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Monday, July 22, 2013

Future evolutions of F2P

It seems like not all that long ago Free to Play was the new hot MMO buzzword. Though we can quibble over what game was first to be "Free to play" Wikipedia suggests that the earliest versions were things like Furcadia and Achaea. Whatever they were, it was early on that mainstream free-to-play games adopted the "playing is free, convenience is extra" mentality, as well as some early experiments with the infamous "pay-to-win" version. These days it is ubiquitous, and even subscription based games such as WoW are contemplating options that look very "free-to-play". But where is this headed? How might the model evolve in the next few years? Below are two things I have seen that  suspect might be more common.

Pay more often, get more stuff!

One place I see it going is the "the longer you pay, the more you get" model. Planetside 2 is the first game I encountered to really emphasize this. The longer a player remains subscribed, the better the benefits of subscription get. Planetside 2 also did a "loyal soldier" bonus, which rewarded players that had spent any amount of money in the previous few months; providing them a free month of subscription (or gave them a free one if a subscriber) and some unique camouflage. Aside from some issues, I think it was well received, and certainly left me with the consideration of spending more money. Having these events be random but highly rewarding can encourage a "spend frequently" mentality to avoid missing out.

I have mixed feelings about these, because the randomness is taking advantage of people's risk aversion and the common gamer desire to collect ALL the things. It seems legitimate enough, and despite having shades of advantage-taking, so are most schemes. It moves away from the time-v-money dynamic that is most common in free-to-play games though.

 All at once

SMITE on the other hand is going the other direction towards something more akin to "buy to play" with the "Ultimate God Pack" which grants access to all current and future gods that Hi-Rez releases. In essence, it gives players a "buy in" opportunity in which they are assured the majority of the play content for a relatively low price upfront which makes it sort of an investment. The value of your initial $30 is dependent upon how much you enjoy SMITE and how many gods they eventually release (though given the current number, it is FAR more cost efficient than buying the gods individually and likely will only get more efficient).

How do you think the F2P genre is going to evolve? Will we return to pay-to-win as more companies try to go for quick-cash before the community collapses as Zynga often does? Will we see more games moving to the "Founder" sort of status in a sort of psuedo-Kickstarter sort of financing system?

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