Generally patch day for an MMO is a good thing. Usually patches bring fixes, changes, and new content. Patches are part of the justification for spending $15 or so a month for an MMO. So what happens when you patch a free-to-play MMO?
Unlike the traditional model, F2P patches usually contain a mixed bag (or worst) of changes. Hopefully you get more content or some needed bug fixes, but along with that you usually get changes aimed at increasing micro transactions. This can be as simple as just announcing new items available in the shop, to more drastic changes that strongly ‘encourage’ players to spend money if they want to remain viable or even continue playing as they have before the patch.
Atlantica Online received a patch recently, and along with the more normal content changes and class balance, part of the patch revolved around increasing shop activity. The simplest change was allowing players to use 3 scrolls per fight rather than 2 in PvE. On the surface this makes PvE easier for everyone, but when you consider the majority of scrolls are micro transaction-fueled purchases, it’s a bit shady. Far more blatant is the increased cost of converting xp books through an NPC merchant. Jacking up the price makes it much harder for players to keep up without outside help, and strongly pushes players to spend money in the item shop in order to continue taking advantage of that feature.
The patch reminded me of the differences between the two pricing models, and added another drawback to F2P games going forward. Dreading a patch rather than looking forward to one seems very odd to me, almost anti-Christmas-like. Rather than getting fun new toys, the patch comes in and takes them away, or at least puts up barriers to access them.
I think this is all more apparent to me given the hype/excitement surrounding Mythic’s 1/29 patch announcement, with players theorizing about the possibilities and generally just looking forward to it. To replace that feeling with “I hope I don’t have to pay more going forward to keep playing” is a tough sell for me.