F2P Quote of the Day

There is one school of thought that thinks F2P means “if you spend enough time, you can experience the whole game for free – paying is just a shortcut”. There is another school of thought that says “you will never see the whole game, unless you pay astronomical amounts of money, and maybe not even then”. There’s a real conceptual rift between the two camps, and some games are finding themselves caught in the middle, or transitioning between the two.
Brise Bonbons

I’d argue “astronomical,” although that depends on the model, and it’s really the models I want to discuss here.

We’re all familiar with pure subscription models, as well as subscription plus a small premium shop (WoW sparklepony, CoX booster packs). WoW, Warhammer, and others now have unlimited free trials along with their subscriptions. Most Western players have limited familiarity with the item shop model in its pure, evil form, although Allods players got a taste. I think it’s clear under these models that you will be ponying up some funds or you will not be getting much beyond the most basic experience; item shop gamers may have been fooled at the onset, but it should become quickly apparent once they’re into it.

The murkier middle comes from hybrid models and games that let you unlock content (“no cover charge”). Wizard101 has a very clear unlock model, in which you just do not get most zones unless you pay for them. League of Legends gives you access to everything, eventually, a little at a time, with some free permanent unlocks and why don’t you just give them $20 to get the handful of champions you really want? Turbine is the headliner for the hybrid subscription/pay to unlock model, with Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online. You could theoretically unlock absolutely everything in LotRO without paying, although you would be creating and deleting characters to grind deeds until your very fingertips wore away.

And there really is tension between people who want to play for free, absolutely free, and those who are willing to pay and/or recognize that someone needs to fund these companies if you want servers to stay up. When I am getting a lot of value from a game, I don’t mind giving an extra $20 to Valve or Riot or whatnot. I look at my Settlers of Catan box and wonder if I should mail Klaus Teuber a check or something, based on the play value received. But I remember having no money, and I can see a bit of that perspective.

And then there are games that are just annoyingly in your face with their pleas for money. See, for example, the LotRO UI re-design that makes the shop the most visible UI item (poor design decision: the shop links are annoyingly present even if you cannot use them to spend more money, such as subscribers/lifetimers at the stables).

: Zubon

12 thoughts on “F2P Quote of the Day”

  1. One of THE MOST annoying things for F2P players in Wizard101 is that every time you exit the game, your browser opens a window to a page where you can subscribe. Call me a whiner, but the pimped-out LotRO icon doesn’t bother me half as much as my “old yeller” computer being forced to open & load that browser window.

    1. On my old computer with the damaged RAM slots, that made me hate Steam. I can’t shut down this program until you advertise to me? On my new computer, that is just a convenient guide to things on sale and just released, although I could use a filter so it does not display anything less than 50% off.

    2. I think the LotRO legendary item interface is much worse than the button on the main UI. 1/3 of the main bar is occupied by additional purchase slots and the last slot is close to the close window button. Half the time I try to close the interface, I accidentally open a new window which connects to the LotRO store and reads a bunch of info I really don’t want. Its really frustrating on a slower computer.

      It truly seems that a lot of interfaces are designed to show managers that purchase options are front and center regardless of any usage issues for players.

  2. I find the whole “you will never see the whole game, unless you pay astronomical amounts of money” deeply ironic. Mrs Bhagpuss and I have been playing MMOs for an an average of more than 30 hours a week for more than a decade and we’ve never seen anything approaching “the whole game” in any MMO ever.

    What’s more we’ve mainly been playing in guilds in which we were the people who’d seen the most of anyone. Had we had F2P models back then, players in the kinds of guilds I’ve been in over the years would have been able to do and see everything they ever wanted to without spending a cent. They’d have lost interest in playing the game long before spending money ever became an issue, although I could easily some of them bankrupting themselves buying fluffy pets and hats with feathers on.

  3. Its not an MMO but the Ultimate Team mode of FIFA11 almost twists your arm into either buying into their “pack” purchasable items or being unable to sustain your team. Each time you play a game with a player on your team he consumes one “contract”, considering you play with 11 players, plus your manager and any substitutes you bring on that means on average you consume about 12/13 contracts per game. You can buy contract cards off other players for ingame money for about 550ish coin and each of these cards give you 13 contracts.
    Each match you play nets you about 450 coins. When you take into mind that you need to buy cards to heal your players if they get injured, fitness cards, new players etc, as you can imagine, the funds just don’t cover it. I know I really struggle to keep my team in shape without buying packs of random cards from EA.

  4. I really love the f2p model when it comes to buying content. I don’t even mind if I end up paying more than 15$/month when I’m playing regularly.

