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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

In response to Richard Aihoshi's: F2P or not F2P

Posted by Inktomi Monday June 29 2009 at 11:56PM
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I was going to comment on the forums, but the writing demon took over my keyboard so I decided to write a full article on it. 

I have been working on a project for F2P and a virtual currency series. I feel that long term there will be certain changes and effects on how we spend money on the internet and predict that there will be one universal online currency one day. I've been doing ALOT of research, to the point that it is killing my gametime, but again this supposedly is fun to me. I read Richard's stuff alot, some stuff I agree with and some I don't. I take a "take what you can and leave the rest" attitude in whatever I do; especially in gaming, journalism and culture.

 I saved an article that ingame advertisiing would reach $1 Billion by 2014. HERE

So the big powers that be in the advertising world and the game companies are going to throw millions of ads in our face between now and then while we are bashing someone head in. Big deal. Again, one this I do agree with is that games is a HUGE business. However, the western world just doesn't seem to love (many like, but don't love) the game that you feel that is clawing at your pockets every chance it gets. It's just not fun, I'm sorry. I don't mind seeing an ad, but don't take away from the experience, that happens with TV and quite honestly, I hardly watch TV but will watch an uninterupted DVD with in-movie advertisiing. Because it doesn't take away from the movie itself.

The clearest way that a community or society speaks is by patronism. If you notice the top 10 most popular games on are listed as follows. 7 pay to play games, 1 free to play, 1 free to try then subscription and one unreleased. I don't think that ST:TOR is going to be free to play. And the sole free to play game, imo , is by itself a great game, I ran it for a few months before I moved on. You don't see any f2p games in the hype column either. This community has spoken and not even said a word. They spoke with their time and money, which is univeral in any language.

The Gamer Society that I know like to have their costs up front, know what they are paying and hope they know what they are getting. I particually do not like to be coaxed into a situation with words such as "free" just to be stuck with costs to progress ON TOP OF the time I am spending to progress (grinding, leveling, pvping etc) in a game. I would like to say, "Ok, this is what I'm playing, what I want to do in this game and this is how much it's gonna cost me." Very simple math that doesn't have me looking for my credit card and have to balance a checkbook every time I want to get a new ( Insert Macguffin here ). I feel that in F2P games, for my time and money this game better be worth it. Some are, mind you, but most are not and I can say for myself I am tired of getting burned, I'm very wary these days. Most AAA rated MMO's except for a chosen few, are subscription based, we are paying for quality and I will  never mind that, I am sometimes even wary of them.

Free to try is a powerful tool, it gives people the chance to fall in love with something before you have to marry it. And yes, when we put down a credit card number we are commiting to a monthly charge and in some cases it's not easy just to close an account. There is an individual that has had some problems in cancellling his Chronicles of Spellborn account and that is a nightmare. I for one liked the method they used, to play the game until a certain level then "poop or get off the pot". That worked for me and I left that game uncommited.

On DDO going online, the game was losing customers slowly but surely. I interviewed players from all stages and it was a split, half was going to continue or start playing the game and the other were quitting or not going back. The dichotomy there was plain as day, whether they stay long term only time will tell. That is the only thing inevitable in that scenario, time will pass and people will speak without saying a word. I personally think that it was very shrewd on what turbine is doing, they see the effect of f2p has on many other games and are trying to capture that market share. When I figured out that if I was going to play DDO, then I would be paying 15 for VIP then having to spend money to open content, I changed my mind. You can't bleed me dry, it's one or the other, I'll pay your sub or buy content. Sorry, I work off a budget.

I for one am investing in a few F2P games, one of them is Free Realms. I have a 3 year old nephew who I love dearly, sometimes when I watch him we play Free Realms and Spider Man: Web of shadows (he loves it). Where SOE gets my money is through, "Uncle Frank, I want to race a car." I promptly buy him a racecar of his choice. "Uncle Frank, can we do this" and out comes my credit card again for a monthly sub. Yeah, it's only 5 bucks, but I feel a little resentful that I have to pay $5 bucks AND get pinched for every othe crazy whim that a little 3 year old has, AND THEY HAVE A MILLION OF THEM!

Wizard101 is doing the exact same marketing scheme. That's how they get to the parents wallets is from the big pair of ___ eyes that you just can't refuse. Children have been always been very successful on weaseling money out of adults, And game companies continue to exploit it. I don't mind, I'm never cheap when it comes to familt, although if it was just $5 bucks or even $15 bucks it would be ok, because it's quality time and the costs are capped. For everything else there is the word no.

Today China banned the use of virtual money for trading in real goods. So that blows my Universal Virtual Currency theory right out of the water. But you also have to consider, why did the Chinese government (china the home of RMT) shut down a mulit-billion Yuan business? Was the fact that people were using that money to gamble, were people getting ripped off, laundering money? Were Chinese workers being mistreated and forced to work in bad "sweatshop" like environments? These are all activities surrounding the RMT market. Obviously something wasn't right there and The Chinese Government has spoken.

