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free to play gamesWho 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 Why Is League Of Legends The Most Popular PC Game In The World? [MUO Gaming] Why Is League Of Legends The Most Popular PC Game In The World? [MUO Gaming] Earlier last month, news broke that League of Legends, the addictive rehash of MOBA games like DotA and Heroes of Newerth, has officially earned the right to call itself the most popular game on the... Read More . 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.

Quality Control

We’ve done lots 5 Initially Premium MMO Games That Are Now Free To Play [MUO Gaming] 5 Initially Premium MMO Games That Are Now Free To Play [MUO Gaming] It's hard to say where the gaming industry is heading, but freemium games are likely playing a big part in it. Where traditional games ask for your sixty dollars up front, freemium games take their... Read More  of articles The 6 Best Free-To-Play Action Games [MUO Gaming] The 6 Best Free-To-Play Action Games [MUO Gaming] The free-to-play revolution is gaining momentum every month. Many of the games are still titles that allow developers to easily place a price on game mechanics, items or units – but some action games are... Read More that ought to help you get started with your F2P gaming experience. Here are a few of those titles:

  • 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.

free to play 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.

free to play games

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.

Trying Hard

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.

free to play games

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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  1. Anonymous
    December 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Good article. There are some pure f2p games like dota2 and tf2 ...

  2. Harshit Jain
    October 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I thing free to play games are great and should be promoted. Paid games are afterall very expensive most of the times.

  3. Kylinn
    September 20, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    F2P doesn't have to involve items that give competitive advantage. Other models include not offering any shops, or only offer shops that only give cosmetic advantages (where you can buy cool titles or clothes but nothing that actually affects how well you do). Unfortunately, the games that don't offer shops with in-game advantages also tend to be smaller, niche games, not the ultra-popular big ones.

  4. Dan Worwood
    September 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I completely agree. Nothing more irritates me than having to pay for things in game. It's beyond annoying getting so far then realizing you have to drop 20 bucks in order to progress any further.

  5. Michael Jan Moratalla
    September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    for me,in my country, P2P is way to keep noobs away because if its F2P there are so many noobs and trash talkers around some are kids that don't even know how to play it right. but F2P is what I like because as of now I don't have a regular income to do so.

  6. Sebastian Hadinata
    September 19, 2012 at 1:41 am

    I wouldn't mind having to pay once to play the game like Guild Wars 2, but subscription model games is just not really worth it IMO, having to pay annually or monthly just to play the game is too much for me as a student.

  7. Siddhant Chaurasia
    September 19, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Call Of Duty is one of the best games out there

    • Harshit Jain
      October 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      what will happen when it is compared with Crysis 3?

    • Harshit Jain
      October 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      Also Halo 4 is no less than any other similar game.

  8. Naman Sati
    September 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Well some facts are true but some are not.

    P2P games allows those fellow gamers play who cant afford to pay(Eg.Asian Countries.)But yes agree with u p2p;most of them are just money gambles.The guy with a big wallet owns the game while good players lack.

    But current trend and future will be of p2p.

    1.Look at Heroes of Newearth.They started at p2p and failed to be popular and now they also started f2p scheme.

    2.LOL beat WOW on one the most online playing game in hours.

    If every f2p games prefer the plan like LOL i.e, being free to play and having micro-transactions and not unbalancing the game then it will reach at those peaks of gaming at which LOL is.

    And plz dont forget dota 2.Started as still closed beta the game is getting popularity thanx to its competetive scene and ofc valve trademark.

  9. Reem
    September 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Free-to-play games cannot compete with paid games. They're simple, easy to play, and targeted to an audience of non-professional players.

    Some websites are even developing free Facebook games, where coworkers can rank each other to find out who's the most popular guy/gal in a workplace:

    Free, simple games are fun, and do not threaten the gaming industry, I think.

    You're welcome to play and enjoy! :-)

  10. Michael Gant
    September 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    "LoL is the only F2P game with a strong presence in eSports and professional gaming"

    Not true. What about Dota 2?

    • Naman
      September 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      So true with "The International 2" dota 2 tournament being a great success.

    • Craig Snyder
      September 20, 2012 at 12:37 am

      You're 100% right on that, DotA was a huge presence and Dota 2 will certainly be. I just want to see it come out of a closed beta state, then we'll see what it's really got to offer. I won't be surprised if it takes over LoL.

  11. Edmar Diego
    September 18, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I personally think that F2P is better than P2P mainly because, P2P kills hard work.
    Its not like Dota 2, Blacklight Retribution or other popular MMO that requires people to really put effort in the game rather than get out the credit card and beef your character up. No hate to those P2P players but its just my opinion.

  12. Timo Reimerdes
    September 18, 2012 at 7:54 am

    The one thing I did notice in any MMO a year ago is that there are actually more people playing the games in a way one would watch tv. Let's just call it 'games get less geeky' and I think that nails it.

    The competitive gameplay is, when geeks with lots of time spend this time online playing a game and being better than others in crunching numbers to kill big-breasted-monsters. However, if you add a bunch of people to the game who 'ruin it' by not caring about numbers or the monsters and give those the chance to 'just buy success' you lose the geeks who 'want to work for their success'.

    And possibly it is much more profitable to harvest from the tv-gamers than to make really geeky games that earn the respect and enthusiasm of those weird 'pro-gamers' that take sheer joy from complex numbers and hard to understand scripts.

    BUT: Fallout did NOT become as famous as it is because of 'easy gameplay', 'f2p'. It was the geekiness and the communicated enthusiasm of geeks who said "that is a great game!".

  13. Laga Mahesa
    September 18, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Being a stout hater of online gaming in any of its current forms (I gloss over the multiplayer sections of reviews and walk away as soon as I see "Online Only" or similar), and therefore unbiased towards either of them, let me drop this: one big reason I don't do online play is the fact that very few actually role play (in RPGs) and there is a 95% (arbitrarily subjective number, deal with it) that I'll either be insta-killed by a camper, insulted into quitting the game, or both. Add to that the recent deplorable behaviour of game studios of withholding content for a DLC... well.

    I would wager that a large number of F2P players choose this model because there is no initial outlay to risk before finding out what the average mental age of the game's populace is. Were things more 'secure', P2P gaming would be as strong now as it was 10 years ago, instead of being on the wane.

  14. Hiren Patel
    September 18, 2012 at 3:41 am

    @Craig Snyder : its pay-to-play in this sentence.

    "And now for some pay-to-pay or subscription-based games".

    • Craig Snyder
      September 20, 2012 at 12:36 am

      You got me, Hiren.

  15. Joel Lee
    September 18, 2012 at 3:00 am

    F2P competitive gaming ultimately fails to gain wide traction because developers can't seem to realize that buying power destroys competition. This phenomenon can be averted--look at Dota 2, where the cash shop only grants you cosmetic changes. No skills, no ingame items, nothing to give you an advantage.

    It's not even a F2P-only problem, I think. If the stage doesn't provide all players with the same playing field, then eventually that power imbalance is going to drive away players of skill. There may be a remnant of competition, but it won't be true competition.