I chuckled when I read this article on Gamasutra about developers moving away from the F2P model.
In measuring pricing model preference, we found that 82% percent of US audiences, and 87% of UK audiences preferred games with a one time fee. [source]
My chuckle came because I’ve been saying this for years and years. I chuckle because I see developers who were once champions of the F2P model touting these findings when they were once the biggest offenders in the proliferation of F2P into the western market.
The push away from “buy-to-play” (aka “one time fee” (sad we have to call it that)) toward F2P — or pay-to-win, whale-to-play, whatever — trashed this industry hard. It nearly (or did) ruin the MMORPG industry by wreaking havoc on studios at a time when they were already trying to combat (or embrace) themeparkism, and left us with almost a decade of garbage games.
I’ll maintain my same position here that I hope F2P finally goes away, but I’ll caution everyone to watch out for its replacement: Premium. The new coy way of pricing games is this idea that you can get the basic game for $60, or even free’ish, but have a lot of the game cleverly hidden behind psychologically acceptable pay walls. Hearthstone, for example, straddles this concept of being “Free” and “Premium” where you can certainly play for free… but can you TRULY “play” for free?
Players seem hesitant to latch onto free-to-play games for fear content and progress will be locked firmly behind pay walls.
So they stealthily market the idea of free-to-play as bad, while hiding the same payment model behind something that feels like, “Oh you don’t have to buy that. No, that’s just there as an offer. Don’t even pay attention to that. I mean, if you want to you can. You can totally play for a low entry price and then enhance your experience with our premium status. No biggie.” If you fall for where this is leading, you deserve it. You should be just as afraid of “digital premium titles” as you are “free-to-play” ones. It’s like DLC on steroids.
Let’s fast forward five years from now when the polls show people don’t like “premium titles” and what they’ve done to the gaming industry, and they would like to return to games where you buy the box and get the full game.