Why I stopped with the Free MMO List: a discussion of F2P as a business model

AldoAldo Hippo HoorayRegistered User regular
I adopted the Free MMO überlist from the depths of our MMO subforum in 2008. At that moment I was a college student trying to find games I could play together with a friend. I found out a lot of the games listed were no longer running or had moved addresses and figured I would post updates for everyone’s benefit. The stated goal of the list was to inform other PA’ers about exciting games they wouldn’t hear about otherwise, at the time that meant every F2P MMO ever made.

As the previous OP had long ago left the forums and no one else was particularly interested in taking over I got to make my own thread. I was left to my own devices and got the opportunity to write whatever I wanted about (generally) low quality games. I got to be a smartass, make light of ridiculous imported titles and share my misadventures with the forums for our amusement. It was a lot of fun and it gave me a nice excuse to try a whole bunch of different games without feeling like I wasted time if I didn’t enjoy a game. I still got to write about it, after all.

One of the first challenges I ran into was finding sources where I could get updates on new titles. When I started out I wanted to expand my list so I just started to google for “free MMO”. I ended up on a bunch of websites that did not actually have any reviews or information about games, but just linked to other websites and copied the press release from the publisher. I hated that; no one ever gave an opinion. I would browse through other forums and everyone would just talk about some gameplay details or whether it was better than WoW… Completely useless. Actually, one of my most reliable sources for larger titles were ads on other websites. If a game was published by a larger company they’d spend money on getting the word out. Ads for stuff like Evony or Fiesta Online were hard to miss and it were exactly the kind of games I wanted to review, just because these games actually got more than a few dozen people playing them.

I mostly relied on newsletters from publishers. Gamengame in particular was very interesting to me: they were sponsored by the South Korean government and functioned like a jumping board for developers looking for an English release. You could play the game through their platform and after a while they were deleted without any kind of warning. Sometimes they were picked up by publishers, but most of the time they were just gone for good. I still miss Richman Online…

Over the years this has changed dramatically: some western companies decided to try the F2P model and had a lot of success and other Asian companies decided to put in more effort in their imported titles. It resulted in an influx of higher quality titles that became popular. This was quite exciting for me as a gamer, because I suddenly had options and there were friends who played the same games with me! It got to the point where I could make a separate thread for a new game and it’d actually get a guild going. It never lasted very long, but that’s the way of the PA forums. Perfect World, Puzzle Pirates and Dungeons & Dragons Online were the three games that impressed me the most at this time.

We are now nearing the present, I don’t want to write a history book with exact dates, but suffice to say that the business model became popular and serious gaming websites and magazines started to pay more attention to certain new releases. As games like Lord of the Rings Online and Star Trek Online became F2P it felt like a dam had broken: every publisher announced F2P titles and a bunch of existing games switched to F2P as well. It used to be that a game went F2P shortly before closing down completely, but suddenly the model changed. Everyone kept on reporting that their F2P business model was their best decision ever and it has gotten to the point where a subscription-based titles gets scoffed at for not offering any way to play without paying up front.

It is around this point that my life became a lot busier with jobs and – just as importantly – a whole pile of games I could play that I had installed already. There was less incentive for me to try new titles and the bigger new titles were going to be reviewed by every news outlet anyway. What’s the point of writing a smarmy summary of SWTOR? It’s SWTOR! Everyone already knew what it’s about. Massively posts weekly updates, Rock, Paper, Shotgun will write an article for every expansion. I only needed to list it just for the sake of having a complete list.

The popularity of F2P has not waned yet (although there are plenty of people who wish the simpler times of the subscription-based model would continue to be an option) and my life has only gotten busier. I think half my posts in the last year have been along the lines of “I should spend more time on this”, but every time it didn’t really happen. My last bout of activity was a few months back as I listened to the MMO Underground podcast because they spent quite some time discussing new released. But after a while they went on hiatus and I had to spend more time digging through websites myself.

Besides the obvious “having shit to do” reason, there’s more reasons that make me less excited to spend time listing free MMOs:
  • For one, there’s so many… every online game seems to be F2P these days.
  • Secondly: the kind of free games I enjoyed the most are the slightly obscure imported titles of indie projects and it’s rather difficult to learn about them now that EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros and Valve are spending millions marketing their games. Gaming news websites will always report on any news surrounding those companies and only pay attention to anything else if something exciting happens. Let’s be honest here: games that are like Ragnarok Online 2 are dime in a dozen, they are not news-worthy. Thankfully Massively pays some attention to these games as well - mostly because these titles are huge in Asia - but they hardly ever post reviews and their coverage is spotty at best.
  • Thirdly, the influx of “MMO-likes” forced me to spend quite some time researching titles that I did not care about at all. No one plays CoD:BlOps because of the progression of your character in multiplayer: you play it because you want to shoot mans. Same goes for every MOBA: the arbitrary levels of your account are inconsequential. I had to either redefine my description of “MMO”, spend a lot of time explaining why I wouldn’t list specific titles (and constantly risk making “THE list” into “ALDO’s list”) or try to be as inclusive as possible.
  • I do not care about mobile gaming in its current form at all. It feels like we took 2 steps back just so we can play a game that plays worse than RO1 on our smartphone.

