As I’ve mentioned in my previous articles, the free MMORPG industry is growing by leaps and bounds every year. New MMORPGs and MMO games are being released on an almost weekly basis here in the United States. Games like MapleStory and Scions of Fate each have over 70 million players worldwide; that’s right, EACH game has over 70 Million players, while the most well known MMORPG, World of Warcraft, has only 10 million users. Of course this isn’t exactly a fair comparison as World of Warcraft has a monthly fee while the two games I mentioned don’t, but even so, it would be silly to call the free MMORPG genre small. With such an incredible amount of popularity you would imagine that free MMORPGs would get a lot more attention by the main stream gaming networks, but they don’t.
Networks like G4 almost completely ignore the free MMORPG genre. It’s as if they don’t even acknowledge its existence. There aren’t any major print magazines that follow free MMORPGs either, except for maybe a specialty publication with little circulation. Let us analyze the free MMORPG market for a bit. There literally hundreds of free online MMORPGs out in the US market already with countless games currently in closed beta. Nexon’s MapleStory game in the United States alone makes over $30 million a year and it is expected to increase in 2008. With big publishers like Outspark, Netgame, AeriaGames and Gpotato releasing new games almost every month, the industry is poised to continue growing.
The only MMORPG that gets any attention at all in traditional gaming magazines and outlets is World of Warcraft. We’ve heard a lot of buzz around Age of Conan as well, but it’s still a pay to play game. With the incredible growth of free MMORPGs I wouldn’t be surprised if the pay to play genre was completely eliminated in the next 10 years. There really are no successful pay to play MMORPGs out there anymore due to fierce competition. Previously popular pay to play MMORPGs like Ultima Online and Everquest are losing subscribers each and every day. Gamers are flocking over to free to play MMORPGs. The only real pay to play game that’s performing well is World of Warcraft, and that phenomenon can’t last forever. Think about it; would Facebook be as popular as it is today if it required a monthly fee to access? Of course not! Facebook is free to use for consumers because the company can make money through advertisements and selling Facebook gifts [The little images you can send your friends for usually a dollar]. If you look at in free MMORPG terms the Facebook gifts are like cash shop items. They allow the company to make money off a free product or service. I can’t see pay to play business models still being around in 10 years, as there are already so many free to play games out there today and there will only be more in the future.