Play 2 Play?
So one of the big deals in the MMO world is the argument between Pay 2 Play and Free 2 Play which is no small thing, but I've recently noticed a wrinkle between these two business models: Play 2 Play. A quick recap for those not in the know, traditionally there are two major business models when it comes to MMO's, there's the basic monthly subscription model known as Pay 2 Play. In Pay 2 Play there is normally an up front box price, and then a monthly subscription after that. If you don't pay anything you can't play at all, hence Pay 2 Play.
In the Free 2 Play model the concept is simple, you can play the game in some way without paying anything. Where the controversy comes in is what can you PAY for? In some games you can buy XP bonuses, hats, decorative items, more bank slots, more character slots and other things that don't directly effect gameplay. In the more controversial payment systems you can buy actual in game items that effect gameplay like guns, bullets, and tanks which has given rise to the derogitorry "Pay 2 Win" moniker. The big idea behind Free 2 Play is that while only a small percentage of your player base will pay anything, those that do pay will pay more per player and hence offset any general subscription losses. So far it seems to be working and the idea of time = money really works for many like my wife and myself who may have more money than time to play a game.
So now we know the two elephants in the room what is this Play 2 Play nonsense?
Well quite simply it is a system where in you can earn more game time by playing the game. I've seen the basics of this system in Free 2 Play games like Legue of Legends (which I don't play) and Team Fortress 2 (which I do) that let you use in game money to buy "premium" items that you could buy with cash or randomly through play earn as "drops," but it wasn't until I got a bit deeper into clan wars in World of Tanks did I see a Free 2 Play game allow the players to earn "gold credits." (I.e. in game money that can normally only be bought with real money) Since then I've seen Star Trek Online and a few other games create ways of earning "gold credits" through in game actions.
That said none of these are really Play 2 Play since they are in Free 2 Play games which overrides this concept. EVE Online has once again created an odd way of doing things, and with it the Play 2 Play idea (at least the first I've seen of it). Since just about everything in EVE can be made and traded by the players, CCP decided "why not game time too?" So now there is an in game market for PLEX (Pilot Licence EXtension) which is quite literally 30 days of game time. As with everything in EVE markets determine the price and I've heard PLEX costing anywhere from 400 Million ISK on up which sounds like a lot, but to many corporations and high level pilots that's pocket change. Heck I've got a brand new account and I can pull in almost 1 million an hour just doing low level missions. In EVE making ISK is a science and there's lots of ways to earn that money if you put in the time, and that's how Play 2 Play works. You can either pay your sub like normal, or you could play the heck out of the game and EARN more game time. It's an intersting game cycle that I'm not sure would work in any game outside of EVE as it's been around for 9 years now and is used to doing things "differently."
So which do I think is better? Honestly I'm not sure if there is a "better" overall. At the end of the day the models are all designed to make the companies money, and that's a good thing for them. As consumers we have to decide what's the right model for us. For instance my wife and I payed $65+$15 each ($160 total for the math challenged) for at a minimum of 60 days of Tera Online. We played 2-8 hours a day for most of those days so yeah that was cost effective. On the other hand I have put in less than that into World of Tanks and I've played it for much longer. Then there's games I used to play but I stopped because of the subscription, they have since become Free 2 Play and I've gone back to them. Here with EVE I haven't played that game for almost 5 years but thanks to PLEX and their latest update they've got me back for another 30 days or so to see what's going on. If I can earn it in game I'll probably be around even longer. In the end it's a very subjective thing and personally I'm just going with whatever system gives me the entertainment I want.