The pros and cons of Free-to-Play

by Staff

By Jordan Pollock, Aztec Gaming and Shane Carpenter, Aztec Gaming


No Need to Expand: Sure, in the free-to-play model, there’s no incentive for developers to expand the universe or add extra content because they’re not being paid for it anymore. However, in most modern F2P massively multiplayer online games, players work with a large amount of content already offered within the base game, so there’s generally no need to pine for extra content. It would be nice, but this is a free game—you can’t complain about price.


F2P on the Rise: Recently, there’s been a surge of new F2P play games on the market, giving players more games to play without ever worrying about pesky subscription fees hindering the experience because of limited money. Content in most F2P games can keep players busy for at least 20 hours compared to current-generation triple-A titles that only offer six hours of content for about $60.


Pay For What You Want: Most F2P games come with built-in cash shops where players can buy anything from awesome character customization items—hair, clothes, fancy skins for characters or weapons, etc.—to a piece of armor that would otherwise take 10 hours to unlock. There will always be that one weapon that requires gamers to spend a few strict hours grinding away in some boring old dungeon in hopes that it’d become available. When it doesn’t, well, you’d just have to start the instance again for another chance.


Game Over, Time to Move on: At the end of the game, players can choose to either make a new character or wander around the world and explore as their level-capped character. It doesn’t really matter anymore that there’s nothing new to do because that’s what happens when you reach the end of a game. If that sounds boring, maybe it’s time to move on and find another game. The memories made while playing an F2P game are indeed something to cherish, and playing a different game in no way tarnishes those memories. Sometimes, it’s better to just let go.

Incentive to Expand: Developers of massively multiplayer online games are typically guaranteed a certain amount of money as long as they keep players happy enough to pay for monthly subscription fees. When MMOs transition into F2P (Free To Play), however, this incentive isn’t there anymore. Content patches can take months, if not years. Expansions will similarly take a long time (if made at all). F2P games in general are less likely to progress.

Stagnation: As noted above, stagnation is a risk for F2P games and what a player buys is typically what they get, although there are some exceptions. Developers sometimes switch games to new models and then leave the game as-is until either it shuts down or its player base dwindles so low the game becomes a graveyard. 

The Risk of Pay-To-Win: Most F2P games are able to escape this trap because developers understand that it would aggravate their players. However, the threat of dreaded cash shops full of armor and weapons, among other items, will make wealthy people very powerful and subvert the entire point of an MMO game’s endgame. However, much like the boogeymen hiding under the bed, this nightmare typically doesn’t come to fruition.


Keeping Old Players Happy in the New: When most games transition into F2P, it’s because their player bases reached a certain tipping point where its population is on a continuous downward slope. Servers begin closing and consolidating, and because of this veterans of the game are constantly on the move. F2P games typically suffer during transition because they don’t give older players enough incentive to stay. Transitioning is to bring in new players who wouldn’t otherwise play the game, but keeping loyal members onboard who know the ins and outs of a game helps the community as a whole. To disregard and not offer players anything in the form of reward for their loyalty is a large oversight.