Who in their right mind would actually complain about something being free, right? That’s a hard question to pin an answer on, but I’ll bet that there are some very high-skilled online gamers who would be able to present quite an argument. The landscape of online gaming (and MMOs in particular) has felt such a significant shake in the past couple of years.
Back when I first started playing online games, if you didn’t have to pay for it, then that was probably a good indicator that it wasn’t worth playing. Quality comes with a price. Today, things are significantly different.
I recently wrote an article detailing why League of Legends is the most popular game online. The very first bulletpoint on that list has to do with it being free. Not having to pay to start playing means you should just go ahead and open the floodgates. We gamers are pretty cheap people sometime.
Is the free-to-play business model always the right one? Has online gaming gone too soft? Let’s talk about it.
- League of Legends
- Team Fortress 2
- Tribes: Ascend
- World of Tanks
- DC Universe
And now for some pay-to-pay or subscription-based games:
- World of Warcraft
- Diablo III
- StarCraft II
- Counter-Strike: Source
- Guild Wars 2
I’ve tried to keep each list evenly-stacked in regards to having the bigger names listed. With that out of the way, which list has the more competitive communities? Which list has the more popular games? I think the unanimous answer for most people would be our list of P2P games.
I’d even go as far as to call one or two of the games in the F2P list a casual game. That’s not to say that every P2P game is better than every F2P game. But paying a premium, as it might as well be considered anymore, wouldn’t you immediately expect to be given a better overall experience?
Keeping It “Fair”
Cash shops and microtransactions are the cornerstones of the F2P model. Even some P2P games come with a microtransaction here or there, but F2P games are practically built around the two.
If you’re not familiar, a cash shop is a way to pay real money for in-game items that will help you advance in the game and/or obtain a competitive edge over players. These are most prominently found in the MMORPG genre. Korean MMORPGs, to be even more exact. Off the top of my head, R.O.H.A.N. and 4Story are solid examples.
Check out the F2P listings over at OnRPG. Click through a few and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Now please understand, it’s not the cash shop alone that ruins the gaming experience for hardcore gamers. It’s the idea that you can start playing an online game and literally buy your way to being one of the best players. People don’t like that. If you’re able to buy items that are unobtainable by natural means, that’s another sin of online gaming.
Some F2P games, like LoL, manage to do is right (hence the popularity on both the casual and competitive side). The vast majority don’t.
As far as I know, LoL is the only F2P game with a strong presence in eSports and professional gaming. The F2P model caters to a less “serious” crowd in many respects. Not interested in paying for a game and don’t mind a few restrictions? You’ll love F2P gaming. Don’t have the time to play your way to the top? No problem, you can use your money instead of your time.
You know that when you’re playing against an elite SC2 player or an elite CS:S player, you’re playing someone who is at such a high level because they’ve invested the time in improving at the game. When you approach that same breed of player in a F2P game, it could be just because they managed to get mommy’s credit card. It’s a whole different playing field.
So what do you guys think? If the P2P model runs dry today, are you still going to continue playing with the F2P crowd? Do you feel like the F2P community is more casual? Let us know in the comments.
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