By SharpShotApollo 5 Comments
Free-to-Play, Pay-to-Play, Pay-to-Win, Free-to-Pay.
At one time or another, I've heard one of these terms used to describe the free-to-play(F2P) model. Over the past few years, many once pay-to-play MMOs have converted to a F2P model, hoping to generate a growing number of players who would otherwise not purchased the game, for lack of interest/funds. Some games have been successful in moving from a paid subscription model to F2P. EverQuest and Lord of the Rings Online, for example have had huge population spikes once they made the move. Games like Guild Wars 2 have launched with a one time fee, like most retail games, but offer an MMO world with a microtransaction, F2P model within, which has worked quite well for ArenaNet.
The unfortunate side of F2P is how the developer will, on occasion, hinder your progress, nearly forcing you to buy whatever it is they're selling, for you continue to enjoy your time with their game. Known as pay-to-win, these games tend to turn off the average person as they only wish to play a free game to some level of enjoyment without being forced to pay. An example of pay-to-win is Battlefield Heroes. You just straight up have to buy guns. Unless you want to be stuck with the default gun anyway. Some of the pay guns make the game much easier to score kills. This may have changed since I played. Also, Hawken was a good example. When I first played, the only way to get new mechs was to buy them with real money, leaving you with only one light mech and three guns. Also, mech slots had to be paid for and you were given only one. It was a turn off and I stopped playing. Since then, there is an in-game currency, which you can use to buy mechs and I believe you also have more slots before you need to buy more.
Normally I wouldn't have spent as much time as I have over the last year or so with F2P games, but after I was laid off, money became tight and to feed my video game addiction, I turned to F2P. Free-to-play games are games that are 100% free and do not force you to ever spend a dime to do everything the game has to offer, but offer many microtransactions if you so desire. The first one that comes to mind is MechWarrior Online. MWO allows you to play the game without spend a dime. You are given four mech slots as well as four rotating trial mechs so you can earn money to then buy your own. All weapons, parts and chassis' can be purchased with in-game currency. Only cosmetic items and certain single use boosters can be bought with real money. The boosters give a slight advantage, but are certainly not pay-to-win.
Another example of completely F2P is Warframe. After creating your account, you play through the tutorial, then you are given the option of one of three starting Warframes. Once you open up to the full game, you are given an extra Warframe slot and three extra weapons slots. You can do everything in that game with what they give you. Also, frame parts can be farmed and crafted with everything you can find in the game as well as weapons. They do give you the option for mictotransactions for everything in the game, but it is completely unnecessary.
Star Trek Online is one of the converted F2P games I fell in love with. I'm a huge Star Trek nerd and even though I'm not much of a fan of the away team stuff, the space combat is amazing. It's one of the best space combat simulators you will ever find with a free price tag. I am almost all the way through the story and I have not needed to pay a single dime of my own money. I could see it not being for everyone, but Star Trek fans should give it a shot. It's a big boiling pot of fanfair.
Games like League of Legends, DotA 2, Team Fortress 2 and World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships are the poster children for the new wave of non-standard gaming practices. Newer games are coming out developed as F2P from the ground up and more and more are figuring out the right way to do it. It works so well, that even some retail games are integrating microtransactions into them. A game that was judged harshly for having them was Dead Space 3, which I didn't have the same problem with as the rest of the internet. I would never have known if it wasn't for people yelling about them. They weren't flashing in my face constantly and there was no mention of them except maybe once the entire game. I was able to complete that game with ease and I didn't spend anything other than the dollar for the humble bundle. Until microtransactions become obnoxious and progress hindering in a retail game, I don't really see the big deal, but that's a discussion for another time.
Games can be free and still profitable, just don't shove microtransactions down our throat or make it so we don't want to play your game because we actually can't finish it without paying money. I didn't need to ever spend money in Warframe, but I did, but I really enjoy that game and want to support the devs. You catch more bees with honey. Or something like that.
What free-to-play games do you like? Have I missed some bad offenders of the pay-to-win model? Anything you want to see become free-to-play? Sound off in the comments below!