Tobold has an interesting post up about free to play models and a Downton Abbey inspired classification of players as ‘masters’ or ‘servants’ (those paying for service(s), and those providing the service(s)). As is noted by comments on the post, the dominance of F2P in the genre is a real boon for players who like to play more than one MMORPG and not that intensively. On face value, you can dip into these games for nothing (some like ESO do have a ‘buy the game’ requirement), and play many, many hours of content for free. The discussion got me thinking about my own history of playing F2P games, and on what I would and would not spend money.
Generally it’s only at the fabled ‘end-game’ that the F2P model really changes gear and starts to hinder progress enough to force even the most casual gamer to either invest or to give up. Some games also encourage early spending by having the F2P experience deliberately inferior from the offset: reduced experience gain is a common tactic here or painfully small inventory space (Allods really doubled-down on that at launch) to name but two examples.
Personally, very few F2P MMOs have encouraged me to actually buy into the payment model as intended. Neverwinter is the one that stands out: there are lots of the usual lockbox shenanigans, and a cash shop replete with the expected microtransaction convenience or booster items, and relatively pricey mounts and companions to buy. Unlike other games though there were, at least in the early years, the themed packs – those I felt were good value and worth an investment. Give me an account level mount and companion for a reasonable price and I’ll buy such a pack every so often – but expect me to buy new mounts or companions on every new alt and I’ll keep my wallet closed.
I did for a time play SWTOR as a ‘preferred’ player, that is not subbed but someone who has paid out at some time, so not quite the full horror of the F2P experience but with plenty of restrictions nonetheless. Since I was playing with friends subbing wasn’t that attractive as they would still face the restrictions even if I didn’t. During this period I did buy some currency to grab the odd ‘pack’ or account unlock. More recently though that play mode became untenable as the two most recent expansions required subscribing to unlock the content, so this became yet another game I only played while subbed.
Other games that I have played regularly are all of the ‘hybrid’ model where an optional subscription is available. If playing the game on my own I mostly have subbed while playing the game, so microtransaction payments were irrelevant – since there’s normally a monthly stipend of cash shop currency and I’m no big spender. I have piles of virtual currency in EQ2, LOTRO and similar games because microtransactions usually aren’t that appealing to me anyway. As I posted recently major account features (just as with Neverwinter above) are much more likely to encourage me to spend, as with my recent ESO Plus experience and the improvements to banking and inventory space.
So I wouldn’t say I fit into either classification that well, I’ll pay to play some games via subscription, partly because of the convenience features offered, but also because I do want to support some games as I play them with an all in one fee” payment. As the years have gone by I’ve felt less and less inclined to buy smaller purchases with real money, Neverwinter for instance hasn’t done the good-value packs for years (I discount the class-themed packs as too character-specific). So I seem to have moved towards a pay sub or pay nothing choice, ignoring all that lies in the middle.