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[Column] General: Selling in Free to Play Games II

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,614MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

The free to play MMO market is a growing one and one that is still flexing its muscles and suffering from growing pains. In our latest Free Zone column, we take a look at what selling is and isn't in F2P titles. Check out our thoughts before joining in the discussion in the comments.

That said, a critical aspect of an F2P marketing manager's job is to encourage users to spend more than they would on their own. Whether this is objectionable is a matter of opinion. What's beyond dispute is that it's very widespread, even verging on universal. As a familiar example, take the question “Would you like fries with that?” It's mandatory for service staff in certain restaurant chains to ask this whenever a customer orders anything appropriate. I've yet to see this directly applied in a game, but I have observed many implementations of other basic techniques like volume pricing and buy one item and receive a discount on another. 

Read more of Richard Aihoshi's The Free Zone: Selling in Free to Play Games II.

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

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Comments

  • Attend4455Attend4455 BirminghamPosts: 161Member

    As one of the vocal detractors I would say that the market will decide whether F2P games will be successful and my own opinions will have little weight in that decision.

     

    I would like to make the obvious point that I'm not against free-to-play, actually I'm a big fan of open source and free games, but I suspect that your idea of free-to-play isn't the same as mine.

     

    Anyway, peace :)

    I sometimes make spelling and grammar errors but I don't pretend it's because I'm using a phone

  • Shadowguy64Shadowguy64 Rohnert Park, CAPosts: 848Member

    F2P have nice starting zones. I can't comment on the rest of the game because I, nor any of my friends, have played long enough in a F2P game to see it.

     

     

  • MondoA2JMondoA2J Henderson, NVPosts: 258Member

    Did people not really understand how F2P works?

    I don't play that many F2P games and I got it down in like 1 hour of playing 1 FTP game.

    To be honest F2P is awesome but in the end it really isn't free. Most of the time there is something you will need to shell out cash for.

    MMORPG Gamers/Developers need a reality check!

  • koboldfodderkoboldfodder Danbury, DEPosts: 390Member Uncommon

    F2P stifles developers from being creative, and forces them to design everything in small, buyable chunks.

     

    First off, there is nothing FREE about free to play, especially if you equate time to money.  Look at a game like LOTRO.  You can, if you have massive amounts of free time, create character after character and grind the easier deeds which give you Turbine Points.  Those same points can be used to buy things like ques packs, or expansion packs.  So you think it is free, but the amount of time you lose trying to get these points in the first place....might as well spend a couple of hours at work.

     

    Other games are designed from the start as F2P.  Neverwinter is a perfect example.  They are just coming out with their first module, and the price is around the same as a fully priced game.  They actually put "599$ value" when advertising their founder packs.  How they came up with five hundred and ninety nine dollars is beyond any logical person's comprehension.  If you actually want to do EVERYTHING in Neverwinter, you can literally spend hundreds of dollars.  You can also choose to play the Astral Diamond game, which is a lot like the Turbine Points.  They list it as free....but of course, there is nothing free.  You are once again spending hours of your own time trying to get something that was once offered with a one shot subscription deal.

     

    Old School Everquest had a subscription.  You payed 15 bucks, that guy over there payed 15 bucjs, everyone payed 15 bucks.  The game is still going on.  What is the difference?  One game designs content, the other game designs money/time sinks for everything in the game. 

     

    In terms of creativity, the F2P game lags behind.  In LOTRO, because they HAVE to sell small, zone sized chunks (quest packs, raids...etc) they are forced to design content that is exclusive to one region.  When the game was first released, there were quests that took you to all different regions.  There was a certain connectivity to the game that is not present anymore because the designers cannot design things that cross over into other packs.  Everything must be compartimentalized.

     

    If you look on this very website, you will find two to three hundred MMOs that are either out not, coming out in a year or have been out for a while.  All of these games have some sort of F2P thing associated with them.  The reason is simple.  There are not enough players of this sub genre to play all these games.  In order to just to have the ability to compete, they have to make them F2P, thus following the same limiting patterns every F2P has shown. 

     

    The MMO genre is where the console genre was in the early 80s.  Too many products, not enough players and not enough quality products.  The market collapsed and it took an outside developer from an old card game manufacturer (Nintendo) to revamp the entire design process.  But all those games cost money, there was no F2P back then.  So all you needed was an outside person with the desire and the ability to do something creative and different. 

     

    Because the MMO genre is creatively blocked by the F2P pricing format, a revamp of the genre may never happen.  What you see now is what you might see for the next 10 years.  Hundreds of "free" products, all of the totally inferior to anything created pre-WOW, stifling the development process.

