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[Editorial] General: Free-to-Play Fatigue Part II: Bad News for Game Design

BMunchausenBMunchausen Staff WriterBurlingame, CAPosts: 400MMORPG.COM Staff

Last week I discussed how the free-to-play model has altered both game industry business practice and the collective profile of the gaming public, neither necessarily for the better. This week, I'd like to talk about the negative effect free-to-play is having on the creative side of the game industry.

For me, this goes back a ways, back to the time when Pincus and Zuckerberg first rode in like the Two Horsemen of the Game Industry Apocalypse (Except when I picture them in my mind, the two of them are riding Segways.) It's not news to anyone that that match made in Hell was largely responsible for the metrics-driven game design trend. What might be less known is how many unemployed designers have learned the hard way that slapping faux game mechanics over micro-transactions is a crap way to earn a paycheck.

Read more of Neilie Johnson's Free-to-Play Fatigue Part II: Undermining Game Design

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Comments

  • mohit9206mohit9206 Maryland, MDPosts: 47Member
    I admit i love free2play.I avoid or quickly uninstall the bad ones but invest lots of time in good ones that i enjoy.I have never spent anything in a f2p and probably never will,i just want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment for the least amount of money i don't care about the developers or publishers there are enough whales out there to fund them.All you need to do is avoid bad f2p games and keep playing the good ones so that soon enough the industry will realize that fair implementation of f2p is vital to retaining playerbase.
  • Carl132pCarl132p Columbus, INPosts: 535Member Uncommon

    Free to play is awesome!!! I love not paying for my games!!!

    few years later...

     

    Why do all these games suck? I can't possibly figure it out?

     

  • Stuka1000Stuka1000 Posts: 865Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by mohit9206
    I admit i love free2play.I avoid or quickly uninstall the bad ones but invest lots of time in good ones that i enjoy.I have never spent anything in a f2p and probably never will,i just want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment for the least amount of money i don't care about the developers or publishers there are enough whales out there to fund them.All you need to do is avoid bad f2p games and keep playing the good ones so that soon enough the industry will realize that fair implementation of f2p is vital to retaining playerbase.

    If everyone was like you we wouldn't have a games industry.

    F2P needs to go away and the faster the better.

  • FearumFearum Cinnaminson, NJPosts: 1,166Member Uncommon

    It's sad sheeple are so blind to the truth when you throw in words like Free, but that is where we are today. I doubt the F2P games are going anywhere while they still have the huge support from the drooling open wallet people.

    All we can do as players that are not blind to this gaming cancer is to not even download these sad excuse for games and hope we suffocate them out of existence.  

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member
    Originally posted by eric1000
    Originally posted by mohit9206
    I admit i love free2play.I avoid or quickly uninstall the bad ones but invest lots of time in good ones that i enjoy.I have never spent anything in a f2p and probably never will,i just want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment for the least amount of money i don't care about the developers or publishers there are enough whales out there to fund them.All you need to do is avoid bad f2p games and keep playing the good ones so that soon enough the industry will realize that fair implementation of f2p is vital to retaining playerbase.

    If everyone was like you we wouldn't have a games industry.

    F2P needs to go away and the faster the better.

     

    If everyone was like Mariah Carey we wouldn't have a games industry either.  Since everyone isn't like Mariah Carey, and everyone isn't like mohit9206, we have a games industry. 

     

    F2P isn't going to go away any time soon.  Just look at how many F2P mobile games there are and how much money is made in the mobile space.  The problem is that choosing F2P as a developer opens the door to some really poor choices in terms of game play.  The developers don't have to choose those game play options, but many of them will.  Then again, many developers make poor choices with subscription or box sales systems too.  F2P isn't making developers make bad choices, developers can make bad choices regardless of the system in place.  F2P is just providing a very clear set of bad choices to make.