The game that is courting me now is Ryzom, I dl'd it for FREE, I get a 21 day trial and only $11 bucks for a sub. Thank you Boo Turk-aye! WOW that was a good deal and I am getting alot of game for $11 dollars. The game is very good quality and has alot of things that most F2P's don't have, for one is a content editor. I also have friends in LOTRO that are beating me up to go there, "cmon we have a big guild" they say. But even at a price of 9.95 for the software and 9.95 a month, I can't commit. I am happy with getting something free and trying something new for once.

So I don't knock getting something for free, just make sure everything is on the up and up. Don't hit me with hidden fees, don't lock content behing the cash shop, don't let millions of bot in to spam the trade channel, don't give me terrible customer service, don't force feed me stuff that I need to buy to advance, if I want it I will earn it. And don't tell me that I go to work to earn it, I go to work to pay my bills, whatever I have left over goes to my interests.

Don't tell me that something is inevitable, that means I don't have a choice. There are many things that I don't have a choice such as rent, food, heat, electricity, family and sleeping. I have a choice when it comes to my methods personal fun, being books, movies or games.   And for those I let my time be the judge and let my money do the talking, for everything else I have a blog. 

Any questions or comments feel free to email me.

Play safe,


UnSub writes:

Some things are inevitable, but you do get a choice. You don't have to play games with any kind of microtrans elements in them, but as time goes on you'll find it harder and harder to find those titles.

Tue Jun 30 2009 12:49AM Report
wyrde writes:

Re: DDO.  Last time I looked (about a week ago), according to the FAQs and responses from turbine staff, a DDO subscription granted all current and all added content while subscribed. It also gave a monthly "allowance" that could be used in the cash shop. The only things I saw mentioned, specifically, that would need to be paid for would be extra character slots (which those points can be used for) and cosmetic items.

Re: China. Note that the Chinese Government did not shut down virtual currency, just the use of virtual currency as a means to acquire real goods. In other words, they stopped the use of virtual currency as real currency.


Tue Jun 30 2009 1:57AM Report
Inktomi writes:

 wyrde: Its a ban essentially. When I say shutdown, I mean that in a descriptive phase, ie: "just shut it down!". Right about the allowance, all the details for ddo exhange are still being formed right, or are they set in stone?

Un: do you really think all mmos will go f2p?

Tue Jun 30 2009 8:32AM Report
fansede writes:

 Could it be that China would not be able to collect revenue if they let virtual items be bought and sold via internet? 

Virtual currency may be the next currency of the world. Crazy thought in my head. If the world traded in virtual currency, the yen the dollar and other paper products would be getting obsolete like a checkbook. Value would only be determined by the two parties involved in bartering. 

Ok ..pscychotropic drugs worn off.. 

What did I say?


Tue Jun 30 2009 8:37AM Report
Kataline writes:

All MMO's will never be F2P unfortunately, we all know the big companies are out to produce the best game and rack in the most money. And the myth always stands, you pay for quality rather than the standard. Most people think that playing a "pay to play" game will be well worth it as far as content, quality, etc.. rather than a "free to play" that doesn't offer as much as the latter. There are always exceptions to that of course, but just saying. Out of all of the free to play games I've played against all of the pay to play games I go with the pay to play hands down. Me and cash shops don't mix.  And I'm outtie...

Tue Jun 30 2009 8:51AM Report
cmagoun writes:

For me, F2P has one big draw -- it's free. Yeah, I know, obvious... and I know the games aren't really currency free, but they are guilt free. See, if I can forego the monthly subscription to play Atlantica, or RoM, then I can easily set my kids up on a second account to play with them. I can keep my Gamefly sub active while still playing an MMO. I can play a subscription MMO while playing an F2P MMO at the same time.

These are things I normally wouldn't do because that continual $15/month reminds me, "You should be playing this because you are paying for it. Waste not, want not. A penny saved..."

You get the idea.

I currently have Atlantica and RoM on my hard-disk while I toy with the new PC Blood Bowl and wait anxiously for Champions Online. If I can manage a beta or two in there, I will. (Oh, and if anyone revives Shadowbane as an F2P, I am there in a heartbeat.) There is no way I would do that if I were paying all those subs.

Sure the F2P market is behind the P2P market in terms of game quality, but that gap has closed considerably in the past couple of years. RoM is a grade-A title.

Another advantage of the F2P market is the availability of wierd concepts and mechanics that I just don't see in the multi-million dollar, triple-A, P2P market. Atlantica has a novel combat system. Mabinogi has one of the craziest, coolest skill systems I have seen in any game, as well as a novel combat system. I don't see much innovation from the mainstream market.

So while I am waiting for the next engaging mainstream title to wow me, I am playing a little F2P on the side...

Tue Jun 30 2009 9:33AM Report
UnSub writes:

I don't think all MMOs will go F2P, but I do think more MMOs will introduce microtrans elements. The budget on MMO development is (generally) going up, but launching a MMO with sub price of anything more than $15 would be a huge gamble. So either you need to attract more players or extract more revenue out of the players you have. So: you add in micro-trans.

It's already there for a number of titles (and I am including server transfers, name changes et al in this list because I really can't see it costing huge bucks to make these kind of changes and they could be limited by ways other than money) and the list of titles will grow.

Fri Jul 03 2009 2:39AM Report writes:
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