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Businesses The Almighty Buck Games

Do Free-To-Play Games Get a Fair Shake? 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the pay-seven-cents-to-agree-or-disagree dept.
An anonymous reader writes "This article makes the case that most gamers treat 'free-to-play' games with derision and scorn when they really shouldn't. The author refers to it as 'snobbery.' We've all either encountered or heard about a game company using shady business practices to squeeze every cent from their users through in-app purchases (a.k.a. microtransations, a.k.a. cash shops), or a simple pay-to-win format. But these stories don't represent all games — by a long shot. It's something endemic to shady developers and publishers, not the business model. Think about traditionally-sold games, and how often you've seen a trailer that horribly misrepresents gameplay. Or a $60 game that was an unfinished, buggy mess. Or a Kickstarted project that didn't deliver on its promises. The author says, 'When something is new, when it isn't aimed at you, when it is created by strange people in strange places, when it breaks established norms and when it is becoming hugely popular... it's scary for the establishment. The ethical critique is an easy way to fight these changes, a call to protect the children or protect the irrational people who obviously can't like these games on their own merits. We begin to sound as reactionary as the ban on pinball or the fears over jazz music corrupting the minds of our youth.'"
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Do Free-To-Play Games Get a Fair Shake?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:09PM (#46709261)

    usually when we're criticizing "think of the children" positions it's because they threaten something of value. we're talking about games that are designed from the ground up to exploit people for money on a continuous basis, and the best defence they have is that "hey, we're not that bad, some people actually like it"

  • New? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:10PM (#46709275)

    According to the author, apparently "free-to-play" is a new business model. Funny, I've been playing "free-to-play" games for well over twenty years now; and back in the old shareware days it was fairly common to have a feature-limited free version that you had to upgrade to get the whole game.

    Yes, some of the mechanics of ways to make money off of a free-to-play game have changed along with technology, but in concept things really haven't changed that much.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:19PM (#46709313) Homepage Journal

      There's a difference between old free-to-play, which was based on "entitlements" (purchases that you keep for an indefinite time once you buy them), and new free-to-play, which is based on "consumables" (purchases that you have to make and remake to continue progressing). The old shareware model involved making the first chapter free-to-play and making further chapters entitlements. For example, the first episode of Doom was provided without charge and ended on a cliffhanger. The Ultimate Doom paid entitlement brought three more episodes* ("The Shores of Hell", "Inferno", and "Thy Flesh Consumed"); and the Doom II paid entitlement brought another game's worth of missions. Energy mechanics in newer F2P games, such as "gems" or "berries" or "lives", are different: they force you to wait hours or days at a time to progress if you don't pay, and completing the game within reasonable time requires spending more on energy than a player would have originally spent on a whole game under a pay-up-front or entitlement model.

      * Before Ultimate Doom was completed, Id Software sold Doom (registered version), which was the same as Ultimate Doom without "Thy Flesh Consumed".

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        WORMS FTW! jk, jk, srsly when I buy a phone game and can choose between an ad-supported free version and a paid version that costs a buck or two, i usually choose the paid version. one, because i read reviews to learn what the good games are and don't download everything just to try it. two, because ads annoy me. three, I'm not going to pay for stuff I wouldn't pay for in real life. In real life I'm not going to throw down for a shiny metal helmet, so i'm not going to do it virtually either. four, all games

      • To give an examples
        Jurassic Park Builder has
        1 a DNA research bit that flat FAILS about 40% of the time (and you have to pay 10 to 30K per try)
        2 hatch times measured in DAYS
        3 has recently added one of those 'get points to get "lottery tickets"' things

        Dragons World has
        1 a rolling set of "Buy Resource Pack and get special dragons" thing (at US$25 US$50 and US$100)
        2 an rare system that about requires you to buy gems to get the best dragons
        3 Wait times measured in DAYS