     

     

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • JJ82JJ82 Chicago, ILPosts: 1,175Member Common

    So, Free 2 Play killed the gaming market even though its been around since 1996 (yes that's right) and it was Zynga that did it, even though they didn't come around until 2007?

    Right.

    And here I though it was piss poor game design (as have been shown by countless sub based MMORPGs) and corporate greed that was killing it.

    You want "everyone is trying to make the same thing and there is no room for creativity?" How about the countless WoW clone subscription based games made over the last 7 years? Try that on for size.

    The genre is STAGNANT and it isn't due to F2P games, its due to corporations wanting to make the next WoW. If anything the only actual INNOVATION over the last 7 years have come from ACTUAL F2P games.

    No MMO made recently has been more innovative than Vindictus with its true action combat in an MMO. Hell, even the overall craptastic Atlantica Online brought more innovation than TESO is going to bring, it had turn based combat with a 9 man attack squad!

    What is TESO bringing that is new? Not a damn thing. Its so called claim to innovation is its lie about "open class" which is half assed and doesn't touch actual open class like TSW or even Asherons Call 1 which at least allowed you to choose all your skills. TESO is more of a class lock with more tree choices while allowing you to equip every weapon(which TSW and AC1 also did). Still limited and not innovative.

    lack of innovation = lack of creativity. Thus this entire article is bogus.

    "People who tell you you’re awesome are useless. No, dangerous.

    They are worse than useless because you want to believe them. They will defend you against critiques that are valid. They will seduce you into believing you are done learning, or into thinking that your work is better than it actually is." ~Raph Koster
    http://www.raphkoster.com/2013/10/14/on-getting-criticism/

  • mohit9206mohit9206 Maryland, MDPosts: 47Member
    Originally posted by eric1000
    Originally posted by mohit9206
    I admit i love free2play.I avoid or quickly uninstall the bad ones but invest lots of time in good ones that i enjoy.I have never spent anything in a f2p and probably never will,i just want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment for the least amount of money i don't care about the developers or publishers there are enough whales out there to fund them.All you need to do is avoid bad f2p games and keep playing the good ones so that soon enough the industry will realize that fair implementation of f2p is vital to retaining playerbase.

    If everyone was like you we wouldn't have a games industry.

    F2P needs to go away and the faster the better.

    What do you mean by that ? How is me not paying for f2p games and enjoying them for free killing the games industry?99% of people do not spend any cash in a f2p game so are all those people also responsible for killing the games industry?

  • GillleanGilllean NewYork, ALPosts: 169Member
    Free to play is evil !
  • ArndushArndush Dallas, TXPosts: 303Member

    I have never played a game that was F2P and had good customer service. F2P customer service is nothing short of abysmal. I'll use GW2 for an example. It took them weeks, WEEKS to get back to me about a password reset. Conversely, I have never played a sub based mmo where I have gotten anything less that awesome customer support. That reason alone is enough for me to favor the sub based MMOs over F2P games. However, there's more.

     

    Most F2P games have cash shops that rake you over the coals. Most gamers don't even realize they are spending more than $15/mo because the game says it's free, and what's a $1 here, $2 there, or $3 more over here. Especially on F2P models like SWTOR uses. Want to be in more than 4 pvp matches per week? Give us money.

     

    I'm not saying a F2P game can't be good. Millions enjoy GW2. Although, I found it to be waaay to easy. After my 2nd level 80 character in as many months (and I'm usually a slow leveler in MMOs) The game just lost interest for me. But when it comes to F2P games, I'd rather open my wallet once per month (or per year if they offer a discount for long term sub) then 20 times per month. If there is a market for F2P games, there will always be F2P games and I really hope they are good games for those who enjoy that type of game but, my money is going to a sub based game.