To wrap up this history lesson: I decided to close the thread a few weeks ago, but also wanted to discuss wtf is going on with F2P with you people. I asked Echo if it was OK to make this thread and asked him to close the thread. It has been nice working on the list for such a long time and it is nice to have a kind of reputation in a community. I am certain I will always be able to give some advice to folks interested in free games and I am very excited to see where this business model will take us and how it will crash and burn.

Because we will see a crash and a burn at some point, I just can’t imagine gamers to keep up with the cash shops of a dozen different games, there are already a few developments that point towards a new direction for the market:
  • The failure of some F2P titles for nickel-n-diming us too much. Allods Online had to seriously reconfigure their cash shop because they were losing too many players.
  • Big publishers got terrible ratings for their F2P ‘casual’ games (NFS, Battlefield Heroes, etc etc), forcing them to reconsider their tactics.
  • Successful indie developers like Grinding Gear Games stating that their cash shop will never lead to any gameplay related benefits (“pay to win”) which is winning over hordes of gaming fans.
  • The option for a subscription continues to exist for F2P titles and often offers the best value for your money. I think LOTRO is the best example for this, but the same can be said for SWTOR.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on the F2P business model and your personal experiences over the years with free games. What experiences stood out for you? Are you nostalgic for any particular time in MMO-history? What do you like about the business model as it is now? Are you excited about the future?

DarkewolfeGlalElvenshaeCorehealerMalkorPoolCueFuselage
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Posts

  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    My experience with F2P has been pretty much, they are fun for a week until the horrible grind sets in. I know other people have different opinions, but I've not found a single F2P game that was fun enough to keep me invested through to the end. Either because of janky mechanics, terrible grind, or blatant pushing to the cash shop.

    I've had some experience with games that were subscription and went f2p, in that they had a high level of quality and playability that could keep you in game, without investment if you so chose, to relative end game, but that quality and playability and experience slowly died off as it the conversion got older and, like above, started with more blatant pushes to the cash shops, terrible grinds and disturbing fall off on quality.

    My opinion now, is the same is that its always been. F2P is a terrible mechanic long term, and 99% of F2P games should be treated as disposable distractions, to be thrown away as soon as they become even the slightest bit annoying, because from that point on its only going to get worse and there's a million of them out there..

    As for you, @Aldo, I appreciate all the work and effort you put into it and do not begrudge you one bit for getting tired of maintaining a utterly insane list of games.

    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
    ArchAldo
  • Regina FongRegina Fong Allons-y, Alonso Registered User regular
    Having played numerous "premium" F2P games I feel like I could make a rather long post about stuff but I'm going to confine myself a bit; the repeat issues that I have noticed across titles that bothered me the most.

    #1 is crafting. Something about the free to play model means that crafting has to be horrible. Either crafting consumes a limited resource in addition to gathered materials (like dilithium in Star Trek Online) or crafting has a huge undisguised fuck-you gold sink in addition to gathered materials (as seen in Tera online and other games). I was actually rather shocked to return to TOR and find the crafting system basically unchanged. I am so used to this phenomena that I naturally assumed the crafting system would have been obliterated by the need to feed the cash shop. There is no doubt the crafting system was damaged by the transition (several old revenue streams had dried up due to superior pay to win cash shop substitutes) but at least I can gather X and Y and create Z with it without feeling like I just wasted time and money.

    Which leads me to #2...

    The all-consuming need to feed the cash shop resulting in asian-mmo style gambling. I hate gambling. In real life I mean. I went to a casino one time with a friend and with his encouragement I inserted a $20 bill into a one-armed bandit that he assured me was super fun. A couple button presses later and my $20 was just gone. Poof. There was nothing fun about that! It sucked. I do not see the appeal. I love cosmetic shit and costumes and horse armor and all the wonderful useless accoutremal that exists in MMO cash shops. I am willing to spend $$$ on the stuff. Typically more money than I would have spent on an older pure-subscription game. Why then must the best bling be stuffed into a shitty gambling system that asks me to spend hundreds of dollars for an item that is legitimately worth $5-10 dollars if that? It's because they can make even more money by selling me a tiny chance to have something cool instead of just selling me something cool. And it's working. Every game with a cash shop has moved on to gamble boxes. Typically the gamble boxes have less than a 15% chance of having an actually desirable item, and highly covetous items quickly fall below 1% probability meaning you must have either hundreds and hundreds of dollars of real money to spend on the game, ridiculously good luck, or unlimited in-game funds to buy it from someone with ridiculous luck. There is no appeal here. I am already alienated by this system. I feel like my $20 isn't worth shit to companies that used to be happy to take that same money for a month of play. Now if I don't have $300 to plunk down, I can go fuck myself.