        Dragon City has
        1 a bunch of "social buildin

      • by asavage (548758)
        The other thing about free to play is games is a game that should cost maybe $5 for the whole game can cost thousands of dollars to get everything. To make up for the 99 that don't pay they want to make $500-1000 from that 1%. Games like Simpsons Tapped Out for phones/tablets can cost over $20 just for a single "premium" character like Barney Gumble. You can't even grind to earn these characters as they are pay only. The premium currency (donuts) is given out so slowly in a year of playing you won't have en
        • by toddestan (632714)

          The Simpsons Tapped Out has kind of an interesting model in the sense that they'll give out something for free for a limited time, then later bring it back as a "premium" item. For example, if one was playing for the Christmas 2012 update they would have had the opportunity to get Barney for free, but now he costs 250 donuts (about $20). They recently just did the same thing for Maude Flanders (free during Halloween 2013, now 150 donuts). I guess it can be viewed as either a way of rewarding the long-ter

      • This exactly. I've been playing a lot of smartphone apps recently. I have no trouble paying something for a game. If they want to release a "lite" version with limited levels, I'm fine with that. It lets you get a feel for the game play and see if you want to spend the cash for the full version. I don't even have a problem with additional level packs costing more money. What I have a problem with are games where you either 1) Need to buy items with the "premium currency" (only obtainable by paying cas

    • Re:New? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:41PM (#46709469)

      The difference is that in the old model, you paid to have more fun. In the new model, you pay to skip boredom.

      I loved Plants vs Zombies 1. I gladly paid $20 for it (or whatever the price is). Plants vs Zombies 2 was a completely different story. Even at "free", it was boring. I do not want to pay just to progress. Let me just play a flat fee for a game that is completely optimized for fun.

      • Re:New? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:01PM (#46709651) Homepage

        The difference is that in the old model, you paid to have more fun. In the new model, you pay to skip boredom.

        This AC is spot on the money, that's exactly how I feel. And that boredom tastes artificially added, usually not that bad at first to get you addicted but the deeper you go the more the paid and free paths diverge. Like you can have the normal game or you can have the game with lots of extra grind, would you like to pay $1 to skip it? I guess some feel that's less of a dick move than setting up a paywall and say pay $1 to proceed or it's game over, but at least then it's in their best interest to make the experience as good as possible for you. Not that I like being heckled for money with tiny little DLCs everywhere either, give me large expansions and leave the sales booth out of the game itself. Nothing worse than an in-game NPC with a dollar sign over his head.

      • by Quirkz (1206400)

        Also, PvZ2 includes a lot of components that you cannot eventually earn, but can only buy. A handful of plants, a number of other bonuses. I added it all up at one point, and it was well over $50, just for the perpetual benefits, not even consumables. I resist paying that much for an AAA title. No way in hell will I pay it for a little iPhone distracter. I was late to the original and only paid $5, which I thought was fair. I'd pay $5 or even $10 for everything in #2. But not $50 or $60. Ridiculous.

        • by asavage (548758)
          The one good thing about plants vs. zombies 2 over most other fremium games is the game isn't too hard to beat without paying. All the pay only plants and player upgrades are totally unnecessary. They do have game currency boosters which I think I needed to beat optional levels but you get enough coins from just playing so no reason at all to use real money to buy. While I don't like fremium games, PvZ2 I think is one of the better ones I have seen.
      • A lot of f2p make you feel punished for not paying. It doesn't develop the good will that motivates people to play. I think a lot of developers jumped on the f2p concept and kind of lost their minds. The games that let you pay to skip arbitrary delays are the worst. They are basically rewarding you to not play the game. The only people that pay are the ones that get sucked into the game. I guess they work on the same habit-reward cycles that casinos work on. People don't like them, but they still some how h
      • The difference is that in the old model, you paid to have more fun. In the new model, you pay to skip boredom.

        If you're bored by a game, you can just stop playing it for free!

        At least that's what I do.

    • Re:New? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ildon (413912) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:37PM (#46710625)

      "Free-to-play" does not literally mean "free to play." It means a game that is specifically designed around microtransactions. A game that was designed, scoped, and balanced around the idea that you will just barely not be able to succeed, or just barely not be able to get what you want done, unless you fork over some cash a little bit at a time.

