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Now Loading…Does the Industry Need More Free-to-Play Games?

September 14, 2014 Written by Zarmena Khan

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In this week’s “Now Loading…” segment, PlayStation LifeStyle’s staff discuss the future of free-to-play (F2P) games in light of Peter Molyneux’s recent remarks regarding developers shunning the genre. Please note that each opinion should be attributed to the respective individual and not to the website as a whole.

cameronCameron: I think we have learned over the years that F2P games have a very viable market so I do believe that we should have more of these games. It softens the blow on gamers upfront and provides developers with a steady flow of cash coming in each month through micro-transactions. It also allows gamers to get into the game for a minimal cost, and then they get to choose exactly how far and how much they want to spend on the games. Just look at titles like Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution, which show you that these games are anything but crap. F2P games aren’t for everyone and that’s okay because not every type of game is going to appeal to everyone. As long as the market is there, we should be getting more F2P games. 

chandler_thumbnailChandler: The problem with the F2P model becoming a bigger part of the industry is dispersion of the market share. F2Ps are traditionally online competitive games, so flooding that market will thin the communities of each of those games. There’s nothing worse than trying to hop into an online game and sitting in matchmaking indefinitely — well ok, there are worse things, but it illustrates my point. There are already too many games on the market to be wasting time in places where the community is dead.

To me, F2P games have always felt very stripped down and generic, lacking in the creativity and depth that standard retail titles often give us. Instead of focusing creative energies on story, the energy is wasted thinking about what can be monetized and how to balance the system so that paying players aren’t given an overwhelming advantage, but that there is also an enticement to fork over your hard earned cash for something in the game.

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The last thing that F2P needs is more games. In fact, lowering the amount may help the existing ones thrive more. Over saturation will lead to thinning market share per game. Thinning market share means finding new ways to get more money out of players. Getting money out of players to play the game means the games are no longer inherently F2P. F2P games do have their place, but I can’t see any benefit to inundating us with even more of them. 

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Zarmena: Honestly, I’ve never played F2P games. None of those currently available on my platforms of choice (PlayStation, of course) appeal to me, but I agree with Cameron when he points out that there’s a market for F2P titles. It’s funny because most of the comments that I read on various internet forums and social media are largely negative, with many complaining about micro-transactions and claiming that F2P games are downright poor. But then there are titles like Warframe with millions of active players despite the game receiving mixed and mediocre reviews. I believe the problem is that there are only a select few F2P games that people find worth playing, and I think the reason many of them tend to be poor is that developers have not yet taken the time to fully understand this segment.

Does the industry need more F2P games? The obvious answer is that as long as they’re in demand, then yes. But not the way they’re being churned out right now. And this is where I agree with Chandler. For starters, I think the ‘play-to-win’ model creates a Catch-22 situation. Developers need to make money from in-game purchases to keep these games up and running. For this, they put up for sale in-game items that give players an advantage of some sort over other players. At the end of the day, those who don’t want to pay lose out due to an uneven playing field. However, if developers offer items that don’t make much of a difference in the game then people are unlikely to spend money on them. Hence, making the cash flow unsustainable. 

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Last but not least, if you’re like me and like collecting physical copies of games then you might be put off by the idea of investing time and resources into an online F2P game that you won’t have much to show for years down the line. I am still hanging on to physical copies of games that came out when I was barely out of my diapers so I’m not that willing to spend on a game that disappears once the servers shut down! But that’s just me.


What would entice our readers to play F2P games? Let us know in the comments below.