97

I’ll pay more for MMO’s now but I’ll never again play a F2P game

You get what you pay for.  Such a simple adage yet it is unequivocally true when it comes to Massively Multiplayer games.  I used to be adamantly against free to play games on the principle that the few I tried were just not very good.  It wasn’t illogical to then connect the free to play model to the inferior play and the subscription model to superior gameplay.  This lasted many, many years for me until I tried a free to play game that contradicted what I had previous thought.

So I was entirely wrong about free to play games being 100% unable to provide the same quality of gameplay.  However, I reinforced the other half of my thoughts on F2p games:  The business (f2P) model is incapable of sustaining a game, regardless of quality, on the same level as a subscription game.  It is inherent to all F2P games that the cash shop must be used.  It is thus inherent to all F2P games that the developers must be constantly thinking of ways to get players to use the shop.  The result is a conflict of interest between developing a quality product and developing a product that makes money.  I submit that the two can not ever exist in harmony.

It’s for this very reason that I have now sworn off any free to play game, regardless of how good the gameplay may be.  I played Allods Online to the max level yet was blindsided (foolishly, I should never have let my guard down) by the free to play model and its impact on the design of the game.   So, while a great game can be free to play, it will never remain a great game because of the inevitable self-defeating nature of the free to play model.  I will never, ever, play a free to play game.  I would sooner quit gaming altogether than ever play a free to play game.

I’ve realized that I would actually be willing to pay more than I’m paying right now.  There was a time — in fact it was before WAR came out — that I was absolutely unwilling to budge from the $14.99 / month subscription price.  I’ve changed my mind.  I’m now willing to pay for quality.  If someone can make a better MMO and improve upon the quality then I am willing to pay more.  If I get what I pay for, then I’m willing to pay a lot more.  If we’ve plateaued with the $14.99 price point then let’s raise it.  With that raise better come a big improvement to the gameplay though.  Don’t think for a second that I’m willing to pay more for what we currently get.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Reddit0Share on Google+0
Fyzzle - March 17, 2010

As long as quality comes with the cash boost. I remember GM ran events in EQ that were just all sorts of fun. I would pay extra for content like that.

JT - March 17, 2010

what are you paying to play for right now?
and if you’re not playing an MMO now – what are you gonna go back to?

Dietx - March 17, 2010

I am truly glad you finally made a post like this Keen. People will generally be against what you have to say, seeing as Free-to-play, just sounds better to a teen or newbie to the genre than its counterpart the P2P model. I recently re-subbed to Aion and can tell the difference (albeit Aion is AAA to me) between a Mid-grade P2P title vs. what is suppose to be a AAA F2P title. I believe the differences are self-proclaiming. I hope you are to get back into reviewing the big name MMO’s as I like to see a general players review of these games after their launches so i can see which one to play.

If you play Aion let me know, i’d love to add you to my F-list!

Namaste - March 17, 2010

I would easily pay more than $15 monthly for a good mmo right now. Must have DAOC II!!!!!!! I am currently playing for EVE online (game from 2003) until something worth my time is out there.

Ben - March 17, 2010

Not to be crass… but make sure you duck before the “I told you so!” comments come flying at you like a 10 lb. brick.

Sorry Allods didn’t work out, but it’s junk, and always was 🙂

Amuntoth - March 17, 2010

Free-to-play is a great business model and I hope it sticks around. Not for ME to play, but for my eventual children, or children growing up now who have parents who won’t or can’t pay a subscription.

For anyone that can afford a subscription there is no reason to play a free-to-play game. I think deep down we’ve always known the F2P model would produce poor quality games, but like you said we just never expected it to turn a great game into a bad game.

The sad fact is that the market won’t bear more than 14.99 a month at the moment, and the only way to get that to increase would be 1) to have an amazing game, far better than current MMOs, and 2) to have WoW go to a 14.99 subscription, otherwise people will see a game that looks good, but at $20 a month, then see WoW, that confortable, familiar friend for 14.99.

Office Jerk - March 17, 2010

Stop whining for DAoC to come back. it already exists in several freeshards on the interwebs. Go play on Uthgard already.

http://uthgard-server.net/

Intruder313 - March 17, 2010

I can understand that the Allods fiasco has wounded you but don’t let it sour you against all future F2p games – you don’t know what’s yet to come.

Allods is just an eye-opener of F2P at it’s most devious, dishonest and exploitative but not every studio will try to pull such stunts.

Regarding paying for quality via a Subs model: it’s a tricky one as until a game the equal of WoW appears they will struggle to get more than a tiny minority to pay above the WoW rate – WoW sets a ceiling on most player’s expectations of MMO price.

I wish WoW would open up their model a bit more and have more usage-based tiers.

Maezer - March 17, 2010

I had the same thought beginning of the week. After the latest news from Allods.. definitely no more. Also, F2P community are much more abbrasive and very immature too.

P2P for me…and yes I would pay $30/month for a good MMORPG.

Zardoz - March 17, 2010

“Beware of Geeks bearing gifts” in other words…

Keen
Keen - March 17, 2010

@Ben: They’re warranted, but only if they’re for the reasons that I’ve admitted to. I really do believe that I was wrong about F2P games being able to show quality of design from a gameplay perspective. However, I wasn’t wrong about the F2P model getting in the way and messing it all up. I was blinded by it. Not happening again.

@Amuntoth: Nice way to phrase it: “I think deep down we’ve always known the F2P model would produce poor quality games, but like you said we just never expected it to turn a great game into a bad game.”

Curious George - March 17, 2010

I would love to know the backstory for this change of heart. I assume it has to do with Allods as their cash shop is a clear example of how to do everything wrong. And while I am happy that you now see them in a light similar to how I do I still don’t support you conclusion that all F2P business models will not work.

I think the people running Allods never did any real research into their markets and what people would accept (and/or they are just greedy SOBs). Given better people and better research I think they could have worked things out.

Wren - March 17, 2010

@Maezer: I would be hesitate in blanketing the communities of all F2P games as being more immature or abrasive [than P2P games]. In my experiences on WoW the Trade chat was full of garbage, a lot of it being immature or sometimes even of a racist or bigoted bend.