      In order for a shareware classic like DOOM to be designed in the Free-to-Play model, imagine that instead of the levels having 3 colored key cards with associated doors, they had 10 colored key cards, and you could only pick up one per day. You might reach the second key, but you would have to wait a day or fork over $0.50, or have someone click your post on Facebook to pick up the next card. Not only that, but as you progressed through the level, monster health, damage, and density increased, to the point that it would generally not be possible to complete a level unless you paid for a "boost" such as bonus healing or ammo or a temporary damage power up. There would also be no cheat codes in the game, and no difficulty level selector at the start. But you wouldn't have to pay for episodes 2-4! They'd be included but extremely hard to complete without paying for boosts, and without paying for the extra keycard access it would take you weeks to reach them.

      So yes, the current "free-to-play" design paradigm is completely different from the old shareware system. In a shareware system, the most unscrupulous thing a game designer might do is front load the best level designs into the first episode, and get lazy with the designs of the later episodes, but they still had to actually make the core gameplay and difficulty progression fun, and the main gameplay loop fun. In the F2P model you create a core gameplay loop that is fun and balanced, and then you intentionally skew it to be impossible, time consuming, or frustrating, and add payment opportunities at those points of near defeat or frustration or "I'm just 2 points away" or "I just want to play one more level." And the worst part is that once you actually fork over the money, and the restrictions are released, the resulting game is bland and repetitive. The challenge disappeared because the only challenge the games usually provided were in the management of limited resources. You literally just paid $1 to make the game less fun for yourself by effectively cheating. It leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        Exactly. The second I hear a game is freer to play, I immediately assume all of these things about it, and it's up to the game designer to try to convince me to "buy" it anyway. The only one in recent memory that has done that for me is Path to Exile. The entire game is free to play, and all of the purchases are for cosmetic stuff, with, arguably, only additional stash space being something that might give you an advantage in the game.

      • "Free-to-play" does not literally mean "free to play." It means a game that is specifically designed around microtransactions.

        "Freemium" used to be used for games where it's free to play but you could buy premium content for cash. Why call the new ones "free-to-play" if you have to add a footnote saying they're not free to play?

      • You are absolutely correct, but it bares saying that not ALL free-with-microtransaction games are like that. Dota2, Team Fortress2, Path of the Exile, League of Legends are all good examples of free to play done right (although League of Legends does dip somewhat into the time-wasting nonsense you mentioned, not enough to break the game though).

    • by allo (1728082)

      But you pay one time for the full game, maybe one time per levelpack. Now you for each time, you play the level. And in 10 years you won't be able to get your old android tablet and show someone the old game, because it cannot contact its license-server and will only run the minimum features, if it starts at all.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:12PM (#46709279) Homepage

    The attitude stems from something more basic. In conventional games, even bad ones, once you have the game you have everything and how well you do is then up to your own skill and ability. In many free-to-play games, though, the game itself is just the hook. Once you're in, you find that you can't, for all practical purposes, go beyond a certain point without spending money and how much further beyond that you can go depends on how much you can afford to spend. It's why the derisive term is "pay-to-win". In large part how well you do in that type of game doesn't depend on your skill or ability, it depends on how deep your wallet is. And a lot of gamers are offended by the idea that a skilled, knowledgeable player who happens to not be that well-off will by design be less successful in the game than an unskilled, not-very-good player who happens to have well-off parents who'll toss him a couple of hundred dollars a week to fund his entertainment.

    • by lgw (121541)

      There's a world of difference though between "pay for content" and "pay to win". For years, Turbine was a shining example of doing it right in DDO (and probably LOTR online), where the free-to-pay portion was most of the low-level content and some of the mid-high level content, and mostly you paid to unlock new quest lines (permanently, for all characters on your account) and new race/class options (again, permanently). Sure, you couldn't get to max level on the free content alone (well, not in any sane w

    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:14PM (#46709749) Homepage

      Once you're in, you find that you can't, for all practical purposes, go beyond a certain point without spending money and how much further beyond that you can go depends on how much you can afford to spend. It's why the derisive term is "pay-to-win".