    #3 Severe dissonance between the play experience of subscribers and non-subscribers. As if its not enough to rub poop in my face with gamble boxes, many games have seen fit to create a tiered system where the benefits to subscribing are so significant that subscribers and non-subscribers are almost playing different games. My introduction to this phenomena was with the struggling Champions Online. The hallmark and chief selling point of the game at launch was that you could fully customize the powers of your superhero. So, naturally, when the game went free to play it seemed intuitive to Cryptic to disallow non-subscribers from any customization at all. The power imbalance between a "free-form" original character and the "archtypes" played by free players is about on the order of the difference between Super-Man and Tigra. Tigra might be a perfectly legitimate character, but she has nothing to contribute on a team with Superman. At all. And so it is with the game, where free players struggled so badly with the generic game content that the developers were forced to de-incentivize playing missions at anything other than the default easy mode difficulty (where prior to free to play, all of us had gotten used to playing on elite difficulty). Separate games for separate tiers. A different wrinkle on this problem is seen in a later evolution of the F2P genre with TOR, where free players mostly play the same game, but they level at such a slower pace that a subscriber and non-subscriber cannot functionally level together.

    And that still got way longer than I intended.

    ArchOv3rchargeKana
  • AxenAxen My avatar is Excalibur. Yes, the sword.Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    In my opinion there are three types of F2P games:

    1) It is a cashgrab and the entire game is designed to squeeze money out of you. Whether with 'pay 2 win' stuff, majority of the content locked behind pay walls, or whatever other draconian systems they may devise. Even if the actual game is fun, the F2P system they have included makes it more trouble than it is worth. edit- These ones can be fairly easy to spot most of the time.

    2) The game had a sub, then had to scramble to change to F2P. More often than not their F2P system starts off horrible and then once the Devs get their bearings they clean it up. This is the fate of the vast majority of MMOs out there. Either the game is fun enough and you put up with it or you leave.

    3) The game was designed to be F2P in the first place. In my experience so far these games tend to have a perfectly acceptable cash shops. The only thing stopping them from being successful is the actual game itself.


    All in all I have no problem with the F2P system itself, it just comes down to how it is executed.

    edit- Compared to just a few years ago, I'd says Devs of today have a far better understanding of how to implement F2P systems without completely dicking everyone over.

    Axen on
    A Capellan's favorite sheath for any blade is your back.
  • lizbotlizbot Registered User regular
    My experience with f2p games is that they were often really fun and a great way to experience mechanics and systems that you wouldn't find in subscription games, which generally take fewer creative risks. I learned how to recognize aspects of games meant to feed the cash shop, and decide if those aspects were worth participating in, and if not participating would ruin the rest of the game for me. I also learned that anyone playing with an "I must Min/Max, get BiS, power-level asap" mindset is probably going to be either really dissatisfied or spending a lot of money with a f2p game ~

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    Elvenshaematthias00
  • Sorcha RavenlockSorcha Ravenlock Registered User regular
    I just want to thank you for updating that thread so long; it was always my go-to place whenever I was hankering for a new/different MMO. I never play them for that long; but since they are free I never cared much about that either. By the time the grind hit or the cash shop became mandatory I'd be bored and would move on to something different anyway.
    The market has obviously changed; we're far off from a time when FLYFF and Fiesta where highlights of F2P. It's a shame to see the list go but I fully understand it would be a day job to keep the list current and updated, especially with so many sub games going f2P.


    Aldo
  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    The main problem I see with F2P as a monetisation model is that it incentivises content development that, 90% of the time, will only be available to paying customers. Which makes sense from a business stand point, however it treats your free players as freeloaders who have to be tricked/forced into paying money, rather than customers keeping your MMO from turning into a slowly-emptying ghost town. And even then it's often fluff content designed to make subscribers spend their funbuck stipend, rather than game content.
    Yeah, developing new questlines, zones, classes and such is far, far more work than making a hat, but when you release nothing but sparkleponies for a year one starts to wonder if you're making a game or operating a store.

    As far as pet peeves go, the main reason I rarely spend money on these games is because of prices. Subscription MMOs have established a very firm "this is how much fun I expect from $15" (which most call overpriced even) and F2P microtransactions are ridiculously out of whack with that. The only F2P publisher I ever spent money on was SOE, and even then solely because of the triple SC Christmas discount that brought store prices closer to what I'm actually willing to spend.

    Knight_Anon the Felon
  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    It's interesting to read so much about the frustration of gamers with F2P, I completely recognize myself in the cash shop peeves and it's interesting to consider them as a slots machine or as a regular store.

    Every game now has those "lockboxes" that drop all the time, but require a special item that either drops rarely or never and has to be bought for real money. Of course you can't just pay for them, but you first need to buy fun bucks and only use those to pay for them. When you open them up there's always a *chance* for something awesome, but most of it isn't very interesting at all. I only bought into this once with SMT:Imagine, but it felt hollow, especially because nearly everything is only for rent.

