F2P model in the US: Putting nails in its own coffin

Back in the early days of the “F2P revolution”, the biggest challenge for the average MMO gamer was trying so sift through the hundreds of terribad titles to find the one or two semi-decent (for a ‘free’ game) titles to kill a few hours with.  As this mighty revolution continued, we started to see failed subscription games reborn as F2P titles, hoping to cash in on the few people who actually cared about them while letting everyone else see (for free) just why those games failed in the big leagues. And finally, in its third and hopefully final act, the minor leagues of the MMO space has pulled out its final trick: ship a more-than-decent (for a ‘free’ game) title to attract a big crowd, and then quickly turn around and screw each and every one of them by showing not only your ridiculous item shop, but also changing the game to force your players to pay far beyond $15 a month or play while walking uphill, both ways, without legs while the game devs laugh and throw stones at you.

Brilliant really. What better way to turn so many people off from the whole F2P concept then to gather as large a crowd as possible, and leave the absolute worst impression on all of them. Make that impression so bad, and so memorable, that many will never touch another ‘free’ MMO again. Them and their whole guild in fact!

But who could have possibly predicted that a business model designed around forcing people to pay for ‘convenience’ items could ever effect how a game is designed? Quests that fill up your limited bag space (buy more bags!), travel that takes forever for no reason (buy a TP scroll!), content gated by certain items (on sale now at the shop!), character choices that cripple you before you know it (undo the damage at the cash shop!), XP grinds of silly proportion (buy an XP potion!), money sinks of incredible depth (in-game currency is this weeks special buy!), and my personal favorite, new content additions that makes all your previous purchases obsolete (bet you can’t wait for the next patch!); with player-friendly design choices like that, its a miracle the subscription model is still around today. Viva the revolution!

May your death be quick yet painful F2P devs, and hopefully the hundreds of terrible titles won’t clog the sewer system as they circle the drain. You will always (until that fad dies anyway) have Facebook.

20 Responses to F2P model in the US: Putting nails in its own coffin

  1. Anne says:

    I personally hope it does die, F2P is def not the future

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    GPotato and Astrum Nival have certainly done their best to set back any prgress F2P games might have been making towards acceptance in the U.S. market. I doubt that makes much difference to future F2P games, though.

    Diabolically bad launches of subscription MMOs don’t seem to have dented the million-box launches of subsequent games by other design houses. DDO and W101 are both doing nicely with mixed-economy models and somewhere down the line there will be more like them.

    It’s a terrible shame for Allods, which is (maybe was) an excellent game and one that I fully intended to devote a considerable amount of time to, but it doesn’t remotely affect my opinion on the viability of the funding model.

    GPotato have taken a view on what could be profitable for them. They may be right. They may make good money from Allods with the pricing structure they’re using. If so, it won’t be from me.
    Other companies, though, will have different, more acceptable strategies for monetizing their games and some of those will be games I want to play.

    We’re most of us here for the long run. I plan to be playing these games for as long as I have the physical capacity to do so. I don’t expect to see a field dominated by subscription-based games in ten years from now. maybe not in five. But there will be good MMOs of many kinds and sizes, using many payment models. If one potentially good MMO drops off the list because of corporate greed it’s no more than a momentary disappointment.

    There’ll be another one along in a minute.

    • SynCaine says:

      Oh I know Allods killing F2P is just wishful thinking, but I think it did turn away a lot of people. Allods was really the first ‘high quality’ F2P game to come out aimed directly at the WoW market, and many sub fans that traditionally ignored F2P gave it a shot. I don’t know how many of them will give another F2P game a shot going forward.

  3. Brian Inman says:

    I really wonder how much thought process went into the pricing for the cash shop for Allods. Do they really think someone is going to pay more than $15 a month to play a free game? I can see someone getting hooked, and paying a little more but not paying $1.50 an hour to play wearing perfumes to be able to complete pve, and pvp end game content.

  4. Raff says:

    Eskil Steenberg recently made an interesting post about his decision not to go free to play with his online sandbox game: http://iloapp.quelsolaar.com/blog/news?Home&post=67

    • spinks says:

      I think he made a good call on that one. I suspect monthly subs are a good way to build a committed community, it worked for tale in the desert too.

  5. I have to say their cash shop model has really put me off a game I was really looking forward to trying.

    It’s been quite a cunning tactic actually. Let people play the “closed” beta for months and build the hype then roll out hugely overpriced goods in the shop to rake in the cash.

    I think I’ll take subscription based over F2P any day of the week, at the moment.