      Far too many gamers paint all Free To Play games with the same brush. Everyone should check out the games Loadout (FPS) and Paths of Exile (Action RPG). Both are more polished than many traditional model games. Paths of Exile has absolutely no way of paying for an in-game advantage. My objection was that their cosmetic items are obscenely priced. Turning your town portal from blue to orange is like 9 bucks. Adding a cosmetic lightning effect to your weapon is more than $20. Loadout offers an array of hilarious cosmetic stuff, plus short term double XP periods as part of a larger package. The thing is that a good player can earn 1500+ XP per match while a shitty player earns 500-800 per match. So a shitty player who pays for double XP isn't going to surpass a good player who pays nothing.

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        True, but I've noticed that the F2P games that use that model are now trying to entice players back into monthly subscriptions. I think it's inevitable: if all you can buy is cosmetic, there's no real incentive to spend much money at all and the company starts wondering where all the cash they were supposed to be getting is. I'm of the opinion that the whole "free to play, and we'll make our money off the cash shop" is right in there with "free site, and we'll make our money off the advertising" as a busine

        • True, but I've noticed that the F2P games that use that model are now trying to entice players back into monthly subscriptions.

          What games are those?

  • The folks at Trion have converted Rift to a fair and decent F2P game IMO. I played when it was not free, and was worried about the change but it's not pay to win, and it's still decent quality. Paying can make "the grind" less grindy but those with more time and less money can still be competitive.
    • by seebs (15766)

      Yeah. Rift does a very good job. I know at least one person who was raiding without ever having spent any money on the game, and also without having bought credits (the store currency) with in-game money. The game is built around the same tuning that was generally regarded as acceptable when it was subscription-based, and the majority of the purchases go towards convenience things, cosmetics, and gambling. If you really want to be powerful, the best stuff still requires you to actually play the game.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I think Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online did a good job too. These were the first top tier MMOs to go that way.
      However they are not strictly "F2P", they are a hybrid allowing players to either subscribe or to pay for content/features ala-carte. Plus players can mix the two, unsubscribing or resubscribe any time while still being able to play. These have not turned into "pay to win" despite the predictions of doom.

    • This is how I feel about Star Trek Online. It's not the greatest game, but you can play through the storyline and participate in combat or events without ever feeling like the game is giving unfair advantages to paying players. It's probably one of the most fair systems I have seen in a free MMO and I have spent small amounts over the course of several years on it specifically because I wanted to help support it.
      • Yep, I feel the same way about STO, I'd play it more except it doesn't work very well under Wine now.

        I'm experiencing the symptoms descibed in the Performance Degradation subthread:

        https://appdb.winehq.org/objec... [winehq.org]

        A couple of months ago, I was getting annoyed by the ugliness of my "golf ball" Olympic Research Science Vessel,

        http://sto.gamepedia.com/Resea... [gamepedia.com]

        so I ponied up some cash for some points to get a Nebula.

        http://sto.gamepedia.com/Advan... [gamepedia.com]

        While the nebula did have a few advantages over the RSV, the en

        • I was tooling around in the freebie Advanced Escort [gamepedia.com] for a long time. I recently acquired a Fleet Chimera Heavy Destroyer [gamepedia.com] in exchange for just 20,000 fleet credits and a single 500 zen ship module, though you do have to be Vice Admiral rank and your fleet has to have a tier 2 Dyson sphere spire in order to get it. The nice thing is even if I didn't want to spend $5 on the ship module, it really wouldn't take much time to earn/mine enough dilithium to exchange for the zen, I just tend to put all of my earned
  • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:18PM (#46709311) Homepage Journal
    The microtransactions are what really turn me off to F2P games. Most games allow you to progress rapidly to a certain point, then you hit the wall HARD. You either continue to shell out a few dollars here and there, stop playing, or just continue to coast along without spending a dime. If I was just being offered cosmetic items, I wouldn't have a problem. However, in many cases you have zero ability to progress.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Path Of Exile follows that model, microtransactions are and always will be purely for cosmetic items... not to mention that the game rated better than D3 when it came out (judging by the players, anyway)

