You know, the F2P argument is a lot like politics. People choose sides, start thinking black and white.
"I will quit the game if it gets any form of RMT!"
"I will not play a sub-based game!"
It feels a lot like the two major political parties. People join up and attach the badge of one side or the other. Of course, there are many shades of gray, so why have the two sides only? Why have titles? I have to admit that I do not think that many players are actually that divided on the issue. I reside in a world that most players probably do not: the world of blogging, podcasting, getting to know people that make these games, someday working on these games. My point of view is a little off from the average player that just, you know, plays.
But, I do have a side. I much prefer the RMT/cash-shop/micro-transactions model, for many reasons:
When you visit the theme park called "RMT Land", parking is free. (Client Download.) You get to ride all the rides, but can even spend a little extra cash to get you to the front of the line faster. (XP potions/better optional gear/services.) You can also choose to avoid spending the extra money by waiting in the line. (Leveling/grinding.)
And there are more new rides and souvenirs to buy all the time! (New content for F2P's comes out constantly, and new cash shop items.) The most brilliant thing of all? You can always visit, socialize, make new friends and play most of the games for absolutely free. And while F2P Land USED to be nothing but a ghetto fair-park, nowadays there are amazing new parks opening all the time that are the same in quality as "SUB Land."
"SUB Land" is filled with great rides, and great people. But the parking costs you (client purchase.) And while you have unlimited access to all the rides, no one can ride all of those rides forever. Also, the lines can be very long and tedious sometimes (the leveling, the grinding.) And new rides come out every 6 moths or every year, compared to some of F2P Land's monthly update schedule! Also, there are almost no live events in SUB Land, but F2P Land is packed with them! (Some F2P games have a few in a WEEK.) Worst of all? You pay the entrance fee every month, despite not visiting the park or while visiting other parks.
So why pay for something you do not use? Paying a monthly fee for access to more stuff than you can do in a month is...well, a waste of money. Granted, SUB Land is filled with some GREAT games, and some incredible people. But so is F2P Land.
Having said all that, (I'm sure I am missing some smarmy example) I would like to list off a few games that I would like to see go completely F2P with a cash shop add on.
1) Ryzom: This game has been screaming for F2P for a long, long time. I used to do a Ryzom podcast a few years back, and then and even now the game has financial issues. If they had plenty of subs, this would more than likely not be an issue, but obviously the game is not interesting enough in certain ways to maintain more than 3 servers of people. Or, of course, it's just that players do not see it as having the same worth as the other games they are paying for. I absolutely adore this game, but my 15 dollars a month over the past years have given me barely a thing. As a matter of fact, the most updating happened recently before and slightly after the latest FREE period.
Throw a cash shop on it. Sell special mounts. Sell XP crystals. I might be wrong, but I bet way more people would spend 5-10 dollars a month on cash shop items than the current player-base paying 15 dollars a month for a game that has gone under 3 times. I know, I know...the game IS special. But it needs money to survive. While the new owners seem to be doing more than the rest before them, I have been there and done that, and watched it close.
2) Vanguard: This game would be PERFECT for it, and already gives you the ability to buy gold, characters and items from other players through Live Gamer. A Station Cash shop would not be a far step behind. Also, I would love to see the emphasis of this game shift from high-end raiding and content (just so that the raiders can burn through it in a few months and start to complain about lack of content) to filling out the fun for all levels. Sell housing items, get with the EQ2 picture. Vanguard is freaking amazing, and is holding in there thanks to the great dev team but thanks to SOE's lack of funding, the game will continue down the path it's on for a long, long time.
I would rather shift the game away from any mention ever again about the "Vision" (being that Brad hasn't been involved with the game for YEARS) and shift it to allowing it to be even more of the really, really fun game that it is.
Shit, I'd pay 10 bucks just to fill out some of the ocean with some scenery fish.
3) The Matrix Online: Rez this game! Yeh, the combat, the community and the role-play were not enough to save this sometimes crappy game, but there is something there for sure. This game, of all, is probably the very best candidate for the F2P model. Look at how important fashion was to the game, and how wonderfully extra story chapters could fit into a cash shop! Rez this game, now. Start it over and re-launch it like DDO is doing.
Of course, many games will not do well despite what kind of model they follow. Generally, though, cash shop games go on and on. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of one that has gone under. And is success only measured in sub count? Wouldn't success also be just surviving in this mad world of a million MMO's to choose from? I have played some cash-shop games for the last 5 or 6 YEARS. That's way more than many "AAA" MMO's can claim.
I want to save these games mentioned above. While some might argue that they are doing fine, I will argue that they could do way, way better. The problem with them is that many people like the games but not enough to do away with their "main game" sub to play. But a F2P game can be owned at no cost, something anyone can afford.