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Reader Comments (109)

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:27PM (Unverified) said

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I'm sorry, I'm not buying into this F2P movement at all. This is the theory of the author, not fact. F2P games are not doing that sucessful compared to the whole of the market. Quality is lower, development is slower, and a majority of players believe this to be true, (this can be noted in total subscription numbers) (creditible ones, Free Realm numbers are obivous a complete LIE). Claiming deactive accounts should be factor in, which most companys fudge on. I would like to see the hard numbers, total subscriptions; claimed and researched, the incline or decrease of active subscriptions, company profits.

End of the Day, subscription games SHOW massive profits and rule the market:

World of Warcraft
Rift
Aion
Eve

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 6:08PM Nero823 said

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@(Unverified)

Nothing in there was portrayed as fact that wasn't. (The "I'll put significant money on" comments are framed that way for a reason)

That said, by sheer volume of games, it's a hard argument to make that they do not earn a significant amount of money in relation to the whole of the MMO market. 1-on-1 a F2P will not win against a Sub game, but they aren't meant to.

Consider that your Subscription game list is almost nearly complete for successful games. I'd say maybe add another 3 and you're done.
Try and make a list of F2P games... really. You'll be at it for weeks. And they're all making money. Also consider that many many F2P companies offer 4-5 different games.

RIFT vs. LOTRO is no contest.
WoW, RIFT, EVE and co. vs. LOTRO, DDO, EQ:E, CO, PotBS and co. is much closer.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 6:12PM sortius said

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@(Unverified) Unfortunately you are reflecting the sentiment of the luddite movement of 1811.

The "points" you have made are from about 5 years ago. Free to play may not rule the current MMO world, but the paradigm is shifting and if you don't get on board you'll be left out in the cold, just as with the luddites.

I have moved to exclusively F2P these days. From having WoW, Eve, LOTRO, AoC, etc, subs to having none and paying for the fringe benefits is great. Plus, the subs that are available for the F2P games tend to be lower than that of WoW or the like.

Development cycles are quicker, not slower, and the quality of the games are starting to surpass that of subscription based MMOs.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 6:20PM AlienFanatic said

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The article is really jumping to conclusions, I agree. Beau believes that F2P is the "new normal" for MMO's. The same seems to be true of Apps vs full games. There is a rush to get the cheapest gaming experience for the money, but how many of these games (and apps) are really worth it?

If Beau wants to make his case that F2P is the next big thing, I'd like to finally hear some hard figures about just how profitable these companies are. Blizzard makes billions of dollars a year on WOW. I'm sure TRION and Bioware will make their satchels of cash as well. What about DDO, EQ2, WAR, etc.? Yes, the companies are staying afloat, but what is their profit margin compared to successful, subscription-based games?

Until these games start to earn $$$'s on par with subscription-based games, and offer quality in the same space, the F2P games will continue to be eyed with suspicion. It's hard not to continue to see them largely as rushed-to-market asian copycats or failed subscription games, even if they are the "next big thing" as Beau avers.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 6:24PM AlienFanatic said

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@sortius

Namecalling is not a good debate tactic, Sortius. F2P is not a "technological change," but rather a substitute payment method. It's no more progressive than any other. Some people dislike F2P because of how most F2P games are structured to make advancement uncomfortable without using the online store. Others are perfectly willing to forgo smooth progression for cheap game play.

Some have made good points about being able to play more occasionally under the F2P model. Being able to drop the game and then come back later is a great thing. (Of course, that also tells me that the game doesn't change much over time, meaning the devs are likely more interested in selling more costumes and not on creating new content.)

People may disagree with your opinion, and strongly, but inferring that they're somehow backwards for disagreeing with you is bad form.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 9:43PM oxlar said

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@(Unverified)
For once, I totally agree with unverified.

I also don't feel those analogies listed hit the nail on the head. It comes down to quality and F2P quality is extremely lacking and content delivery is targeted in a very limited way, especially the games that were F2P from the very start.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 9:50PM DarkWalker said

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@AlienFanatic

Whether F2P is currently more profitable than subscription MMOs really depends on what you consider MMOs.

Zinga's F2P games are profitable enough they have pushed Zinga's market value on par with EA's. This is a huge achievement, and indicates a really large profit potential for F2P. If you consider such games as F2P MMOs, then I'd say F2P is already comfortably larger than subscription in gross revenue.

And even if you don't think about that kind of game as MMOs, F2P is still in a quite strong position. Apart from Asian F2P MMOs - of which there are dozens, and some of them in operation for over half a decade, which should give a measure of their economic viability - there are fairly successful western F2P MMOs too.