  • Four0SixFour0Six Missoula, MTPosts: 1,181Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by mohit9206
    I admit i love free2play.I avoid or quickly uninstall the bad ones but invest lots of time in good ones that i enjoy.I have never spent anything in a f2p and probably never will,i just want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment for the least amount of money i don't care about the developers or publishers there are enough whales out there to fund them.All you need to do is avoid bad f2p games and keep playing the good ones so that soon enough the industry will realize that fair implementation of f2p is vital to retaining playerbase.

    I am happy to pay for my experience, and would bet I get more out of my paid experience than your free one.

     

    I appreciate economic surplus, (any value above you willingness to pay you receive). In the F2P market all the surplus is captured by the producer. In a competitive market the producer only receives the surplus above the price, that below is captured by the consumer. Since the price in F2P is "0", there is no surplus for the consumer.

     

    In truth that old adage, "you get what you pay for", is wrong. Those who that applies to are only those that are willing to pay only the price, you with your "I don't fay for games", and those who find only $15 worth of gaming a month from Blizz, anyone who would pay $.01 more actually "gets more than what they pay for".

     

    F2P was a brilliant business model, and they will take all they can from anyone willing to give them money.

     

    Boom Economics, learn it and win.

  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon

    Take a look at what free to play has done to SOE,  they got several games they will be shutting down.  Why because they sucked so bad that nobody was willing to spend enough money to keep them running. 

    Now soe is doing everything it can to sweeten the pot, so that folks keep their subs.  

    It just goes to prove that free to play really should be called free to log in.  They are always trying to sale you stuff,and if they don't you can't keep the servers running if you have no income. 

     

  • JJ82JJ82 Chicago, ILPosts: 1,175Member Common
    Originally posted by Arndush

    I have never played a game that was F2P and had good customer service.

    SNIP

    If there is a market for F2P games, there will always be F2P games and I really hope they are good games for those who enjoy that type of game but, my money is going to a sub based game.

    I had an issue during GW2s first month of release and had the problem solved in 2 days. I have also had several issues in Neverwinter and both took less than 24 hours to fix. On the flip side, I had one issue take a week to resolve in WoW and an issue that took 3 WEEKS to fix in Anarchy Online.

    Doesn't mean a damn thing does it? Nope. Sometimes a company is overrun with issues and it takes longer, other times they don't and problems are solved fast.

    As for your F2P comment at the end. Give your money to sub based games, they are even more than likely to turn out bad and it will cost your more in the end. Sub based games have proved themselves to be poor quality so many times over the last 10 years its almost shocking that anyone still gives them money.

    "People who tell you you’re awesome are useless. No, dangerous.

    They are worse than useless because you want to believe them. They will defend you against critiques that are valid. They will seduce you into believing you are done learning, or into thinking that your work is better than it actually is." ~Raph Koster
    http://www.raphkoster.com/2013/10/14/on-getting-criticism/

  • FusionFusion VaasaPosts: 1,391Member Uncommon

    Paid / Sub games are (mostly) always of better quality because they get paid making the content.

    "Free" games are barely ever great for the industry or in quality, because the developers need to churn out a ton of "buy" content (most probably stuff they don't even like / want to do) that gets them paid.

    (notice FREE, B2P is not the same, yet they also need to make content that pays their salary)

    Currently playing: -

    Waiting for: Class4.

    Dead and Buried: ESO, NWO, GW2, SWTOR, Darkfall, AO, AC2, Vanguard, CoH/V, EnB, EVE, Neocron, FE, EQ, EQ2, DAoC, FFXI, FFXIV, SWG, WoW, and billions of eastern junks!

  • AnirethAnireth Posts: 599Member Uncommon

    As long as paid games suffer from the same or other issues with a similar impact, F2P is the way to go. At least you only pay for what you actually get.

    Like, each time a game is succesful, we get 10 games that are exactly the same, except replacing all names with different ones, and a hue shift, while at the same time throwing away half of the features in the remake/reboot of popular games from 5+ years back. I understand doing the one or the other, but both at the same time?

    Just like JJ82 said, it's not a matter of payment model, but a matter of the company in question.

