Who actually goes into a Best Buy or Wal Mart and buys a CD, a physical CD, of their favorite artist?
Ok, let's be honest..lot's of people do. Not many that I know, though, because most of the podcasters/friends/bloggers/co-workers I know carry an MP3 player, or even have their music loaded on their phone. The recent success of the iPod shows that, just as iTunes did, consumers don't want to buy an entire CD for a few choice tracks.
I love iTunes because I can find an artist I like, either hearing them from a friend or a website, and can buy the single track for a dollar or so. I will listen to that track possibly hundreds of times over the course of years, and might end up buying the entire album or at least more tracks from the artist. There are certain songs that I will always love, and some that I might listen to a few times a month. But none of them came from an album (with very few exceptions) that was filled with A plus tracks.
And I feel the same way about MMOs. Why should I pay 15 dollars a month (and 50 dollars for a box possibly) for a game that I might only enjoy a few parts of? Granted, most of the major subscription model games out there have been enjoyed by me at some point, and will be enjoyed by me at some point in the future, but not enough to warrant me paying monthly for them despite how much I play.
Many of the F2P games I really enjoy are re-visited by me because I enjoy certain parts. For example, Free Realms has me hooked with cooking and exploring. Runes of Magic will get me hooked with housing and mounts. Dream of Mirror Online has me for it's long, winding quests. Mabinogi, one of my fullest experiences so far, has hooked me with almost every part of itself, but there are still parts I do not enjoy (pvp, for example.)
I can download a F2P game and enjoy whatever part (track) I want, and never have to visit any other part. I can pay for a wonderful mount (and in many of the games, the pets/mounts are a very deep system) and never bother with crafting. Or, I can conquer dungeons without ever having to go to crafting. The normal sub model games could be played the same way, but soon I felt as though I paid for only a small part of the game: the part I enjoyed. (Note: this is a very specific example that fits ME.) With a F2P game and cash-shop model, I can spend money on items that might only affect that favorite part that I enjoy (pets, for example.)
I think my last blog lead to a small amount of confusion, and I have had to question what I really do enjoy about these F2P games. And then it occured to me: these games are like iTunes (or any other equivalent service.) iTunes has been credited with saving a failing music industry...CD's were easily costing 18 dollars or more, and consumers spoke clearly about wanting to create their own playlists, and their own listening experience, filled with very specific tracks arranged in sometimes very particular order.
Also, if you were forced to pay the 18 dollar price tag for a CD, you would find yourself listening to less and less music, and more and more music from the same, fewer artists. To me, I don't understand only listening to a few bands, or playing but one or two MMO's. Even in a game such as World of Warcraft, with it's more-than-huge development team and hours and hours of content, players complain about loss of things to do. Perhaps they wouldn't feel that way if they had actually played a few other games at the same time? Why do they feel the need to push through the same game and content, not once or twice, but 5 or 6 times a week?
And yes, I will agree that I am probably not very normal in this regard. Most players love to be "dedicated" to a single game, much like a sports team. I see nothing wrong with that. But with the advance of technology and faster and faster internet access, I think players will begin to explore a lot more.
Perhaps F2P can "save" the market (IF it does need saving), or can at least strengthen it. Just like the Wal-Marts and Best Buys with their older physical CD market that work with the download-only market to bring music to the masses, maybe F2P's and standard sub games can work together to give players more choices?