    Which brings me to another annoyance of mine: renting armor and guns feels so ridiculous. Even if it's no different from going to an amusement park I like to invest in my characters.

    I feel like a lot of my annoyances would be taken away if I knew what I would get if I paid a publisher 50$: Do I get access to all the fun stuff in the game? For how long? Should I wait for a sale? Is this item only for sale for a limited time? Will it return often? What I did with GW2 and RIFT is that I spent the amount I wanted to spend on the game and then just wait and see what to spend it on. For GW2 that was the Molten pickaxe, for RIFT it were the new Souls.

    Darkewolfe
  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    All GW2 did was constantly annoy me with design choices that made me question whether they were just trying to get me to buy gems.

  • NosfNosf Registered User regular
    I thought GW2's buy to play was pretty novel, until I tried to get some more bank space. LOTRO as far as I can tell is the model the rest should emulate.

    Siska
  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Speaking as someone who plays alot of free to play games and has spent a ton of money on League of Legends I've always found MMO's and free to play models struggle to mesh well.

    In an MMO two of the things that work well are to do with progression and world immersion. Both of which free to play tend to cock block by making progress staggeringly slow and halting exploration/immersion to shove 'if you'd only spent X money you could get Y!' in your face.

    Free to play isn't just a business model, it's a game mechanic and it needs to be treated as such. Shoving free to play onto games always ends badly and I've never really found an MMO style game where free to play worked well.

  • MadpandaMadpanda Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    I enjoyed your mmo list as well, not as much looking for the next big thing to try, the habit of these games to dry up or have a disappearing player base is mentioned in the OP. But just to see something different.

    Steam has helped fill some of this void with their f2p section. The first time I tried to run Vindictus is crashed to desktop with a directx error, reminded me of those older free mmo's from your list.

    The absolute worst cash grab i've seen is maple story. I had never played this when it was hot so I didn't know what I was getting in for. I played for a few hours, got to beat up alot of dudes, control mapping was kind of wierd but it was still fun to grind and see lots of big numbers.

    Then I ran into the cash shop from hell.

    Want to teleport anywhere? Well you can buy a limited duration teleport stone for a few dollars, or a permanent for $25. Inventory space started really low and the game had a habit of filling it up really fast, want more? how about $4 per 2 slots or something insane. Even the steam starter pack which you would think would be permanent was all temporary.

    Everything was limited duration or ungodly expensive, and as far as I can tell there was no subscription option. And I guess the player base just goes with it.


    Most mobas seem to be pretty fair, I really like Smites option of being able to buy the full god pack and unlock all current and future gods, with the price gradually going up as they release new ones. League has a lot of sales and for the most part was reasonably priced.

    Everquest2, even though I can't get into the game for very long periods, has a pretty nice shop. Player made stuff, lots of different mounts etc.

    Madpanda on
    camo_sig2.png
    Steam/PSN/XBL/Minecraft / LoL / - Benevicious | WoW - Duckwood - Rajhek
    Aldo
  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    Nosf wrote: »
    I thought GW2's buy to play was pretty novel, until I tried to get some more bank space. LOTRO as far as I can tell is the model the rest should emulate.

    That part of my last post where I talked about subscription games going f2p, and being good at first and slowly with time devolving into the same f2p bullshit soup as everyone else?

    That was in reference to lotro. They are nickel and diming the shit out of it, I gave up playing it long ago because of it, and from what I've seen lately its only gotten worse.

    last I heard about it they were even nickel and diming the festivals.

    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    Speaking as someone who plays alot of free to play games and has spent a ton of money on League of Legends I've always found MMO's and free to play models struggle to mesh well.

    In an MMO two of the things that work well are to do with progression and world immersion. Both of which free to play tend to cock block by making progress staggeringly slow and halting exploration/immersion to shove 'if you'd only spent X money you could get Y!' in your face.

    Free to play isn't just a business model, it's a game mechanic and it needs to be treated as such. Shoving free to play onto games always ends badly and I've never really found an MMO style game where free to play worked well.

    Could you elaborate on how you see F2P as a game mechanic? (not gameplay mechanic?)

    I too concur that world immersion is pretty much gone the moment there's a big bright button on your screen that points you towards the store. It kind of reminds me of the Niagara Falls where you come to observe this massive thing of nature, but the exit of the boat tour is literally through the gift shop. There's no chance to just come for the nature/scenery, there is always that direct sense that you're expected to spend money and pay attention to shops.

  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Essentially you have to view any F2P as a part of the game that has to be fun rather than frustrating.

    Unlike subscription or one time payments where the only question is 'do I like this game enough to feel okay with the cost' anyone playing a free to play game are interacting with the business model constantly and it'll impact them at every point.

    This is why Valve's free to play games are such clever models. Not only do they not lock out significant content but they then actually make giving them money fun (because crates/chests are essentially gambling).

