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Ragemore's Rants

To bring my point of view to those who may be interested.

Author: Ragemore

Did the rise of the free to play model help or harm MMO gaming?

Posted by Ragemore Thursday June 20 2013 at 11:59AM
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Did the rise of the free to play model help or harm MMO gaming?

 

I recently realized that consoles are about 5-7 years behind PC trends. If you think back to our UT, Quake, and Doom, Tribes days, this was during the birth of MMO's, and the idea that gamer's would be willing to pay for a game on a monthly basis.

I remeber talking to a friend of mine who said I should play Everquest, and I thought, Hell NO, I'm not paying a monthly fee to play a game. Then more games in the MMORPG space began to take the genre by storm. So I walked down to my local game store, (thats right, we bought games in the store, another trend that has faded away) and looked at the shelves and was about to buy Everquest to see what all the fuss was about. That's when I noticed my Holy Grail, a new MMORPG had just released that day, Dark Age of Camelot. (-See what I did there) 

I thought, since I was going to try this new game with thousands of others, it would be nice to start on the same level as everyone else. As I played month after month, I realized that I had been wrong, the subscription was well worth it. The game was much bigger than most single player games, the multiplayer aspect could not be matched anywhere, and they released updated content on a regular basis. I wasn't paying to play the game so much as I was paying for the service of constant updates. I also realized that I was actually spending less money than normal as I wasn't buying as many single player games. I even had two sub accounts in Eve Online for quite awhile.

Flash forward through two years of WoW, and then a slew of other MMO's I played until about 2 years ago. The new craze was Micro transaction. I "laughed" at those fools who would pay for content on a piece by piece basis on a crappy free game that had little "AAA" quality. Then I played League of Legends. I was wrong again, I made my first micro transaction buying some gold so I could buy some champions and skins. This was a highly polished free to play game that allowed to me buy things I wanted to help with the grind to get new champs, or make them look unique in game.

Within the last year almost all MMO's have realized the "Free" games quality has caught up with theirs, and the marketers for games have found out that we are all compulsive buyers. Thats what a gamer is, compulsive, so of course we handle our money that way. We can make many small purchases and not realize that it now adds up to more than we ever spent before.

Now to tie in my first sentence. Consoles started with  no subscription at first, just buy the game. Then Xbox had their members pay for a service to play online, and Sony will be following them with the release of PS4. Micro-transaction have been with consoles but mostly for games you have already bought. The next change for them will be in offering games you don't buy at all, they are free, but have a store available if you want extra stuff. (I do realize there are examples of games like this already, but I am referring to their catalog on whole.)

As to the original question, I do not believe that the pricing model has had a good or bad effect on the MMO genre. How we bought and paid for the game we wanted to play didn't matter to most gamers. What has effected the genre has been Saturation, the success of WoW, and now, the success of LoL. 

I think we are about to pass through what I think of as a stagnation period of the last year. Technology and Developers are now trying to increase story, immersion, persistence, and innovation in games, and finally stopped trying to copy everyone else, but the way we pay wont really matter, gamers will buy what they want.

jackie28 writes:

I've been an avid MMO gamer since the days of Ultima Online myself, and I can say from my own experience that games have suffered the advent of F2P.  I say this for several reasons.

Firstly, the caliber of players you are forced to interact with in a F2P is horrible and unregulated.  You cannot effectively BAN someone from a F2P game to the degree you can with a paid account.  With F2P you end up in a game world full of children talking smack, and who are certainly not role-playing.  Personally I'd rather play in a world full of 20-somethings that have credit cards, jobs, and some semblance of maturity.  I understand the F2P model is an effective way to quickly populate a virtual world and give paying players someone to interact with, but more than likely free players are going to end up everyone's "bitches" in a stacked system, and who wants that?

Secondly, I am patently uninterested in games where I need to go wallet-to-wallet against a million other people in some kind of competition to be big man on the block.  This certainly happens in subscription games too, but the DIFFERENCE is that the game company is charged with being an impartial arbiter when it comes to game design, and the game itself can be about something other than how to pit you versus everyone else in the most cash draining manner.  It's really in the interest of the game company to exploit you for as much as you'll buy, and honestly I'm not interested.  I won't even step up to that plate, because I know what they're doing.

Thirdly, with a subscription model, I know what I'm in for up front.  I know that for X dollars I'm going to get N content, and that the game company is going to make everything available to me like every other subscriber, and they will be true custodians of a level playing field and game balance.

Just my opinion.  I feel like item shop games put the wolves in charge of the hen house.  I want to play a game where I believe that the company is looking out for everyone equally, and the revenue model itself should reflect that.  What has HAPPENED is the gaming industry has decided it wants to tap into that secondary market revenue - too many people were making money selling gold, items, leveling services and accounts.  The problem they overlook is that the secondary market only functions if the company acts like a responsible government and promotes player-to-player trading and personal industry and PROTECTS their investment.  Instead, we see the game companies being greedy, prohibiting a vibrant secondary economy and trying to force all economic activity to flow through THEM.  Case in point, Ultima Online had it right in the beginning.  It was perfectly legal for players to trade and sell gold and items outside the game - you could not be banned for doing this.  The result was that the game economy had real external value and stability.  Nowadays, Item shop type games are really protective and vigilant, crushing RMT activity because it threatens their business model, but the result of course is that people don't really feel their accounts are secure and they could be banned for trivial reasons.  I also don't feel that my "work" has any value in these type games, so I refuse to participate.

Fri Jun 21 2013 12:46AM Report
Ragemore writes: Great post, with great counter points, and although I don't agree with them all, I absolutely respect them. Fri Jun 21 2013 8:53AM Report

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