From a developer’s standpoint, the most exciting opportunity you could have is that the games you have worked on will be available to anyone who has a computer and an internet connection. We all know MMORPG players are always in search of good games that they can play without burning a hole in their wallets.
But as F2P games offer an alternative to the traditional P2P model in the MMO market, the common gripes that you always hear about the F2P genre are:
“The graphics are so bad!”
“It’s free so it’s bound to have lots of bugs and glitches”
“It’s just a trick to make me eventually spend money”
It’s always funny for those of us in the industry to hear these complaints. I can’t speak for every other F2P game, but here at Dragon Oath these criticisms couldn’t be further from the truth. Our testers and developers spend just as much time, if not more, than our counterparts working on subscription-based games, debugging code and making sure the games run as smoothly and impressively as possible. We’re also committed to keeping Dragon Oath free forever.
With that being said, I personally am very excited to see the Western market opening up to more and more F2P MMOs. These games have been popular in Asia for quite a while now, but we’re seeing many becoming household names in America as well. Of course, bringing a popular game from China to the U.S. is not an easy task.
East Meets West
Marketing: By far, the biggest challenge for us. The game Dragon Oath is based on an immensely popular martial arts novel in China. Going from being a household name to having nobody know anything about your product is not easy. It’s like making a game based on Harry Potter and giving it to an audience that has never read the book. So of course, despite our rich storyline and plot, these were not points that we could focus on in promoting the game. Thankfully, the huge number of appealing features and in-game events in Dragon Oath gave us something that MMORPG players anywhere can relate to.
Features: Now, it’s no secret that there are differences in the audiences that we are catering to. Features that our players in Asia love could also be features that gamers in the U.S. hate! I’m not going to lie, it’s been a learning process for all of us here at ChangYou. The entire time we’ve released Dragon Oath in America, we’ve listened intently to user feedback and gamers’ suggestions. Things like deeper quest content and alternatives to grinding for experience are what we’ve worked to include in each patch and expansion. The one thing that’s stayed constant across the continents is the fact that an F2P survives based on the depth of the gaming experience it can offer players, regardless of whether or not they spent any money on microtransactions. When you have a game like ours whose content and depth rivals those of pay-to-play power houses like Aion and World of Warcraft, people start to take notice.
Competition: Any time you come in to a new market, especially as an underdog, there are bound to be challenging competitors who already have a foothold in the marketplace. As I’ve said before, as an F2P game, we’ve had to battle the stereotypes that players inevitably have when they hear the name. It’s even tougher when you have well-established subscription-based games out there breathing down your neck. What we’re striving to have players understand though, is that F2P games like Dragon Oath offer players a unique experience, in that they can literally sample the game entirely for free, and play for however long they want to, and never spend one cent. This is appealing to both MMORPG newbies as well as veteran players who want to take up another challenge. Another advantage we hold is that the microtransaction model (which, due to its success, has been adopted by major P2P games like WoW) allows players from all walks of life to enjoy the game at the same level. If someone has little time on their hands due to work or school, they can always catch up to other player’s levels by spending a few dollars on experience items. At the same time, we balance the item shops so that you cannot simply spend a bunch of money to create an overpowered character. The sole purpose of the shop is to make sure all players can enjoy the same experience without forcing anyone to forego other important responsibilities that they may have.
Going into the future, we know that we have a unique challenge. We have to distinguish ourselves from all the other F2Ps out there, we have to offer the same level of gameplay that all of the most popular MMORPGs have, and at the same time we’re going to have to offer our players a sense of community that they cannot get in any P2P game. To do that we’re going to keep giving the same level of customer service so that players will always be able to have their complaints, suggestions, and comments quickly heard and addressed. We will also continue to offer new expansions, features, and special events to really let our players know that they are in a dynamic community with many other people who share their love for the game.