Free To Play in Retrospec

There is a great deal to admire when it comes to Free 2 Play MMOs. It’s being called the new standard. While big releases seem to move towards the model of Free to Play after launch, the latest release of Guild Wars 2, said to the community, building games to be Free to Play should now and should have always been the standard.

While the benefits are overwhelmingly obvious. The basic lack of losing $15 a month seems all too enticing. The overall effect doesn’t seem to be any different for me. Whether GW2 released as a subscription model or it released as a F2P does not change its position to me any differently. In the end, no matter which model they went with, they only ever would have been receiving $60 of my money. The box comes with a fee month in a subscription plan. And this game doesn’t have the content of a month in it. It doesn’t really have a week.

There in lies the advantage of always being a F2P model. We don’t get to call it a failure. When GW2 sold 2 Million copies it was a success and the story stopped there. Less than a week later GW2 sales fall to unexpected lows, as ArenaNet worked to sabotage their own sales. Their sales went down 84% in week two. But no one cares. Apparently that is not worth noting when deciding whether an MMO is a success. SWTOR sells 2.1M overnight and holds 1.7M extra in sales over the next 3 months. But we call it a flying failure for not holding our subscriptions for more than 3 months. GW2 sells 2M a couldn’t move another box to save their life, and on purpose as well, and it’s a flying success?

An 84% drop in revenue the very next week and it’s still a success? I don’t get the community. They are either truly mathematically illiterate or simple easy to please people. I don’t believe the latter to be true. EA’s expansion for Sims 3: Super Natural kicked GW2 sales in the face. That’s right. A bullshit expansion to a 5-year-old game kicked GW2 balls in numbers. You think EA is afraid of GW2? Not in the least.

So while the community, for some god forsaken reason, wants all other producers to see GW2 and hope that we never see subscriptions again, I very much doubt it. I would much rather companies see the value in actual game upkeep to the community.

I think the wrong lesson is being taught in the MMO world. There is this Subscription Versus F2P Model battle. And they are both wrong. The F2P model fails to deliver us sustained playability and customer support. It lacks the very intent of MMO, which is an ever evolving world. The Subscription model in essence works, it just hasn’t seen the fruition it intended. It wanted the subscription to uphold Customer Service, to pay for continued Monthly additions, to provide wide arrays of free content. And each game released with this intention. Only to find the running the game and producing were far in different scopes. It’s sad to see the companies that wanted to provide this, felled face first. The unforeseeable failure has left us with F2P as our only option?

It’s hard to tell what is on the horizon at the moment. But I hope for better things from the future. GW2 was not the answer, in many regards.


10 thoughts on “Free To Play in Retrospec

    • I would say probably because of the vast difference in sales.

      Yes GW1 existed and still exist, but ha too few following for it to e recognized as a big MMO.

      So yes, nothing new. But no, 2M in sales is a bit over GW1’s 400k overall over 7 years.

  1. I do like the F2P movement because you can make oxymoronic forum posts like “Until The Secret World goes free to play it won’t get my money. It’s as simple as that Funcom – sub fees are outdated!”

  2. I don’t think sub models are outdated. Companies just got lazy and started to think having a sub and keeping the server running was enough, then charging for an expansion.
    Eve and Rift prove that it works if developers don’t take players for granted. In Eve you see them release expansions for free and players are happy to pay a sub because they know new content is on its way.
    Rift releases content frequently enough to make it worthwhile paying a subscription.
    Both are smaller companies just giving customers value for money.
    The Secret World plans to do the same. Monthly content for a monthly sub and no paid expansions.

  3. The declaration failure lies in the expectation. Dissapointment always stems from the inability of reality to coincide with fantasy. GW2 isn’t called a failure because they economically planned to have no subscriptions, and not only created a business model that reflected that, but were upfront about it from the get-go. SW:tOR banked on a player-base of “x” churning over their $15/month and were utterly inable to achieve that goal. Thus, failure.

    I dislike the F2P model as it relates to virtual worlds, but I’m not so sure that it’s a poor fit for the traditional themepark, diku-mud style of MMO. It highlights the importance of managing expectations from early on in the creation process.

  4. Two words: Asheron’s Call. (Not the 2nd one, although it could have been “something” if not for the myriad of bugs)

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