    I really hate the f2p model when it means paying to skip grinds which were introduced just to give you something to pay to skip. Or, worse, when it turns into pay2win.

  5. I think what I like least is deal-changing.

    That’s not all across the board, I didn’t mind DDO going F2P and some of the others.

    But if I feel a game aims to suck me in then unilaterally change the rules to monetise me harder I’m very uncomfortable.

    EQ2X has done this, DDO seems to have done this recently with the Artificer, Lotro with Isengard.

    There seems to be an assumption that each title must grow and improve its revenues every year. That’s unworkable. Games get old, games decline. What I think games companies need to do is provide a stable with some much loved (and unspoiled) older games and some exciting new games. And of course the theory is supported by Blizzard who offer WoW at more or less the same deal now as in 2004 and who have supported their 1990s games with no extra money from the existing playerbase.

    It’s terribly important to me that a MMO feels open-ended, feels longterm. I can’t play Vanguard which I think is an interesting game because I can’t level up a character in a game that could close next month. I wouldn’t feel too happy playing a Turbine game even though I admire the company a great deal because I feel they’ll give me a couple of years then get greedy on me.

    1. Any game could close next month but Vanguard has actually had some Devs assigned to it due to the imminent closure of SWG and it’s getting patches and content updates for the first time in well over a year.

      If you’re interested in it, it’s a good time to take a look.

  6. On the quote: astronomical is relative. The main reason I stopped playing WoW was financial. I calculated how much I had spent on the game, and the total easily breached $450, just on subs and box fees. $15 per month adds up quick when you’re not paying attention. I’d much rather have a system where you pay for content individually, than be run dry monthly. At least with purchasing content, I feel like I get something more tangible. My almost $500 I spent on WoW? I have nothing to show for it unless I shell out more money. So it goes.

  7. I was going to link to a post I thought I did about F2P and Sub models, but either I suck at finding things on my own blog, or I never actually wrote it. I think it’s the former…

    Anyway, F2P in most cases is Player vs Dev. The devs have to create something decent-enough to interest you, but then make it annoying-enough to get you to pay to keep it fun. The better the core game, the further they can push the annoyance.

    In the sub model, the devs get paid if you stay entertained-enough to keep paying, and profit more when you start getting your friends to play as well. The line is very clear; if the content is lacking, the devs don’t get paid, and a certain critical-mass must be maintained.

  8. I’m tickled to see some of my words up on the front page; now I wish I had spent a little more time editing that post rather than rushing it off while on break at work… :D

    I agree with the criticism of “astronomical” – I was feeling melodramatic, I guess. For context, when I wrote that I was specifically thinking about LoL, where unlocking every champion would cost something like $300-$400, (or you could play something like 3 hours a day for a year or more. I’m using Riot forums math that I don’t trust 100%, here, but it seems about right).

    Now, clearly, there is no practical reason to want every champ unlocked in LoL; you would never be able to play all of them well. I think this is actually good game design: Forcing players to choose certain areas of the game to become experts in creates interesting dynamics.

    Now, whatever the intention was originally, the quoted post wound up being mostly about the customer experience: The idea of ownership vs service, how this relates to free choice on one hand and the urge to collect/complete on the other.

    So yes, you might spend $300 on WoW and still never see the whole game (I spent about that much and never saw most of the content), but at any given time you still knew you had access to everything available for money, in theory – there was nothing standing in the way of your completionism other than time and patience. Of course, in LoL, you don’t stand to lose all the time and money you invested the second your subscription lapses…

    So while the quote comes off as pretty negative about the F2P models we’re seeing now, in practice I’m neutral about them. I think there are advantages to both systems, but there’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to expectations, from both sides of the wallet. Especially, as has been mentioned, when games change their philosophy mid-stream after players have already bought into a specific “deal”.

  9. Heehee. While I think Forsaken World is a *brilliantly* implemented F2P-P2W game (I mean, PWE SOLVED the faucet problem this genre has had since its MUD days)…

    …to give you an idea of PWE’s idea of ‘astronomical’ when it comes to P2W…

    7 masteries, 7 resistances. Each costing US$4,000 to max out on. On the bright side, it’s not a lottery. You get exactly the stats you pay for.

    …oh yes, and of course, they ALSO have lotteries!

    I realise I sound like I dislike FW, I don’t. I find it the most playable of PWE’s games, and I’m having a hell of a lot of fun – more than I had levelling from 1-85 in cataclysm TBH. And if you’re not into analyzing these things, all the amazing small innovations that they’ve made throughout the game probably won’t even register on your radar.

    But at the end of the day, I’m in awe of their evilness! *grovels before their moneygrubbing evilosity*

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