Is Free-To-Play “Inevitable”?

by on June 21, 2012


Electronic Arts’ Chief Operations Officer said yesterday that he believes a move to free-to-play, for all games, is inevitable.

Pretty bold and startling stuff, particularly coming from someone that senior in the industry.

Bloggers have been reacting to both that statement and Arena.net’s comments about Free To Play in the last couple of days – so, does the blogosphere agree that F2P is the only Way 2 Go?

  • The Mighty Viking Hamster considers the example of LoTRO’s F2P history as he examines the rationale for F2P games“Time and time again you see VIP players on the Turbine forums question the viability of sticking with their subscriptions when they could feasibly buy all the content they need with their amassed TPs. As time passes this conundrum will become more relevant to old time subscribers and it is something Turbine has to contend with sooner or later. “
  • Ben at Diminishing Returns examines Arena.net’s claim that F2P games are more fun“Few people have the money and interest to subscribe to 5+ different MMOs simultaneously, but if you are playing 5 F2P titles you can jump in to different games on different nights according to what content takes your interest and what your friends are doing.”
  • Keen argues that F2P games are driven by exactly the same non-fun business motives as subscription-based titles“That doesn’t mean the other teams aren’t hard at work coming up with ways to get you into that cash shop or earn money. Business is competitive, and there’s no such thing as a ‘nice business decision’. “
  • And Chris at Level Capped makes a very interesting point I’ve not seen anywhere else – that in F2P games, gamers really do get to vote with their wallets“When the revenue stream for a game comes solely from delivering a well regarded product first, and collecting money second, people have an actual, meaningful voice every time they decide whether or not to buy that expansion, that gun, or that XP boost.”

What do you think? Is F2P inevitable?

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: General MMO Interest

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tesh June 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I’d say it’s inevitable in a mature market. So, given enough time in pretty much any market, yes, companies will inevitably have to compete on product strength *and* price, and won’t be able to rely on captive audiences and low competition.

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Redbeard June 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I know people will inevitably trot out WoW and it’s subscription model as an example of not needing to go F2P, but WoW has issues of its own. Blizz has consistently swept under the rug numbers for brand new subs –not returning subs– and by doing that has opened speculation that WoW isn’t really garnering a lot of new market penetration in NA (and potentially Europe). Viewed in that light, the decision by Blizz to cancel Blizzcon and have video game championships in the area where WoW’s subs are definitely growing –Asia– highlights that WoW is having a tougher time competing in a mature market in NA/Europe with F2P MMOs than we probably care to speculate.

Still, WoW does have that 10M user base, and with that sort of money rolling in, Blizz has a lot of freedom to do different things.

What I wonder about is whether the design effort needed to maintain a TOR can truly be sustained in a F2P environment. Maybe it can, but the only way to find out is for Bioware to go F2P.

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