     

    That is why F2P games are awful.  Not because the games themselves are bad, which most of the (not all) a re, but because they run counter to the very idea of what computers/technology  are supposed to be about.  They are supposed to get better with time.  Computers get smaller and faster, games get better looking/sounding, different creative ideas get introduced.

     

    But that does not happen in the MMO genre.  You are stuck playing the same game you played 8 years ago.  Just another WOW clone, or just another EQ2 clone, or just another LOTRO clone.  Over and over and over.

     

    Honestly, the best thing that could happen to the MMO genre is if everyone just stopped playing games.  That might be the only way it can get back on track.

     

     

  • orbitxoorbitxo fort lauderdale, FLPosts: 1,407Member Uncommon
    haha- love the rift banner! with the panda...
  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,718Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by koboldfodder

    Look at a game like LOTRO.  You can, if you have massive amounts of free time, create character after character and grind the easier deeds which give you Turbine Points. 

     

    Other games are designed from the start as F2P.  Neverwinter is a perfect example.  They are just coming out with their first module, and the price is around the same as a fully priced game.  They actually put "599$ value" when advertising their founder packs.  

     

    Old School Everquest had a subscription.  You payed 15 bucks, that guy over there payed 15 bucjs, everyone payed 15 bucks.  The game is still going on.  What is the difference?  One game designs content, the other game designs money/time sinks for everything in the game. 

     

    Just a few minor corrections, since I somewhat agree on the bigger picture :)

     

    LotRO is great for subs and former subs, so one can farm TPs with a massive grind - or one can just simply drop in a 1month sub.

     

    Neverwinter has insane prices indeed, it's much better to buy some Zen and with it purchase only the stuff you need from the pack. Btw you wrote a 9 more, it's only  $59 :)

     

    "everyone payed 15 bucks." Yep. = $180 in a year. (maybe less if the game gave a discount for a 12months purchase). Without exceptions. While in an f2p game there are the truly free players (with a massive grind and a wasted life :) ), there are the whales, and there are the majority who knows the model and paying much less than that former $180.

    (for example in LotRO you mentioned, in the last 1.5 years I payed only for RoI and RoR. And I haven't grinded a minute, since I hate grinding. True, I'm an ex-subscriber, but nobody said LotRO's model is favoring the newcomers...)

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    "If you disagree, you might as well stop reading now."

    *stops reading*

     
  • sunshadow21sunshadow21 Omaha, NEPosts: 354Member
    I have nothing against free to play in general, but most actual implementations I've seen fail to produce an engaging game, and that's where the problems arise. Those games that can make a game that is interesting to play while finding an effective free to play implementation are not the problem; it's the games that forget that they have to be at least somewhat entertaining for more than 5 minutes that run into trouble. Developers are slowly figuring out how to make effective games hat use free to play, but for now, most of the free to plah games are still way to obviously giant money pits for my taste.
  • philjamesphiljames LiverpoolPosts: 1Member

    I have difficulty in imagining what "win" means when people call F2P game "pay to win".  Mmos don't have a win-state such as you find in finite games - kill end boss, rescue princess and so on.  As long as you are enjoying your game then you are winning.  As long as you are enjoying your money then you are winning.

     

    Love to pay nothing?  You win.

     

    Pay a little/less than monthly sub?  You win.

     

    Spend enough to buy your own island?  You win again.

     

    So I suppose I actually agree with "pay to win", but I also see it as "don't pay to win, pay a little to win, pay through the nose to win."  They are all wins.If you hate a game and it's payment model, don't install or uninstall and you can win too.

     
  • tehnibitehnibi owasso, OKPosts: 7Member

    If anything i'd just like to see subs go.

     

     

     

  • RobokappRobokapp Dublin, OHPosts: 5,205Member Uncommon

    F2P fads are already fading...MMO players arent waking up yet but they are twitching a bit.

     

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  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by koboldfodder

     

    Old School Everquest had a subscription.  You payed 15 bucks, that guy over there payed 15 bucjs, everyone payed 15 bucks.  The game is still going on.  What is the difference?  One game designs content, the other game designs money/time sinks for everything in the game. 

     

     

    I hope you realize EQ is F2P now lol. So ya it's still going, but not as a sub game.

    I don't think you can really compare the two though. $15 a month was a lot more back then (14 years ago good lord). Also the genre was still very new and the idea of getting people to pay monthly for a game at all was crazy.

    Now, MMOs and games in general cost so much to develop that developers are requiring more and more in return. Not to mention the obscene amount of competition out there.

