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[Editorial] General: How Free-to-Play is Killing Gaming – Part One

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,572MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

A lot of talk has swirled around the MMO space in the past couple of years about the free to play movement and its effect on the genre as a whole. In a new editorial piece here at MMORPG.com, we take a look at the notion that F2P is killing gaming. Check it out and then add your thoughts in the comments.

There’s no doubt that, in the MMO genre especially, that there have been many lapses over the past decade; titles that failed to meet expectations, titles that started strong and withered away, titles that never even made it to their target release date. We’ve seen all sorts of various approaches in the last decade to try and stimulate consumer interest and retain their hearts and minds; everything ranging from contests and giveaways to paid-prize tournaments and pre-order bonuses. Yet, try as they might, there hasn’t been a title that has left a lasting impact on the genre since World of Warcraft came out. In the last 2 years especially, a new trend has begun to arise in the online gaming industry, and that trend is the switch from pay-to-play to free-to-play. I’m writing this article because I believe that free-to-play is slowly-but-surely killing off the industry, and I want to illustrate the problems arising with the free-to-play experience.

Read more of Derek Czerkaski's How Free-to-Play is Killing Gaming – Part One.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • montinmontin IpswichPosts: 218Member

    Game piracy has been going on since games first appear on cassettes for the spectrum, bbc micro etc etc. So blaming or even hinting at pricary having some cause for online games going F2P is simply just wrong. Basically the market is becoming flooded with online games and hence some games simply have to be F2P because with using a subscription system they wouldn't attracted enough players. Just be thankful there are players like myself who support F2P by actually spending money on them. If none of us were about then you wouldn't be moaning about games being F2P because there wouldn't be any! As for DLC, I love it.

    The world changes. Get used to it. I for one am happy with the changing face of (pc, used loosly) gaming over its life time. A duration which is longer than most people who write about have been alive, but some of us were there at the beginning. Go play Zork, then you will be happy with F2P.

  • NadiaNadia Canonsburg, PAPosts: 11,866Member

    software started w freeware, shareware, retail

     

    ftp seems like a version of shareware

    except its possible to pay much more because its "service" orientated

  • superniceguysuperniceguy AnchorheadPosts: 2,278Member Uncommon

    It is not Free to Play that is killing gaming, it is the way it is being implemented that is killing the games.

    The only things that should be purchaseable in the shop are content packs, which unlock loads more quest to do, which get you specail items. But the way they do it is put these items in the store so you can get them without playing the game.

    eg LOTRO - They bring in mounts in the store which last for a limited period of time. If I see one expiring within 24 hours I will not have time to level up a character to 20, and get the Riding Skill, so what do I do, play until level 5, buy the Riding Skill, buy the Mount, and then not play the game.

    What they should do, is create content, that you can buy, and then play whenever with no time limit, when you reach the appropriate level, and get that mount.

    Alternatively the items could be added to the crafting professions, and be able to be crafted.

    The other things that are OK being purchased, are extra inventory slots (although in SWTOR these can be increased with in game credits), charcter transfers, renames, extra char slots etc

    Basically devs are being lazy putting in items in the shop when best played to get instead of bought with real money to get. Even XP boosts can be acquired by playing game or within crafting items.

    Free to play is mostly stealing gameplay, because it gets companies more money when people can buy it without having to play the game, in effect it is cheating.

  • nuttobnuttob Plantation, FLPosts: 291Member
    I don't think FTP is slowly killing the industry, however I think the deluge of FTP titles we have been seeing lately are going to start slowing down.  I don't think we are going to see very many (if any at all) AAA titles with a sub come out any more.  In fact that era may already be dead with what happened to SWTOR and Funcom's announcement after what happened with TSW. 
  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by superniceguy

    It is not Free to Play that is killing gaming, it is the way it is being implemented that is killing the games.

    The only things that should be purchaseable in the shop are content packs, which unlock loads more quest to do, which get you specail items. But the way they do it is put these items in the store so you can get them without playing the game.

    eg LOTRO - They bring in mounts in the store which last for a limited period of time. If I see one expiring within 24 hours I will not have time to level up a character to 20, and get the Riding Skill, so what do I do, play until level 5, buy the Riding Skill, buy the Mount, and then not play the game.

