Archive for September 13, 2011

“Treating F2P With Some Respect” or “The F2P Gold Rush Continues”

September 13, 2011 2 comments

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.

Categories: End of Nations, F2P