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  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Robokapp

    F2P fads are already fading...MMO players arent waking up yet but they are twitching a bit.

     

     

    I think that's just on this site. The general public probably isn't even flinching. I've met a couple people at work who play Neverwinter and used to play WoW. They aren't serious gamers but I brought up the whole F2P vs P2P thing and they said were pretty much apathetic to the whole thing. They don't care what the model is, they just play something that's fun.

    And I think you'll find that is how most of your average gamer feels. They say it's a small percentage of players that actually use a games forum. I can't imagine how much smaller it is that use sites like this too.

    I don't see the model going anywhere.

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  • KonfessKonfess Dallas, TXPosts: 952Member Uncommon

    Once again, to the free player, the problem with F2P is that it is not free.  If the game was labeled P2W from the start, they would have no problem.  When they realize that in order to be competitive at this free game they are playing, they must spend money, they must alert others to this horrific discovery and deception.  If however, the publisher just said come enjoy our P2W game.  Then the free gamer would simply realize that the game is not free, not meant for them, and move on.

    Pardon any spelling errors
    Konfess your cyns and some maybe forgiven
    Boy: Why can't I talk to Him?
    Mom: We don't talk to Priests.
    As if it could exist, without being payed for.
    F2P means you get what you paid for. Pay nothing, get nothing.

  • drowelfdrowelf phenix city, ALPosts: 104Member
    well life is pay to play, you cant get anything  free ever here the phrase "no such thing as a free lunch"? well you pay for everthing, no subs in life. So why be upset about a game then?
  • Segun777Segun777 Jade Dynasty Correspondent Lemont, PAPosts: 97Member
    Good article!
  • RhinotonesRhinotones BenowaPosts: 238Member Uncommon

    Free to Play is misleading terminology created to misguide gamers.

     

    As you said yourself - "a critical aspect of an F2P marketing manager's job is to encourage users to spend more than they would on their own"

     

    This terminology would be better expressed as Free to Experience or Free to Try, would you agree? Then there is no misconception that in order to play the full experience the game has to offer, you will at some point be parting with money.

     

    F2P is like a game of soccer, where you're invited to play as a goal keeper or defender at no charge. If you want to be a midfield player it will cost, attacker will also cost you. If you want an upgraded pair of soccer boots, a new shiny kit to wear, faster running speed or ball skills, it will cost you. If you want to see the opponents goal to be able to score it will cost even more.

     

    I know this model suits many players as it's been implemented by many developers. Personally I don't mind that F2P games exist, I've even tried a couple (though I haven't parted with a cent). I'm not a hater of this model but I know what I prefer. For me, paying a monthly subscription, comforted in the knowledge that I'll have 100% full access to the game and never have to fork out more than I intended is my preferred model.

     

    Edited for para spacing.

     

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  • jbombardjbombard SapporoPosts: 531Member Uncommon

    I have no problem paying for new content.  It is obvious that new content costs money to develop, and thus paying for it seem appropriate.  However a world created to be inconvenient so that they can sell you convenience items that took almost no time to develop...  Yeah I'm not going to be playing that for very long.

     

    If prices are fair(as I deem it) and I value what they give me, I will buy.  If prices are way out of line with the amount of time it likely took them to make said item, I won't be buying.  If playing without said item is inefficient or inconvenient in a significant way I won't be playing the game at all.

     

     

  • MischiefMischief Salem, ORPosts: 81Member Uncommon

    So originally you used “coercion” in a sentence where it is commonly misused for the words misleading or manipulative..  Then you defend the original use of the word by defining the literal definition of coercion.  Was your original point that players believed that MMO Developers were going to use physical force against them?   If that was your argument well then, Ya….  I agree with you, I don’t think they are going to send anyone to break my knees either.  However if you use a word such as manipulative, (which makes more sense) then peer pressure and competitiveness are more relevant issues.  Of course if you were just stating things that are not involved in the F2P model I am sure we can all name some….. ice cream…. There’s no ice cream involved in the F2P business model!

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Rhinotones

    Free to Play is misleading terminology created to misguide gamers.

     

    As you said yourself - "a critical aspect of an F2P marketing manager's job is to encourage users to spend more than they would on their own"

     

    This terminology would be better expressed as Free to Experience or Free to Try, would you agree? Then there is no misconception that in order to play the full experience the game has to offer, you will at some point be parting with money.

