Patch day in a F2P game, not all that fun.

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.

10 Responses to Patch day in a F2P game, not all that fun.

  1. Werit says:

    The announcement is 1/29 :)

  2. syncaine says:

    Bla, typing error. 2.29 would be painful though, haha. Fixed.

  3. Anjin says:

    I know the RMT crowd try to tell us that F2P gaming is the way of the future. But everytime something like this comes along, it reminds us that there are so many ways to get it wrong. It doesn’t have to be a giant horror story that will damn the model; F2P could under the weight of all the little stories like this.

  4. Werit says:

    I did not even think that there is no Feb 29’th this year. That would indeed be painful.

  5. Dan Taylor says:

    I think it’s always a catch 22 balancing act for F2P’s on patch day. On one hand they wanted to offer players what they want, but on the other hand try to keep the game balanced and fair. As you mentioned, extra scrolls make the game easier in a PVE environment – so they’ve created a way for players to level up quicker and enjoy the game a bit more at these higher levels. On the other hand, as you noted, these ‘extras’ are microtransaction based. So it’s really a matter of giving the masses what they want, but trying to keep the playing field level at the same time – a tricky balancing act.

  6. Swift Voyager says:

    Frankly I don’t see either model driving the other out of business. They are more likely to remain competitive but complimentary aspects of the market. Take for example subscription television vs free broadcast. Perhaps magazine subscriptions vs newstand (microtransactions) is also a good example of how both revenue models can and SHOULD be used to reach a larger audience.

    With over 11 million total users, I’m surprised that Blizard hasn’t done more to try to get advertising money. Do they even run paid ad space on their web site?

  7. Chris F says:

    A good example of exactly how NOT to structure your F2P/RMT game to make it work in North America.

    While I am a big fan of the *idea* of RMT to give gamers choices on payment models, instead of being shackled to a $15 a month sub fee (works for some, not for all), illustrations like this will make it hard.

  8. Fortuente says:

    I like to think that neither RMT or subscription models will survive the way they are now. I’m not sure how they will evolve, but I am hopeful they do along the lines of SOE’s station access.

    I personally am a big fan of Turbine’s games – yet I don’t sub to DDO and because I can’t justify spending $15/mo extra for a game I love but rarely play. Now if Turbine offered a (ie) $20/mo to access LOTRO, DDO and AC1 I would sign up pretty quickly – and even give AC1 a spin for shits’n’giggles.

  9. mordiceius says:

    syncaine, on a completely different note, I wanted to inquire what you think the future for Warhammer is. Not like the six month future but beyond that. For instance, how do you imagine they’ll do expansions? What kind of content will they include?

  10. syncaine says:

    First expansion: 3rd side. I just don’t see any other way of really solving the population issue, and it’s the next major step towards DAoC 2.0. Plus when announced people would go crazy over it, from those who love RvR to those who like playing the different pairings for the RP and PvE aspect.

    Before that, the 4 missing capital cities will be added back in once the whole city siege system is fixed. An RvR dungeon will be added (perhaps very shortly), the ‘Fame’ system will present another system for player to level and side-grade their characters, and overall a massive amount of balance to classes and items will occur.

    I think the biggest addition, other than the x-pac with a 3rd side, will be the revamping of keeps. Hopefully they go all out and actually do major changes, and not just some quick-fix stuff like destructible walls and minor NPC upgrades. Tough to call on that one though, considering how quickly keeps currently get flipped.

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