wishy-washy to find a degree where one game becomes F2P based on available content.  I think it is irrelevant on whether content (e.g., zones, quests, etc.) is available for purchase because it seems that ultimately a F2P game in the narrowest sense will bar content somehow.  See, for example, Allods Online’s requirement to buy items in order to PvP.
In my mind, I buy some tangible item like a mission pack, a campaign, or better armor, and I am free to play the game whenever I want.  I don’t have to worry about whether I have timely paid for access when I feel like firing the game up.  For me, this is the essence of F2P.  What defines F2P for you?
–Ravious
“what” ain’t no country I ever heard of!

20 thoughts on “Free-2-Misnomer”

  1. I’m not sure LOTRO doesn’t count either way, in the end. They said:

    standard classes, major game systems, and a lot more options detailed here. And glory is its own reward: as you explore Middle-earth and advance your Hero through quests and achievements in the game, you will earn free Turbine Points that you can redeem in the LOTRO Store to access more options that will enrich or extend your free play.

    And somewhere else – I can’t find the cite right now – that it’s technically possible (although difficult) to earn enough Turbine Points in game to buy everything in the store. Money is never actually *required*, it’s just an alternative to grinding for the points.

  2. To me, it means:

    1) I can download and install the game and start playing without having to buy anything – this is significant, since it means no barrier to entry to checking out a game. Although of course a great many non-F2P games have their free trials.

    2) I don’t have any regular ongoing subscription for access to the game – this is significant, since it means there is no minimum amount of play I need to get out of a game to “get my money’s worth”. I suspended my WoW subscription when I wasn’t playing very much any more – that’s never going to be an issue with a F2P game.

    3) Finally, the amount of content and progression available to me, without spending money, is not excessively limited. OK, this is a bit nebulous; basically, I want to exclude games like WAR with it’s “endless trial”, since level 1-10 is a very limited subset of the game. DDO, on the other hand, I believe you can progress to level cap, just you’ll be repeating a subset of dungeons quite a few times. LOTRO, you’ll be able to progress also, just you may be limited to grinding and running a few skirmishes.

    It’s #3 that LOTRO might fall foul of. We’ll have to see. If the only way to progress from level 20 to 50 is grinding and repeating three skirmishes, I would be hesitant to say that the availability of content wasn’t excessively limited.

  3. And then what about F2PAB – Free 2 play after Box like Guild Wars? A one time purchase is still needed…but is free indefinitely. Does that also not fit into this category?

    Another thing (BTW)…how do we continually come up with these terms used to describe various parts of this genre? Does some acronym fairy (AF) sit and decide on how to “play the game” (PTG)

    GTFO is what I say.

    CYA

  4. F2P means being able to play the game without having to pay a monthly sub. So under that definition, Allods Online, Wizard 101, Atlantica Online, and Guild Wars are F2P games.

    1. W101 is not a F2P game.

      Yes, you can download the game client and play for free for ever without ever paying a penny, but that does not make it a F2P game. If you don’t Pay-To-Play your Wizard will be stuck in Wizard City at level 10, so you’re not playing the game, you’re playing a Trial of the game. It’s a Trial which does not expire, but it’s still just a Trial.

      How do you get access to the rest of the zones in Wizard101? You pay for them. W101 is not a F2P game because you cannot experience the full game without paying for it.

      A true Free-To-Play game gives you full access to the entire game, for free, for ever (or as long as their servers stay up). It might take you a lot longer to grind to Cap than someone who purchases +XP Pots at the RMT store but you’ll still be able to get there and you’ll have access to all content. If your access to the game is limited or restricted in some way when compared to someone who actually Paid-To-Play then you don’t have a F2P game; you have a game with a very extensive free “trial”, but you don’t have a F2P game.

        1. In keeping with my strictest definition of F2P, if you’re barred from certain content unless you pay for it (even niche PvP content) the game is not F2P, and from what I understand of Allods the PvP IS the End Game content. (I only played it long enough to get really ticked off at being unable to Invert the Mouse’s Y-Axis, yet I could flip the LMB & RMB functions. Go figure.)

          So if you’re barred from accessing End Game content unless you pay for it then no, it’s not a F2P game. Or…it’s a F2P game where you pay to access End Game Content. But now I’m contradicting myself so no, it’s not a true F2P :)

  5. Well I hate to disagree but… I’d love to try Guild Wars… but it costs money to even install.

    That is not F2P – it’s more akin to Diablo – in that you got a game – and it has multiplayer elements – but it’s not free.

    DDO – well yes it’s F2P – more than most I think – you can download the game for free – play for free – never pay a dime – and with enough time spent grinding buy everything in the online store.

    The ratio I believe is that a hardcore grinder can ‘earn’ like 25 cents an hour in points.

    That’s why people buy things – because we all earn much more from a real job – but it’s possible to play the entire game without spending a dime if you choose.

    1. Guild Wars has a free download and trial on their website, so it doesn’t cost money to install and try.

      I’ve always thought of F2P meaning you don’t have to buy anything, ever, and can explore the entire world. So, only games like Runes of Magic would really qualify, as you never have to pay anything if you really don’t want to.