    What they should do, is create content, that you can buy, and then play whenever with no time limit, when you reach the appropriate level, and get that mount.

    Alternatively the items could be added to the crafting professions, and be able to be crafted.

    The other things that are OK being purchased, are extra inventory slots (although in SWTOR these can be increased with in game credits), charcter transfers, renames, extra char slots etc

    Basically devs are being lazy putting in items in the shop when best played to get instead of bought with real money to get. Even XP boosts can be acquired by playing game or within crafting items.

    Free to play is mostly stealing gameplay, because it gets companies more money when people can buy it without having to play the game, in effect it is cheating.

    Seriously I could not have put it better.  I agree it is the way free to play is being implemented, there are several games eq2, lotro and so forth.

    What we wind  up with is the dev staff is to bussy doing re-skins of the same product over and over, meanwhile we dying to have real playable content.  I get so angry when I see soe on their facebook going hey take a look at the latest item we are offering in our item shop.   Argggg,   I don't want items I want content.

    Oh well I totally agree with what you have said.

  • superniceguysuperniceguy AnchorheadPosts: 2,278Member Uncommon

    There can also be other ways to sub as well, but companies either just do $15 per month or free to play.

    SOE has All Access which allows many games to be played all under one fee. NC Soft and EA could do something siimilar.

    Before APB failed you could buy hours - eg buy 20 hours, then can play those 20 hours when you feel like it - log in one day play 4 hours, and do not play again for over a month you still have 16 hours without having to pay more. Overall more expensive, but if playing casually saves you lots of money

    Also SOE offered a 3 days per month before they went F2P crazy, so that suited someone who could only play one weekend per month.

    They could have also done weekend subs, that let you play Fri-Mon

  • rumplemanrumpleman ottawa, ONPosts: 34Member

    Ugg... why does everything have to be so absolute?

     

    "Free to play is killing gaming", "this game is dead", or "that game failed".

    When in all actuality, lots of people are gaming. Some would argue that there are more gamers than ever before. And those games that people often quote as "dead" or have "failed" are still making money or they wouldn't be online.

     

    Just because "you" don't like a particular game or aspect of a game, does not mean the sky is falling. If you want things to change, make a stand and stop spending money on the games you dislike.

     

    /endrant

    edited typo's
  • YakamomotoYakamomoto Osaka, ARPosts: 363Member

    "F2P" is mostly a scam. (same goes for "B2P" with cash shop)

    If you read "FREE" on the internet, something smells fishy.

    I prefer the good old honest subscription model.

     

  • Mors.MagneMors.Magne LondonPosts: 1,420Member

    In order to be 'free to play' there MUST be an element of 'pay to win'.

    The only question remaining is "how much are you prepared to pay?"

  • logan400klogan400k Owings Mills, MDPosts: 68Member Uncommon

    Interesting article. It has me intrigued by where the author is going with it. I think this is the first article I have seen where there is some kind of reasoned argument building towards why F2P, which seems logical in some sense is not the best way to go.

     

    In my mind, the current trend of "lets start with subscriptions and then go F2P if things do not go well" is a bit disingenious. It shows a lack of forsight and understanding of the market and at the same time seems to be an easy way out for a poorly designed game. Star Trek Online is my biggest example of that. I realize some people love it, but IMHO it was and is a horrible game that tries to do too many things and does them badly. So it went F2P and while I understand it has improved some aspects of the game, the basic fact that it is Space Pirates Wearing Trek Cosplay remains the same.

     

    I do not mind paying for a AAA title with both an initial inlay and a monthly sub for a polished game that can give me at least 3 years of good solid content.  Cannot wait to see where this article takes it.

    Just My 2 Lunars

  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member

    I don't neccesarly think F2P is killing the INDUSTRY of gaming, but the HOBBY of gaming...yes that very much it is at the very least HEAVLY TARNISHING if not out right killing.

