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Just One Moar (formerly: How To Lose Your Life To An MMORPG)

Part diary, part commentary, part news reviews and editorials covering the world of MMORPGs Among many MMORPG:I feature Runes of Magic and World of Warcraft

Author: giantsquid

The Worst Thing About Free-To-Play MMORPGs Is That They Are Free-To-Play

Posted by giantsquid Saturday January 2 2010 at 11:02PM
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When F2P (Free-T0-Play) MMORPGs hit the scene, players were introduced to some really fun virtual worlds at no cost. What quickly developed though was a not so fun implosion of Pandora’s Box.

Besides all the benefits of micro-transactions within these MMORPGs, The box that these games were contained in were opened wide to let in a floodgate of negative socio-economic aspects. Now instead of excepting the nice hermetically sealed contents of the game, we have people from all walks of life and all walk of money able to alter their gaming experience in a similar way they can altar their lives. The real world has impacted F2P MMORPGs like nothing else before. If I want to speed up my progression, have an extra pet, or have a permanent mount, I can- if I have the money.

In a weird twist, if you take away the freedom that micro-transactions can provide, players will tend to be more accepting, because beyond what anyone can equally altar within the game, it’s the way the game is built. It doesn’t mean players won’t complain. Visit any game’s forum, especially World of Warcraft’s, and you’ll see plenty of people complaining about various ways the game operates. It is the same, and then some, with F2P MMORPGs. You’ll have all the regular criticisms and to exacerbate those, you have a whole new plane of complaints brought on about feelings over paying to get what you want.

Perhaps as an unfortunate downside to being free, these MMORPGs have to contend with players being able to bring their real life woes and negative feelings over money into the games. When players start to look at their gaming experience as it relates to their socio-economic status, well, a lot of negativity can ensue.

From this perspective, how do you try to handle game development? Or can you even affect it? Do you even try? Do any and all complaints that fall under Item Mall complaints get ignored outright? Because how can anyone expect an MMORPG development team to try and altar game play experiences based on the players socio-economic status? Some players work 40 hours a week to afford a minimum of in-game purshasable items, while others have near unlimited funds and free time. Should anyone expect an MMORPG too cater to these diverse situations? Most micro-transactions are already fairly small, per purchase. Many games let you spend as little as 5 dollars per purchase to obtain a majority of items in-game. Beyond that, what can a F2P MMORPG development team do?

I tend to be pretty strict with my opinions on some subjects, but I admit that my opinion(s) may not be the best. It appears to me, that a micro-transaction based F2P MMORPG affords some fun features, being free to play not the least of them. But they also shed a lot of responibility that is placed back into the hands of the players. That, to me, opens up a whole new can of worms that I’m not going to even try to get into with this post. But I felt it worth mentioning as food for thought.

Coldrain_13 writes:

shhh Richard will come with his army of nay-sayers.

Sun Jan 03 2010 12:58PM Report
Annwyn writes:

One thing most people who do not like to F2P model does not seem to understand, is that the F2P Market is changing to selling fluff items rather than weapons/armors, etc.

These does not imbalance the game in any shape or form other than giving you a small boost of XP, mounts, etc for a small price. And even if some games offer game-altering items such as weapons, it is becoming a lot more common in the industry to allow players to re-sell those items through in-game currency (Dungeon Fighter Online is a good exemple...though DFO is a skill-based game where gear hardly matters).

(You have not mentionned this in your blog but I will) , it is also false to assume that you cannot reach end-game without cash shop. I've reached the end-game in several games without using the cash shop even once (Flyff, etc).

It is also false to assume that in the end, players will waste more money on a F2P title than a P2P title and the best exemple is that I have played Mabinogi for 1 year and only paid $30 for fluff items. Had this been a P2P title, I would've paid for 12 months, add the price of the box and the expansion....

There's a big misconception going on from the P2P players that F2P is a bad market but it's false. The F2P market is a very successful model with a great share of satisfied players and if the players are not satisfied, there's 100 other F2P games waiting for them so companies have no choices but to listen to their community to some extent. F2P market also receives a lot more expansions per year (which also happens to be free).

Oh and before anyone claims that I am biased for playing F2P games, note that I also used to play WoW, LotR, DarkFall and I'm currently playing Fallen Earth.

Sun Jan 03 2010 2:30PM Report
ziggydawitch writes:

 F2P is like going to a club with no cover charge...