    League's another good example in that while you certainly get value added from buying more champions and skins you like it's not actually required in order to play the game in any way shape or form. It's a system where the model simply winds up having next to zero gameplay impact.

    Where as most MMO's I play the models are nothing but gameplay impact: You can only do one dungeon a week, you don't get X features unless you've paid, you could totally have gotten Y item if you stuck down cash. Basically where as good free to play games say 'hey you're having alot of fun, why not fast track to a toy you want by throwing us some cash?' MMO's tend to beat the player around the head for not spending and constantly scream 'jeez if you weren't so tight you could be having fun right now'.

    ArchAldo
  • CorehealerCorehealer The Apothecary The softer edge of the universe.Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    I'll keep this brief.

    I like F2P, when it's done right. Right being the TF2/GW2 and LoL routes of F2P focused on short commitments and cosmetics and less intrusive and RNG gambling bullshit. Most F2P games don't do it right because of real financial concerns and greed pushing developers and publishers to tempt people and suck them dry, building a poorly designed or gimped game in the process.

    I like sub games despite feeling like I need to justify the sub because, in my subjective opinion, they just result in a better long term game experience because they eliminate most if not all the intrusive stuff you see in F2P games and provide a steady income for the developer to keep the game alive and evolving. That's what I want, and I have the time and the money for it, I just need a game that can show me it has the mechanical strength at the start with it's most fundamental and basic mechanics to keep me playing, grinding and paying over a long period to justify that sub and that content creation.

    All that is why I'm excited for Wildstar, as an example, and why I still play a sub free SWTOR now and not GW2 but love both. I am hopeful for the future, and understand other people's views and experiences and can relate to them, but that's how I see things ultimately. Sub games aren't dead, they just need better justification, and everyone will have a different opinion of what justifies it, and some will never be able to justify that month to month fee. And that's fine. F2P games will burn out eventually, this is true; it's already happening. But this business model, especially in it's best practiced and developed forms, will persist and succeed for years to come and provide a reasonable, if less sustainable at times, alternative to just the box or sub style financial models.

    Corehealer on
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  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    Where as most MMO's I play the models are nothing but gameplay impact: You can only do one dungeon a week, you don't get X features unless you've paid, you could totally have gotten Y item if you stuck down cash.
    This was my experience with Card Hunters last night. Straight out of tutorial the game goes "aww, look at this awesome item you would have gotten if you subscribed HINT HINT".

    Arch
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    Yeah, that really really left a bad taste in my mouth actually. (re:card hunters)

    I had literally just recommended the game to a friend before that happened and afterwards I was like.

    Hm. I'm uncomfortable.

    I honestly would have felt better if, instead of showing the actual item, it was just an additional chest.

  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Card Hunters to me gets away with it because their model otherwise seems to be:

    1) Pay for some small side quests with essentially 'starter pack' style fixed loot

    2) Sub for queue skipping and an extra loot roll (AFAIK there's no difference on the loot table for the sub club roll and the default loot pool)

    3) Cosmetic stuff

    So it's pretty in-offensive and doesn't seem to be a big deal. Though I've not played much so I could be massively wrong.

  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    I'm told there are epic dungeons with guaranteed drops for completion that you cannot do unless you pay money.

  • ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    Glal wrote: »
    Where as most MMO's I play the models are nothing but gameplay impact: You can only do one dungeon a week, you don't get X features unless you've paid, you could totally have gotten Y item if you stuck down cash.
    This was my experience with Card Hunters last night. Straight out of tutorial the game goes "aww, look at this awesome item you would have gotten if you subscribed HINT HINT".

    Taken in context of Card Hunter's overall business model, the bonus chest "tease" is very inoffensive. None of the core gameplay is put behind paywalls, and it's all completely unnecessary to play through the campaign or amass a mountain of rare loot on your own.

    I suppose this speaks to a broader problem of every game having its own model, it can be sort of an onerous chore to take the time to figure out which games are monetized fairly and which games are trying to fleece you with every trick in the book. Or what "pay to win" actually means, since everyone seems to have their own unique interpretation.

    Addressing the topic in general, I think we're mostly just in the middle of a period of growing pains where both developers and players are trying to figure out what exactly the best implementation of F2P looks like, so it's not surprising at all that there are a lot of examples of games with really lousy models trying to feel things out. There are definitely also games that are knocking it completely out of the park-- I think Dota 2 is basically the gold standard for the entire industry. In the end, designing business models that are both profitable and not gross is just going to be another thing that separates mediocre designers from great designers.

    edit:
    Glal wrote: »
    I'm told there are epic dungeons with guaranteed drops for completion that you cannot do unless you pay money.

    There are 40 maps in the initial release, and 11 of them are "treasure hunts" with the guaranteed rare item at the end. There is nothing "epic" or otherwise special about them, they start at level 6 and are peppered throughout the ~18 levels of the initial campaign. There is absolutely nothing in there that is critical to playing and enjoying the campaign all the way to the end, or the multiplayer, and that guaranteed rare item is a thing you can find through normal play regardless.