    I'll wait to the day's end when the moon is high
    And then I'll rise with the tide with a lust for life, I'll
    Amass an army, and we'll harness a horde
    And then we'll limp across the land until we stand at the shore

  • WylfWylf Brentwood, CAPosts: 159Member
    Originally posted by Carl132p

    Free to play is awesome!!! I love not paying for my games!!!

    few years later...

     

    Why do all these games suck? I can't possibly figure it out?

     

    This is dead on.

    But really is there a surprise these youngsters like F2P with the freeloader mentality that exists today?

     

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    I have never spent money on any f2p title and furthermore I have never done a microtransaction of any sort either. Development should consider making $60 per person that plays thier game. No more no less. If your game sucks so bad that no one buys it, then you shouldn't be in the gaming industry. If your game is so good that millions buy into it, then congratulations and please keep making games.

    F2p lowers the standard.

    I think all people want is a free trial version and if they like it, pay once and be done paying. Dlc adds a dicey dimension, the suits will always want more with less some dlc is worth it and some is not.
  • PrecusorPrecusor PalmaPosts: 4,733Member Uncommon
    No wonder f2p "gamers" are pretty much begging for p2p mmos to go f2p.
  • Nickhead420Nickhead420 Schenectady, NYPosts: 131Member Uncommon

    I'm not completely against the F2P craze.  My current favorite game, Planetside 2, is F2P.  But SOE actually did a really good job at making you want to spend cash, and not making you feel like you have to.  Most F2Ps try to force it on you with gatings and restrictions.  Why should a 20 slot bag for one character cost $10? (Looking at you, Neverwinter)  I'm not a big fan of PWE games, but I do sort of like that you can earn game currency on their website through various surveys and offers.

    My favorite mobile game also uses that method of obtaining currency if you don't want to pay.  Pocket Legends is an amazing F2P mobile game, and it's been going strong for a few years now.  It's another game that makes you want to spend money, but doesn't "force" it on you.  I don't, however, know how well game companies make out on those survey/offer deals.

    Games like Candy Crush...generic productivity breaks.  There's absolutely no reason or incentive to spend money.  Most mobile games/apps make money off of the information and data they get from those permissions you don't look at anyways.

  • goboygogoboygo Posts: 784Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by felyx
    Originally posted by atticusbc
    Because no game that has ever had a box price and/or a sub fee have ever sucked. Sorry, I'm going to keep enjoying many quite decent games for free, and only supporting the ones I want, with how much I want. You can keep living in your paranoid, self induced hellscape.

    Exactly that. And to everyone who supports the p2p model, saying that it is the only way to make quality games: you guys really have no clue about how much these guys actually earn do you (and I mean pure profit)? I wont even try to explain to you how much of that money actually ends up being development cost and how much goes to the shareholders. You guys arent blind, you just dont want to see the truth (or you are actually dumb), thats why companies can milk you every month and you even promote them and the business model and smile while doing so. What a scam...damn. Btw nice troll article...I did not think mmorpg needs articles like this.

    See my response above this post.  Your missing the bigger picture that the article paints.  It's not just about you searching for some small bit of fun in the 1000's of F2P games that are spreading like a cancer, its about what its doing to the developers (you know the creatives) that have to work in this industry.  Its pretty obvious to me what has happened to the game play and design model since F2P took off.   Some of us though are oblivious to it.

    "Fighting Internet stupidity one post at at time"
  • Octagon7711Octagon7711 Chicago, ILPosts: 1,494Member Uncommon

    All free to play games do is allow you set your own monthly budget.  I know it's easier for a lot of people to say, just bill me the $15 a month so I don't have to think about it, but with cash shops in P2P games now, what's the difference?

    The bottom line for me is a great game is a great game, P2P or F2P doesn't really matter as long as I enjoy it.  

    "Change is the only constant."

