In response to so many bloggers, podcasters and friends that are comparing Free Realms to every other MMO out there, I want to post what I think are the core audiences for the game. I could be wrong, so any comments are welcome.
They are listed in order:
1) Young players: I'll let you figure out what "young" means. To me, that means 13 and under. Not only that, but this game might be their very first MMO, thanks to safety guidelines that parents can trust, and the fact that it can be played (yes, it can be played and enjoyed without spending money..all the way to max level in most classes) on older machines. These young players haven't played MMO's for 10 years, do not use the term "meh" to describe magical fantasy worlds, and do not ever, EVER use the term "meaningful pvp." Also, they are male and female in mostly equal measure.
2) Those young players and their parents: I have read of many parents playing this game with their kids...how fun would that be? (Very!) I have no children (thank goodness) but if I did, this game would be running in our house all the time. A parent can trust that the game will give solutions to frustrating game-play by offering a huge variety of activities, and the parents will actually find themselves having fun in a "kids game." I volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and I desperately want to play this with my Little.
3) The "normal" players: You know, the adults. Bear in mind that we are talking video games here, not politics or life insurance. Games are fun above all, or there is no point. If you play a game and do not have fun, you are clocking in (tm). Free Realms has surprised "normal" players with it's depth and beauty, and yes, even it's lore.
I have been enjoying the heck out of Free Realms, but I am finding plenty of examples of players that seem to lack the ability to turn off their dis-belief for this game, while being able to suspend it for games like WoW or EVE. Be aware that when you take a game like Free Realms and compare it to the "norms" of MMO's like raiding, grouping, questing, grinding or crafting, you are ignoring all the things the game has done better than most and some of the things the game has done that no games have at all.
Concentrating on the "grind" in Free Realms is ignoring the fact that you, as a player that has gamed for years, did plenty of that grindy game-play and had a grand time doing it. Again, if did not enjoy it, you were clocking in (tm) (which doesn't count towards this conversation.)
So, why not allow new players to not only possibly enjoy some of that grindy game-play (I use grind to describe lot's of questing or any other repetitive game-play) but to discover all the things that Free Realms has that earlier MMO's do not?
In other words, remember that as you are playing Free Realms (after playing EVE, WoW, EQ2 or any other "regular" MMO) that you are experiencing something with experienced eyes, and not with the eyes of a 13 year old. Just imagine this game as your FIRST MMO! If you are playing Free Realms and only worrying about the basics of MMO's that it has, then you might consider that you are completely over-looking all the standards that it has broken.
That's called innovation, and that is the new.
Of course, I am not saying that it is the best, or a copy-cat, or even totally original. Free Realms is all those things, for different people. So if you are in game worrying about grindy quests, or instanced combat, or the fact that it has RMT then you might work on your ability to compartmentalize. I would bet that the inclusion of RMT is one of the main reasons nay-sayers have for not liking the game. RMT is in many, many games now like EVE (you can buy entire characters and ships) Vanguard (characters and gold) and in other major games like EQ2 (fluff items and potions.) Yet, you rarely (if ever) see protest posts or discussions about those systems in those games. Somehow, the fact that they are "normal" MMO's does away with the RMT element (EVE players that I have talked to defend their RMT, saying that EVE is so different that it doesn't work the same way...I beg to differ) and seems to indicate that "pushing" or "forcing" RMT on children is thought by many to be a virtual crime.
Again, if you have issues like those I have described with Free Realms, you should take a step back and look at it for what it is. Not only is it ushering in (in a more major way than most of the F2P games out there) new technologies, but also helping to change the way players game. Soon, hopefully, most MMO's will be streaming from a browser and soon (hopefully) most MMO's will allow you to level up different jobs besides crafting and combat.
Also, RMT will become the norm. And just like the environments within those cash-shop games, the MMORPG environment will go from speaking of RMT as though it is unfair to treating it as the deliverer of choices that it is.
So remember, if you think Free Realms is un-original, grindy, a "kids game," silly, "candy-land easy mode" or unfair to those that "work hard", then you might ask your 12 year old niece what she thinks. And play some Free Realms with her..you will probably have the time of your life.
Just consider Free Realms a vacation from all those games that you clock in to.