    Scosglen on
  • I needed a gnome to post.I needed a gnome to post. i'm the bat guy (bluh)Registered User regular
    Dota 2 is also a gold standard that can never be duplicated because its designers had an existing ecosystem making them money (Steam), and the game they made was 8 years old and had an established playerbase.

    liEt3nH.png
    Corehealer
  • ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    Yes, your seven-person mobile F2P developer probably does not have the talent or resources to create a business model like what Valve has done, but I don't think "never be duplicated" is accurate either. SOE is basically injecting their version of steam workshop into all of their flagship games. User generated content is something that we're seeing more and more of, and it relates directly into how Valve was able to make TF2 and Dota work.

    I'm not even necessarily saying Dota is the model that should be copied either, obviously that exact formula is not viable for every genre and developer. I'm just saying that Valve went and made a game with essentially a Holy Grail business model (highly profitable and everything related to gameplay is 100% free). It would be foolish to say, "whoops, Valve found the one and only way that this is possible to do, pack it in boys". Developers should do their best to strive towards that goal, and in some capacity they will have to-- Every MOBA ever made from now on will be compared to the best examples of the genre, whether it's fair to the developers or not. It's only a matter of time before there are other "Holy Grail" games in every genre.

    Scosglen on
  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    Scosglen wrote: »
    edit:
    Glal wrote: »
    I'm told there are epic dungeons with guaranteed drops for completion that you cannot do unless you pay money.
    There are 40 maps in the initial release, and 11 of them are "treasure hunts" with the guaranteed rare item at the end. There is nothing "epic" or otherwise special about them, they start at level 6 and are peppered throughout the ~18 levels of the initial campaign. There is absolutely nothing in there that is critical to playing and enjoying the campaign all the way to the end, or the multiplayer, and that guaranteed rare item is a thing you can find through normal play regardless.
    Which works for some people and not for others. For me, "oh, you can get everything, you just have to grind" is not a valid excuse, because my time is worth more than that. And I don't care to have a discussion on what grind is, to me having to spend extra time repeating activities that paying members would not is grind and draws me out of the game and these days? I've no shortage of games to choose from.

  • JormungandrJormungandr Registered User regular
    Glal wrote: »
    Scosglen wrote: »
    edit:
    Glal wrote: »
    I'm told there are epic dungeons with guaranteed drops for completion that you cannot do unless you pay money.
    There are 40 maps in the initial release, and 11 of them are "treasure hunts" with the guaranteed rare item at the end. There is nothing "epic" or otherwise special about them, they start at level 6 and are peppered throughout the ~18 levels of the initial campaign. There is absolutely nothing in there that is critical to playing and enjoying the campaign all the way to the end, or the multiplayer, and that guaranteed rare item is a thing you can find through normal play regardless.
    Which works for some people and not for others. For me, "oh, you can get everything, you just have to grind" is not a valid excuse, because my time is worth more than that. And I don't care to have a discussion on what grind is, to me having to spend extra time repeating activities that paying members would not is grind and draws me out of the game and these days? I've no shortage of games to choose from.

    Whereas I would argue that the sign of a good f2p business model is that they allow grinding for people whose time is worth less than the amount they charge, and allow purchasing of that same thing for people whose time is worth more. That way nobody is denied content, and money is paid only when you want to avoid tedium.

    Granted, the whole game can't be like this, or there's no reason to play it at all, but giving a way to avoid an otherwise time-consuming and repetitive piece of the game to people who pay money is one of the least objectionable ways to charge money in my opinion. That being said, intentionally going out of your way to make everything about the game either grindy or $$ makes for a game that just plain isn't engaging, and so that wouldn't get any of my money. It's a fine line.

  • ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    For what its worth, buying access to treasure runs in Card Hunter isn't at all the difference between "grind" and "no grind". In terms of how your gear affects your ability to succeed in the game, the most important thing by far is tailoring your deck to have basic countermeasures for the enemies you face in that battle, which is most often done through management of the huge variety of extremely common equipment that you will find. This is stuff that you will find or be able to purchase with in-game money at basically the same rate whether you're paying cash or not.

    Personally, I can't think of a single tactical RPG where I have ever not volunteered to go back and revisit previously beaten maps or battles in order to get more loot and exp. That's how I play those types of games, so for me it's a total non-issue and I don't regard it as a chore unless the degree of repetition necessary is especially egregious.

    Anyway, if we're going to talk about games with unacceptable business models, Card Hunter is like... not even worth mentioning.

    Scosglen on
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    In an ideal marketplace we should love the microtransaction model; we can pay incrementally for the things we want more or less on demand, and folks who are less interested in the game can take a break or play less without 'quitting' outright. It allows creators much more ability to support themselves based on the market that exists for their game; a persistent-online-type-of-game shouldn't automatically fail just because the (seemingly pretty price-inelastic) $15 USD subscription model doesn't work out economically.