It’s sad to see Allods collapse like it has (just noticed the huge cost on some of the newer items), but I stopped playing weeks ago because I was wary of what would happen to the game and didn’t want to make the investment to see it wasted.

Maybe someday there’ll be a F2P game that can compete without the publishers/suits maiming it like a baby seal. Not holding my breath, though.

Keen
Keen - March 17, 2010

Part of me wants to say something like “I hope one day…” but honestly if it remains a game with a cash shop then it will remain a game with a conflict of interest. (‘It’ being any game that is F2P)

Jenah - March 17, 2010

I’m with you. I broke my rule to never play F2P games when I played Allods. I can’t imagine any circumstance that would ever get me to try another.

Phillip Edgar - March 17, 2010

I am thrilled to see you finally get it. I enjoy your blog and think you have some excellent points, but some of your past points were pro F2P that won’t work. In the end, I would pay $50/month for a good quality MMO, but none exist in the market today to justify that price. It is possible a good game could entice me to pay that, but today no game comes close. Honestly, I get more value for the box price of BFBC2 than I do from any monthly investment in any MMO on the market. Give me a sandbox UO style game, with decent graphics, good game play, and not indie and I will jump in (sandbox does not mean takes a full time job to enjoy, re:Darkfall).

In the end, companies with F2P are, as you said, compelled to drive players into the cash shop and it creates garbage artificial gameplay elements that abuse players. Allods is a disgrace of a game that deserves to be shut down by government intervention for customer abuse.

Graham - March 18, 2010

The issue I see with F2P is that the people defending it tend to be either teenagers or casual players with no real interest in endgame. If the journey is all that matters, then F2P is fine.

For anyone that hits endgame in a F2P title and wants to keep playing suddenly finds themselves wandering from a medieval forest into a minefield surrounded by barbwire. Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic and now Allods (and I daresay many others) seem to offer a relatively cash free ride to max level and then expects the people interested enough to get to endgame to pay for all the low level toons, far more than you would pay for a subscription.

Thats the flaw for me, I do have an eye on endgame and I have no interest in paying a fortune for all the casuals who skip around singing flowery praise for F2P.

bartillo - March 18, 2010

/agree

Ive been playing fallen earth lately, i got a free copy back on mmorpg.com and subbed up, its way better now then back in beta when we played.

Crackbone - March 18, 2010

@ Keen : Firstly, I’m going to applaud you of finally getting to where I am. F2P as a revenue model isn’t ready for the West. It just isn’t. The expectation levels of the players on this side of the pond is too great, and the F2P model (DDO excluded) is destined to produce either games that are trash or games that are overpriced.

It’s really that simple. As I stated, I exclude DDO from this condemnation because they have a F2P model that works. Really, anyone looking to build a F2P game and try to market it in this hemisphere should look @ Turbine for an example. They’ve done an excellent job in making it work.

Secondly, on subscription pricing. I’m going to disagree with you somewhat because I don’t feel the subscription pricing limits the amount of quality that should be going into these games.

$14.99 in any volume + BOX SALES (which we tend to forget is a large portion of early revenue) is more than enough to keep developers afloat. The real challenge isn’t in the long term cash flow, it’s in the development phase.

I find the problem with MMOs currently to be much like building a monolithic building or sending someone into earth orbit.

One small mistake early lands you 500 miles off target @ launch. I feel that project management is lacking in these development houses, and furthermore, the early conceptual stages tend to overreach. They try to do too much, or quite frankly, they don’t know what they are reaching for in the first place.

We need solid game designs. We need quality additions to the game as it matures to keep players interested, and most of all we need publishers that understand the business.

Of late, the failure has been on all fronts.

silvertemplar - March 18, 2010

So what is your opinion on

Subscription Games with Cash Shops ? Now you can pay MORE -and- have the exact self-defeating situation as in F2P.

I believe there’s a place for an “MMO” with just a box-cost.

If i can play Modern Warfare 2 and most likely Diablo 3 , Starcraft 2 online, endlessly without a sub or a cash shop, why can’t i play Champions Online like that too?

Why can’t an MMO be like a normal multiplayer game?

I’ll gladly pay for content patches, just like we have to pay for MAP PACKS and DLC for other games.

Dietx - March 18, 2010

@silvertemplar

Easy answer, MW2, Diablo, Stacraft, and almost all others you run P2P servers or Player bought Dedicated servers which put barely (if anything) any workload on the developer themselves to keep people playing. With games such as Champions, WoW, Aion, and etc, the amount of cash and fees going in to pay people to moderate said servers is tremendous. We do not pay out of box for that main reason and yes Guild Wars is an exception, but Guild Wars is not open world and does not require the expensive server costs and loads that open world and transition world MMO’s use.

silvertemplar - March 18, 2010

@Dietx

Well if running dedicated servers are so expensive, why can Ubisoft turn single player games into DRM-infested-24-7-online-support nightmares ?

Likewise Infinity Ward and Blizzard actually REMOVED exactly this functionality in favor of hosting everything via them online. What do you think Battle.NET 2.0 is ?

So i’m not convinced “running servers” really require $15 per month from the players. Creating new content, yes, but that is also done via paid DLC in any other online game.

When SC2 hits and we’re all routed via Battle.Net, are you saying those servers can be “weaker” than an MMO server with an “open world” design?

Keep in mind, MMOs like STO/Champs are not even “open world” in the first place….in fact Guildwars is instanced too, DDO too .

Bhagpuss - March 18, 2010

Who cares what the funding model is if you enjoy the game? What’s the point of setting rules now about what you will or won’t play, based on how the company making it funds its project?

Honestly, people in the Subscription vs F2P arguments that crop up all over the MMO blogosphere tend to sound like they’re making some kind of life-commitment. Getting married, having a child, changing your nationality, those are the kind of decisions that might merit this degree of soul-searching. But whether or not to play one MMO or another? Get some perspective, please.