For example, SOE's Free Realms have surpassed 17 million active players. Even if the medium per-player revenue is just a tenth of the typical MMO subscription, this would already put it's revenues above every western subscription-based MMO except WoW.
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Posted: Apr 21st 2011 4:58AM Space Cobra said

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@(Unverified)

It's funny how you say the sub numbers of Free Realms accounts (active/inactive) is a lie, but then you say World of Warcraft's 12 million is the absolute truth.
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Posted: Apr 21st 2011 9:17AM (Unverified) said

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@(Unverified) ah but if the entire market goes free to play wouldn't quality become the main issue? I mean if everyone does free to play it's not about costs then it's about game play and quality like it is now. Like you say lower quality like if the entire market goes that route we are all doomed to be plagued with endless crappy "WoW-clones" and "Grindy" game play with no depth. That wouldn't be an issue. Western Society and it's MMORPGs would not crumble and start producing terrible games because of the money. You think WoW can't afford to go free-to-play at this point in their life? Free-to-play is an Eastern thing that's what they do. Why can't I play the Triple AAA MMO pay to play and not a free trial. If i like the game i'll subscribe.

Then again every time I pay a sub to a pay to play, i tend to get that second job feeling.... "gotta play, i'm paying. I didn't play all last week cause of work, damn i really aint gettin my moneys worth on this month.

I've paid for Allods in it's open beta after the cash shop was redone. Initial start up in that game was basically the price of going to the store and paying for a new MMO in box. Then over that next month I only bought when I needed was about ~16 bucks WoW was 14.99 i believe. that dollar sure doesn't break the bank consindering the following month i didn't play as much as i'd hope between work and family life so when i played i'd get the free incense in game. saves you one or if you only getting on once that day it's not that bad.
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Posted: Apr 21st 2011 10:03AM Bladerunner83 said

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@Space Cobra

And he doesnt say that WoW's 12 mil sub is accurate. He doesnt even mention 12mil.

When you look at unpaid free accounts vs pay sub accounts. Even if WoW had less accounts than Free Realms, they would still be making more money, because you have to pay to play. I can go make a Free Realms account, never play the game, and yet still be counted in the whole scheme. So let them fudge the numbers who cares, I wont be playing any F2P games anyways.
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Posted: Apr 24th 2011 12:03AM mysecretid said

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@Space Cobra

Funnier still, perhaps, when one considers that Blizzard has been accused of "counting the dead" to pad their own subscription numbers since the earliest days of WoW.

I'm not suggesting that SOE = good and Blizzard = bad, only that /both/ publishers have been accused of counting inactive subscriptions as a part of their playerbase for as long as I can remember.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 2:07PM Vagrant Zero said

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@Space Cobra Because they are you in tinhatter? Blizzard is rather explicit about what they consider to be a subscription since they have to (one of the few good things about investors).
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:28PM Germaximus said

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I couldnt help but laugh while reading the first few paragraphs.
It just reminds me of all the PS2 and PS3 players like myself when first encountering a subscription fee for a console game i.e. EQOA and DCUO.

I remember i was pretty pissed when i found out id have to pay for EQOA after having been used to playing online for free for so long.

I dont agree that "free to play" is the new thing simply because the quality of these games is still much weaker than the ones we pay for, even if its buy to play.

Vindictus is the most impressive free game ive seen personally and Firefall is something im highly anticipating and looks mind blowing.
Ive enjoyed a lot of free to play games but their quality is still quite far off of the major ones, im not saying theyre not beautiful and awesome fun tho.

I always laugh at the idea that we keep getting more and more subscription based games on console and that will just grow and probably become the "norm" but before it does there will be plenty of crying.

You also remind me of how i was fully impressed by Blizzard with the Diablo 1 and 2 games, especially D2 (i played it longer, didnt know about Diablo 1 early enough).
They offered free patches pretty often with great content updates and class changes.

I played WoW instead of the other mmorpg's because of my previous experience and love for Blizzard. Things have changed tho and its very sad to see.

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:32PM Irem said

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I have always preferred the subscription model, but I recognize that F2P is here to stay. What I'm glad to see is a sort of stabilizing of F2P--and by extension, microtransactions--as they make their way into more titles. My initial experience with free-to-play supporters involved pay-to-win debates, with a lot of, "I work for my money all day, why shouldn't I be able to spend it on skipping over the parts of MMOs I don't like?" That soured me very quickly on it, because I associated F2P with pay-to-win and a possible erosion of much of what I like about MMOs if that was in fact the "way of the future," as developers kept saying.

It seems, though, that there's a possible happy medium being reached in which companies are approaching cash shops responsibly because players have remained leery of and watchful for anything that has even the slightest rumor of pay-to-win about it. As long as things keep going in that direction, I can feel comfortable supporting F2P games.