    It's changed  "GAMES" to "ONLINE ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE". In a game, your experience, success, progress is dictated ENTIRELY by game-play. F2P has twisted that by making it include your willingness to spend and what happens outside the game. In my view, that's a CORRUPTION of what the hobby should be about. Admitedly some F2P games do it with a much lighter touch then others, but they all depend on it to some extent. YMMV.

     

  • AeliousAelious Portland, ORPosts: 2,849Member Uncommon

    IMO part of moving forward as players is to notice a difference between old and new free to play.  Old was a sub par game that allowed all access but sold power, that was the selling point.  Games that were AAA sub titles stil need income to develop and release content.  The reason we need to move forward is that games coming out in the next couple of years will most likley have free to play "options" but wont be entirely free to play.

     

    SoE, as maligned as they are for it, has a decent model for allowing free play and still develop the game.  EQ2 allows about seven years of content to be played without paying a single cent.  It may seem irritating that they always have new items in the store while content takes longer to make but the reality is that those items, for the time it takes to make them, generate a large amount of money for the company.  I know there are fewer EQ2 devs but I assume that some people working constantly on new content at the same time cosmetics are being made.  It's a juggling act.  Csometics take a lot less time though so you see that as their main focus.

     

    Personally I would like to see store items available as rare loot drops for subscibers.  Speaking of EQ2 again I get that you get 500SC as a sub but that shouldn't mean having to pay for the fluff on top of it.

     

    I think this next phase of free to play will be a great thing for MMOs as long as people are reasonable about what they expect to get for free.  Less income will always lead to less quality.

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member
    Originally posted by rumpleman

    Ugg... why does everything have to be so absolute?

     

    "Free to play is killing gaming", "this game is dead", or "that game failed".

    When in all actuality, lots of people are gaming. Some would argue that there are more gamers than ever before. And those games that people often quote as "dead" or have "failed" are still making money or they wouldn't be online.

     

    Just because "you" don't like a particular game or aspect of a game, does not mean the sky is falling. If you want things to change, make a stand and stop spending money on the games you dislike.

     

    /endrant

    edited typo's

    You put a sensational headline to get people to tune in.... clearly it worked.

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member
    Originally posted by logan400k

    Interesting article. It has me intrigued by where the author is going with it. I think this is the first article I have seen where there is some kind of reasoned argument building towards why F2P, which seems logical in some sense is not the best way to go.

     

    In my mind, the current trend of "lets start with subscriptions and then go F2P if things do not go well" is a bit disingenious. It shows a lack of forsight and understanding of the market and at the same time seems to be an easy way out for a poorly designed game. Star Trek Online is my biggest example of that. I realize some people love it, but IMHO it was and is a horrible game that tries to do too many things and does them badly. So it went F2P and while I understand it has improved some aspects of the game, the basic fact that it is Space Pirates Wearing Trek Cosplay remains the same.

     

    I do not mind paying for a AAA title with both an initial inlay and a monthly sub for a polished game that can give me at least 3 years of good solid content.  Cannot wait to see where this article takes it.

    To me it has always been easiest to look at all of the other industries out there.

     

    We started with pay by minute phone and internet. Choose who you call and when you call but pay for each one. Then people said "You know what would be better? Paying one fee a month and getting to use my phone all I want without worrying about any extra costs".

    Text messaging came to the world and it was pay by text. Then people said "You know what would be better? Paying one fee a month and getting to text all I want without worrying about any extra costs."

     

    The natural progression is for things to go from "Pay for each little thing you want/use" to "Pay for the service and use it all you want". The problem is MMOs started with pay by minute, figured this out and switched early. However, a modern movement has come around where people don't think they should have to pay for anything. People fought to try and allow music sharing for free so they'd never have to pay for music. People actual argue on why it is ok to pirate movies and games because they wouldn't pay for them anyway. People get products that allow them to record all the shows they want while letting them skip the commercials in one push of a button. And people want to be able to get a $100 million + costing game to be free to get into.