If you play a F2P game and it goes sour, like Allods did, what have you lost? A little time. If you enjoyed it for the time you did play then you haven’t even lost that, and if you didn’t enjoy it…well, why were you playing at all?

I just don’t see how you can go wrong with a F2P game. It costs you nothing. There’s no commitment. Play it, stop playing it, play it again. Bored with it? There’ll be another along in a minute, give that a try.

With a subscription game if it turns out you don’t stick with it you’re not just out some time but the cost of the box, maybe a month or two’s sub. Again, no big deal, you probably got your money’s worth while it lasted.

Personally I don’t plan on cutting my nose off to spite my face. I’ll go on trying both Sub-based and F2P MMOs and playing whichever I enjoy for as long as I am enjoying them. It’s not a religious commitment.

Walliss - March 18, 2010

Again I completely agree, after playing a few months in Allods I’m not again back to EQ2 and even some -cough- emu-eq -cough-.

We Fly Spitfires - March 18, 2010

I think you make a very good point about how the developers always have to have ways of making money on their mind and it’s a very different concept and frame of mind than subscription based games.

For instance, in a subscription game, the developers have to think about ways to improve the gameplay in order to maintain their subscribers and attract new ones. In F2P games, they need to think about ways to milk the money out of their playerbase.

Merketh - March 18, 2010

I generally share the same view as most anti-f2p people ; howver i am keeping my eye on Black Propehecy as they might have something half decent going (ironically it might be decent for the simple reason it wasnt developed as a F2P game)

smthin - March 18, 2010

If someone made a good DAOC 2 I would easily fork over $50-60

$15 feels almost free for me, I spend this much on lunch whenever I feel like having something nice

Dickie - March 18, 2010

First, I have to agree with Bhagpuss. There’s simply no good reason to make across-the-board statements based on one bad game. That’s like swearing off all console games because Avatar the game sucked. No, not all console games suck, just Avatar and the countless other movie-spin offs.

Second, people seem to act like Sub model games have developers that only want the best for their players and eschew all concepts of profitability because of the fans. Seriously? Why do you think every single sub game has endless, soul-wrenching grinds that, once reached, open up NEW soul-wrenching grinds? Because it gets you to stick around one more month! They develop their games specifically so you’ll play longer, thereby paying more. They are not fundamentally different beasts, simply different approaches.

QE - March 18, 2010

That’s a very strong statement.

It sounds like your main complaint against free-to-play games is that in order to get the most out of them you have to pay. Once you’re paying you’re providing the means for the developers to give you a pay-quality experience, and all that’s gone is the integrity of the f2p claim.

I’ve always been suspicious when games call themselves ‘free’, but I certainly wouldn’t avoid an otherwise good game because of it. I’m prepared to pay for a subscription game, so I’m prepared to put the same amount of money into a microtransaction game if it’s good.

There may or may not be games that good, but I think that’s a failing of a particular game in each case, and it’s not something inherently caused by the unfortunately f2p label.

ermansup - March 18, 2010

Subscription prices for some reason seem to be unaffected by inflation. I believe Everquest is to blame for the $14.99 standard. So by doing a simple inflation conversion we are now paying an equivalent of about $11.40 in 1999 when Everquest came out. Conversely to match its subscription price in -99 today we would have to pay about $19.12. So instead of paying more we are paying less and less as the years go by. While making games is only getting more expensive. Admittedly there are more players today than in 1999.

Fyzzle - March 18, 2010

Microtransactions can be useful if done right.

How many instance runs would you say you did on WoW? What if you had to pay per instance run?

Say $.50?

First off, aside from the fact the no one would PUG again, the casuals would be paying less and the hardcores would pay more than the $15 probably. But it would give the devs incentive to keep the good instances up and running and develop more like it.

Also you wouldn’t have to artificially cap the instance with a timer, and farmers would have less incentive to keep going in.

Dunno, just an idea, I got tons of em 😉

Jordan - March 18, 2010

@Bhagpuss

I think that philosophy works fine if you have no connection to your character, but i would guess that is not the case for most people who play mmorpgs. Building up your character is one of the defining design aspects of these games, and if you spent a year building up your character only to have the game ruined by devs going crazy with the cash shop in a FTP game…to me that would be a year wasted playing a game.

Sure i may have enjoyed playing for the past year but one of the main reasons i enjoyed it was seeing my character getting more powerful stats and items so he can experience more of the world and higher-end content. And sure, it’s cool having high-end items etc. for vanity purposes that other players can drool over from time to time ;)…(aka epics in EQ). To have all that abruptly ended by some idiot charging a king’s ransom for some needed item in a cash shop would completely ruin the game for me and, in part, make the past year feel like a waste.

I can appreciate if you don’t feel that connection with your character or don’t necessarily follow the whole character progression thing and just have fun playing day to day until you move on to the next thing…but that’s certainly not the way i feel or many others i’m sure. Either philosophy is fine i’m just saying there is more than one philosophy people follow which can impact why you play these games and what you get out of them.

Renosnort - March 18, 2010

I have been reading your blog for years. I have to say that perhaps for the first time I am very disappointed in a position you have taken. Almost every other time, even though I may have disagreed with you, your posts were well thought out and well reasoned. This one however, I think is short sighted.

“F2P” is really a misleading term when it comes to MMOs. They are only “free” to a point. You are correct that F2P games have to make money – of course they do, but how is this any more a conflict than a game that charges you X per month?

Look at a different “F2P” game, Free Realms, for example. I played this for a bit because my daughter really liked it, so we played it together (me mostly over her shoulder helping explain what to do and reading the quest text for her). FR is a beautiful game, lots of fun, rock solid and you can probably experience more than 90% of the game without ever paying a penny. This is a great deal. I would never dismiss this game (granted, it is primarily for younger kids, but still can be a lot of fun for “older” kids) because it is F2P. In fact, I would be very disappointed if FR was a subscription based game because if it was, my daughter and I would likely never have played it.

