But You Said It’s FREE
Free doesn’t mean free forever. At the end of the day these games are businesses, they need money to survive, support the game, generate content, and create new games. Our own Marc Allie had this to say about a title that he spent some significant time with:
"I have enjoyed some free to play games, but often it gets to the point where you can't progress without dropping money. "
If the game was fun up to that point, and it let you experience a good chunk of it - isn’t that a demo? Shouldn’t you want to support the content you’ve enjoyed for weeks? That sounds even better than typical demos or “betas” we’ve seen recently. Granted in this instance the particular game might be abusing the model by blocking progression recurringly, but if done right, we’re seeing next-gen demos.
Perhaps the biggest problem is simply the name - “free to play.” By calling a game this, it implies something of the cost of the entire product. It’s a misconception for those unaware. There’s a chance this won’t be an issue soon. A recent ruling by a European Trade Commission has made it illegal to advertise an app as “free to play” or “free” if it features in app purchases. Google and Apple are being required to change the labels on games in their store on all apps that aren’t truly “free” according to the terms laid out by the commission. It likely won’t be long in the rest of the world follows suit with similar requirements.
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It’s obvious free to play isn’t the be-all and end-all solution for gamers. It can’t fit every situation. While we've seen RPGs, MOBAs, RTSs, Racing and FPS games, certain genres or types of games haven’t worked as well with free to play. When I asked the staff what some of their favorite F2P games were, many said they avoided them because there’s no definite “end.” Which is true. If you enjoy strong story based experiences with a definitive narrative arc - those type of free games are few and far between.
If anything, I want folks to give some of these free to play games a chance. If you just dropped $1000 on a new PC, you can enjoy it to its fullest without spending another dime on a game immediately. Even Sony and Microsoft are embracing free to play titles on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Free to play means more gamers get a chance to enjoy a hobby we all love.
There was a time not so long ago that PC gaming was declared dead, but it seems to be fighting that claim with, surprisingly, free to play titles. Nick Tannahill of Firefly keenly observes a correlation on Steam:
“Look at Steam’s top games by current player count and you will see that the number of F2P games in the top 100 grows every month. This shift has undoubtedly contributed to the growth of Steam’s user base over the past few years.”
If this is true, then longtime PC gamers have a bitter pill to swallow. Believe it or not, the savior of PC gaming might be free to play, a genre that the hardcore have scoffed at for so long.