is surging. In just a few short years, free-to-play has become the go-to mechanism through which studios broaden audiences, entice players, and build revenue. No other method of monetization
has proven to be so lucrative and effective with such consistency, whether it be a monthly subscription fee, a one-time purchase price, or some combination of the two.
Free-to-play's growth has created a world in which non-free games are the exception, not the rule. Of the most popular MMOs and online games as of my typing these words, the vast majority are free-to-play. Games that are bold enough to buck the trend and launch with a sub fee are met with derision and suspicion from the online gaming community; the many thousands of words
dedicated to ZeniMax Online's
decision to require a subscription for The Elder Scrolls Online
are likely the most recent and high-profile examples of this trend in action.
When players complain about a game launching with a subscription, their opinions are often countered by a self-appointed gaming elite who believe that things were better in the good old days, when games cost money and poor people didn't ruin everything by demanding free stuff. The argument summarized is something like, "I am sick and tired of lazy, entitled gamers
wanting everything for free."
There's just one problem: Lazy, entitled gamers didn't invent free-to-play. Studios did.