Any European players playing Fallen Earth (now or when it launched F2P?) What server will you be on? Let’s team up, because I am definitely playing it post October 12.
And enjoy the digital side and under-boobs. It’s a plague, I tell you!
End of Nations is an MMORTS, one of the first of its kind, and has generated a fair bit of press because of its decision to go free-to-play. Davis Luehmann, Executive Producer for the game says they decided to go with a free-to-play model because the game focuses on large-scale multiplayer, and as such, the game’s fun factor will be directly tied to the number of people playing. As such, the team decided to “minimize the barrier to entry and maximize the fun.”
It is a flimsy response, born out of an inherent need to justify the free-to-play model, and mired in the inconsistency of it’s own premise. Time and again I see similar responses from developers who cannot bring themselves to openly admit that F2P has proven itself to be a financially sound business decision, one that has netted several other studios profits despite an initially abysmal response via other business models. I don’t understand why it is not acceptable for developers to simply state that they don’t feel a subscription-based model will be in their best interest, and they feel their product will be financially sustainable, even profitable, if they followed the F2P model.
You could argue that I am reading too much into this statement, but then I present to you the rest of this interview over at Massively. The “pay-to-win” argument is the first thing that pops into my head (and, I am guessing, the minds of most others familiar with MMOs and the rise of F2P in general) and another free-to-play title emerges in the market. When asked about “pay-to-win”, Luehmann was quick to point out that the game “will not be selling pay-to-win items that give one player a significant gameplay advantage over another”.
He also added that many of these items will be available for purchase via the in-game currency. But the game also features an “optional subscription option”. This is where the argument starts to fall apart. If the model is truly F2P, and the cash shops only provides cosmetic benefits, why have a subscription option? Surely the number of players that would like to decorate their tanks with that perfectly colored purple frill are too few to merit the option. Despite the claim that subscription players will have no advantages over free-to-play players, Luehmann says the subscription option will yield “significant value and convenience extras.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am one of the people actually looking forward to a decent MMORTS, and End of Nations if a strong contender. I just find it mildly insulting that developers continue to use rhetoric and poorly formed reasoning to justify their payment models. Just come out and say it:
We are a small studio, we don’t think subscription-based retention will be a possibility for us. We are thus offering a free-to-play model because it has proven to be successful, and because we would like to be profitable, which is our right as an independent business. However, in order to ensure we are not missing out on anyone who does want to pay a monthly fee, we are keeping the subscription option open.
That would have been an honest statement, one that would have netted my confidence and not made the developers sound like pretentious dicks who think players are too dumb to read between the lines and understand what is truly at stake.
Did you know the average freemium player spends $14 on average during each transaction at the game’s online stores? Neither did the folks over at Flurry Analytics, which is why they conducted an independent survey to determine some trends in iOS and Android gaming. Considering that their sample size was 20 million users across 1.2 play sessions, I’d say their results maybe quite accurate.
Gamers between the ages of 13 and 34 represent more than 80 percent of smartphone game time. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 spent the most time gaming, which accounted for 32 percent of total time. At the next age group, 25-34, time gaming dropped slightly to 29 percent.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the older gamer was far more likely to spend cash to unlock new gear or content, as opposed to spending hours grinding the content to eventually have a shot at it. This actually resonated with me personally. A decade ago, I would not imagine spending extra money on an MMO (or any other free game) that I had already purchased at full-price. As I have gotten older, and the hours in the day continue to shrink at a regular pace, I have, self-admittedly, engaged in online transactions to save me time farming the same content or gear.
The most recent example of this would be the Machina Sniper Rifle that was released for Team Fortress 2. You could obtain the rifle in a few ways:
- Pre-order Deus Ex: Human Revolution for $44.99, get the Machina (and 7 other items) completely free
- Pay $1.99 in the Team Fortress 2 Mann Co. store and acquire the Machina
- Spend a lot of time on trade channels, trying to exchange the Machina for another unique or special item you may have
- Use the in-game crafting system to melt down existing weapons and craft it from scratch
I had already bought Deus Ex for the Xbos 360, so I wasn’t about to dole out another $44.99 just for the items in TF2. I spent about 15 minutes in a trade channel before I realize it will take me some time to find something that the other party wanted badly enough to trade me the Machina. I even dabbled in crafting and quickly realized that I would have to sacrifice quite a few weapons to get it. Finally I had a look at the store, and realized that for a measly $1.99, I could skip all this aggravation, and so I did.
