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Free To Play The Future
At this current moment in time gaming is at a crossroads. To the left continues the well-trodden path of buying a game and that’s that. To the right is the path leading to DLC City, whereby games are broken down into their component parts and are dripped out to gamers for a price. Straight ahead at the crossroads is the golden brick road of Free-to-play (F2P) avenue, where games are a hierarchy with sections locked away in VIP rooms awaiting payment. Each business model has its merits, but which path will gaming take, and will this path empower or destroy the freedoms of gamers? Here I’ll take a quick look at how F2P gaming appears to be on the increase.
So what is the concept of a F2P game? Take the new Age of Empires Online (AoEO), for example, which has the entire game free to download and play. However, certain parts of the game are locked such as advancing with a certain civilisation, or the ability to play ranked PvP or skirmishes. These features are unlocked via micro-transactions. If you feel passionately about being able to play the Greek civilisation to the fullest, then for a small fee (much less than buying the entire game) you are able to do so. This concept allows gamers to play the parts of the game that they feel will give them the most enjoyment. F2P versions of games are a great way for developers to allow people to try the game, and then make the decision of whether or not to pay for it, either in its entirety, or small sections of it.
Like everything, F2P has attracted criticism from various areas of the gaming community. The major fear of F2P surround multiplayer games, where if a person can buy locked items, will this not give that player a marked skill increase? Yes, that is true. But the vast majority of F2P games don’t offer multiplayer unlocks, and when they do they are purely aesthetic – such as the multiplayer skins available in Super Monday Night Combat. My opinion is that if F2P games offer multiplayer advantages to be bought, then that game is not worth playing and is highly unfair. AoEO is a great example of a well thought out F2P game. Civilisations are balanced, and buying one but not another does not disadvantage the player in anyway. The options to buy certain aspects of the game are there, they do not impact upon skill progression, and are completely based upon the players interest.
AoEO, Team Fortress 2, Super Monday Night Combat, Super Meat Boy, Dragon Age Legends, Tribes:Ascend, and many more games are taking the F2P route as a new business model and are not lacking financially due to this. Whilst F2P does lack in certain areas, and can only really be implemented in certain situations dependant, the model itself is valid enough. F2P allows gamers to play the game they want to play, usually resulting in less money spent by them, yet enabling the developers to add more content at their leisure. I sincerely hope that the F2P model continues in the style currently set down, I would hate to see F2P corrupted like the DLC model (not mentioning any names… Mass Effect 3) and I’m optimistically looking forward to the future of F2P gaming.