The whole notion of MMO gamers being “entitled” is way overblown. There, I said it. We’re at the point where we’ve seen a couple of major releases this year so far, and we’re seeing talk all over the place --from gaming publications, to social media to forums--about whether the releases that came with subscriptions attached should or will go free to play, and how long that will take. Comments are made, the gates thrown open, and often, opinions clash while more moderate voices navigate somewhere in between. Yet, a single accusation keeps popping up, used partly as a pejorative and partly as an assumed fact of life. MMO gamers are so entitled these days, it goes, always wanting everything for free and wanting everything to be exactly what they each want. It’s an argument parroted all over the place, through many game communities every day. Yet, aside from cases where there are players that might be better served with some anger management courses, players are being unfairly labeled as “entitled”. It’s a dismissive tactic and it’s overblown. Here’s why.
The argument over whether a game is going to go free to play is common today. For several years now, we’ve seen most of the releases that launched as subscription titles wind up as hybrid models. Guild Wars 2, of course, launched as a buy to play title with a cash shop, and The Secret World converted to a buy to play model with paid expansions and a shop. Arguments about double dipping and about feeling “nickel and dimed” have happened thousands of times over the past half decade, but we’re still seeing cash shops. Why? Because they work. People will buy items, pets, and services alongside a subscription in some cases, most prominently WoW, while other companies compete to offer as many ways as they can to entice players to open their wallets when giving their software away for free.
None of this happened as a fluke. Seven or eight years ago, free to play games brought to mind grindy import games with second rate graphics and cheap production values. When Turbine converted Lord of the Rings Online into a hybrid model, allowing players to grind for coins that could be used to purchase cash shop items, change happened. Games weren’t “going” free to play beforehand. They earned their subscriptions or were shut down. Even after LOTRO saw the model become an industry success story, free to play wasn’t an assumption. However, developers and publishers saw that it could save a game, so why not as a launch plan? In other words, players might assume free to play should happen these days, but the carrots were dangled in front of us by the publishers and developers. They offered it to us, and we liked it. Yet now, somehow, it is our fault as gamers that we want more of those things we like.
Calling gamers “entitled” for wanting alternate ways of paying for their experiences that companies have successfully offered up multiple times before they became mainstays. Once developers and publishers showed that there were viable alternatives for players to enjoy, well, that was when it became okay to enjoy them, and even request them in other games too. Sure, some people have their ideas what an MMORPG should be, and others want a PvP release to be more PvE-friendly, and other conflicting notions. Developers should be free to create whatever vision they want to see through. It’s not a sense of entitlement to request or make a purchase decision (whether box, sub, shop, or all) based on options developers have been offering us. Free to play and a sense of sameness weren’t player inventions Once positive response leads to success, copycats will emerge, and then things might have to shift a bit until the pieces fall into place.
Yes, companies have to make money, and they started figuring out ways that worked to do just that. Players enjoy being able to control how much they spend and the ability to log into a game not being contingent upon having paid a subscription that month. Additionally, all the MMORPGs that have emerged over the years, saturating the market? We go back to WoW for a moment because that game set the bar for MMORPG features like questing, well equipped hotbars,raiding, and more. The impact of WoW on the genre is a very large shadow, but many of those features found their way to other games.