I have not made it to the end game of Allods. But so far I am enjoying it very much. You know how well put together it is: seemless, huge, solid, and most importantly, fun. Will I enjoy it as much if I run into problems at end-game with the cash shop issues? Perhaps not. But to dismiss every aspect of *all* F2P games I think is very short sighted. F2P games have a place in the market. On the whole I don’t find them to be as solid as subscription based games, but so far I find Allods to be a much more solid game than WAR ever was.

So I understand your frustration with Allods’ cash shop. But I think it is a mistake to dismiss each and every F2P game because you have a problem with the business model. At a minimum, we can play the free portion of F2P games and then decide for ourselves if we want to pay for additional content.

Rybnik - March 18, 2010

I haven’t sworn off the f2p model completely, I will however approach any prospective f2p titel with much more cynicism now.

I’d be willing to pay more for a quality mmo for sure, but it would have to prove better than WoW from the git-go and that would be a tall order for any developer to overcome. It’s just too hard to compete with such a huge game that has benefited from 5+ years of development.

smthin - March 18, 2010

Even if they charge $100 no game can realistically to be better then current state of WoW in terms of what WoW is.

Any mmo has to be different in some basic way it can not have gameplay based on lootwhore instancing and raiding. WoW can not be beat there, I wish devs finally admitted to that. You can release, maybe get couple month worth of sub money but then people just move back. I guess you could try to take it further to single player gameplay like SWTOR, but that is not even mmo anymore

It would have to be a game like Planetside on steroids or some thing with a lot of GM pushed content with evolving storyline like AC.

Qpon - March 18, 2010

Before playing Allods I was in the same mindset as you are now… and still, despite thoroughly enjoying the game, I cannot honestly put my faith behind a F2P title.

The problem is just as you point out… there needs to be a cost somewhere to subsidize the free portion and if the cost is manufactured and periodic then it is no different from a subscription. Even worse is that if this expected cost only extends to say half of the players whereas the other half opt to only play to the extent which the game is free, then the manufactured costs have to be doubled for the paying customers compared to a normal subscription-based game.

It feels more to me like F2P games are just glorified demos and the end-game becomes essentially a pay-per-hour service rather than traditional pay-per-month. Allods tried to avoid having its costs resemble a subscription by essentially frustrating you out of your mind if you didn’t pay-per-30-minutes to play. I think this dichotomy of definitions and almost intrinsic hypocrisy of a game labeled “Free to Play” is really what haunts these games. Nothing is free, somebody will have to pay, so the F2P label just starts you off with lingering feelings of suspicion and distrust. The same feeling you would get if someone were to walk up to you and hand you a free movie or television; “what’s the catch?”.

As for Allods; the perfume structure is clearly their biggest failure and is more a lack of creativity or business-sense than a result of the F2P system. If players are to trust and buy into a F2P system they have to feel like playing for free isn’t like playing a watered down fraction of the game or playing with strict penalties that ruin your experience…. but players do realize that you can’t get everything for free and that there has to be a motivation to want to pay. I think that instance lockouts and daily CG caps are good examples of ways that the game could have been structures so that it could be both played in its entirety and without frustration being what provokes a purchase.

Players don’t want an event like PvP or and instance to be timed or handicapped if its to remain free because then it just feels like there is no free option anymore… however if you were to set up the purchase opportunities at the periods in between events, then you give players the option of continuing to play without reward or waiting to try again. If you were afforded all opportunities and potential to participate in PvE for free, however any wipe would lock you from the instance for 24/48/72 hours … then you feel like you were given a fair opportunity for free with reason to pay. CG caps would behave like a ‘reward cap’ for PvP instead of the punishment method of FoD & perfume … if you could participate in PvP in the same way that anyone else could until your CG cap then continue to play unhindered with option to pay for a higher CG cap, then you feel like you are given equal gameplay with an incentive to pay to have a larger portion of that gameplay rewarded.

Picture WoW, but free to play …. just with a daily honor cap in the range of ~2 hours of average BGs, a daily arena game limit or rating gain limit, and a one-chance-only system for heroics and individual raid bosses (you wipe in heroic you’re locked out and if you engage a raid boss and it doesn’t die it vanishes). In essence, the entire game would be available to a player for free, but with incentives to pay for more.

Thistleseer - March 18, 2010

There’s something psychological about the $14.99 price point that makes you feel like you’re getting a deal. It’s about the price of movie tickets, and if you’re a regular subscriber you know you’ll get more entertainment than the 90 minutes of a movie.

But if you take the price point up to $19.99, all of a sudden it feels like you’re paying for a whole game each month. I might pay that for WoW, but I certainly wouldn’t be willing to shell out that much for an untried product.

Pantagruel - March 18, 2010

I still try to guess who is in charge of prices on EU Allods servers. Here i was told by CM from astrum nival that it’s gpotato, but i think it’s a lie.

Winged Nazgul - March 18, 2010

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/BUSINESS/03/15/china.virtual.economy/index.html

The model obviously works both for the companies who make and the gamers who play the games. It’s not going away soon and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blizzard’s new MMO be some kind of F2P juggernaut.

Luk - March 18, 2010

All these MMO junk like CO, STO and Allods made me resub for EvE Online again and realize that not all MMOs are made equial. If a game gives you enough freedom and choices to have fun, then it is worth the subscription price.

I got more gameplay out of single player games than i got out of Cryptic MMO games, so I guess it is the balance between content and price ratio that messed up Cryptic where content did not meet the price, while in Allods the price did not meet the demand.

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

See, every F2P will have a Cash Shop. We all know it to be true. Sure, they’ll want you to buy things. Not all of them go about it the wrong way, though. That’s what you have to do when looking for an F2P. You have to find the ones that, while wanting you to buy things, don’t directly effect the game in any substantial way to do it.

Irenor - March 18, 2010

I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed by this blog. You basically did the same mistake most “Anti-F2P” gamers do, which is to let a single bad experience speak for the whole market.

Your F2P MMO was Allods, which as you have posted several time yourself on this blog, is basically a money grab where you had to pay 50$/month to stay competitive. You wrote that yourself, and yet, rather than stopping from playing despite knowing the outcome, you continued until you hit the wall. The issue here isn’t F2P, it’s just Allods.