    • by nobuddy (952985)

      In my experience, this only really kicks the hardcore players in the ass. I play sasually, and the various rewards given as time progresses work well to offset the non-pay penalties.
      SWTOR does this well. Sign up for a secure key app, there is 100 coins a month. Progressing in levels and achievements in game nets you xp boosts and such. Quest rewards are the same for everyone- and often it is XP or power boosts as well. Spend the coin to pen pay-only areas for a week, go play them that week. if you like it o

      • SWTOR is ok in this regard, but frankly the restrictions on F2P are long and painful.

        Even being a sub, I find some of the timers and limits annoying. Why are fleet passes not instant for a sub? What possible benefit is there to having the fleet timer be 6 hours for a sub who pays $15 a month?

        SWTOR is coasting on the Cartel Market (cash shop), the actual game content has been pretty thin for a year now. Some new end game content to be sure, but the actual story has suffered.

        I'm playing it because it is St

    • by lgw (121541)

      I don't mind the model of "extended free trial, then you have to subscribe", in fact I think that's great. What I fund scummy is when you're stuck with all the microtransactions, and can't just subscribe to be free of them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      These are games that aren't really free-to-play. But there are good fully free-to-play games: Team Fortress, DOTA, Guild Wars 2, although with the last one, you still need to buy the game first. Team Fortress is completely free-to-play, unless you mistake it for a hat simulator.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Most programmers believe it is immoral to trick people into spending money on things.
    Pay to Win games are designed with that sole purpose; that's why we hate Pay to Win.

    • by nobuddy (952985)

      I have never been tricked into spending money. But I do not play app games, so I may have dodged a bullet. Pay-to-play on PC has been a rather pleasant experience thus far.

  • I played Dragon's Prophet for a while (a free to play MMO). While I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay I just got tired of fighting my own temptation to spend on the cash shop to advance quicker.

    So no, as the article points out I have no purely rational reason for avoiding free-to-play games. That said, I have no purely rational reason for playing games in the first place, it's a choice I make purely on how a game environment resonates with my own subjective perception. A game that feels like a shady carn
  • ... is a conundrum, IMO.

    I worked as a game programmer for nearly 7 years and in more recent years, I noticed that other than people that I worked with, and others who were in the industry, the notion of essentially requiring the player to keep paying incremental amounts so that the game will be playable to any practical degree is almost universally derided by players everywhere. Somehow, however, these games continue to be the ones that garner the greatest profit margins. This fact was irrefutable... despite being so loathed, this model was clearly what had the best effect on a game company's bottom line.

    Can somebody explain this paradox?

    • Well, I don't mean to insult your 7 years of experience repeating what you likely already know: It is the pacing cycle of build up and release found in everything from day/night, neurons, fire/reload, rising action/climax, browsing/buying, waiting/playing, suspense/resolution, ect. that is primarily the cause of the profit margins. By exploiting essential cognitive rhythms of rest and effort, risk and reward, etc. one can skillfully extract payment from the weak minded who are susceptible to the level of t

    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      So, Zynga's racking in the bucks, then?

    • by Calinous (985536)

      Maybe because what you consider "almost universally derided by players everywhere" is just "the vocal minority"?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:03PM (#46709679) Journal
    I'm not exactly certain what this hypothetical 'fair shake' is; but the obvious elephant in the room, when considering 'free to play' games, is that they aren't free to make, or free to run(and are almost always online, so they are 'not free to run' as in 'will die the moment the hosting bill goes unpaid') so you do always have to keep an eye on your wallet.

    Nothing precludes 'traditional' games from also using assorted 'freemium' tricks as well as costing money (Hi there, Dead Space 3! I was totally jazzed about buying crafting components from EA in a game that costs $60!); but when you can see the transaction ahead of time (I give you $x, you give me the game or massively-multiplayer-something-something costs $y/month), there is economic room for products where you can relax and stop watching your wallet. There can, and will, be bad actors, bad deals, overhyped games sold pre-release, etc. but you are freed from the fundamental, nagging, "He obviously needs to make money, and I haven't given him any yet, so when and how does the other shoe drop?" question that dogs 'free-to-play' titles.

    As for the 'protect irrational people who obviously can't like these games on their own merits' dig, same basic elephant: we know that the game costs money to make and run, and that the maker ideally wants to actually profit. We also know that monetization rates are comparatively low (something that the inevitable 'Well, $GAME$ gets called 'pay to win'; but I'm just good enough to get by on pure skill. In fact, I actually make money!' brigade exists to remind us of), so we have pretty good reason to suspect the existence of 'Whales'(just like in the casino business) who keep the average income/player high enough for the game to stay in the black.

    None of this is proof that any specific operator is running a notably shady deal; but there is a reason why this business model gets special scrutiny: If a 'free to play' game is actually free-to-play, on average, it's either burning VC cash or bleeding out. So, any given title is either dying or on average not free. Similarly, if a game has a lousy monetization rate, with many players actually playing for free, it must clearly be the case that the game is either dying or really bleeding some customers. At that point, you either stick your fingers in your ears and shout "FREE WILL! I can't hear you! RATIONAL ACTORS!" or you must at least consider whether the best customers happen to be children making in-app purchases with somebody else's payment information(not that that, um, actually happened, a lot, or anything. Definitely not enough that it went to court.) or Facebook's equivalent of pathalogical gamblers.
    • This is basically it. When you pay for a game up front you know what it costs. When a game is "free" all that means is you don't know up front how much it's going to cost or what you are going to have to pay for. There is some amount of deception in the business model. And of course they always end up introducing more ways to get money from you, making a lot of people feel like all of their time spent on the game is wasted once it hits that breaking point where they ultimately quit.
  • Once large F2P publishers, advertisers and developers such as Gree, 6waves, Tapjoy, Zynga, King, etc. were all but gone. I'm not saying there aren't companies still milking the model, but they are more into niches and whales in a shrinking market. Investment for these kind of games is disappearing rapidly.

    Met with many publishers and can tell you for sure that the huge success of Steam and high amount of sales of the PS4 is making them reconsider where to invest. The new trend now seems to be something c
  • by egarland (120202) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:15PM (#46709765)

    * Ad supported
    * Pay to win
    * Microtransactions
    * Completely free

    They should change the "Free" button where the cost usually would be to one of these.

    This information is important to to know up front and I should be able to filter out "pay to win" because screw that.

    • You forgot a category:

      * Buy it once

      I'm completely willing to shell out a few bucks up front in order to not be bothered by irritating grabs for money. Of course, I also prefer single player offline games, so this works for me.

  • by jargonburn (1950578) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:33PM (#46709883)
    No, no I don't think I do. I've heard free-to-play broken down into three categories:

    * Free-to-Play: The entire game is free to play and experience; you may be able to purchase some benefits in-game, but they do not skew the balance. They either provide minimal perks, or are purely aesthetic or to support to developer.
    * Freemium: The entire game is technically available, but it will take you much longer to go through it without paying some meaningful amount. Available purchases include benefits that can't be earned any other way or require a lot of time/work to accumulate in-game. Balance is skewed to favor those who pay, but you can still compete at a disadvantage.
    * Pay-to-Win: The game is there, and you can play it, but a number of important features or content are locked behind pay-walls. Benefits possible cannot be meaningfully earned by any other method. If you aren't paying, you can't hope to compete with those who do.

    I scorn and deride Pay-to-Win (I feel, appropriately). I'll regard Freemium games with suspicion, but may play depending on the game itself and how exactly the "store" component is structured. I'll embrace Free-to-Play conceptually; play and support it if I like it.

