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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

The Upside of the F2P Parade

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday July 28 2010 at 5:32PM
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So I'm sure to many the trend of converting old games into Free-to-Play titles looks like little more than a fad in a world where everyone is struggling to ride the success of the one big dapper-suited gorilla in the room.  Yet I see it as a bold new step in Western online gaming, and frankly I wish it was one that could have come a couple years earlier.  I'm not sure what prompted Turbine to give it a try with DDO, but I'm glad they did.

Everquest II is one of those games that I've had nearly since launch but for some reason or another I've never really dug into it.  I find myself several times a year picking it up our of curiosity, leveling an old character or a new one to about level 30, and then I lose interest because I can't seem to get excited enough by it to shell out $15 a month.  I like it, but I just don't like it enough to make it my main game and in my household... it's only one sub a month.  That's a self-imposed rule.

So with the announcement of LotRO going F2P and now EQ2, you can probably begin to understand my excitement.  As long as both companies can do the F2P game without making it still seem a ripoff for those things that do cost money, I can foresee myself spending a few dollars here and there for items, extra experience, bag slots, and other types of "fluff".  I may never spend as much as $15 a month on each title, but the idea that I can play whenever I want and maybe occassionally buy something to advance my character a little easier while supporting their product is immensely tempting. 

But the real upside is that I won't have to decide on just one active subscripton any more to play two of my favorite "sword and board" MMOs.  I can pick up EQ2 and LotRO whenever I want to starting this fall with no cover charge.  Then who knows, maybe I'll see fit to shell out a few bucks for a mount or some extra bag space.  At least I'm not being deterred by an arbitrary subscription fee anymore. 

I only wish this attention to a hybrid business model could have come back when Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa were floundering.  What I wouldn't do to see both those games adopt this type of experience.  I'm betting I'm not alone in that area either.

What about you?  What game do you not play as much as you'd like due to the subscription rate, and find yourself wishing it would go the DDO route?

spookydom writes:

I'm happy about EQ II going f2p. Have almost exactly the same feelings and experiance with it as you stated here, just could never get any freinds to play it with me and did not often run into low levels who had any time for newbies. That is going to change with the advent of this new busines model.  Lotro not so excited about. That game was not in trouble and did not need saving. That's odviously presure from WB on Turbine to flog the cash horse. D&D's sucsses seems to be setting a precedent I think that may end up being a double edged sword. I would prefer it if there were a few games left without big flashing item shop signs killing immersion.  Saying that if sombody we knew brought back Tabula Rasa with said big flashing item shop sign and all, I would be first in the que to register. :)

Wed Jul 28 2010 11:48PM Report
kalanthis writes:

Well argued article. I'm not a fan of the model, and feel it is resulting in a large number of mediocre products in the place of 2 or 3 good ones. I also feel it is responsible for decreasing numbers (and therefore a less enjoyable experience) on some pretty good P2P MMO's (pretty much everything except WOW).

I applaud Turbine for embracing the model, although I think it was probably a desperate attempt to make DDO profitable. I've tried a number of F2P's while I've been waiting for the AAA's to arrive end of 2010, early 2011. They've been good time sinks, but  I don't think I've spent more then 2 or 3 months on any of them..and I really want more from an MMO.

Wed Jul 28 2010 11:50PM Report
GrumpyMel2 writes:

Bill, the huge unspoken question here is... "How does the change in business/pricing model effect the game-play/atmosphere"?

I think it's delusional to pretend that a change in the business model WONT have an effect (perhaps SEVERELY NEGATIVE) on both game-play and atmosphere.

Just WHAT will change and HOW MUCH is the 64K question?

The way I see it, what you are saying is that you'd really like to drive a Cadillac, if only it were priced like a Chevette.... problem is in order to make a Cadillac that you can sell at that price no longer has the features that made it a Cadillac  in the first place.

Thu Jul 29 2010 11:10AM Report
Khalathwyr writes:

None, Bill. If a game isn't worth a subscription it isn't worth my time. Heck I have 2 Lifetime subs to LOTRO and I don't play it (and haven't for years). *shrug*

Thu Jul 29 2010 11:30AM Report
semajin writes:

So Khalathwyr, you have two wasted lifetime subs to a game because originally it was built around a model that discouraged players from being able to get a true and thorough look at it's workings before charging them? Wow, what an amazingly good argument for the F2P business model. I'm sure multitudes of STO players would like  to have been able to try that title free for as long as they wished, then spent whatever they chose after they were comfortable.