Hell, look at MapleStory, which is without a doubt the best exemple there is. From day 1 of the cash shop, the only items you could find were Fluff items (clothing that does not have stats, weapon cover without stats either), pets that picked up gold and items for you and XP potions. That game released in USA around 2004 and has now over 92 million players across the world. Of course MapleStory is a huge grindfest, but you can play from day 1 to the day you hit the max level without ever needing to spend a dime.

Mabinogi has a similar Cash Shop which sells Fluff, Pets to help solo-players a bit (though they are hardly ever used in party due to poor party AI, and then chance to kill your whole team by mistake), and some Potions/Large arrow quiver, etc which can be traded to other players using in-game currency.

Dungeon Fighter Online, also sells Avatars Items. The avatars have stats that are quite strong. But these avatar items can be traded to another player using in-game currency. So even non-payers can gain access to the same content than other payers.

Perhaps you should try a new F2P MMORPG that does things right before you proclaim that F2Ps are bad. Look at Mabinogi or Dungeon Fighter, it’s free, you have nothing to lose.

Renosnort - March 18, 2010

@ Irenor – this is pretty much what I said @33 above.

Irenor - March 18, 2010

@Renosnort, Sorry I didn’t real all the comments except for those posted by Keen. Easier to skim through the comments this way.

Just read your comment though, I agree with most of what you said regarding F2Ps :þ

Irenor - March 18, 2010

Ugh, made a mistake when I typed. I meant “I didn’t READ” rather than “I didn’t real”

Russell Gusto - March 18, 2010

100% agree with this, FTP = one big meh

tovertrut - March 18, 2010

90% of free mmos do indeed get ruined totaly in the quest for money(very weird mindset for a FREE game)but i sort of understand the free is to lure in people and then try and make them pay anyway.

but outside the realm of mmo’s i have played many good free shooters:warrock(used to be great but then they kind of fed it up),gunz,…

i think free games can be great,it just doesnt seem to suit the mmo gerne

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

It only suits the MMO genre when the company is upfront about what they’re doing. I highly doubt that Allods would have gotten such a huge uproar if they hadn’t, didn’t continue to be, so shady about everything that is going to change. The fact that they continually drop bombs with no warning is what will doom the game. AN has no clue what they’re doing, and GP is keeping their lip zipped to sucker a little more money out of you. It makes for a very volatile combination that is going to leave a deep scar on the reputations of both companies.

Renosnort - March 18, 2010

@Irenor – Just pointing out that we generally have the same view of Keen’s post.

Epiny - Sprites are Fun - March 18, 2010

I think it’s fair to go by the old saying, “you get what you pay for”

Until a developer proves me wrong I’m going to avoid most F2P MMOs. If one gets good reviews I will look into it but every F2P MMO is going to have to prove that it isn’t out to screw me, rather than me just assuming it.

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

I think the bulk of us were taught a hard lesson in the F2P market by Allods. To see such immense potential be flushed for a buck. It’s sickening to think about. However, we can’t just fault this to the F2P community. For, at it’s very core it’s not just the free games that do it. It’s any gaming company that thinks they can exploit their players for money. It’s that corruption that the community should stand up and put their voices against. Such as it is in business. You will always have the bad seeds. The ones who think profit is better than product. However, you have to dredge on and wade through to find the diamonds. They’re few, but they do exist.

Qpon - March 18, 2010

I’m starting to think that the FoD frustration and perfume requirement has less to do with greed or an effort to force payment… and more as an artificial method to keep the servers from being over-run with free-loading casuals.

When you consider just how much the casual player-base outnumbers the hardcore players who will be providing most of the revenue you realize that its actually in the games interest to make anyone afraid to spend money on perfume quit. Just a thoery

Mesar - March 18, 2010

Puzzle Pirates is a great F2P game, with both F2P and subscription servers.

If I remember right the F2P pays for in-game doubloons only, so clever crafters/ traders can play forever for free. Since the game-play is based of timeless puzzle games like Tetris and Bubble Bobble it’s solid, tight and endlessly challenging. Even crafting is based of achieving high puzzle scores.

I never felt like I was being screwed over. I had a persistent character that grew as I mastered more complex puzzle types and I could be competitive with very little or no money at all.

I spent $10 and got 3 very decent months of game before I got sick of the community.

Allods is your issue, not F2P.

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

@Q

While, in some part, that may be true. From, at least a profit standpoint. However, without those “free-loaders” you do realize that the game will die, right? Why would the hardcore spend money in a game to get an edge over most people when those other people are doing the same thing? There’s no incentive to pay for something when everyone else is doing it too. Then it does become pay-to-win or leave. Casuals are what keep these free games alive. They’re the one spreading the word about the “next big thing”. Without them, the community is barren with a couple hundred people who never see each other having no fun at all.

george - March 18, 2010

But what about a game like Dungeons and Dragons online? That game has a free2play model but they charge for different gameplay features instead of gameplay requirements. Would something like that work?

Alice - March 18, 2010

Agreed Keen, I’d be willing to drop $19.99 a month on a game so long as it produces quality higher than the $14.99 games we’ve been seeing. However we are a minority in this, I doubt the market would support such a game unless its quality was absolutely stunning, and even then it would never be a top population game.

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

The reason why 14.99 works is because of the actual number. You see 10, and you think that’s a little cheap. Low quality tends to go aside such a thought. You see 15 and that’s closer to 20, it’s starting to get a little expensive. You see 14.99 and it’s not quite 15 so you’re getting a bargain. It’s all about budget psychology. I’m sure that’s not completely how it works, but that’s the idea. Once you start seeing 20 then you start getting into the range of the cost for a whole new game. Which tends to make people see it as a little pricey. Therefore, not worth their money unless it really grabs them. Even then, you’ll have most who still won’t because of the standard that’s been around for years.

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

Edit: So, as you can see. 14.99 wasn’t some magical number that was just thrown out there and it worked. There are actual economic analysts who come up with these numbers as being the most attractive. It’s all about association for the customer. Once you get into the multiples of 10 you start pushing the customer away because it seems so high. 20 bucks? I can buy food for a week on that. Or, 20 bucks? That’s the price of another game entirely for me. That kind of thing.

