I was reading this article about how F2P games accept a wide amount of payment options. It’s innocuous stuff, and makes sense: I’ve used game cards on Mabinogi several times, and in one sense being able to avoid debit card usage is good.
However that article crystallized a reaction in me which I think was slow in forming. Free to play games must die, because they transform MMO gaming into a virtual casino when they don’t do so into one of those little overpriced trinket machines you find at a grocery store. There’s many other reasons why they should die.
1. They are substandard. The vast majority of free to play games take either a playstation one level of sprite graphics, or playstation two level of basic 3d, slap on a huge level and item grind on top of it, and then poorly localize and bring it over to rake in cash. Many of them look alike, when they are not exactly the same game released by different publishers. There’s little to no incentive to quality because all they need to do is be free and get a small population hooked enough to pay development costs.
2. They strip down the experience and make you pay cash for basic needs. The biggest thing in f2p now is not even MMOs but net games. Racing games, first person shooters, side-scrolling beat em ups, and civilization style games. What they are doing is making people pay for online modes of regular games.
Even in actual persistent world MMOs, things we take for granted like mounts, decent bag spaces, a decent exp gain rate, and competitiveness in PvP come with a price tag. I know the whole point is the basic game is free: however to play ANY f2p game seriously will quickly balloon into per month fees double or triple the price of a sub game.
F2P is fine for a grazer, but a huge tax on people who enjoy it, either in money, or time.
3. They target kids. That’s what the article in Massively opened my eyes to. Why do alternative payment methods matter? Because kids can’t use credit or debit cards without a parent okaying or fraud taking place. Those methods can be charged back: however paypal or a gamecard, or a cellphone bill can’t be.
It’s very much like capsule machines in the grocery store: get a kid to pay a big price for a worthless item. It’s worse though because MMOs are designed to be addictive to keep you playing, and when you combine that with a money grind and a kid’s lack of connection between money and the work it needs to take to make that, you get danger.
Always remember Nexon made their money with Maple Story first, and it was Free Realms Sony made.
4. They glut and choke the market and start to influence mainstream MMOs. It’s not so much the pricing that bothers me, but gameplay mechanics. It’s one thing to pay $20 bucks a month, or have a sub fee increase. It’s another to keep at 14.95, and make players choose between grinding out 5k enemies for a random costume piece drop, or pay real life money for one in a cash shop. As in Champions Online.
Because there are so many of the damn things, like so many facebook games, the traditional publishers see all the cash and try to get a piece of it. Thing is they destroy or harm the games they make because either they tack on a cash shop to a game not designed for it (eq 2, vanguard) or they take the f2p methods and make the game as grindy as one while still charging the fee.
5. Finally, they will lead to a crash of the MMO market. I’m surprised no one has picked up the parallels to the Atari mess. A tremendous flood of poor-quality games, more than the market can hold, with little to no quality control. Since f2p is rapidly becoming the majority of games released due to quick turnaround and development, they are becoming the face of MMOs. Eventually it’s not going to hold, especially if we start seeing big failures and a lot of marginal devs closing shop.
Hopefully the market will correct sooner than later and the big-profile subs will make f2p a lot less attractive. Not betting on it though.