Free to play. It has many connotations, and already after a short time in the popular gaming world, a number of prejudices. I say popular, because in actual fact the service has been around in some form or another for quite a while. Runescape has been going since 2001 and has 10 million active accounts per month. But the concept was thrown into the mainstream when titles such as DDO and LOTRO went with it.
Typical associations with Free to Play are the fact that the game might be Pay to Win. Spend enough money in the in-game store and you can get around any player attempting to grind their way to victory. World of Tanks has had to weather these types of problems, and there have been some pretty devastating analysis done by various bloggers that have shown how rigged the system can be. Another problem with these games is the fact that a number of poor quality games were rushed out in an attempt to capitalise on the idea, and their general shoddiness have permeated the entire genre. And then we have Free to Play games that are ruthlessly targeted at the more vulnerable members of society who might be susceptible to subliminal messaging and manipulation in order to become hooked and spend more money than they ordinarily would.
But the biggest problem I have with Free to Play is that I like to pay for a game upfront. If the game is worth playing then I think that it is worth paying for. And a fixed price or a fixed subscription takes any financial pressure off me; I know what I am getting into. But with an in-game shop I am forced to support the game publisher in other ways, ways that I find uncomfortable or even distasteful. For example, I don’t want to walk around in-game with an item that can only be purchased. Not only do I feel stupid doing it, but the item has no real meaning for me. I play games to discover. The joy for me is in the luck of finding, or the revelation of working out how exactly to obtain an item in-game from my own efforts. Even purchasing an item from a normal auction house is preferable as it requires the effort of researching what I need and then scoping out the AH until I’m lucky enough to see one in there.
The other downside for me is that without a fixed price I am left with the unrewarding task of attempting to work out if I am giving the game developers a suitable payment for their game or if I am in fact being ripped off. I don’t want this hassle. I play games to escape this sort of mundane life shit. Just tell me how much the game is up front, let me decide if I want to pay that, and then let me in to have my little escape from reality. This works for me. I am happy. The game developer has money so they are happy. The little elves in the corner are happy
But let me make up my own mind what I want to pay? Well, that only works if I feel that I can trust the game publisher to be good intentioned and not put little inducements to get money out of me every step of the way, and not to change the rules six months into the game, and … did we say trust a game publisher? Really? I mean, I’m a nice guy and all that, (okay maybe not in some of my dear reader’s opinions), but I can count the people I trust in this world on one hand.
It’s all just a big fucking mess. Look, I like your game. So let me pay you some money and then we can all be happy. Just tell me how much.