Epiny - Sprites are Fun - March 18, 2010

I would like to add some things…

I think Turbine did the right thing with D&D Online. They showed an increase in revenue by going the F2P/CS model. The game isn’t bad, nor is it great. It has some very fun features though.

Way back when EQ was the craze Sony released a Premium Server that was 19.99 a month. The server had a 3 month waiting list to get on it and the friends I had that transfered their said it was worth it. They had GM run events every week, they got all the content first and special items.

I was opposed to it because I felt that was the level of service we should have gotten with out 12.99 a month. That being said I could see myself playing 19.99 for a MMO right now if it really did have *that* level of service. If the game was polished and had GM ran events weekly or bi-weekly I would pay 19.99 a month and consider it a deal.

Easy but not cheap - March 18, 2010

[…] it seems that Keen from Keen and Graev’s gaming blog, once the great proponent of Allods has sworn off free to play games for good .  We can’t say that we blame him however, all things considered.  But sometimes it’s best not […]

Quietwulf - March 18, 2010

Sad but true Keen. You’ve come the conclusion a lot of others have.

Development of a quality product requires a level of stability that simply cant not be provided by the F2P model.

You have to know where the next pay cheque is coming from and without a subscription based model, you simply can’t know.

Still, the industry is new. I suspect in a decade or so we’ll see other models rise and fall. It’s just a question of when and where.

Pedro - March 18, 2010

The best way to do a free to play MMO in the west is by following the “freemium” model employed in DDO for example or Ryzom. Games that have a cash shop and are free to download but that direct you to a flat monthly fee to play instead of forcing you to spend money in the item shop.

Simply don’t charge for getting the game and getting in it and then charge to get access to all content, or more character slots and stuff like that. And also create a non-intrusive item shop with fluff items.

gankatron - March 18, 2010

The major problem I see with the Allods F2P model is that they took a very well thought out game and want to purposely break with 1.7 it in an obviously heavy handed way to support the CS. They also give additional unreasonable advantages to those who use CS; I think my toon gets ~40% increase in mana and health with perfume at lvl3 patronage, in addition to increased reg rates, and resistances, in other words yes you can buy a tremendous PvP advantage through CS. Then of course there is the issue of putting runes into gear; the more money you spend to fuse powerfuk runes, the more powerful your toon is; $’s can overcome skill. They completely broke their promise that CS wouldn’t significantly affect gameplay.

Tangent - March 18, 2010

Speaking in absolutes on this topic seems a bit extreme. Allods obviously screwed you and everyone else by falling into the problems you’ve described – but that doesn’t prove that there is no other way.

Personally I’ve been playing the F2P League of Legends for ~6 months now, 4 of which the cash shop has been open. I’ve spent about ~$40 on the game so far in those 6 months, and it was all for convenience (buy characters instead of earn, faster leveling, etc). To my knowledge nothing they’ve done has compromised the F2P model.

Hell, most of what they do are Skins that sell for the seemingly crazy price of $5-$10 each. Lots of people eat them up – but obviously you don’t need to…..

gankatron - March 18, 2010

… that was meant to say powerful, but it probably is more accurate like that anyways.

gankatron - March 18, 2010

I disagree that F2P cannot produce a gaming experience equal to P2P. I thoroughly believe that the idea isn’t going to go away any time soon. The model is in a process of evolution for Western mindsets, and where naysayers proclaim failure, entrepreneurs will see potential. Can you honestly say that numerous attempts have been made to adapt this model for Europe and NA? I would go even so far to say that they could freeze Allods for a few month, retool it with its current content and still make it a profitable and high quality F2P gaming experience; in other words the failure isn’t Allods itself, but how gP and AN choose to break the game for their distorted view of potential Western F2P audiences. So many good examples have been given for money making items that don’t affect PvP; it doesn’t mean that a F2P model won’t work just because the Allods marketing department chose not to implement them over their game play breaking ones.

BTW I wish the term F2P would just be dropped in favor of microtransactions; I have no compassion for whining freeloaders who complain that they can’t use a company’s product at no cost…

Shadrah - March 18, 2010

It’s not freeloading to not want to pay more than you could for any P2P title a month, you know. I’m a WoW “veteran”. I have no problem paying a monthly sub. However, wanting and being forced to pay are two completely different things. Especially when the forced version is actually ending up forcing me more than that P2P would have.

The term shouldn’t be “Microtransactions” either. Because, in most cases the transactions are never small. It should be “Free to Experience” at best. Because it is free to experience the game. However, it’s not “Free to Play” it as intended.

Epiny - March 18, 2010

By most these definitions Warhammer is now F2P because you can play limited content (Teir 1) for free, then if you like the game pay a monthly fee.

Wickidd - March 18, 2010

I really don’t care how good the game is. I refuse to play a “free” mmo, just as I refuse to play collectible card games. Both models are money scams designed to make “you” more powerful based on how much money you spend. And lets face it; we all want to be as powerful as possible in the games we play. F F2P games and the horse they rode in on. They can diaf.

Dietx - March 18, 2010

When people here keep reasoning that Allods online is truly the culprit to jading us toward the F2P market, they are generally wrong. I, and probably the majority here, have experienced numerous F2P games and their models and have been thrust aside by their obvious “Pay2Win” or “Pay to level at a -reasonable- rate.” Allods was the last straw being it was truly the first MMORPG that showed promise in the form of end-game content, PVP, and even the leveling itself. It was a well developed game that stole our hearts, thats what really hit us. It’s the fact that gP and AN destroyed something that we have always been hoping for and now we get to suffer for it.

For all the people here that praise Puzzle Pirates, RoM, and the other F2P mmo’s in the sense that we are just short-sighted are missing the point. There has never been a F2P game that matches the development and content that a P2P model base has or can. Allods was a close exception, but with hind sight being 20/20 I can easily say it still wasn’t there.