    What we're in right now is a transitional period; companies are still figuring out what works and what doesn't, and what consumers in the U.S. market are willing to pay for vis microtransactions. Some companies are doing a better job of figuring of this than others, but that's how it goes.
    Glal wrote: »
    Scosglen wrote: »
    edit:
    Glal wrote: »
    I'm told there are epic dungeons with guaranteed drops for completion that you cannot do unless you pay money.
    There are 40 maps in the initial release, and 11 of them are "treasure hunts" with the guaranteed rare item at the end. There is nothing "epic" or otherwise special about them, they start at level 6 and are peppered throughout the ~18 levels of the initial campaign. There is absolutely nothing in there that is critical to playing and enjoying the campaign all the way to the end, or the multiplayer, and that guaranteed rare item is a thing you can find through normal play regardless.
    Which works for some people and not for others. For me, "oh, you can get everything, you just have to grind" is not a valid excuse, because my time is worth more than that. And I don't care to have a discussion on what grind is, to me having to spend extra time repeating activities that paying members would not is grind and draws me out of the game and these days? I've no shortage of games to choose from.

    Congratulations, you are in the segment of the population that companies expect to actually be able to pay for their games. If a particular one seems like a bad deal, fortunately there are lots of options out there.

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but the goal of all these systems is to get you to pay money. If you're playing a microtransaction-driven game and never think to yourself 'man I'd really like to pay some money for XYZ,' that game should probably change up its model.

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  • ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    I think that's maybe an overly simplistic conclusion that isn't true for many games. There is a school of thought that having many players who never pay any money is still fine, because they'll talk about the game with their friends, post about it on message boards, and generally make up the backbone of the game's community and provide a sense that the game is popular and booming. This is particularly key to multiplayer games where the sense of being in a vibrant community or having a lot of people to play against is extremely important.

    All of that contributes to attracting more people who are willing to spend money. The cost of the bandwidth to serve that free player is less than the average amount of revenue that they will help secure by being a part of that game's community.

    Scosglen on
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    the napkin math on subscriber bases for microtransaction games seems to be that players can be lumped into three categories: the 'free' players who pay either nothing or nominal amounts, the players who treat the game more or less like any other and pay ~50-60 bucks annually, and the so-called 'whales' who are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for cosmetic options and so forth. The latter category essentially subsidize everybody else.

    But for that to work you still need incentives for people to pay. Some will pay more than others depending on their interest in the game, but if nobody ever feels like they need to pay money for anything then they won't pony any up and the game will quickly find itself in trouble.

    NREqxl5.jpg
    Elvenshae
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    I support the idea that f2p games should be about enticing some money out of me, because I now have less time and more money than I used to. There are probably other folks who have less money and more time, and together we can both be part of the same community.

    Unfortunately, that theory is actually mostly bullshit. F2P models work best (and by work best I mean make the most money) when they play psychological games to lure our dollars out. They often due this with a cycle of addiction and threatened frustration.

    Card Hunter is a great example. The subscription model gets you that extra treasure chest, and they SHOW you the contents. What they're doing is giving you a reward and then taking it away because you haven't paid. This is proven to be one of the absolute best ways to get under someone's skin in a way that gets them to pay up.

    It's NEVER going to be about being such a good game that you just feel compelled to give them money because, wow, great game. They have to trick your money out of you, and in the end that isn't fun.

    Darkewolfe on
    What is this I don't even.
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    I agree that people just giving money to a thing because because is probably not a reasonable thing to expect, but that doesn't mean every microtransaction model is that obnoxious. I've played a fair bit of planetside 2 and the mechwarrior online beta the last year or so, and neither of their marketplaces is openly exploitative like that. SWTOR or LOTRO have been relatively successful in the somewhat-long-term (SWTOR in particular has been a good deal for me, since I get a nice little star wars fix occasionally in exchange for no money whatsoever.)

    stuff like what you're describing with card hunter doesn't really offend me because it's immediately recognizable as behaviorally manipulative bullshit and I just avoid it.

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  • DeansDeans Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    The great thing about Planetside 2 is that free players provide even more content than they do in other games. Huge battles are the entire draw of it, so turning free players away is way against their interests.

    There could still be improvements though, like starter vehicles missing valuable equipment you need to be effective. Also I'd like it if the free cert points weren't cut off at 12, giving people even more incentive to return to the game after long breaks.

    I also love user-created gear in cash shops, it's hard to complain about that.

    Deans on
    Elvenshae
  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    stuff like what you're describing with card hunter doesn't really offend me because it's immediately recognizable as behaviorally manipulative bullshit and I just avoid it.
    But that little screen will always be there showing what could have been if oooonly youd have spent some funbucks. A lot of people will poke through and stay determined, but every day someone will see that one item they really wanted and cave in.
    Is that evil? Im not sure.