Stop this slavish and sycophantic nonsense, keep those dollars in your wallet until you know what you're buying, for goodness sake.

Thu Jul 29 2010 5:06PM Report
nickster29 writes:

Meh.  I was excited about EQ2 going F2P until I saw the massive restrictions on a F2P account.  Used to play EQ2, but quit after Shadow Oddessy.

Better off buying the box game and paying the $15/month or find a game that was actually designed to be F2P.  The restrictions make EQ2 more Pay2Win than most of the F2P games I have seen out there.

Thu Jul 29 2010 5:57PM Report
Vonatar writes:

LOTRO F2P both excites me and worries me. Hopefully more players will discover what a wonderful game this is and dig deeper, but at the same time Turbine seem to be trying to make it more "pick up and play" than it is now, with instant instancing, barter items instead of loot etc. A shame that F2P has to mean that this game becomes more of an arcade game than a true MMO.

EQ2 doesn't look like F2P to me, more like F2T (free-to-trial) since even a monthly sub only gets you level 80 and you have to shell out more cash to hit 90, from what I saw. SOE is always about the $$$, not the game or the players. Unlike Turbine (who made DDO a relaunch success with F2P and will probably do so with LOTRO) SOE will only screw it up I fear.

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Thu Jul 29 2010 8:22PM Report
jfk35824 writes:

id love to see any of the super hero titles as hybrid or f2p models.  I stopped playing coh/cox b/c of the sub fee, i dropped champions online after beta b/c of the sub fee, and probably wont order dcu online b/c of the sub fee....

Thu Jul 29 2010 8:24PM Report
GustavoM writes: Following the same DDO track? No one. F2P's can be well-known as wallet-rape'ists, since you'll pretty much buy cash shop items enough to pay a couple of month subs. Thu Jul 29 2010 9:17PM Report
trancejeremy writes:

Of course, the downside is that the people who were paying $15 a month for the game because they liked it, will now be paying $30 a month for the game to get the same sort of experience.

And of course, the really hard core will be spending $100 or more.

That's the problem with F2P games - it's not about being "free" to people who play occasionally - it's soaking the regular players for as much money as possible. And you don't even notice it.

All a company needs to do is tweak the difficulty a little, and boom, people head to the cash shop for buffs.  Same with XP rate and loot. Just tone it down a little, and boom, sales of XP boosting and drop potions.

And that's just normal gameplay. It's the gear enhancing that is really costly. LOTRO is already set up with this, with the LIs that aren't so legendary. But with a trip to the cash shop, I'm sure they will be. Or at least not as awful.

Fri Jul 30 2010 12:01AM Report
uncus writes:

"Of course, the downside is that the people who were paying $15 a month for the game because they liked it, will now be paying $30 a month for the game to get the same sort of experience."

That's not true.  I'll grant you, most people are stupid and undisciplined and many would be stupid enough to do this, but some would not.  I have 2 subs to DDO, one for myself and one for my nephew - I've never spent a penny beyond the $10/month for the sub.  I also have a f2p account for my other nephew - I've not spent a penny on that account, either [granted he doesn't play anywhere near as often].

THe OP has hit it right on the head for me - I get tired of playing just one game, but will only allow myself to pay for on sub at a time [except for the lifetime subs to LOTRO for my wife & I - that was done when she had a lot of free time and wanted to share my hobby/obcession]. 

Games that I'd love to see go f2p/microtransaction:  Ryzom [all time favorite game, just not worth $15/mon the months I can't play] and CoV.   I'd try Eve and EQ2, possibly Horizons and Vanguard, too.  Because of the horrible graphics, I wouldn't even try the original EQ [too blocky] or WoW [too cartoony-might as well be anime]!

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ZenNature writes:

I'm pretty happy with Lotro going F2P. I'm not so sure about how EQ2 will turn out based on a couple very good arguments about it, like the effect it will have on the regular subscriber servers. I think that's going to be more SOE's failure in implementation if anything. It will get me to play both games more then I would otherwise though.

If Tabula Rasa came back in ANY form, I'd jump back on it in a heartbeat. All it needed was more post-30 content and it would've been my favorite MMO. I hope these new subscriber models tempts someone to bring it back and give it a second chance.

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