Office Jerk - March 18, 2010

There is no free lunch.

free != free

i see it like those ads you get in the mail and instantly toss in the trash. They usually have something like “FREE ” on them, but you know instantly that it doesn’t mean free.

F2P models are based on the exact same notion. The free part is something crappy, incomplete, or severely limited. Or a combination of all three.

GET A FREE MATTRESS! (it’s hard as a board)

GET A FREE CREDIT REPORT! (we’ll sign you up for a $7.99/mo service)

GET A FREE CAR WASH! (you really don’t want our guys cleaning your car)

PLAY A FREE MMO! (the ones paying will curbstomp you)

Office Jerk - March 18, 2010

The point i wanted to bring across is that: The people who build (or market) F2P MMOs have the “OMG FREE!! YOU’RE THE MILLIONTH VISITOR” type marketers, and the effects are sure to follow.

Shadrah - March 19, 2010

What most free to play developers fail to realize is this. If they release a quality title, the money will come. It’s just like playing a P2P in that regard. If you like it, you pay for it to continue liking it. If you don’t, you move on. There’s no need for tactics and mechanics only employed to take your money. That makes the player feel like they’re being forced to enjoy the game. Which leads to no real enjoyment. When you hop into a game and feel a true sense of immersion. That’s when you think it’s worth it.

However, when you hop into a game and feel like everything is only within reach if you pay for it. Then it’s not. That’s where these F2Ps always seem to get it wrong. They’re so caught up in making a quick buck before their less than mediocre game tanks.. that they fail to realize. Quality brings quantity and quantity makes money. Not the other way around.

Elipsa - March 19, 2010

I agree with the main article but i dont agree with the final comment. pricing of 14.95 will in cress but quality wont. Thats the way things are. if anything quality will always decrees and price will in cress

Irenor - March 19, 2010

@Office Jerk

That’s wrong sadly. Except in the case of badly designed game, most F2Ps will give it their best from the beginning. Why? How are you suppose to make players pay, when the only product they see happens to be the same color and have the same smell as turd?

They bring a large amount of content in what you refer as the “Free Part” (Which is entirely wrong I may add) so players are hooked to the game and possible spend a few $ on it. The F2P market faces a lot more competition too, given the hundreds of F2P MMOs all sharing the same market, they need to stay competitive and the only way to do so is to hook the player from the beginning with unique gameplay, flashy graphics, etc.

So to assume that the “Free Part” is crappy, incomplete or severely limited is wrong.

Saylah - March 19, 2010

I actually regret not leaving the BETA in order to savior the release game. You at least got to see all the content before all the Cash Shop BS erupted. There was a lot to like about the game – content, mechanics and aesthetics. Complete idiots managing that franchise. However, working for a telecom giant that is taking a dump everyday, stupid shit happens in business all the time. It just sucks when you’re caught in the cross-hairs. They’d have done better to do a small sub or premium model like W101.

Clearly , F2P can be done better than Allods. It’s just that you’ve not been bitten by the love bug in the others out there. Me either until my stint with ROM. I still believe F2P can deliver a quality game and have a balanced CS. It’s just this particular pack-o-idiots don’t know how to do it. I just re-sub’d to W101. Lord what is the MMO world coming to when the next WOW expansion is starting to look good to me again.

Saylah - March 19, 2010

oops, I meant, “I regret leaving the BETA”. I should have burn through the content and fun while it was there for the taking. I logged into the game the other night just to take a peak. Chat was worse than barrens and the zones were pretty empty.

Saylah - March 19, 2010

I’m also with the others who make a connection with their avatars. I don’t like game-hopping. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like to play multiple MMOs at once. I don’t know traditional RP but my character is an RP extension of me. So yes, it burns to have to throw away a character I’ve worked on progression. We all play differently and receive different levels of reward playing MMOs. For me it’s not about “playing a game.” I can do that and not play MMOs.

Late to the conversation. So jaded on MMOs right now. I’m not playing or reading much.

Renosnort - March 19, 2010

And what if the item shop revised its pricing so that you felt that the prices were appropriate – whatever that means. Would you still never play the game again? My point is that it is still in beta (I think). Shouldn’t a game that is still in beta be given a chance to smooth out the kinks before it is forever dismissed?

Dietx - March 19, 2010

@Renosnort

Honestly, if Keen posted here that gP and AN had a change of heart, are removing FoD, fixng up the CS, and balancing out certain issues, I would still be reluctant to pull up their webpage to even see the patch changes. What Allods did to us was made us fall in love with the game then shattered everything we hoped for. Everything they posted was a lie about the CS effecting the outcome of your character, and FoD is a mechanic that is nothing but a cash-cow and that showed us the mindset behind the curtains. It will take a lot for me to consider the game, then even more to jump back in. It’s back to P2P games for me now, i know content will flood in and I can be happy about that for a while before moving onto my new adventure.

Higgs - March 19, 2010

Me and a bunch of friend dropped Allods and rolled a brand new guild of new chars in EQII on the Antonia Bayle server.

For 15$/m im having a game FULL of content on a RP server is full of new and returning players.

It feels like a new game, a couple expansions later.

~Higgs

Keen
Keen - March 19, 2010

Around 15 of us did the same for another game. *innocent whistle*

Irenor - March 19, 2010

@Keen

Allods is Allods. Despite knowing of the state of the game in Russia, you kept playing Allods until you hit the wall. You were already aware of that wall but you still seem “suprised”. And then put all the F2Ps together, for the mistake of one game.

Honestly, you’re pushing a bit too far with the “I’m done with F2Ps”. There are way too many F2Ps on the market where cash shop does NOT imbalance the game in any way, shape or form. Perhaps try to look into these before “quitting” the F2P market based on a bad experience.

jericho - March 19, 2010

I am with you Keen. I would much rather pay more for a subscription game than be put in a position to have to pay more or less in a cash shop.

I would ask you how much more than 14.99$ would you pay for an MMO? I know a lot of hardcore MMO players often has multiple accounts to active at anyone time. I myself paid 17.99 for my FFXI account with the 9.99 + 1.00 each extra character. Being forced to use mules to play adequately. Is “unlimited characters on unlimited servers” policy of games like WoW a make or break? Or would you rather pay per character at a lower starting price?

