Are they fundamentally different? or fundamentally the same?
I started playing MMORPGs over 2 years ago with F2P. My first impressions of MMORPGs in gerneral could only be based on the F2P variety. At their core F2P have not only been similar to each other, but identical. For the most part, it’s why they get the name “Asian Grinder”. They’ve primarily been much smaller MMORPGs imported from the Far East, using a micro-transaction business model, with killing mobs in a non-situational environment as the main mode for leveling.
Do players weened on F2P develop differently? Do they have a different mind set? and Is the core group of F2P players fundamentally different than subscription based MMORPG communities? We know that F2P MMORPGs tend to be smaller and thus have smaller communitites. We also know there will be overlap between many different types of players. To some extent or another, you’ll have ex-WoW’ers, crafters, raiders, sandboxers, casual, longterm, etc… touching on F2P. Lately I have been considering the idea that the majority core group of F2P communities are different. To be more specific, I think F2P games in the past, have lacked communities at all. I think once the game is turned off, no one cares. There seems to be a huge void that isn’t explained by the communities just being smaller. I believe we may find that the majority and core group of F2P players, that are also the majority bouncing from one new F2P to the next, are primarily tech savvy min/maxers with tendencies toward raiding.
In F2P games, mechanics-wise you have a system where there isn’t a whole lot in the way of options in-game. The light shines brighter on level cap because there is no crafting and in many cases no auction house, to name a couple reasons. So people are clicking away and upgrading gear using random tables and drops, plus EXP and other potions purchased with real money via micro-transaction. Sure you can chat and have other forms of fun. I played an older F2P for almost a year and had a great guild where we had loads of fun, but it was through us creating that fun. The game left us with just kill at our level, and chat. This limit of options leaves the focus on upgrading and becoming as strong as possible. I believe this either cultivates or attracts a significant number of min/maxers to F2P MMORPGs.
You also have a smaller game in general, that tends to have a quicker gameplay. It’s not an argument to say “But you have to grind forever, so it’s not quicker”, because they add the grind to try to slow down the experience. If all you did in WoW was quest and nothing else, you could reach level cap in probably a week or two(depending on your play time). But there is also so many more options, that just as many players(if not more) take much longer to reach level cap. In F2P games, you may have PvP, server war, or another similar option, but the only thing keeping you from it is level, so the majority of players spend all their game time doing that one thing-leveling. In response, F2P games have been “plugging” in systems that consist of smaller bite-sized chunks of fast game play elements.
Another significant filter, that I think determines the personality of the player, is actually how you access the game. Accessibility and approachability. Out of over 30 F2P MMORPGs I have had only one of them that had a perfectly smooth process. I was able to download, install, update, and register on the website without a hitch, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the case for everyone playing that game.
We end up with smaller core groups of players. Within those smaller groups, a higher percentage of min/maxers/raiders based on the core design of F2P MMORPGs. The games can cultivate the mentality that the most important thing that provides the most fun, is to reach level cap and that is only obtained by min/maxing and getting more drops quicker. In some respects when players move to a game that actually has more to do, they may simply ignore it, because they’ve never known anything else. On top of that, the games are a lot quicker. These players reach level cap and try all the content very fast and then want more, exacerbating the mentality that these games have an end, at which point the player needs to move on to another game. All of this usually happens in quicker bite-sized chunks which has players tending to get overly annoyed when moving to WoW, EQ2 or other MMORPGs where they need to devote more time in different in-game systems.
All of this translates to an out of game “community” that, to me, looks very similar to online forums where players discuss single-player console games. It’s primarily asking how to do something, where do I get more of X, and how can I get it faster, some guild recruitments, and the rest is how the game sucks because players didn’t have 100% success rate in one part of the game or another. The game is free, and quicker to jump in and out of in lieu of other new F2P MMORPGs.
Am I wrong? Do I see a skewed side of some imaginary numbers? I wonder?
As a side note: This conclusion I’ve come to will be interesting in light of two F2P games that break the F2P mold. Runes of Magic, and Allods are very western style games, that are breaking F2P molds. I already believe that this F2P core group have hit a brick wall that is confusing to them, when they delved into Runes of Magic. There has been a lot of complaining over the past year in the forums, followed by how the game is just another Asian Grinder. Which anyone would tell you anywhere online that it breaks that mold in different ways. Yet, I don’t think I’m only seeing a minority. I think I’m seeing a segment of this core group that has only known the F2P animal, and is trying to find how something new to them equates to what they know.