      So LotRO, Wizard 101, Guild Wars, etc., aren’t really F2P games. I call them hybrids. There are so many variations these days I’m not sure if the old acronym labels have any meaning at all now.

  6. There is no standard definition because there is no standard business model.

    – Some open up the whole game, from A to Z, no “box” purchase or sub required, and are supported entirely by item sales.
    – Some open up A to F, without a purchase required. To access G to Z (and/or subpartitions) you have to pay. May or may not have item sales going.
    – Some open up the whole game, A to Z, for just the cost of the “box” purchase. May or may not have item sales going on top.
    – Some are “box” purchase + monthly sub. May or may not have item sales going on top.
    – Some are segmented to hell and back and are completely modular, you buy whatever modules of content you want.

    “Free to play” is marketing speak for “No monthly subscription required” and doesn’t really mean much else. It’s not descriptive of any one thing or any one model in particular.

    1. Oh, and as an addendum… can of worms:

      Hell if I’m gonna come up with a formal hypothesis and run the numbers myself, but I have a feeling that given high enough values of “game usage” (and we all have an idea what this means, no need to get hung up in the words) the money argument between F2P and non-F2P becomes irrelevant. I have a feeling the money spent is about the same.

      There is however a very strong argument -for- F2P which is entirely related to time and nothing more. F2P is a boon to players with low “game usage” due to time because they obviously spend less. But high usage players thinking F2P lets them keep that high usage behavior -and- save money at the same time I think are deluding themselves.

      1. I would add that many players also fool themselves into thinking they’re in the low usage category and don’t realize how much their small payments are adding up.

        It’s like the way many people buy underpowered PC’s. They don’t count gaming as a priority at purchase but it usually comes up after the fact.

        Psychologically speaking though, with micropayments the player may never address their original assumption.

        I’ve been arguing how insidious this is, but then “The Vision” part of the subscription model is pretty insidious too.

  7. I agree, I don’t like the term “free to play” because it isn’t entirely accurate. (And “Free2Play” is a trademark for K2 Network.)

    Back when I first started learning about this business model, I preferred the term “pay for perks”. I think that name is more accurate and fairly inclusive of a lot of games. It also shows what the business model is about: paying for enhancements rather than the fact that you can play “for free” (for a little while, at least).

    But, trying to get people to change terminology is nearly impossible. So, “Free to Play” it is for now. My personal definition? Any game without a setup fee (including retail box) and without a required monthly subscription. The line gets fuzzy between “eternal trials” like what Warhammer does or the limited “free” gameplay of Wizard 101. But, nothing’s perfect.

    1. I agree with Psychochild’s definition: no retail box charge (otherwise Halo, Mario Bros., etc would be F2P) and no required subscription.

      This definition fits best because it indicates the nature of the game, including the gameplay you can expect from the business model.

      It’s a fairly wide definition but F2P is a wide moniker.

  8. A better term people use is cash shop games. If you use a points based system to exclusively pay for the game through a cash shop, thats the genre.

    I’m not sure how Turbine processes their VIP accounts and “subs” so it may not be the best definition, but in other games, recurring purchases are charged in points and bought in a shop, not as a rolling sub fee.

    But usually the points based system is the constant.

  9. For me, F2P means that I can do everything and get everything in game for free, with the knowledge that I can pay real money to do or get the same things vastly quicker and easier. The only exception to this would be pure vanity items, such as rare/nicer pets and mounts or vanity clothes, which I would be fine with being real money only.

    As long as I’m willing to grind for something required to play(e.g. health potions/dungeons/gear), I should be able to achieve it without shelling out real money.

  10. F2P is becoming an increasingly unhelpful label, since most of the MMOs claiming it are from commercial houses hoping, and indeed needing, to make a profit.

    Free-to-download-and-play-with-restrictions-that-you-can-buy-your-way-out-of-later (LotRO) or Pay-to-download-and-play-unrestricted (Guild Wars) don’t really trip off the tongue, though.

    I like the way the market is going. I just hope that some of the other big players pay attention. Everquest is merging servers in June (although it will still have something like 16 servers even after the merge) and Vanguard just announced summer merges which will take it to a single server. Those are my two very favorite MMOs. If SoE would adopt something like the Turbine or Kingsisle payment model, I’d feel the future of my characters might be a lot more secure.

  11. Free to Play means just that. Free, everything open. You may hit a Paypal button if you enjoy the game.

    Of course that limits things pretty much to Kingdom of Loathing, but since I enjoy KoL more than World of Warcraft, I’m happy with the Free to Play game scene.

  12. In the current paradigm, F2P signifies anything that doesn’t require a monthly fee to access.

    This may or may not be descriptive enough anymore as the volume of material in this very expansive pricing model grows.

    Personally, I think we need to redefine the pricing models as an industry in order to eliminate the confusion.

    I suggest the following:

    Subscription Based : All or All relevant content is available in one recurring subscription, and no other pricing options exist.

    Micro-Transaction Based : Access to core content in available on a buffett style transaction basis, and the presence of a subscription option is either unavailable or not required to access content.

    Free To Play : The game is free. Access to relevant, core content is not restricted by any finacial barrier.

    My 2cp.

    ~Cyndre

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