     

    So companies latched on to this and they look at how people suddenly realized they had spent thousands of dollars on iTunes or on small phone apps and games because at $1 a pop they never thought about it all that much. Now you get it for free but hey why not buy these silly sunglasses for $1? Unfortunately, many gamers are savy enough to see through that so then companies had to switch to selling stuff that was more than just fun, such as pack space/bank space/character slots. So now you get a new game and get 2 character slots when you used to buy a game and get 10.

     

    Now companies are moving beyond that to actual stat raising and essentially necessary items to get everyone to pay something. Battlefield Heroes started off selling cosmetic items and wasn't doing so hot. The moment they switch to selling actual better guns and items their sales skyrocketted.

     

    What is worse is so many players are insistant that this is the way it should be. They are literally telling companies to find ways to rip them off and make them pay for every little thing.

     

    Fortunately 10 years from now there will be the "revolutionary" idea to give you an entire game for one set price and people will find it to be so amazing and wonder why no one thought to do it sooner.

  • ForumPvPForumPvP KingstownPosts: 871Member

    F2P.

    F2P hamburger,mmm must taste better than paid,hey  i found one from trashcan.

    F2P soccer,must be high quality,wheres the ball ,wheres the ball.

    F2P scam,vov someone is rich.

     

     

    Let's internet

  • fenistilfenistil GliwicePosts: 3,005Member

    Interesting article. 

     

    I agree f2p and more precisely cash shops in mmorpg's and to lesser extent DLC mania in single player / multiplayer games KILL my desire to even want to play a game.

     

    I am not sure if it was meant to, but when first mmorpg's released and for me it was Ultima Online - for me it was a shock both in terms of totally unique game concept and in terms of paying on-going fees for a game.

    After a while I realized that I was paying for GAME ENVIROMENT.   I know that there are people that think and acti difftently but for me - it is what matters in gaming. Especially in mmorpg's.

    Cash shop and most microtransactions destroy it for me.   Because seriously, I am not playing to buy some pixels or to have my game ridiculed by either non-spending money in cash-shop (why spend X hours to get something if I can buy it for 5$?)  or by spending money in cash shop (if I buy things or pay to speed things in game, then why even play it?).

     

    So yeah it is totally ruining my gaming.  Cash shop / selling gold or rmah is for me SAME as rampant botting, hacking and exploiting bugs  - that companies does not seem to be able to handle - like reporting same bot for WEEKS and still seeing it in game.

     

    I don't know what kind of measures have to be taken.  Coopeartion with Microsoft to make 'game mode' with low-level OS security that disallow any code to interact with game that is run in 'independent game mode'?  Hardware tokens for all players? Real-id?

     

    I don't know but current situation with botters, gold-sellers and with officail cash shops, etc just kills it for me.

     

     

  • VichusSmithVichusSmith Flushing, NYPosts: 32Member Uncommon

    "_______ is dead/dying" One of the easy ways to get eyes on your work. I guess I'll have to wait for the other parts of the article, but all I'm seeing from my POV is a billion dollar industry and people who'd rather play a few MMOs for little cost instead of investing in a game that may or may not last, and they may or may not have time for.

     

    Saying that "This segement of the industry is in a state of evolution" would be more accurate, but less pollarizing, right?

     

    There's nothing more gratifying than playing an MMO for free.

  • HaradeasHaradeas TongerenPosts: 213Member Uncommon

    Only took couple of years or so, but finally people start to realise that F2P kills mmorpgs in general. There is no kwality anymore... it has become a mass production clone fest.... WoW, Lineage, guildwars 1 everyone knows these in memories for good reasons.

    F2P = pay to win, only 1 game did NOT do this : Leaque of legends. Also the reason why it is the most played game atm ( xfire hours played )

    F2P = lacks kwality, look at Aion, it couldnt deliver the kwality you normally get from P2P mmorpgs so it went F2P to sqeeze still something out of it. Yet I am certain this game will not make it another year :(

    Going to make a website with predictions ( 20 years gaming, wanna make it to good use ^^ )

  • evolver1972evolver1972 Port Orchard, WAPosts: 1,118Member
    Originally posted by Yakamomoto

    "F2P" is mostly a scam. (same goes for "B2P" with cash shop)

    If you read "FREE" on the internet, something smells fishy.