Personal example notwithstanding, it goes on to show that the freemium model works, and it actually seems to work better with increasing age bracket (and presumably disposable income). If anything, with the exponential rise in mobile gaming and increasingly powerful operating systems, this trend will only continue to gain strength.
About a week ago, Tobold spoke about how he feels that the MMO gold rush is over. In the wake of the phenomenal and unprecedented success of World of Warcraft, several MMO developers popped up all over the map, and the market was flooded with clones, underfunded or badly designed (original) ideas, or incomplete products as studios rushed to capitalize on the MMO gold rush. Tobold goes on to argue that the F2P model actually forces developers to make better games because otherwise the player will not move past the free content.
While I am not entirely in agreement with the last statement, for we have seen several games that purposely restrict content and box it into “paid content”. These models, which limit what the players can experience in the start, at least for players like me, have no appeal. Free-to-play to me implies that I should be able to experience the game in its entirety at the start. I should not be subjected to archetypes that I am not interested in, or a class that I have no interest in playing. Sure give me the content in paid categories higher up in the levels, with more areas opening as I opt to pay for them, but if you show me limited content in the very beginning, I will likely leave in the very beginning. This is probably the reason I cannot move past the first few levels in Champions Online: Free for All. Because the only archetype that I thought I would enjoy, I am having next to no fun with.
That being said, I think the F2P gold rush is just beginning. With the resounding success of several games that switched from a subscription model to F2P (hello LOTRO), more and more studios are producing AAA titles that are free-to-play with cash shops. Just today, one of the most hotly anticipated new MMOs and one of my favorites, The Secret World revealed its payment plan. There will be a subscription (which I will pay gladly), but along with it, the game will feature a cash shop for “clothing and convenience items” to avoid the pay-to-win slippery slope so many other studios have been accused of. I thought this was interesting. They are not F2P at launch, but depending on the success of the subscription-based model they have a cash shop all set and ready to roll at launch. Shrewd Mr. Tornquist, very shrewd.
The bottomline is that the MMO genre is in a constant state of evolution. Old, anachronistic and archaic concepts are beginning to bore the pants off of veteran players. WoW, despite constant innovation, an accelerated timetable for endgame content and now with more Vitamin C, continues to lose subscriptions. Now granted they still have over 11 million active subscribers, but the dip is noticeable, tangible and quite possibly a herald for the coming times. F2P is the latest gold rush in the MMO-sphere, and it is here to stay a while, because it allows developers to milk more doubloons out of their players with with every single content update, cosmetic or otherwise. I don’t expect this gold rush to change any time soon.
The wait for the next generation of MMOs is unbearable at this point. I have quit WoW. World of Tanks simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, but it was a barren wasteland, and I rarely came across any players in the first 22 levels in a “well-populated” server, so eventually I just got tired of playing solo and quit LOTRO as well.
I have now downloaded both Champions Online: Free For All, and Global Agenda: Free Agent, partly because I am itching to play an MMO, and partly because they were in my Steam “free to play” section, and it was just convenient to download and install both clients.
I had a lot of issues, I mean a LOT of issues, with Champions Online. I despised the title to the point that I could not bear to play the game a month past the initial “free” month. Even back then, must have been September/October of 2009 or thereabouts, I thought Champions Online would have benefited greatly if it was a free-to-play title, because it had a lot of things going for it. I am not saying free-to-play titles are allowed to have broken game mechanics or unpolished gameplay, not at all. I am just saying that it didn’t make sense to call it a AAA title when the game was dramatically and drastically altered on launch day itself because of blatant balance issues.
When I logged in this time, using the same username/password that I had used nearly two years prior, I was surprised to find my original characters still intact. Now because those characters no longer fit into the free archetypes that free accounts have access to, I could not load the world with those characters and play to my heart’s content, but I was grateful that my old characters were still intact after all that time.