    I've...played Freemium and Pay-to-win. I'm not interested in paying as much as I would for a full game to enjoy said benefits for one or two months. I also hate how it feels not being able to compete because I'm unwilling to pay a bunch of money. If I find the story or mechanics engaging, I'll check it out...but I leave my wallet at home.

    • I dare say there is even one more way I'd split the P2W group: In those games where you can simply "pay up" to a "full" version and on the other hand games where there is no "paid" version but only a "keep paying" variant.

      A lot of MMOs are going for the former variant of F2P today. SWTOR comes to mind. You can play for free, all right, but to access any kind of meaningful content, you have to cough up dough. Or, of course, turn your free account into a paid one with the usual monthly fee. While I consider i

    • by N1AK (864906)

      I've...played Freemium and Pay-to-win. I'm not interested in paying as much as I would for a full game to enjoy said benefits for one or two months. I also hate how it feels not being able to compete because I'm unwilling to pay a bunch of money. If I find the story or mechanics engaging, I'll check it out...but I leave my wallet at home.

      To be fair, the have to spend a lot to compete model wasn't invented by p2w games. MMOs and plenty of other games often have a model that requires you to spend ungodly amou

    • by msimm (580077)
      And don't forget an important fact with free-to-play games regarding their business models:

      The business model they choose is subject to change. What might start out as a 'free-to-play' game with premium cosmetic additions can over time shift to a Freemium or Pay-to-Win model. I've invested my time and reasonable amounts of money in free-to-play games in the past, only to be burned later when they change to a more aggressive model.
      • Interesting. I haven't run into that, but most likely due to a lack of participation in such games, in general. That hadn't occurred to me, but I can see it happening. Definitely a downer.
  • By actual game devs [youtube.com]. In particular watch the CCG [youtube.com] one.
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:25PM (#46710583)

    ... free 2 play games are lower quality than real games. Even league of legends has hugely less content than warcraft 3 and starcraft 1 did with user made maps, etc. Most of the "new" heroes are mere reskins of stats. The fact is free 2 play is just feudalistic theft model of gaming where you pay to get fucked and never own anything. The problem is kids and the masses don't know any better and are ruining gaming by feeding these unethical companies.

    The whole model relies on the userbases illiteracy and stupidity when it comes to technology, so in no way are free to play games "a fair shake". It's just good old american hustling conning tech ignorant suckers out of their money.

    • by qpqp (1969898)

      The whole model relies on the userbases illiteracy

      Totally agree, and now they grew bold enough to troll a nerd site to sway opinion about this shit to look like a legitimate business model.

      The author of that article,
      "Ben Cousins has spent his 15 years in the games industry at companies like DeNA, [b]DICE[/b], Sony and Lionhead. Since 2006 he's worked on a total of 10 separate free-to-play games across five different platforms, reaching approximately 50 million users. Follow him on Twitter @benjamincousi

      • "IMHO, he should be ashamed of himself."

        Unfortunately enough, science says we're monkeys... in that the human brain decides via emotion, not systematic conscious reason, by unconscious processes embedded in the brain. So this is why everything goes to shit...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Most of the games there - even the very best of them - are totally free, and never ask users for money.

    I feel the author is offering up his own kind of snobbery.
    • One thing most people doesn't realize is that there is a part of the developer population that is that crazy (as some put it) to code for free. Because they really want to make games. Of course 90% of everything is crap, whether it's Kongregate, Newgrounds, communities centered on pre-made engines (such as LÃve, MMF, gamemaker, Unity, etc), or just plain hobbyists with a website or github repo and nothing else. But there is good stuff out there, and shouldn't be underestimated because it's given for fr

  • say, for example, cut the rope 2, which was not free but where you had to use consumable powerups to get certain items in the levels (the "clovers") in order to unlock some levels, only after a major outcry the developer changed it so you could get access to the extra levels if you got 3 stars on all the others. You also get a 'daily gift' (usually a powerup or two) just so you are semi-forced to check in every day, and there are also other obnoxious mechanics so as soon as you spend a little bit of time th

  • F2P games are riddled with 12 year olds who smack talk everyone by calling them fags or some other juvenile insult. It gets tiresome.
  • Pinball, jazz, pirate radio, free-to-play games, and many many other readily-available forms of entertainment have done precisely that: they've corrupted social norms, minds, recreational pass-times, and priorities.