     

    F2P is like a game of soccer, where you're invited to play as a goal keeper or defender at no charge. If you want to be a midfield player it will cost, attacker will also cost you. If you want an upgraded pair of soccer boots, a new shiny kit to wear, faster running speed or ball skills, it will cost you. If you want to see the opponents goal to be able to score it will cost even more.

     

    I know this model suits many players as it's been implemented by many developers. Personally I don't mind that F2P games exist, I've even tried a couple (though I haven't parted with a cent). I'm not a hater of this model but I know what I prefer. For me, paying a monthly subscription, comforted in the knowledge that I'll have 100% full access to the game and never have to fork out more than I intended is my preferred model.

     

    Edited for para spacing.

     

    By that logic even a sub game is only "pay to try" if they have any kind of expansion packs for sale. Am I right? I can't play the entire experience for my subscription so it's just a pay to try experience where I have to pay more to access gated content.

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  • cydoneqcydoneq Hong KongPosts: 64Member

    F2p just says one thing.

    Buying items from a company is ok.

    Buying items from a player (D3rmah) is a crime.

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  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Mischief

    So originally you used “coercion” in a sentence where it is commonly misused for the words misleading or manipulative..  Then you defend the original use of the word by defining the literal definition of coercion.  Was your original point that players believed that MMO Developers were going to use physical force against them?   If that was your argument well then, Ya….  I agree with you, I don’t think they are going to send anyone to break my knees either.  However if you use a word such as manipulative, (which makes more sense) then peer pressure and competitiveness are more relevant issues.  Of course if you were just stating things that are not involved in the F2P model I am sure we can all name some….. ice cream…. There’s no ice cream involved in the F2P business model!

     

    I think his point is that the "coercion" in F2P games is akin to the same thing a Casino or grocery store might use to get you to gamble more or buy more milk, respectively. Nobody is forcing you to do anything, but yes, they are going to try and lure you in. All the coercion is in your own head.

    Personal responsibility! Some people act so outraged if a game wants to charge $40 for a mount like someone is forcing them to buy that damn mount. You don't have to buy it, what is the friggen problem?

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  • RhinotonesRhinotones BenowaPosts: 238Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Originally posted by Rhinotones

    Free to Play is misleading terminology created to misguide gamers.

     

    As you said yourself - "a critical aspect of an F2P marketing manager's job is to encourage users to spend more than they would on their own"

     

    This terminology would be better expressed as Free to Experience or Free to Try, would you agree? Then there is no misconception that in order to play the full experience the game has to offer, you will at some point be parting with money.

     

    F2P is like a game of soccer, where you're invited to play as a goal keeper or defender at no charge. If you want to be a midfield player it will cost, attacker will also cost you. If you want an upgraded pair of soccer boots, a new shiny kit to wear, faster running speed or ball skills, it will cost you. If you want to see the opponents goal to be able to score it will cost even more.

     

    I know this model suits many players as it's been implemented by many developers. Personally I don't mind that F2P games exist, I've even tried a couple (though I haven't parted with a cent). I'm not a hater of this model but I know what I prefer. For me, paying a monthly subscription, comforted in the knowledge that I'll have 100% full access to the game and never have to fork out more than I intended is my preferred model.

     

    Edited for para spacing.

     

    By that logic even a sub game is only "pay to try" if they have any kind of expansion packs for sale. Am I right? I can't play the entire experience for my subscription so it's just a pay to try experience where I have to pay more to access gated content.

     

    The first point I was making was the misleading terminology of F2P. I also added a quote directly from the OP to highlight my point with their attempts to "encourage users to spend more than they would on their own".

     

    Your pay to try re subscription argument has nothing to do with my post. Maybe you could start a thread within The Pub at MMORPG.com if you want to explore that avenue of thinking but please don't try to twist with your logic the points I am making.

     

    In a sub game people know exactly what they're paying for and they're generally aware of associated expansion costs almost to the dollar. There are no other expenses to have to worry about for full game play. This was the second point of my post - the unknown quantities available to players to spend above and beyond what they had planned for in F2P.

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  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Kinda why I prefer games where there is ONE PRICE and you CANNOT spend more than this set price like in case of mmorpg's - purely subsciption based games - althrough there is almost none left.

    Microtransaction based games that have price that goes from zero to unlimited (or at least to dozens or hundreads dollars cap per month) is what is fundamental and aboslutely needed of those business models and that is precisely what I don't like.

  • itchmonitchmon west islip, NYPosts: 1,714Member Uncommon

    richard i have always wanted to ask you:  what do you consider the best model of F2p?  seeing as you're the authority :)

     

    mine?  rift or aion, both of which were P2P first.

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