F2P Revisited

Monday, February 6, 2012 | 11

Free to play is pure evil.

I get a lot of questions about why the seemingly dated monthly subscription structure is still so popular. There are a few reasons why I greatly prefer the monthly subscription model to the double-edged F2P model, and I'd like to fully outline it in a way that can be helpful to those of you who are incapable of critical thinking.

There are really two main factors that determine what type of subversive evil that developers are wielding.

If a game has PVP:

The goal of a F2P game with PVP is to increase revenue by luring competitive gamers with game-breaking incentives. To clarify, I'm not talking about PVP in the modern sense where it is a largely irrelevant and tacked-on feature. In order to maximize profits, PVP must be hardcore and unforgiving. Spoiled children are harvested by experienced players, and ultimately end up paying far more than a typical monthly subscription would cost.

This system creates an unbalanced playing field where people who have money to spend on awful games will have a tremendous advantage over casual gamers who don't prioritize micro-transactions in their monthly budget. In a game where PVP is central, balance is an absolute requirement for long-term enjoyment, so F2P fails.

If a game doesn't have PVP:

Unless a game is funded by a eccentric gamer philanthropist, the goal of every game is to make as much money as possible. When there isn't PVP as a mechanism to recycle cash shop items, the only way to make more money is by offering incentives that accelerate your progression. These can range from currency and equipment to experience and stats.

Think about why, from a business standpoint, a game developer would offer items that allow you to progress to the end faster. There is really only one logical conclusion you can draw.

The primary goal of a F2P game is to make you quit.

Scary, right? The perogative of a standard subscription-based MMORPG is to retain subscribers as long as possible with content patches and sandbox elements, but a F2P game without PVP risk makes the most money if you get to the end as fast as possible and quit. They don't want you clogging up their bandwidth, so they have no incentives to provide any decent end-game content, and they never will. The players willing to pay in order to quit faster will more than pay for the players who are satisfied with a grind-fest which basically amounts to gamer welfare.

A new F2P game comes out of Korea about every 3.5 minutes because they follow the same model as chop shops. They suck you in with the promise that you won't have to pay anything, take all the money you're willing to pay, and then discard you. It obviously works because people can't get past the "free" illusion.

Maybe some company will come out with some new way to offer a free gaming experience without destroying fairness or throwing veterans under the bus, but I haven't seen any yet.

I'm looking at you, Guild Wars 2.

This has been a public service announcement for "Players for Subscription Gaming™".


  1. What are your thoughts on tera online?

  2. Until Korea comes out with a MMORPG that isn't a terrible grind-fest, I don't have high hopes. As I mention pretty often, I don't think the problem with MMORPGs is their action. I think developers fall flat when devising ways to incorporate the social aspects of the game.

    Tera has instanced pvp, so they've completely missed the entire point of being massively multiplayer.

  3. Actually I wouldn't be so radical about it. Imo it's about implementation. If you have a f2p mmo (even with pvp) and you offer only cosmetic stuff, that doesn't affect the pvp balance, I see no problem there (and trust me, Team Fortress 2 is the prime example, that people will spent a lot of money just to differentiate themselves from the rest).

    Another model, that is very common now is f2p with options to go for subscription silver or gold. Usually it disables some things like trading, city building, guild creation etc, but you can still socialize with your friends even if you don't have much time to play anyway. I like this new version of sub/f2p system the most of all available.

  4. Fair enough. I think the premium accounts would be fine if they don't use annoying nag screens that disrupt gameplay.

  5. Not really, I think the best player of Atlantica online say he didn't spend any cash on that game.

    The MMORPGs that I hate is:
    A. Potions spam MMORPG. WTF? You can't kill boss? Then bring 1000 potions keep spam your potions till he's dead.
    B. Solo-Mindless-Skill-Spamming-Grind-Fest MMORPG with lack of exploration. For example: Dragon Nest, OMG, run same dungeon for 30x per one level. I think the director said "hey, we just have 50 hours of gameplays, so we gonna limit the exp as much as possible so it become 400 hours of gameplay". That just brilliant.

  6. Atlantica has an item mall that is dedicated to reducing the time people play. It is an evil system.

  7. I love the pictures you used in this article. Great movie, that one...

    Anyway, I agree with you on the evils of F2P. I have not found a F2P game that I found enjoyable. I also think games that were once "ok" as subscription based games really became shit when they went to F2P (AoC I'm looking at you).

  8. "They don't want you clogging up their bandwidth, so they have no incentives to provide any decent end-game content, and they never will."

    In the case of guild wars and LOTRO (to an extent) I believe they want you to buy expansion packs and all the shiny cosmetic crap from the online shop.
    The longer you play and the more time you invest into a game the more likely you are to spend money to further your experience or be a brain dead idiot and spend $80 on a monocle.

  9. Maybe that's true, but in most cases they're selling items that help speed you to the end of the game (exp potions) so you can quit faster. LOTRO also recently added pay to win items, or so I've heard because they're far more financially lucrative.

  10. The free to play model, but being restricted to only cosmetic items that offer no competitive edge in pve or pvp, is a good way forward imo for MMO's. As long as it's not pay to win, then it's a good thing. The GW2 proposed f2p model sounds good at least, and I bet that if Mortal Online did something similar, it would work out well for them. I would be more inclined to check out their progress (or lack thereof) if I didn't have to either pay a sub or start out on a naked gimp and block pigs just to try things out.

    Of course, the incompetent MO devs would probably introduce 20 game breaking bugs for every new billable hairstyle or whatever that they tried to add.

  11. I understand that in theory it sounds like a good idea, but all F2P games that attempt to avoid P2W items ultimately all regress eventually. Their primary goal is to make money, and the types of people who want to play Mortal are probably not interested in carebear items.


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