The free MMORPG market is growing at an incredible pace and now there are hundreds free MMORPGS for players to choose from. As the competition becomes unprecedentedly intensive, developers have to keep improving their games in order to survive in the industry. The once wide quality gap between the free MMO and the P2P MMO is fading away. More and more players are used to “the free lunch”. They stop their subscription of P2P MMOs and shift to different free new games constantly. So, will the free MMO completely dominate the market in a near future?
As the P2P MMOs tend to have superior graphics and elaborate quest system, they are for the hardcore gamers who are willing to pay a monthly fee and spend several hours on the game every day. However, for those causal players who play game less intensively, the subscription is not good value for money. Therefore, the free MMO is an alternative choice for gamers who just play games occasionally and want to save money. Also, when there is no new content to hooking players into the old game, players will probably just leave to a new game. The massive amount of free to play MMOs are placing great pressure on P2P games.
Critics always complain about free MMOs’ lack of storyline and cheesy graphics. However, as I said before, MMOs are all about social interaction. Most “casual gamers” don’t give a damn about splendorous graphics, deep and intensive libraries of lore or epic length quests. They just want a virtual community where they can meet people, customize their characters, make friends, and go PVP. Conquer Online for example, as a free MMORPG which was published 5 years ago, has poor graphics and storyline. However, with the decent community design and vivid Chinese culture, Conquer Online still is one of the most popular F2P MMORPGs. The number of registered is still growing even under today’s intensive competition.
In conclusion, I don’t think free model will replace the subscription model completely as major developers will still control the hardcore gamer’s market. But F2P is becoming the mainstream business model of the industry and it indeed lets more players enjoy the fun of MMOs.