Dietx - March 20, 2010

@Irenor

You keep poking at “there are other f2p” games out there, but to be honest are any of them worth the time and effort to even get to the end game? With the ability to have a AAA experience via a P2P game instead of wasting hours on a rehashed version of some Korean/Asian F2P, seems like common sense to me. These so called genius developers and publishers dish out these new exciting f2p games all the time. It’s even the same studio that does it! You can’t tell me by going around mmohut or another f2p tracker, that nearly every single f2p MMORPG looks either exactly the same, or has the same premise. There are your rare gems out there, and trust me when I say i’ve tried them. They are (most) not worth the time to put into them. It’s just a fact and thats why the P2P market sees more success than the F2P. Also it’s because the F2P market has not realized the potential in (truly) westernizing their games, but instead they keep their broken model that the eastern type seems to enjoy. (ew)

Irenor - March 20, 2010

@Dietx

You missed my point and F2P=Asian Grinder is just one of the many misconceptions gamers have regarding F2Ps.

I don’t really want to repeat what I said (as I often repeat the same thing in various forums or blogs), and instead will suggest that you take a look at some F2Ps that I assure you, proves the common misconceptions are, misconceptions : Mabinogi, Dungeon Fighter, Warrior Epic, SAGA, Mytheon, Valkyrie Sky, Atlantica Online….just to name a few.

Oh and, wasn’t the grind in EQ2 just as bad as most “Asian Grinder”? (I do have to admit that there are indeed many Grinders, though considering how players used to complain about the grind in Aion, I’m not sure what to consider a grind)

Dietx - March 20, 2010

I was not pointing towards Asian Grinders only. I am pointing towards what easily can be compared to as shovelware or rehashed versions of the same game that another company released months before. Having tried Mabinogi, Dungeon Fighter, Warrior Epic, and Atlantica, it truly proves my points. Mabinogi was an awkward “been there done that” experience that I see in many traditional f2p mmorpg’s. Dungeon Fighter, however different, still felt tacked on and supported with nothing more than cosmetic updates. Moving on to Warrior Epic, that game was terribly made and still terribly implemented. The controls were funky and crude, the direction and immersive were extremely miniscule. Atlantica online, however being a game that finally broke the common run to an enemy and beat it to death routine, still had its short comings as a game I have seen before. Bland graphics, unique but simple creatures, awkward item system and terrible communication implementation.

A summary of what I am trying to say (typing this with no sleep after 40 hours >.<) is that its the not the grinding that turns us all off in the f2p games. It's the fact that every f2p out there nearly makes us feel like its a "been there done that" situation. Albeit, tried and true is good, but the way these companies implement it is like trying a B+ title versus a AAA title, you can tell the differences and the faults the game provides.

Bronte - March 20, 2010

I am impartial to either model, as long as the game offers quality. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the “self-defeating model of F2P” argument.

I have paid for MMOs that I thoroughly enjoyed (WoW, EvE etc.) and ones that were shameful let downs (Champions Online). I have similar experiences with F2P as well. But at the end of the day, as long as I am enjoying my time in a game, I don’t particularly care about the subscription. Or for that matter, what it costs a month…

Shadrah - March 20, 2010

I honestly believe that swearing off F2P completely isn’t the way to go. You might as well swear off MMOs in general. They all have their serious flaws. Many MMOs today have released in such terrible quality. One bad experience can never determine the whole. It just can’t. What would have happened if Age of Conan had been your very first P2P MMO when it first released? Would you have sworn off the MMO community completely? See the flipside there? You had a bad experience with a terrible company. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad.

A Post About WoW « Procrastination Amplification - March 22, 2010

[…] player-base would still make it the most successful MMORPG ever. Who knows, people might even be willing to pay quite a bit more than their $15 a month if your game was really good, making up for at least some of the lost revenue. Either way, it would […]

openedge12 - March 22, 2010

There will always be Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2…two fine examples of Free to play.

Shadrah - March 22, 2010

They’re buy to play. They make enough off of their boxes to keep the game running. Of course, they’re not truly MMORPGs, either. Sure, there are loads that play them, but everything is instanced.

Xenovore - March 23, 2010

My own experience with F2P MMOGs: They are primarily unimaginative retreads, with shallow worlds and mediocre copy-cat game-play. Most glaring, however, are the myriad little monetizers, from in-game ads to cash shop nag messages… those things I particularly hate because they destroy the immersion I’m seeking when I play these games.

So, I’m with you, Keen… At the moment, F2P MMOGs are a waste of time and disk space. But who knows what the future may hold? Certainly it’s within the realm of possibilities that a F2P model could work (e.g. DDO), at least if the pooch-screwing were kept to a minimum. (Allods’ devs, I’m looking at you. Lay off the vodka and cheap drugs for a few days and see what a mess you’re making…)

And of course, F2P MMOGs have one huge benefit: Since they’re free, they are super easy to try out without committing anything other than a little time, so don’t dismiss them completely out of hand. Just don’t ever get too attached. =)

heartlessgamer - March 24, 2010

Its not the F2P that is the problem, its the blind sides we keep getting with the business model changes. Allods was fine when the cash shop was about convenience. It was bad when they blindsided us with changes that forced players into the cash shop. Same with Free Realms. Same with Battlfield: Heroes (though I still maintain BF Heroes changes were fine for the free players).

The micro-transaction model can work, but it has to sell a product to the player every time they are logged in. There are good car salesmen and bad car salesmen. Don’t let the bad ones ruin the fact there are good ones.

krisia - March 25, 2010

Your adage doesn’t work because there are people paying more in F2P games… As with life, it’s what you make of it.

10 cool posts to read over the weekend « Welcome to Spinksville! - June 5, 2010

[…] in March, Keen swore that he’d never touch another F2P game. It’s something that he still feels very strongly about, and he describes why he thinks F2P is […]

Bridget Pool - March 17, 2012

Really appreciate you discussing this blog post.Really getting excited about read more. Excellent.

Comments are closed