I've found that I make more friends in a p2p game...and friends

is the ONLY reason I play online games. If I didn't care about

meeting ppl I'd just play a ps3 game.


I play f2p games atm as I wait for ffxiv to be released.  One thing

about a group based're forced to spend alotta time 

with 5 other ppl,  and that's right up my alley.  It's why I play.


In the f3p games is bigger is better mentality....huge mounts 

intown...dueling...crap talkin in "world chat"...yeah, you can buy

tokens to be annoying to the whole server...pfft.

a huge turn off for me...

gimme a p2p game anyday...and one that only lets you make 

one char on one server....

then you'll find that your reputation is the best weapon you have, 

and you can't buy gotta earn it  :)

Sun Jan 03 2010 3:27PM Report
giantsquid writes:

@MadnessRealm  I actually share your mentality.  I totally agree.  There are many bad stereotypes that are being constantly shouted, and this is in an ever-changing market of switching to more "fluff" items.

It may take awhile for people to come around and change how they think about F2P.

I also agree with you about reaching end-game.  I've played Runes of Magic for a year now, and within the first 2 months of it, I had 2 guild mates who were top of our server as far as rep and tweaked gear, and they never spent a dime.  Yet sadly the RoM forums are still plagued with people screaming about how the game is unfair and forces you to spend money to compete in end game.

Great comment, thanks.

Sun Jan 03 2010 7:56PM Report
Midare writes:

Giantsquid, seems like your title is a bit off... your thesis was that the F2P model is bad because it is free... but then the post itself seemed to say moreso that it is bad because of RMT.

I could see the "free to play" being bad by beign free if you'd argued that it allows immature people in, that it encourages greifers to make second, third, fourth, etc accounts each time they are banned. Right now it just doesn't seem like you really managed to defend your initial arguement.

As Madness said, though, the item mall  method can swing between non-impacting to game tplay on one extreme, to over-favouring those with money on the other. RMT for vanity items, name changes, and things of that nature are non-impacting.... so unto themselves do nto seem to break games.

Mon Jan 04 2010 5:08AM Report
mckimmins writes:

I love to play mmo's but usually I can only afford one subscription at a time. Free to play games allow me to add on a side game or two and go back to worlds I liked whenever I wish. I pay monthly for Eve Online at the moment but I am able to get some walking Avatar fix from games like mabinogi, Allods, or Atlantica. I could perhaps see why people would gripe with a f2p game if that is there main game and all they play. But as a side game they are perfect for me. And whenever I happen to have some extra cash I can visit the cash shop.

Mon Jan 04 2010 9:21AM Report
Skooma2 writes:

It's "alter", not "altar",  unless you are making a sacrifice.  And, it is not proper to use contractions in serious writing.

Mon Jan 04 2010 3:53PM Report
giantsquid writes:

@Midare I view my thesis as being what the worst part of F2P MMORPGs may be.

I try not to claim that RMT is bad or good.  My favorite game for the past year has been Runes of Magic which runs on micro-transaction. Some may even have good arguments why I could be wrong that I may agree with.

@Skooma2 Good thing we aren't living in the ignorant times of the Spanish inquisition.  I'll be sure to fix the mistake before I present it to a serious board of MMORPG journalists :P  I am curious, do you have a link to any academic or "serious" writing rules to help support your claim that it's not proper to use contractions in "serious" writing?

Mon Jan 04 2010 4:38PM Report
windrider07 writes:

It's wierd because I've seen so many players compare F2P to P2P.  I've seen quite a few F2P games try to compete against P2P.  A lot of my friends won't go to to P2P simply because of the subscription.  The idea that you aren't forced to pay for a game is more appealing to them.  Yet it is interesting because I've seen more popularity and hype on P2P than F2P.  In F2P, players generally don't understand how it works.  They beg for more things to come but when they finall ycome, they complain some more.  It's like a rollercoaster.  I agree that being "free" is the worst it can be. I love F2P games....I've met so many great people on it.  It's risky to pay $20+ for a game than pay a subscription.  You can play F2P and feel free.   A game can only suck if the community makes it suck.  Some communities bounce off each other and it's interesting to watch.  I play Fiesta Online and Secret of the Solstice and just like any other F2P MMOs, people complain.  Fiesta is one of the best F2P MMOs I have ever played.  Solstice is a different genre but is quite enjoyable.  They arent as good as P2P but they are very enjoyable and a lot of friends to gain from them.

Wed Apr 14 2010 4:54PM Report writes:
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