Thursday, June 30, 2011

Free-to-Play or Pay-to-Play

Within the last two days something almost astounding has happened. Blizzard, the company behind one of the worst Geek/Nerd Adictions (World of Warcraft) made a slight change to a portion of their business model. Previously there were three versions of World of Warcraft available, a 10-Day Trial, a 14-Day Trial, and the Full game that had a subscription cost. They flipped the game on the trial versions of WoW though, eliminating them entirely. In the place of them they put a new system. World of Warcraft: Starter Edition, which is entirely free. Once I finish the download and have a chance to play with it a bit I will do a full post about it, but this blog post is about something slightly different that WoW:SE sparked in my mind: the thought that right now games, especially MMORPGs cost too much. Hear me out on this a little bit: do  you want to pay a monthly cost to be able to play a game you already bought? World of Warcraft isn't free to begin with and then you have to figure the subscription costs into the equation. In the end the game winds up costing you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not happening with me. At the same rate do you really wanna have to shell out around $60 bucks or more on a game? Again not really. This is where I think that we need to take a new approach to things. Two business models that work: Free-to-Play and FreeMium (which are essentially the same thing). 

Heres the deal with FtP and FM: The game itself is free to download (cut out physical media, that costs $$$), the entire game is free, and not shelling out a penny won't hinder your game experience at all. HOWEVER, you are given the option to shell out money to get various add-ons in the game to give you a slight advantage over other players or to enhance your own experience. This model works. The best example of it is game design company Nexon who specializes in Free-to-Play games. Their current line up includes "Combat Arms" which is essentially the multiplayer mode from any frist person shooter game; "Mapel Story" which is a 2D side-scrolling MMORPH; "Vindictus" and action game; "Atlanrica Online" an MMORPG Real Time Strategy game; and several others (the info on all these games can be found at )

The point is that these are great games, especially "Combat Arms". A friend of mine introduced me to it and I have logged a lot of hours in it, it runs very smoothly on my slightly above average laptop, and it does basically everything a $60 top of the line game can do for free. 

The makers of "Team Fortress 2" recently put that game in the Steam market as a Free-to-Play game that again offers a great experience for no money down and no money taken from you if you so choose not to hand any over. The game World of Warcraft currently is not totally free as it is capped at level 20, but this could be signs that it's time for Blizzard to go totally free with WoW and then offer extras to paying customers without making the free users take a beating. 

This sparks the question though: should more games go Free-to-Play or FreeMium or are the game companies within their rights to be bloodsucking leeches and take insane prices and subscription fees for something that has been proven to be dones just as good for free. Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below and tell me this as well: what Free-to-Play or FreeMium games do you like to play? 


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