  6. Carson says:

    I’d like to believe that the free-to-play-plus-cash-shop model doesn’t have to make for an antagonistic relationship between the players and the developers. But I’m just not convinced.

    I won’t pretend that developers of subscription games haven’t milked the addictive properties of their games for all they’re worth. But ultimately, they have one goal with regards to their players: keep them playing so they keep paying their subscription! And that’s a goal which really is not antithetical to the players’ interests – it’s in the developers’ interests to make the game FUN.

    But free-to-play games? It’s in the developers’ interests to make you pay, pay, pay. It’s in their interests to obsolete what you paid for last month. It’s in their interests to get you hooked, and then make the high-level game, frankly, no fun at all – unless you spend more money!

    You know what model I think might have some promise? The one WAR stumbled into – unlimited free time playing a limited subset of the content. Get people in for free – that’s the great strength of the free-to-play model, there’s no barrier to curious people checking out your game. Get them hooked. Get them wanting more – and then take their credit card number for a monthly subscription! I’d be very interested to see how Allods might have performed if they’d tried something like that instead of the traditional Eastern cash shop approach.

    • Malakili says:

      The model has proven to be quite popular and sustainable in other parts of the world. It still remains to be proven if it can work with the American audience though, and I’m not totally sure what is causing the difference.

  7. Stabs says:

    I think it’s now clear that gPotato is in fact a dummy company set up by Syncaine to get Tobold’s attention.

  8. [...] A lot of bloggers this week have been consumed with Allods Online, it’s almost offical launch and cash shop blunder. Petter, the one who does not fear mutants, sums up his thoughts on the game. Meanwhile Keen isn’t a happy chappy and doesn’t like the goings on with it’s overly expensive items. Our favourite rascal Syncaine even has his say about why the move has completely harmed F2P models. [...]

  9. PeZzy says:

    Actually, people on Facebook are paying for their service with their privacy. You may think your profile is locked down but it’s not. So in that sense, Allods is cheap. :)

  10. Brian Inman says:

    Well Allods is still free if you avoid the cash shop. Is it really required to have perfumes every second you are playing? I will just have to get to 40, and see if blow a gasket or not.

  11. [...] a little chuckle to myself after reading various articles over the weekend, namely branagars and SynCaines, I did read Keens as well but his was expected – although usually we have to wait a month or two [...]

  12. Centuri says:

    From reading the patch notes on the Russian version, it looks like it is going to get worse before it gets better. They are making the death penalty even harsher at level 40 to force players into the cash shop.

    If purchasing perfume is “required” for the endgame PVP/PVE, and a person plays three three hour session per week, let’s look at that cost. Perfume costs $13.50 for a 20 pack and last 30 minutes. So you would need 18 a night, or 54 per week. That works out to be $36.45 per week to stay competitive at current prices.

    Game mechanics force a PVP player to PVP as much as possible in a week time limit to score high enough ranks to get better gear. (Think old school WoW High Warlord Grind). The more hardcore PVP players on your server may be looking at $60-$100 per week in perfume to get the top spot for their faction……

  13. Pedro says:

    I would just like to see an MMO being released that charged players by minute or day or weekly play instead of monthly payments.

    IMO the free to plays have a paying playerbase because people can easily jump in and out without worrying about wasting the money they spend. In a monthly subscription MMO people feel compelled to play for a month and if they can’t they will cancel their subscriptions. So why not releasing a game with smaller subscription options?

  14. Snafzg says:

    “Quests that fill up your limited bag space (buy more bags!), travel that takes forever for no reason (buy a TP scroll!), content gated by certain items (on sale now at the shop!), character choices that cripple you before you know it (undo the damage at the cash shop!), XP grinds of silly proportion (buy an XP potion!), money sinks of incredible depth (in-game currency is this weeks special buy!), and my personal favorite, new content additions that makes all your previous purchases obsolete (bet you can’t wait for the next patch!).”

    This!

    Subscription MMOs work the same way too though. You can probably point out 10+ artificial timesinks put in place simply to keep you subscribed longer, leading the greater revenue for the company.

    This is why MMOs of all varieties really aren’t my cup of tea any more.

    • SynCaine says:

      The difference that I see is a sub MMO has to keep you entertained in order to profit (longer sub), a F2P MMO has to keep you buying stuff from the store to profit, just having fun in-game is not going to lead to many sales. The problem is the dev teams know this, and so design/progress accordingly. Not to say that the sub version is without flaws (long grinds like you mentioned), but at the core I think its more win/win between the devs and the players.

  15. […] that didn’t last long, huh? Wish someone had called F2P a fad, that would have been pretty insightful of […]

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