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What's Wrong with Freedom of Choice?

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
Columns The Free Zone 0

Since I've said so multiple times in the past, I believe the large majority of readers who follow this column at least semi-regularly understand that I'm pro-choice when it comes to MMOG business models. Be it subscription, free to play or some form of hybrid, I'm not automatically in favor of or against any approach that's likely to be reasonable for some portion of the potential audience.

What truly matters is the fit between each person and a particular implementation, which includes both the nature of the game in question and its specific approach to revenue generation. If a given release isn't sufficiently enjoyable, which is a highly subjective judgment, its business model is pretty much irrelevant, at least to me, since I'm not going to play it for more than a short time anyway. Although I can't be absolutely sure since I haven't kept the data, I may have a tendency to allow a bit more leeway to games I've purchased, but even then, if I'm not having enough fun, I don't stick around for a full month just because I can.

As for F2Ps, it's interesting to note that of the perhaps 200 I've tried over the past several years, the one in which I've probably spent the most the most time has yet to cost me even a single cent. For the record, this isn't because I received any type of special account. I'm just a regular player with no unusual privileges, favors or dispensations from the publisher. To the best of my knowledge, the company isn't even aware I play. What's more, I don't just log in to socialize; on most parameters that are ranked, I'm in the top 10 on my server.

On the other side of the ledger, I'd estimate I've left at least 100 F2Ps after trying them out for no more than 10 to 15 hours. Naturally, this means I stayed for even shorter durations in some, namely those that utterly failed to grab my interest or pique my curiosity. In those instances, I was certainly pleased not to have paid anything.

Being pro-choice means I recognize other players have personal preferences that differ from my own, but are just as valid for them as mine are for me. So, if someone happens to have a strong inclination toward F2P while another won't consider anything that doesn't require a monthly fee, I'm perfectly fine with both. Why should I care which someone else likes better anyway? Whatever they choose either doesn't impact me at all or only does so in a highly indirect manner.

So, I've never understood why some people are so vehement in favoring subscription. They support the revenue model of their choice, but apparently can't stand it when others don't share their preference. I seldom encounter or see anything similar in other areas. For instance, I'd much rather watch a hockey game than football or basketball; I'm Canadian, after all. I'm far more interested in post-impressionist art than the old masters, and in poker as a hobby over collecting stamps. No one has ever taken issue with any of these or myriad other matters of personal taste except occasionally in jest.

But MMOG revenue models? Well, they're a somewhat different story. I'm well aware that most gamers who favor subscription are fine with the fact their preference isn't nearly universal. They continue to pay by the month to play their titles of choice, and aren't demonstrably bothered that millions of others opt for F2Ps. This is easy enough to appreciate since they're not impacted.

What I don't comprehend is the thinking of the relatively small but sometimes quite verbal circle whose members, as best I can figure, abhor the very existence of the F2P model. They have plenty of games available to play, which they keep saying are superior. So what's the problem if other people, who happen to number in the millions, opt for ostensibly inferior titles wherein they can decide to pay anywhere from nothing to as much as they're willing?

Would someone please explain this to me? What's wrong with freedom of choice?

This week's MMOG trivia

This week's question highlights a popular F2P release named after a collection of stories that has been called a medieval masterpiece and even Wales' foremost literary work. Employing a Celtic mythology theme and offering humans, elves and giants as playable races, it features a skill system with combat, magic and life categories that lets players gain experience not just by engaging in armed hostilities, but also by learning spells, cooking meals, shearing sheep and more. Do you know what this title is?



Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.