    DarkewolfeElvenshae
  • Ov3rchargeOv3rcharge R.I.P. Mass Effect You were dead to me for yearsRegistered User regular
    edited September 2013
    I gotta step in and say SWTOR's F2P system is abysmal and I genuinely hope no company ever looks at that and says "I'd like to do what those guys are doing."

    The game does not persuade you to part with your money, it gets in your face and asks you what the fuck you're doing here if you don't want to pony up. First of all you get an experience nerf from being F2P which means you are all ready SOL if you have any friends who are subscribers. You will eventually be out leveled by story content because the game isn't balanced for someone who's getting an experience penalty. Normally if I'm under leveled I'd run a few flashpoints (dungeons) to boost my toon up a level or two. Except you have to whip out the old credit card if you want to run more than once. And have fun playing at higher levels with only two action bars. Which means I've cut my character down to the bare essential abilities taking all of the extra nuance out of my class and having to scroll through menus every time I want to mount up or fast travel (which you are also charged for.)

    Star Wars is a gigantic fucking franchise with a huge mythos to draw from that they can make cool armor, mounts, pets, etc. to sell people. But Bioware and EA are more content with bending their customers over the barrel and ramming them in the ass with their moneycocks until moolah is bursting from every orifice. If I didn't subscribe I wouldn't play this game past the prologue it's nickel and dime central.

    Ov3rcharge on
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    you can make most of those issues disappear by kicking them like, five bucks. SWTOR is actually a pretty good deal as 'free' MMOs go as long as you don't actually want to raid; I haven't given them any money in literally like a year and I can run all the small group instance stuff I want, level alts reasonably quickly (it gets to be a bit of a grind but not an incredibly onerous one) and I don't know how many action bars I'm limited to but it's more than I ever use.

    You can even kind of raid as a 'preferred' (SWTOR parlance for 'somebody who gave us money at some point' for those unfamiliar) if you're willing to grind a fairly piddly number of credits for a weekly raid pass. I think maybe you can't do hardmode raids though

    even their first expansion is, afaik, going to be baked into the 'F2P' experience before very much longer, isn't it?
    Aldo wrote: »
    stuff like what you're describing with card hunter doesn't really offend me because it's immediately recognizable as behaviorally manipulative bullshit and I just avoid it.
    But that little screen will always be there showing what could have been if oooonly youd have spent some funbucks. A lot of people will poke through and stay determined, but every day someone will see that one item they really wanted and cave in.
    Is that evil? Im not sure.

    no I mean, if a game's that baldly manipulative I just want to quit. I think it's the same reason I can't stick with games like diablo 3 or borderlands 2, beyond finishing them once or twice.

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    SWTOR as a model has always pretty much being 'you can sub or you can be our whipping boy'.

    It's not particularly great.

    Also speaking of 'bad' free to play practices: Inventory slots. Things like Tank slots in World of Tanks, Weapon and Suit slots in Warframe etc. etc. It really irks me because it feels like I'm not giving them money for anything. It's not even circumventing grind or anything, it's just 'well you've played enough to fill your inventory, how about you chuck us some money?'

  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    SWTOR as a model has always pretty much being 'you can sub or you can be our whipping boy'.

    It's not particularly great.

    Also speaking of 'bad' free to play practices: Inventory slots. Things like Tank slots in World of Tanks, Weapon and Suit slots in Warframe etc. etc. It really irks me because it feels like I'm not giving them money for anything. It's not even circumventing grind or anything, it's just 'well you've played enough to fill your inventory, how about you chuck us some money?'

    Every MMO dev ever: "Lets make every mob drop 3 different vendor trash items and price extra inventory bags at 5$ each."

    Aldo on
    DarkewolfeElvenshaeKana
  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Yeeep.

    And I am weak and bad at managing inventory already.

    So it's like targeted to get my money and I never feel happy with the purchase because it's not like it's actual content or anything.

    Darkewolfe
  • ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited September 2013

    Also speaking of 'bad' free to play practices: Inventory slots. Things like Tank slots in World of Tanks, Weapon and Suit slots in Warframe etc. etc. It really irks me because it feels like I'm not giving them money for anything. It's not even circumventing grind or anything, it's just 'well you've played enough to fill your inventory, how about you chuck us some money?'

    Like everything about this discussion, it really depends from game to game how the mechanic is implemented.

    Warframe, for instance-- I put 10 bucks into the game and I have enough platinum that I will probably never run out because I'm only ever going to spend it on (very cheap) slot space, and slots are basically the only thing in that game that you can't get through regular play. Would you rather have to give them money for core gameplay features and content? I think Warframe in particular could probably use some way to slowly earn more inventory space through sweat equity, since collecting things is basically the entire point of the game. However, In terms of lesser evils, I think this is better than what many other games do, which is lock off content and tightly control your inventory space.

    Scosglen on
  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    I quite like Warframe. I gave them money for gameplay elements even though they're pretty wildly overpriced because I really dig their game. I don't like giving them money for what basically amounts to no content at all except not having to sell my old stuff.

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