"Is it possible that developers will come out of the gate with some sort of free element from now on? Will "AAA" games be forced to include some bit of free-to-play in order to keep players around? Will games like RIFT see a mass exodus after six months if they don't adapt? After all, we have so many more choices now... why should a gamer play a game with a required subscription if he can log in for free somewhere else?"

In the recent post about the Aion cash shop I commented on this, too: subscription games will not be able to compete if they don't step it up. F2P games have started to really catch up in quality to subscription games, and if the sub model's only answer to that is, "Quick, we should add a cash shop, too!" they're going to go down in flames. If a subscription fee is not a guarantee of some kind of quality--and of -all- the available content--there's absolutely no point in paying it.

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:35PM entropyboy said

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I don't see free to play games as inherently bad and I have tried some of them out. The part that I dislike it is they seem less like 'free to play' and more like 'pay to play the right way' with penalties given to players who truly want to play for free (Allods), content excluded to free players (DDO, LotRO), or simply allowing players to buy their way to power.

Of course many paid games can feel like you are putting money into something that is not actually improving the way you want to experience the game, and instead being invested in other peoples 'fun'.

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:41PM Furdinand said

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"Besides World of Warcraft, which has the lion's share of the market, how many of the top 10 subscription games offer some form of free access?"

Is there a good source for what constitutes the top 10 subscription games? There's no Box Office Mojo for MMOs afik.

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:43PM Pingles said

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I left subscription games to go Free-to-Play. Found two games that really grabbed me but each went through such dramatic changes during Beta that they both lost me.

I bounced from one F2P Beta to the next, still struggling to find a game I could commit to long-term.

Then Cataclysm came out and I decided to go visit the old world of WoW.

I was surprised by how polished it was and how advanced the quest design was. I was being shrunk, flying airships, doing bombing runs, leading guided bombs, etc.

In most of the F2Ps I was killing X mobs or collecting X wolf tails. Very little else.

So I have changed my opinion. F2P aren't quite up to snuff compared to subscription games.

I look forward to the day they are. I like the F2P payment model.

And I welcome the big boys going F2P. I agree that there's no shame in it. Just a different payment model.

Posted: Apr 21st 2011 11:38AM Pingles said

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@Tempes Magus

Well. In one case the game was in Beta for over a year so the changes happened after a year of playing. Not saying they were totally unexpected...just saying they changed it enough where I no longer wished to play.

In the other they added a server with a new game type but did not allow character transfers. After playing my character through closed beta - wipe- then through open I couldn't bear to start again.

I don't feel in either situation I was, as you so eloquently put it, stupid.

But feel free to add any other adjectives to me that you feel fit.
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Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:50PM Ryn said

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Love the first PIC! The Slap Chop commercial has one of the greatest line in Television history. And for our purpose here, I won't quote it.

At first I thought the F2P thing was just an Asian thing that wouldn't make it in the US. I think what really turned heads was DDO doing so well with it, and we can't forget Guild Wars unique model. The gaming world is going to shake when that title drops. Going forward, if a company wants to stay in business, I think they have to go "F2P".

With a rare exception, the days are over for game companies to make money off of a selling a box of the game and then a sub on top of it. To compete going forward, most companies will have to give out their game for free, no barrier to access, and their revenue will be out of a cash shop. Its how that cash shop is structured that will determine whether the game makes it or not IMO. And with so many titles coming out, the market is going to be ultra competitive. It's going to be an interesting time going forward, no doubt about it

Posted: Apr 20th 2011 5:53PM markt50 said

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Well, the first thing I would say is that in my experience I've come across just as many people who say they refuse to play a game because it has a subscription and isn't F2P or Fremium, the most recent examples being the beta's for both Rift and DCUO, the forums where full of threads where people where exclaiming how they thought the games where great but weren't prepared to pay the sub to play them.

I make no bones about the fact that I hate the F2P, Fremium, Cash Shop revenue models I stand by my experience of trying them that they are bad for gameplay, immersion and future development of said games. And here is my biggest issue, is there even a true subscription based game left ? The infection of these other revenue models has almost wiped the true subscription based game from the map, by that I mean can anyone name a game where I can pay my $15 a month and I get access to every single thing in the game if I'm prepared to work for it, quest for it etc. No, almost all games now have cash shops of one kind or another. The beauty of the subscription based game for me was the simplicity of it, I paid my money and played, I didn't have to worry about being bombarded with adverts for the latest cash shop item on launching the game, nor did I find sections of the game walled off until I stumped up more cash, I didn't find myself having to spend additional money on a fantasy equivalent of amazon to by new mounts, or learn to play silly card based games in a lottery for loot.

So for me, the saddest thing is not the fact that there is some form of clash between the different revenue models, it's that they are all merging into one and the same. I guess I must be a racist, xenophobic dinosaur because I for one morn the passing of the true subscription revenue model :( and to see some of my favourite games ruined by these revenue models is quite upsetting.

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