  • AzzrasAzzras Loganville, GAPosts: 389Member Uncommon

    My biggest problems with f2p are:

    1. devs are forced to focus more time on cash shop items, etc than game content.

    2. when devs are finally allowed to make actual content for the game it's normally gated by a paywall (looking at you, SWTOR...worst 'f2p' model ever)

    3. you end up paying more for some f2p titles than you do for sub games...buying bag space PER CHARACTER (GW2, SWTOR, etc), armor, weapons, etc.

    4. customer support is lacking or non-existent for f2p...even if you're paying

    5.  most f2p games are just bad.  if they started out as sub and went f2p they count as f2p to me...and I stand by most of them are bad....not all, but most

    This is all my opinion.  To each their own.

    image
  • RobokappRobokapp Dublin, OHPosts: 5,205Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Wylf
    Originally posted by Carl132p

    Free to play is awesome!!! I love not paying for my games!!!

    few years later...

     

    Why do all these games suck? I can't possibly figure it out?

     

    This is dead on.

    But really is there a surprise these youngsters like F2P with the freeloader mentality that exists today?

     

    they don't know any better, they havent seen what we have.

     

    image

  • OrrinnOrrinn Jenison, MIPosts: 15Member Common

    My wife and I have been long time subbers to games like EQ, SWG, and WoW, and we've never had an issue paying a $14.99 sub every month for the entire content of a game, unhindered. In fact, asking me two years ago how I felt about "free" MMO's would've resulted in some eye rolling and a barely restrained verbal onslaught about quality, cash shops, etc.

     

    However, since my daughter was born, my wife quit her job to stay home with her, and our budget has gotten considerably tighter, we had to make the decision to cut the subs out. Time was also a factor, alongside the funds - We couldn't make any excuse to keep paying when our play time was severely lacking, too.

     

    It wasn't a tough decision to make (I will never understand the people that neglect their kids, house, whatever for games), but we weren't thrilled by it, either. MMO's aren't just a pastime/hobby of ours, but also a way for us to keep in touch with friends we don't live near anymore.

     

    So, after doing some research, we decided to try out the free versions of Planetside 2, Everquest, and Everquest II - This time frame also happened to coincide with EQII's lift on race, class, and inventory restrictions, thankfully, which we were surprised by - and we were pleasantly impressed.

     

    Sure, we were restricted from certain fairly unimportant things, and pop-ups to sub or advertisements for sales on the cash shop occasionally happened, but the majority of the game was open to us and we have yet to feel bombarded by requests for money. All of that felt like a relatively small, respectable price to pay to play without paying, anyway.

     

    On top of that, it's possible for us to go several weeks without playing, so we didn't have to be worried that we were wasting our money by not playing for an amount of time that we felt was equivalent to the amount we'd paid toward it.

     

    In the past we've only been willing to sub to one game at a time, as well. Now, however, if I'm in the mood to play PS2, I do. The next time I fire up my comp, I might be feeling high fantasy, so I hit up EQII. And sometimes I sate my nostalgia with EQ. I'm really enjoying the options that fit my mood, because sure, none of these games are going to meet everything I want in an MMO, but separately they check a lot off that list.

     

    As for those that are willing/able to spend money on the cash shops, I say good for them and that's really their prerogative. I would never advise someone to spend irresponsibly, but I would also never chastise someone for spending some cash on some things they want in a game they aren't required to pay for. Because when it comes down to it, game companies (any company) don't just want your money, they need it - They need it to pay their employees, their bills, buy/upgrade their equipment, keep their game going. But the fact that they're taking the chance on allowing anyone to play their game without purchasing a box and paying a monthly sub, garners my respect and gratitude. So, if someone likes a game enough that they want to spend some money on cash shop items, more power to them.

     

    There have been enough articles/discussions on P2Win, so I won't write a book on that, but I'm opposed and that's why I did some research before picking my "free" MMO's. Are they out there? Yes. Do I need to play them? No.