I made a new character. I should rephrase, I am in the process of making a new character. had actually forgotten how incredible complex, deep and fun the hero builder tools could be in Champions Online. With literally thousands of combinations, even with in the free account, you can create a truly unique looking hero.
A lot of people who play this game had remarked that you could play Global Agenda for any length of time without feeling like you are tied down to a raid or dungeon run at a designated time. You could jump in and out of missions on the fly and play as your schedule suits you, not the other way around. Given the sheer shortage of time that has become the bane of my existence lately, this was a major plus point for me.
I have only played the tutorial of this game so far, and I have been quite impressed with the way the single-player (near) obligatory tutorial section is designed. It has a cool storyline, plenty of interesting cut-scenes and it introduces gameplay mechanics in interesting and unique ways. So far I have had a blast and I will continue to play it until I have a good enough handle on the game to start tackling mission and get into the MM part of this MMO.
The new Rift trailer kicks a lot of (rift) ass. The battle between the Ascendants comes full circle, birds get caught on fire, and it is revealed that if you have giant tusks, you can kick some serious ass! Seriously though, it is the most ambitious trailer for Rift to date and although my work schedule not permitted me to play at all, I was really glad to hear they were expanding the beta window to Saturday. That implies I can squeeze in a few hours and hopefully get a good idea of what Rift is all about. I will have a full write-up over the weekend, as soon as I figure out whether the NDA is in effect because there seems to be conflicting information on this. (Perhaps you can answer this one Scott?)
Let me also say that I was very pleasantly surprised that a representative from Trion Worlds actually responded to my ill-advised gripe about installation and launch problems I had with Rift. Not only that, he actually offered to help and look into the matter. I don’t quite know what I like / dislike about Rift just yet, but I have to say, they’ve got mad customer service skills yo!
Watch the new trailer embedded below:
DCUO launched mid-January. The game seems to be doing fairly well, considering new servers are being added to the game days into the launch. Champions Online also went F2P, and I don’t think anyone has any confusions about their decision to announce a launch date right around the launch of DCUO. I am going to try my hands at Champions Online again. I have had my reservations with the game, but it has been out nearly a year and a half now, and I am hoping most of the bugs have been filtered out by now. And if Patrick’s post is any indication, the launch went a lot smoother than the disaster we faced on the original launch day back in September 2009. The option to play F2P is also quite welcoming, despite the fact that Massively.com doesn’t think the locked archetypes are a true representation of what the game may have to offer. If you want to know anything and everything about the revamped title, you can read Massively’s write-up here.
Will I try DCUO? Not yet. I’ll give it a few more months. The initial response is, admittedly, enticing. But I don’t want to get burnt again by spending my heard-earned doubloons on a sub-par game because I got sold on the hype.
Battlestar Galactica: In-browser
While we are on the subject of trailers, the folks over at Big Point have released an in-game trailer, crafted from 100% in-game footage, and now with more Vitamin C! I have to admit, despite my initial reservations about a Farmville-esque botched attempt at re-creating the fantastic universe, I am a little surprised at how detailed, graphically rich, and accurate an in-browser game can look these days. Am I confused? Did they decide to go with a full-blown 3D engine and I missed that memo? Or are those graphics a little ridiculous for an in-browser game?
I haven’t yet, but I will sure as hell sign-up for the beta now! Take a look:
Two things have happened in the last few years of MMO gaming.
- All the (relatively) younger gamers, myself included, have grown up to pursue full-fledged, and thankfully meaningful careers. As such time is in short supply.The average MMO gamer is in the mid-to-late-twenties.
- MMOs have evolved with increasingly complex systems. Just look at the list of UI windows and keyboard shortcuts in LOTRO or WoW. With complexity comes a learning curve. With a learning curve comes an investment of time.
So here’s the thought: Is a single month of playtime really enough to get a good hang of what the game may be like? Or is it an anachronistic concept in this day and age?
Alganon: this is what you should have done from the beginning. In addition to, you know, never launching. That would have been nice, thanks.
Black Prophecy, an upcoming space-themed MMO recently gained a publisher, gamigo, for global distribution and and publishing rights. Specializing in F2P MMOs, the publisher subsequently also announced that the game will follow a free-to-play model from launch.
Here is a direct quote from the press release: