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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: The Complexity of Selling in F2P Games

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34 posts found

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16001

OP  7/01/13 7:28:05 PM#1

The free to play business model in the MMO industry is constantly under fire for the notion that it is pay to win. In the latest Free Zone, we take a look at how difficult it is to see a F2P title as long as that misconception lives. Read on before letting us know what you think in the comments.

Let me be clear that I'm not a fan of selling superior gear that non-paying players cannot obtain. My first experience of such a situation involved paying cash for a weapon. It's still easy to remember even though it happened long ago, back in the mid-1990s. I really didn't like being forced to choose between buying it or sticking with my inferior gear, and my feelings in this regard remain very much the same. That said, I object when I see people act as if nothing has changed in the ensuing span of nearly two decades. 

Read more of Richard Aihoshi's The Free Zone: The Complexity of Selling in Free to Play Games.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  User Deleted
7/02/13 2:48:06 PM#2
F2p just leaves to much unknown, at any moment in time the game can have a whatchamagizmo added into it for x amount of real money. Then a month later a second whatchamagizmo thats more powerful for x amount of dollars. Its stupid and I just refuse to subject myself to that model. Im not buying in and im not playing that game. It's what drove me to sell off every pc I had and justsay to myself " well Iif thats the route they want to go wwithit then good luck, I have many many other choices and alot of them I can buy and play the entire game whenever I want however I want and as much as I want for less than $5" I dont care about this whiney cry baby " devs need to make money" they are making money, the ones that are not, wwellther is a reason for that, its called they suck as game devs. But devs want to live in candy land too where everyone gets paid the same. Ahhh poor devs. I feel so bad. Why dont you just man up take a good look at real success Gw2 even though I dont like the game, many do, but they are a success story that doesnt rip people off.

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

7/02/13 2:51:17 PM#3

"Such companies are said to prosper by selling items that are significantly better than the ones available in the course of normal play."

This is a sub-case of the more general criticsm that developer's primary goal in these games is to generate a desire in the consumer which did not exist before they started to play the game.


Advanced Member

Joined: 1/21/07
Posts: 1727

7/02/13 3:01:30 PM#4
100 hours before spending a dime seems a bit harsh. I feel like, if I play 5 days to a week, and I'm entertained, I owe the company at least 5-10 measly bucks.

RIP Ribbitribbitt you are missed, kid.

Currently Playing EVE, DFUW

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.

Dwight D Eisenhower

My optimism wears heavy boots and is loud.

Henry Rollins


Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/26/04
Posts: 3591

7/02/13 3:01:58 PM#5

I fundamentally distrust a game design that relies on manipulating game play at almost every turn to achieve maximized monetization potential. 


Yes, I don't "need" any of the perks or flashy items. I can reach level-cap in just a few weeks of casual play, using dropped "green" loot.

But then, why bother ? None of those games have stellar gameplay, they're usually "disposable". Play it once or twice, then throw it away and start a new one...


Novice Member

Joined: 3/18/13
Posts: 259

"You are mine, I'm yours, and if we die, we die. But first we'll live." Ygritte

7/02/13 4:01:11 PM#6

I have yet to find a single F2P game where I felt the need to spend cash.

In the end the experience of it all feels very hollow and like I got no bang for my buck.

Far as time needed to play to spend $$$ on it? When I actually feel the game gives a damn about its players and not its players wallets.


MMORPG Gamers/Developers need a reality check!


Novice Member

Joined: 1/08/07
Posts: 1614

7/02/13 4:01:15 PM#7
I wish there was some sort of standard charter for free to play games to work from.  Learning the system between each game can be a bit meh.

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/08
Posts: 368

7/02/13 4:34:33 PM#8

In my opinion the f2p business model is under fire because most f2p games are sub-par / crap or just a total rip off. You only have to look at the last two f2p games to see how the model is flawed.


If developers have a good game and go f2p then they will always make money, so maybe the Op should be writing a topic on where he/she thinks the developers are going wrong,  most gamers can spot a turd of a game straight away yet writers for mmo sites cannot, hmmm if only we had true gamers to write articles.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/08/04
Posts: 410

7/02/13 5:01:19 PM#9
I agree that "pay to win" isn't much of a problem for most f2p games I've played.  What is a problem, however, is the way quality game development has taken a backseat to quick profit grabs and the manipulative business practices that come with that- especially the ones that prey on the addictive nature of gambling.  The whole concept of f2p can't fail quickly enough for me.

Elite Member

Joined: 1/17/07
Posts: 1933

7/02/13 5:45:00 PM#10

"Let's also be clear that there's no coercion involved. Even in games where the best items are only available in the cash shop, no one is obliged to purchase them."


Whilst I know what you mean steps are / have been taken in various countries to limit sales to minors; I could see this having an impact on games going forward.

Making developers declare whether purchases constitute gambling will have a further impact as well - and rightly so given the potential social cost of gambling.

Ultimately I remain unconvinced about the longevity of the business model as a whole. There are some excellent titles but far to many have simply jumped on-board with a poorly implemented product.


Novice Member

Joined: 9/24/04
Posts: 80

7/02/13 6:23:21 PM#11

I could care less if it is pay to win or not. I have a bigger issue with these so called f2p models charging almost a months sub for 1 mount or item. Folks who think f2p is better are kidding themselves.

No game is ever free 2 Play. The companies need to make money. I have no problem with this. I would rather see a sun and pay 10 or 15 dollars a month rather then 10 to 15 dollars for each item.


Screw F2P its a scam!


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/19/11
Posts: 784

7/02/13 6:32:35 PM#12
People call modern P2W games Pay to Win. While there may be some who refer to the entire genre as Pay to Win, arguing how it's deeper than that doesn't make Pay to Win aspects of many games go away.

Novice Member

Joined: 5/31/09
Posts: 90

7/02/13 6:45:42 PM#13
As the old saying goes...A fool and his money are soon parted...That's basically my opinion of ftp in general.


Old School

Joined: 5/21/03
Posts: 1410

7/02/13 7:11:29 PM#14

F2P just leaves too much power into the hands of the devs and they don't take responsibility for ripping people of with lotteries, kids using their parents CC's to buy stuff etc.

With P2P, the subscribers have a monthly 'vote'.

Currently playing: -

Waiting for: Class4.

Dead and Buried: ESO, NWO, GW2, SWTOR, Darkfall, AO, AC2, Vanguard, CoH/V, EnB, EVE, Neocron, FE, EQ, EQ2, DAoC, FFXI, FFXIV, SWG, WoW, and billions of eastern junks!


Advanced Member

Joined: 11/06/08
Posts: 520

7/02/13 7:53:25 PM#15
Originally posted by Fusion

F2P just leaves too much power into the hands of the devs and they don't take responsibility for ripping people of with lotteries, kids using their parents CC's to buy stuff etc.

With P2P, the subscribers have a monthly 'vote'.

Pretty much this, the pressure to maintain quality and provide value is always on the developer in a subscription game.  In a F2P game they don't have to develop new stories and adventures they just have to put more stuff in the stores to keep people paying.  Whether or not they go that route is up to the developer, but I have seen far too many games that make it hard or terribly inconvenient to play the game without putting down cash.  If it isn't fun right out of the box I'm not sticking around.  Pay to win is also fairly common.  The F2P games that actually stick to vanity items and provide a fun experience without having to pay a dime are few and far between, just about as rare as successful sub games.


Defender of Worlds

Joined: 5/20/04
Posts: 3468

I actually still like MMORPGs

7/02/13 8:01:59 PM#16
Originally posted by Fusion

F2P just leaves too much power into the hands of the devs and they don't take responsibility for ripping people of with lotteries, kids using their parents CC's to buy stuff etc.

With P2P, the subscribers have a monthly 'vote'.

riiight, all the money comes from kids with their parent's credit cards. Oh wait, that's just your way of talking down to F2P gamers. Because it's cool to call people who play games you don't like or opinions you disagree with kids.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/04/13
Posts: 443

7/02/13 8:03:10 PM#17

I'll put it this way.


It's free & it sucks so bad I can't make myself want to play it.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/30/13
Posts: 344

7/02/13 8:32:08 PM#18

"Let's also be clear that there's no coercion involved. Even in games where the best items are only available in the cash shop, no one is obliged to purchase them. The argument is put forward that players must “in order to compete”. This condition conveniently forgets that the decisions to buy or not remain completely voluntary."


This is a favorite defense put forth frequently by developers/publishers, players and proponents of F2P. Thing is, while technically true, it's also disingenuous and a bit of a misdirection.


The games don't have to "coerce" people into buying anything because it's already been proven that people will do so voluntarily - and in great amount. Developers/Publishers have adopted this model in hopes that people will voluntarily spend money on things. They pursue it because it's already proven that they will. There's over a decade of evidence for this, predating the advent of F2P - certainly in the Western market.


Players of Ultima Online, Everquest 1, and other MMOs, would happily pay their monthly sub of $15, and then go and spend much more on characters, in-game gold, items, etc. With hundreds or even thousands of dollars being paid to third parties via EBay and other "outside brokers", it was only a matter of time before developers and publishers caught on and found a way to profit on this behavior.


Hello Cash Shops.


The things sold in Cash Shops mostly target the things people resorted to "eBaying" for: convenience, power and status.  Especially convenience. They target these things because they know people will spend the money. That's already been proven. Some of the more brazen (foolish) will dip their toes in the waters of selling power, while others try to stick with less game-effecting things.


All of them, though, are selling things they know are commonly desired by players and will sell. And if what they're selling isn't selling enough? Well, they can just design more new items, tweak the game's design to make them seem more desirable (but never "necessary") and hope to hook a nice population of so-called Whales... the big money earners F2P MMOs thrive on.


So, to reiterate, when folks like Aihoshi, or the PR for some F2P MMO says "all the cash shops are  optional!", they do so full knowing that 'optional' is all they have to be. As long as they bring some combination of Convenience, Status or Power to the player, they will sell. There's 10+ years of data proving that.


To put it another way, saying "cash shop items are optional! They're only there if you want to buy them!" is like placing a pack of cigarettes in front of a table full of smokers, and saying "You aren't required to smoke the cigarettes. We won't coerce you to have one. They're optional. But if you want one, it's only $1 each."  They aren't there just in case  some people want one. They're there because it's known that some number of people will want one.


It's the same principle with F2P/Cash Shop MMOs. Developers implement Cash Shops because they know people will pay money - and potentially a lot of it - for convenience, power or status. Cash Shops are designed to exploit and clean up on this.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/29/04
Posts: 30

7/02/13 11:41:14 PM#19

I didn't quite read it in the same way as Ayulin: I figured when he said it was optional, he meant the option was to quit the game and to go another game. I mean, when I play an F2P and the cash shop gets on my nerves, I stop playing the game. It's not rocket science, and it's exactly Richard's point regarding building commitment.



Novice Member

Joined: 9/10/03
Posts: 81

''Happiness is a temporay chemical imbalance to the true state of mind''

7/03/13 1:26:03 AM#20

Personally I see F2P as a major problem in the industry.  Some cash shops are better than others for sure.  In my opinion the core of the problem is whatever you purchase in a cash shop should be a reward of gameplay; not getting out my wallet.  I don't have a problem with game developers making money, I will gladly purchase a game, subscribe to a game, but when I have to purchase my in game rewards it feels manipulative and doesn't feel rewarding at all. 

Arguing whether F2P is P2W seems to be a pointless battle because fans of F2P will always say it isn't while those of us that detest it will always say it is.

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