    That's been the point all along.

    Protecting the children is a perfectly valid reaction to any event or advance offering an easy-route through a scenario. In the case of free-to-play, it means being able to play games, socially, with friends, with no money, and no job. So if you've used expensive

    • Difference here isn't that a lot of people are decrying the culture of F2P, that's fine. It's the business model a lot of people have problems with.

      It's like toyetic cartoons. What's the corruption? That they're basically 20 minute advertisements for toys that has 10 minutes of advertisements for more toys. It's cynical and doesn't actually add anything to anyone's life.

      When I was a kid, I figured that one out pretty quick. Some of my peers though...

  • By "free to play" I thought it was like this actual good games that are free [techdrivein.com]. Not that tossing them a few $20 for the games wouldn't be a cool thing to do, they are free games to play.

  • No, not all F2P games are P2W games. But enough of them that it's not worth my time sieving through the dung to find the tiny gem that might actually provide me with a bit of entertainment rather than expecting me to keep tossing coin after coin at them to stay in the loop.

    It's a bit like online advertisement. Yes, not ALL ads are obnoxious, in-your-face popups. But enough of them are to warrant the installation of an adblocker.

    Kickstarter is the other way 'round. I've spent quite a bit of coin on kickstart

  • Yeah. Because F2P is a misnomer in most.

    Basically it's tied to eastern-style grinding unless you shell out big bucks in the cash shops.
    And talking about being nickeled-and-dimed to death?
    Yeah. You WISH! Most transactions are $5, $10, $20 or more. What the fuck is "micro" about those transactions.
    That and the gambling, Things like PWE's lockbox gambling system. The boxes drop free in the game. But you have to pay to open them. And they deliver random crap. And worse, some of the gear in the game is

  • Bought the app, happy I did not kickstart it. Good idea, accptably written story, but incredible hardware requirements (and even then its slow), and the gameplay just sucks. Unfinished, badly managed product at any rate.

    We all might despise the idea and enthousiats, but all software developers here know: "Real artists ship" (attributed to Steve Jobs). Getting something out of the door which is usable and focuses on the core idea, but maybe limited, is crucial for all shareware and free to play developers, s

  • We've all either encountered or heard about a game company using shady business practices to squeeze every cent from their users through in-app purchases (a.k.a. microtransations, a.k.a. cash shops), or a simple pay-to-win format. But these stories don't represent all games — by a long shot. It's something endemic to shady developers and publishers, not the business model.

    It is something fundamentally wrong with the business model. Name a recent popular f2p game where the pay element isn't an issue?

  • Call them what they are, "Free to Pay". Because the games are without exception designed to make you want to spend money, which you will need to do if you want to be one of the game's badasses — because you feel so pathetic in your own life that this is important, and you are so pathetic that being a badass in a videogame will make you feel better. And this dynamic is bringing in absolute truckloads of cash for some of these guys who instead of making a game, have made a cash machine.

    Some of them even

  • It's simple. On the one hand there is the incentive to make the game enjoyable. On the other hand, there is an incentive to make the game less enjoyable if you don't pay. When you simply pay for access to the game, the incentives align. When you don't, the incentives are at odds. The only mitigating factor is that the game has to be enjoyable enough to get your attention in the first place.

  • Whoever defends the current "free to play" is defending the new Dungeon Keeper and PvZ 2. You have to have serious mental problems to do that. Maybe the article author hasn't taken his medication lately?

  • I remember there was a time where gamers were all asking for microtransactions, and thought they would be a good idea. As it turns out, not so much,

    First off many of them turn out to me no so micro. Also in a multiplayer situation it generally makes a game unbalanced. It becomes an arms race to spend the most in order to even have a chance, which is what the developer wants. There have been a few examples that work, mostly through making the content cosmetic only.

    One of my favorite games of all time was a f

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