Friday, 28 June 2013

Free2Play is evil

Mobile phone tariffs and contracts are notoriously complicated and opaque. Choosing the right one for your needs is difficult: Should you take a flat fee subscription plan or some pay-by-minute version? But most people realize that this question can't be universally answered. Some offers are good for some people, but not for others. If you have a mobile phone mainly for emergencies and being reachable, but don't phone much yourself, you'll need a different plan than somebody who is talking all hours. The exact same thing is true for business models of online games: Some plans are good for a specific group of people, but not for others. Flat condemnations of the Free2Play model usually come from those who benefited a lot from the injustices of the subscription model, which is the cheapest option if you play a lot, but makes you overpay if you play little.

I have seen many Free2Play games in which the specifics were very much to my liking, for example I always found the payment plan of World of Tanks very fair, especially since they changed the "gold ammo" to be available through playing. Other people repeatedly pointed out League of Legends as having a good Free2Play model. On the other hand I have played some games in which the monetization strategy was so repellent that I stopped playing quickly, or at least refused to pay. There has been some discussion on the gambling aspect of selling "lockboxes" or the keys for them, which are a part of many games, and I'm not a fan of those either.

So I think that the stupid "all Free2Play is evil" ranting is not constructive. It would be far better to discuss specifics, like what shop items in what specific game are fair or unbalanced or overpriced. Which games are discreet about the payment options, in which games do you hit a pay wall, and which games shove "you should spend money" advertising down your throat every minute? I do think such discussions can accelerate the spread of best practices in Free2Play business models. Rejecting all Free2Play downright is just Luddite, and will never succeed in putting that particular genie back into its bottle.

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