    I prefer the good old honest subscription model.

     

    Honest subscription model.  That's funny.  Considering the costs of running a game are basically miniscule your honest sub model goes to one of two things:  Marketing and Profit.

     

    And with the right CS, B2P is not a scam.  To me, that is the most honest and fair way to run a game.  You buy the game (just like every other game), and you don't have to spend another dime to play if you don't want to.  How is that a scam?

     

    I also think that F2P, if done correctly, can also not be a scam, although I do admit that model leaves much more opportunity for scamming.

     

    I personally think LotRO's F2P version was just fine.  I didn't feel cheated, or pressured to spend any money at all.

    image

    You want me to pay to play a game I already paid for???

    Be afraid.....The dragons are HERE!

  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member
    Originally posted by rumpleman

    Ugg... why does everything have to be so absolute?

     

    "Free to play is killing gaming", "this game is dead", or "that game failed".

    When in all actuality, lots of people are gaming. Some would argue that there are more gamers than ever before. And those games that people often quote as "dead" or have "failed" are still making money or they wouldn't be online.

     

    Just because "you" don't like a particular game or aspect of a game, does not mean the sky is falling. If you want things to change, make a stand and stop spending money on the games you dislike.

     

    /endrant

    edited typo's

    Admitedly, there is a bit of hyperbole to the authors statement. However, I think it depends upon exactly what is meant by "killing gaming".  On could easly argue, and many have,  that the amount of money involved today in collegiate sports (especialy football) has "killed" them, this despite the fact that more people then ever watch them. "Killed" does not have to mean "nobody watches or participates anymore" .. it can also be taken to mean "has warped the very nature of the thing so it no longer resembles itself and embraces things diametricaly opposed to the founding principles of the thing".  In the latter sense, I think a fair arguement could be made that F2P is "killing gaming", despite the fact that there are larger audiences and more money involved then ever before. The very same dynamic could be said to be applied to the money involved today in college football and what it's effect has been upon what was supposed to have been an "amatuer sport".

  • kaiser3282kaiser3282 Phoenix, AZPosts: 2,690Member Uncommon

    This entire article seems to be more about how "DLC is killing gaming", barely anything in there at all that actually applies to free to play games whatsoever. Its all about paid games with DLC.

    As far as the DLC part goes, I agree. Too many companies have shifte dtheir focus from "how can we deliver a good game loaded with stuff that lots of people will want to buy" to "How can we deliver this game with barely enough to get them to buy it after we hype the crap out of it, and then sell them bits and pieces of the game that we purposely left out for when they start getting bored".

    The entire system relies on suckering people into paying for what they expect to be a complete game, then selling them the rest of the game seperately. Its like advertising a burger loaded with all kinds of toppings, then serving up a bun and a piece of meat and saying "Oh you wanted lettuce, tomato, etc? Well you have to pay extra for individual toppings."

    F2P on the other hand offers you a game that you can play completely risk free. You dont have to spend a cent to get in and check it out. Dont like the game? Then quit, and you havent lost any money. Enjoy the game, then keep playing for free. Want to buy some extra stuff? Go ahead.

  • eddieg50eddieg50 Tolland, CTPosts: 1,613Member Uncommon
    Free 2 Play is great for casual players or players that play more than one mmo
  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member
    Originally posted by eddieg50
    Free 2 Play is great for casual players or players that play more than one mmo

    Cutting out commercials is great for people who want to watch a lot of TV shows too.

     

    But the funny thing is it is bad for the person who wants to watch lots of TV shows. Because people are skipping the commercials, they get far less money from ad revenue. They get less money from ad revenue they can't fund as big and interesting shows as they did before. So in the end what you found convenient ends up hurting what you liked.

     

    Does help to show when HBO and Showtime tend to do amazingly well at the emmys and they are a subscription service. You get what you pay for.