     

    As for the title of "free," I once read an interesting piece on how that name isn't entirely accurate, which I think we can all agree on, but I also think it's taking it a little to far (and a bit of an overreaction) to give this sub-genre a long, detailed name that covers all the bases so someone who doesn't pay attention won't be devastated to find out that they won't get everything included handed to them on a silver platter by someone who wants nothing more than to throw everything they have at them just for the pure joy of it, regardless of personal consequence. It can really be "free" for someone (like me) who wants it to be.

     

    All the games I've listed, and others, still have the option to sub for unlimited access, as well, so if you don't want to deal with the restrictions, ads, cash shop, and you can afford a sub, the opportunity to do just that is there.

     

    If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and I'll close with this: I loved my years of unhindered game play via sub, but the F2P games have allowed us to continue this great hobby and remain participating members of this community, despite a changing lifestyle and responsibilities. Would I pay a sub if I could? Sure. If I can't, do I still have options? Yes.

     

    Oh, and Bill Murphy, how do you feel about payment for freelancers who write long enough posts to be articles? =)

    Game History (the ones that count): Everquest, Everquest 2, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft, Planetside 2

  • brihtwulfbrihtwulf Grand Rapids, MIPosts: 905Member Uncommon

    This article looks almost solely at the failure of Zynga and the disappointment when people play those quick-in/quick-out "games" that are basically just mini-games making you pay to continuously play.  It's not a valid comparison.

    Games like The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, and Rift wouldn't likely be around AT ALL anymore if it weren't for the addition of the "free to play" option.  These games aren't the same as the "fully free, but limited time play" games that plague app stores on tablets.  They have optional subscriptions for benefits and/or unlocks, but offer a free version for more casual players and the option to continue playing after your subscription is up if you don't have time.  They also make some money off vanity items and other fluff.

    Without these changes, those games would be GONE and closed, and the developers working on it would be out of work.  And that's just a partial list of games that required these changes.  The fact is that there is a TON of competition in the MMO market.  Gone are the days of a half-dozen MMO choices.  There are dozens of options now, and many players want the option of playing more than one game as well.  They don't want to spend $50 a month to play a few MMO's a few hours a week.

    And if they're dedicated to a game, enjoy it, and want the benefits a subscription offers, then they'll subscribe.  Plenty of people still subscribe to the aforementioned MMO's, and will continue to subscribe if it benefits them individually.  MMO's aren't a charity from either direction.  They aren't making it out of kindness, and players aren't paying just to keep someone in business.  The company wants to make money, and the players want enjoyment out of their time played for the money they are paying.  It's about balance, and many of these companies have found it with the hybrid model.

    image

  • Squeak69Squeak69 Colorado Springs, COPosts: 956Member
    Originally posted by felyx
    Originally posted by atticusbc
    Because no game that has ever had a box price and/or a sub fee have ever sucked. Sorry, I'm going to keep enjoying many quite decent games for free, and only supporting the ones I want, with how much I want. You can keep living in your paranoid, self induced hellscape.

    Exactly that. And to everyone who supports the p2p model, saying that it is the only way to make quality games: you guys really have no clue about how much these guys actually earn do you (and I mean pure profit)? I wont even try to explain to you how much of that money actually ends up being development cost and how much goes to the shareholders. You guys arent blind, you just dont want to see the truth (or you are actually dumb), thats why companies can milk you every month and you even promote them and the business model and smile while doing so. What a scam...damn. Btw nice troll article...I did not think mmorpg needs articles like this.

    you are awarre that for the level of schooling or experence needed to make AAA games, develpoers dont get paid nearly as much as other proffesions that require less. 

    in fact most develpoers dont even get paid well at all and have a very bad job security.

    F2P may be the way of the future, but ya know they dont make them like they used toimage
    Proper Grammer & spelling are extra, corrections will be LOL at.

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