  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member
    Originally posted by evolver1972
    Originally posted by Yakamomoto

    "F2P" is mostly a scam. (same goes for "B2P" with cash shop)

    If you read "FREE" on the internet, something smells fishy.

    I prefer the good old honest subscription model.

     

    Honest subscription model.  That's funny.  Considering the costs of running a game are basically miniscule your honest sub model goes to one of two things:  Marketing and Profit.

     

    And with the right CS, B2P is not a scam.  To me, that is the most honest and fair way to run a game.  You buy the game (just like every other game), and you don't have to spend another dime to play if you don't want to.  How is that a scam?

     

    I also think that F2P, if done correctly, can also not be a scam, although I do admit that model leaves much more opportunity for scamming.

     

    I personally think LotRO's F2P version was just fine.  I didn't feel cheated, or pressured to spend any money at all.

    I'm not sure where you got the impression that costs for running an online service (which is what MMO's basicaly are) are "miniscule" but I can assure you they are not. I just got done putting together the yearly budget for Operations of my companies online services (and no we are not an MMO, we're in business services) which doesn't even include customer service/tech support and I can assure you it counts for a rather significant chunk of our gross revenue....much larger then either marketing budget or proffits. MMO's can get by with a bit cheaper as they don't have to provide quite as high a level of service....but by no means is their operating costs miniscule..... unless you think it's acceptable to run your game out of someones garage.

    Subscriptions ARE "honest" (or at least WERE before cash shops)  in the sense that you know up front exactly what it will cost you to play the FULL game up front each month. I wouldn't neccesarly describe F2P as "dishonest", but a little bit more like "hidden fee's" based services. It's not until you actualy start playing until you learn how much it will actualy cost you to play the game at a level you are comfortable with...and this can change drasticaly as you progress...or even day to day as the Dev's tinker with items and prices in the cash shop.

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member
    Originally posted by GrumpyMel2
    Originally posted by evolver1972
    Originally posted by Yakamomoto

    "F2P" is mostly a scam. (same goes for "B2P" with cash shop)

    If you read "FREE" on the internet, something smells fishy.

    I prefer the good old honest subscription model.

     

    Honest subscription model.  That's funny.  Considering the costs of running a game are basically miniscule your honest sub model goes to one of two things:  Marketing and Profit.

     

    And with the right CS, B2P is not a scam.  To me, that is the most honest and fair way to run a game.  You buy the game (just like every other game), and you don't have to spend another dime to play if you don't want to.  How is that a scam?

     

    I also think that F2P, if done correctly, can also not be a scam, although I do admit that model leaves much more opportunity for scamming.

     

    I personally think LotRO's F2P version was just fine.  I didn't feel cheated, or pressured to spend any money at all.

    I'm not sure where you got the impression that costs for running an online service (which is what MMO's basicaly are) are "miniscule" but I can assure you they are not. I just got done putting together the yearly budget for Operations of my companies online services (and no we are not an MMO, we're in business services) which doesn't even include customer service/tech support and I can assure you it counts for a rather significant chunk of our gross revenue....much larger then either marketing budget or proffits. MMO's can get by with a bit cheaper as they don't have to provide quite as high a level of service....but by no means is their operating costs miniscule..... unless you think it's acceptable to run your game out of someones garage.

    Subscriptions ARE "honest" (or at least WERE before cash shops)  in the sense that you know up front exactly what it will cost you to play the FULL game up front each month. I wouldn't neccesarly describe F2P as "dishonest", but a little bit more like "hidden fee's" based services. It's not until you actualy start playing until you learn how much it will actualy cost you to play the game at a level you are comfortable with...and this can change drasticaly as you progress...or even day to day as the Dev's tinker with items and prices in the cash shop.

    Yeah, for some reason the "fact" that running an MMO is "cheap" has spread through the MMORPG forums pretty significantly.

     

    Bandwidth at that level, for that many people, with backups, all housed in a major center, and the servers, and the IT, and the CS, adds up to a significant amount of money.

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